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Expat Advice: Moving to Saipan (not really Guam, but not listed anywhere), United States

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An expat in Saipan describes Saipan as a beautiful, broken paradise. She urges people to visit before moving to Saipan. When you move, find a full concrete home with storm shutters and a backup generator to weather cyclones. She talks about the cost of living, what to bring and leave at home and water shortages.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Saipan (not really Guam, but not listed anywhere)

Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.

I wish I would have brought:

1. Sewing notions, as they are not really available here.

2. A supply of my favorite mascara--not available on island.

3. Linen clothing. Anything else is just too hot, including cotton and rayon.

Three things I should have left behind:

1. Sweaters. Okay to have one for chilly AC, but the rest are a waste of drawer space.

2. Blankets. Too warm for anything but sheets on the bed.

3. Bikinis. Women dress more conservatively here than on Maui, and I like to blend.

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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?

Come and visit first. It's not America. There are many small and some large adjustments to make if you're to be happy here in this beautiful, broken paradise. Shipping is expensive so consider selling all but what you can mail here (it's a US territory with a zip code, so mailing is surprisingly economical). Be prepared to look for a while to find housing--it's tight as of this writing (7/2017). Choosing a safe neighborhood is important, so ask around about places you're considering. Try to find a 'full concrete' home for safety during storms. Storm shutters, a backup water supply and a generator would be real advantages. Apartment complexes tend to include these features. Power outages are frequent. Some areas of the island are not guaranteed water 24/7 so ask about that, too! And DON'T rely on the landlord's assurances. Ask your potential neighbors.

What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?

We live in a two bedroom, two bath full concrete house (which means the roof is concrete, too). It's designed to weather cyclones and features a big backup water tank. It's spacious but not fancy in any way and is typical of teacher level (as opposed to lawyer/doctor level) expat housing here.

How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?

On Saipan, it's all about knowing people. Friends put us in touch with friends here, who told everyone we were looking for a place, and voila!

Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?

Housing costs here are far lower than they were in Hawaii (last 4 years), and a bit lower than north Idaho (20 years before that). We pay $850/month for our house, and locals think that's a little high. Electricity and water run us another $135/mo.

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