At your pre-departure orientation (staging), you will be given a temporary mailing address to use during pre-service training in the host country. After you are sworn in as a Volunteer, you will be able to receive packages at your site.
Service through the three major carriers is available in the country, and many Volunteers use Internet calling services such as Viber, WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype or Messenger to call the U.S. It is recommended that you bring an unlocked mobile phone that can work with an Armenian SIM card. Peace Corps will help you connect to a service provider during your preservice training.
Access is widely available throughout the country. Post staff recommends bringing a laptop, tablet, or iPad to use at work and for communication, if you have one. All cellphone carriers provide 3G-4G data network service, which you can use via locally available USB Internet modems to access the Internet where there is coverage.
Housing and Site Location
After pre-service training, at your permanent site, you will be assigned to live with a host family for three months. The benefits of living with a host family include full immersion into Armenian life, language, and culture; community integration; and having a place to call home. Being a respected and equal member of a family not only provides strong personal and professional rewards, but it can also ensure your safety and security as well.
Some living arrangements may be apartments or separate detached houses; some may have European-style bathrooms, while others might use outhouses. Regardless of the situation, trainees and Volunteers live as the members of their community do.
The Peace Corps staff works closely with host communities and counterpart agencies to help prepare them for a Volunteer’s arrival and to establish expectations of their respective roles in supporting the Volunteer. Each site is inspected before a Volunteer’s arrival to ensure placement is appropriate and safe, and that housing and worksites are secure. Site selection is based in part on any relevant site history; access to medical, banking, postal, and other essential services; availability of communications, transportation, and markets; and housing options and living arrangements.
Living Allowance and Money Management
Costs to live with your host family will be part of your living allowance and will be discussed during your pre-service training in the host county. Living-allowance costs are reviewed annually. Volunteers are also reimbursed for continuing language study. . If you are asked by the Peace Corps to travel for official, medical, or programmatic reasons, transportation and lodging will be covered by the Peace Corps.
The Peace Corps helps Volunteers set up bank accounts in local currency and direct deposits all the allowances. Volunteers can set up personal accounts in dollars if they choose. Most Volunteers find they can live comfortably in Armenia with these allowances. Consistent with the philosophy that development and learning are most effectively achieved when people live and work together, it is important that Volunteers live at the same standard as their community members.
Credit cards can be used in restaurants, hotels, large stores in the capital, and are handy for travel outside the country. Credit cards, as well as regular bank ATM/debit cards, can be used at ATMs in Yerevan and other large cities around the country to obtain cash (in Armenian drams).
Food and Diet
Bread, known as Lavash, plays a key role with all the meals. Cheese is also a big part of the diet. Greens are very common in spring whereas a good variety of vegetables is typical for summer and fall. The best fresh vegetables and fruits are available during the summer. The apricots and tomatoes are of extremely high quality. During the long winter months, cabbage, beets, and potatoes are mainstays. It is possible but difficult for vegetarians to maintain a meatless diet. Although declining to eat meat may seem strange to your host family, they will respect your decision and accommodate your needs accordingly. With a little planning, you should be able to maintain a healthy alternative diet.
Typical drinks are tan (made of yogurt, water, and salt), homemade fruit juices, Armenian wine, and Armenian brandy and vodka. Armenians are noted for their toasting culture, but you should not feel compelled to drink a large quantity of alcohol just to appease your host. Armenians admire self-control, and most will respect your decision to drink moderately or not at all.
Volunteers travel in the country in public buses, minivans, trains (in some directions) or taxis. The Peace Corps prohibits all Volunteers from driving motorized vehicles of any type, including mopeds and motorcycles. Volunteers must wear a helmet when biking or electric scooters. Violation of this policy will result in termination of your Volunteer service.
On weekends and in the evenings, Armenians generally socialize with their families and friends. In summer months, in some of the larger cities throughout Armenia, sidewalk cafes appear on every corner and in every shady spot. Armenians enjoy relaxing at these cafes late into the evening. In smaller towns and villages, activities tend to focus on spending time with extended family, neighbors, and friends. Socializing typically includes lots of coffee drinking. Chess and backgammon (called nardi) are popular, and Armenian boys and girls play basketball, soccer, tennis, badminton, and pingpong. In addition to participating in these activities, Volunteers enjoy hiking and exploring local historical sites.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
In general, Armenians tend to be conservative in both dress and behavior. You will be serving as a representative of the Peace Corps and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. For men, professional dress is considered collared shirts, slacks, and occasionally suit jackets and ties. For women, professional dress is considered dresses or skirts (knee- or mid-calf length), modest blouses or tops, and dress slacks. Both men and women should be prepared to occasionally wear suits or formal wear for presentations or other business-related events.
Volunteers need to continually strive to maintain neat and clean clothing and hair. Facial piercings (lip, nose, eyebrows, etc.) on both men and women, and earrings on men are generally unacceptable in professional settings in Armenia. If you have tattoos, please be prepared to cover them if possible. Diversity of dress and appearance may be more acceptable in the capital or larger cities, but please be mindful that you are always representing the Peace Corps wherever you are.