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Living Conditions in Moldova

Communications

Mail

Letters to and from Moldova typically arrive in two to three weeks. Advise family and friends not to send anything of value via flat mail. During pre-service training, letters should be sent to you at the following address: 

Your Name, PCT
Corpul Pacii
Str. Grigore Ureche 12
2001 Chisinau
Republica Moldova

Once you move to your site, you can make arrangements to receive mail and packages there, or continue to receive mail at the Peace Corps Office. 

Telephones

There are a number of ways to call the United States, but the cost can be high. American calling cards will not work in Moldova, but international phone cards can be purchased that will give you enough time to give your family your phone number and instructions on when to call you back. Unlocked GSM cell phone purchased in the United States will typically work here, but other cellular technologies will not.

Internet

If you have a laptop computer, you should consider bringing it, although Internet service in villages may be limited dial up or via the cellular phone network. Volunteers can access e-mail at the Peace Corps office or at cybercafes. Personal property insurance against damages or theft is a good idea.

Housing and site location

You will live with one host family during pre-service training and with another family for at least the first three months at your permanent site. You will have your own room, but you are likely to share kitchen, bath, and toilet facilities with the entire family. Houses seldom have indoor plumbing in most rural areas, so you may not have running water or an indoor toilet. The current in Moldova is 220 volts. If you bring American electronics (which generally run on 110 volts) with you, you will need both a transformer to convert the 110 volts into 220 volts and a converter to fit the American-style plug into a Moldovan outlet. After your first three months at site, you will have the option of finding other housing that meets Peace Corps‘ safety requirements, and can be leased within the Peace Corps‘ housing allowance. Most Volunteers choose to live with a family throughout their two years of service and find the experience rewarding. Heating in winter can be problematic, as many municipalities cannot afford to turn on the heat until long after the weather has turned cold, and, even then, heating may be minimal or nonexistent for periods of time. For this reason, host families are required to have independent heating sources. Most families in villages rely on ceramic stoves which are built into the walls and burn wood, coal, or corncobs. In larger towns or cities, houses may have their own gas boiler.

Living allowance and money management

After pre-service training, you will receive a monthly living allowance in local currency that will allow you to maintain your health and safety while living at a standard comparable to your Moldovan counterparts. Moldova has a cash economy, and Moldovan banks and currency exchange offices are stringent about the condition of the U.S. banknotes they will accept due to concerns about counterfeit currency. Make sure that any U.S. currency you bring is not worn, torn, or written on, and that the bills are fairly new. A few banks accept traveler‘s checks; others allow cash withdrawals via credit card or ATM card. There are increasing numbers of the machines in both Chisinau and regional centers, although Volunteers are advised to be cautious about which machines they use as ATM crimes are common. We discourage you from having cash sent to you from home, as sending money through international mail is risky. Furthermore, having your Peace Corps allowances substantially subsidized by funds from home runs counter to Peace Corps‘ philosophy of living at a similar level to those people with whom you work and serve. In an emergency, you can have money sent through Western Union or international bank transfer. 


Most businesses, including restaurants and hotels, do not accept traveler‘s checks or credit cards. Those that do, most commonly accept Visa. Some will charge you more for paying with a credit card. If possible, we recommend that you keep an U.S. bank account with ATM capabilities to assist you with accessing occasional or emergency money from home. It will be the easiest way for Peace Corps to provide you with your readjustment allowance when you complete your Volunteer service, and is typically easier and quicker than having a check mailed to your U.S. home of record. Once again, it is important to recognize that your Moldovan co-workers and friends will not have large sums of money or credit cards so conspicuous displays of wealth on your part could drive a wedge between you and them. The Peace Corps discourages you from living beyond your monthly allowance.

Food and diet

Moldovans love to cook, and they love their guests to eat a lot. Many traditional Moldovan dishes have roots in the Slavic and Romanian cultures. Pork is the meat of choice, followed by chicken, turkey, beef, and rabbit. The national dish of Moldova is mamaliga, which is made from cornmeal and tastes somewhat like polenta or grits. It is served with soft cheese, meat, eggs, butter, or fish. Vegetarians may find it challenging to maintain their usual diet. It may also be difficult to explain why you are a vegetarian in a meat-and-potatoes culture. Although the concept of vegetarianism will not be entirely new to most Moldovans, you should expect some surprise and confusion. You will have to be clear about what you can and cannot eat. You will also have to be sensitive and gracious when Moldovans try to prepare special food for you.

Transportation

Operation of motor vehicles of any kind (e.g., cars, motor scooters, and motorcycles) is prohibited for Peace Corps Volunteers. Violation of this policy will result in termination of your service. Peace Corps policy also requires the use of a bicycle helmet, which the Peace Corps provides, when riding bicycles. Volunteers will rely mostly on public transportation in Moldova. All the towns and villages in which Volunteers are placed have regularly scheduled bus or maxi-taxi service to Chisinau and other towns. In the case of an emergency, Peace Corps staff can get to any site by car within four hours.

Social activities

Moldovans allocate a relatively large amount of time to social life and entertainment activities, compared with other European countries. Conversely, time allocated to cultural events (theaters, concerts, movies, etc.) is much less.

Men socialize more and have more leisure activities than women. These differences are visible particularly in rural areas, where women spend much more time performing household chores and taking care of the family than men. The types of social activity and entertainment also differ for women and men. Women spend their time mainly within the household, while men socialize mainly outside the house (street, park, forest, place of work, etc.).

People living in villages and small communities spend more time socializing and engaging in entertainment activities than urban residents due to closer relationships with the family, relatives or neighbors.

The top five most important holidays for all ethnic groups are Easter, Christmas, New Year’s Eve, Parent’s Day and Women’s Day. The most important are, by far, the religious holidays, and this trend is universal across all ethnic groups. Holidays that were popular during Soviet times are equally popular today among ethnic minority groups, though the Moldovan majority also celebrates International Women’s Day. Victory Day is still important for Moldovans, but to a lesser degree than for ethnic minorities. Europe Day, which coincides with Victory Day, is not celebrated by national minorities and is less popular among ethnic Moldovans. National holidays that were introduced after independence, such as Independence Day and Language Day, are equally celebrated by both ethnic Moldovans and national minorities.

Professionalism, dress, and behavior

Professionalism in the Peace Corps requires an awareness of the host community workplace culture, community values, and your self-presentation. To maintain a positive, culturally appropriate professional standing within a host community or workplace, Volunteers may need to adjust their style of dress, hair style, facial hair, make-up, piercings, manner of greeting others, etc., to demonstrate respect for local culture and customs.  How you present yourself, in both informal and professional settings, is a reflection of you as an individual and of you as a representative of Peace Corps and the United States. In the U.S., dress (and other elements of personal appearance) may be seen as an expression of personal freedom and identity. In many host countries where Peace Corps Volunteers serve, the way you dress and present yourself may be interpreted as an expression of regard—or disregard—for those host community members around you.

Volunteers are encouraged to spend time in their communities, develop their language skills, and get to know the individual members of their community to better understand their traditions, culture, and local norms. As mutual trust is established over time, there may be opportunities for Volunteers to adjust their personal appearance and dress outside of the more rigid local standards. Volunteers are encouraged to discuss these potential adjustments with staff and other cultural mentors.

Few Moldovan men have long hair, locs, or shaved-in patterns, and some may consider it inappropriate for the workplace, especially in rural area. Beards are uncommon, except among the clergy and, unless short and neatly trimmed, not generally accepted.

Visible body piercings (other than earrings for women) and tattoos for both men and women are generally not accepted in professional settings. Wearing facial piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into your community. Tattoos can sometimes indicate that a person has been in prison or is a sex worker. Please be prepared to cover tattoos and remove facial piercings whenever possible.

Volunteers will participate in an orientation on culturally appropriate behavior and cultural sensitivity during pre-service training.