The Peace Corps will send you a mailing address that you can use for letter mail during your first 10 weeks in-country. Once you have been sworn in as a Volunteer and move to your site, you will have your own address for mail. Letters from the United States can take two to three weeks to arrive, while packages can take two to six weeks. Packages are held by post office officials until you pay a small customs fee. Packages cannot be received at the Peace Corps/Albania office address at any time during your service.
SIM cards are reasonably priced in Montenegro and if you have a SIM card phone in America, it is worth having it unlocked by your carrier for international use.
There is no guarantee that internet service will be available in your assigned town or agency. However, if you own a laptop, you are strongly advised to bring it for work purposes. Volunteers find that USB flash drives or external hard drives are also very useful.
Housing and Site Location
Volunteers in Montenegro will live with host families for a minimum of six months and potentially for their entire 27-month service. Living arrangements will be in in modest living quarters. While Volunteers will have their own room, they will have less privacy than what they are used to due to societal norms for communal activities. Kitchen facilities and bathrooms will be shared with host families. Communities in Montenegro are often conservative and close-knit. Housing will depend entirely on local availability and it will vary from Volunteer to Volunteer. Electricity and running water may not be consistently available and internet access may not be available at all. Housing for all Volunteers will meet Peace Corps safety and security requirements.
Living Allowance and Money Management
Volunteers receive a monthly allowance in local currency that is sufficient to live at the level of the local people. The allowance covers food, housing, household supplies, clothing, transportation to and from work, utilities, recreation and entertainment, and incidental expenses. Peace Corps Volunteers are expected to live at a level that is comparable with that of their host country counterparts. The Peace Corps discourages Volunteers from supplementing their living allowance with funds from home. However, Volunteers often wish to bring additional money for vacation travel to other countries. If this is the case, it is advisable to leave some money in your U.S. bank account to access via ATMs in euros or dollars for vacation travel. Traveler’s checks and credit cards are also an option for vacation travel outside of Montenegro.
Montenegro and Albania are mainly cash economies, with limited use of credit cards. If you decide to bring your personal debit/ATM card, be sure you notify your bank that you will be living overseas.
Food and Diet
The availability of some vegetables and fruits in Montenegro is seasonal, but prices for locally grown produce are low. Imported produce is usually available year round at higher prices. Local produce in summer is wonderful in Montenegro. Salt, sugar, rice, flour, eggs, cooking oil, pasta, long-life milk, and other basic items are readily available and are of good quality. Meat is an important component of the Montenegrin diet and due to reliability of inspections and refrigeration Volunteers are careful with which meat products are bought, stored, and consumed.
During pre-service training (PST) you can learn how to find and cook local foods. In winter in some areas, may have less produce than during the summer. Vegetarians will have to be tactful, as many Montenegrin families will not know what it means to be a vegetarian and will want to serve you meat as an honored guest. Montenegrins do not use many spices in their cooking, so you may want to bring a supply of your favorite spices and recipes as well as collect them throughout your travels to neighboring cities and other countries Montenegro.
Travel in Montenegro can be an adventure, and possibly a very slow one. The difficulties of travel are a good incentive for staying at your site and becoming part of the local community. Traffic accidents are one of the highest probable risks here. To mitigate that risk, Peace Corps/Albania and Montenegro has a transportation policy that you will learn and follow.
You will find no shortage of social activities in Montenegro. As a Volunteers, you will get to know and spend time with members of the community and enjoy Montenegro in the same manner as local community members.
Volunteers should expect limited opportunities for dating and that their dating will be publicly scrutinized. Just as Volunteers are embraced and protected by host families as family members, their actions and public behaviors are also considered to reflect on the honor and respect of the family. Volunteers must accept and conform to this reality to successfully integrate into the local culture.
Professionalism, Dress, and Behavior
As the first cohort to serve in Montenegro, Volunteers will require an unwavering professional and “pioneer” attitude. Volunteers will have a unique opportunity and responsibility to help establish the foundation of the Peace Corps presence in Montenegro. Volunteers should anticipate considerable interest in and attention on their work performance and cultural integration by their Montenegrin colleagues, the Ministry of Education, and the broader public. The highest degree of professionalism will be expected.
You will be working in a professional capacity and will be expected to dress and behave accordingly. Stylish business casual is acceptable in most situations. Montenegrins and Albanians dress in their fashionable best in public even if the clothes are worn and threadbare. A foreigner who wears ragged or unkempt clothing is likely to be considered an affront and not taken seriously. Away from the office and social events, you can wear shorts, T-shirts, or casual clothing in your home.
Body piercing and tattoos are not common in professional settings in Montenegro. Visible body piercings (other than earrings for women) and tattoos for both men and women are not generally accepted in professional settings. Please be prepared to cover tattoos whenever possible. Wearing facial piercings may make it more difficult to integrate into your community.