Moving to Macedonia
Expats thinking of immigrating to Macedonia will find an exquisitely beautiful country with spectacular landscapes of forests, mountains and lakes. Although spared much of the violence its fellow Balkan states have endured, the country has experienced economic struggles and political instability. This has dissuaded many expats from moving to Macedonia.
Macedonia’s population of two million people is mostly made up of Macedonians and Albanians with smaller communities of Turks, Roma and Serbians. This makes Macedonia a melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures and influences. Historically, ethnic tensions have plagued the country and pushed Macedonia to the brink of civil war in 2001. Albanian extremists declared war against the Macedonian state. Although a peace treaty brought an end to the violence, tensions remain high and expats should avoid discussing this sensitive issue.
Macedonia has been a candidate to join the European Union since 2005. However, because of strained relations with Bulgaria and an ongoing dispute over its full name, the accession hasn't come into play as of yet.
Compared to the rest of Europe, the cost of living in Macedonia is extremely low. This is offset by the wages in Macedonia being lower than in most European countries. The majority of expats living in Macedonia are employed by English language schools or NGOs that are involved with relief work and technical training. The largest expat community in Macedonia is in the capital, Skopje.
Macedonia’s healthcare system has undergone improvements in recent years. Primary public healthcare is now freely available to all citizens under a universal state-sponsored health insurance scheme. Employers and employees are obligated to pay monthly contributions towards this scheme. Private healthcare is also available with a number of new clinics emerging in recent years. Citizens are able to take out additional private insurance to cover services not provided by the state system.
Primary education in public schools in Macedonia is free and compulsory for all children between the ages of 6 and 15. Secondary school generally lasts for four years and most students finish school at 19. Classes are taught in Albanian, Macedonian, Turkish or Serbian. However, most expats choose to send their children to one of a handful of international schools in Skopje.
Population: About 2 million
Capital city: Skopje
Neighbouring countries: Macedonia is a landlocked country and is bordered by Serbia to the north, Bulgaria to the east, Greece to the south, Albania to the west and Kosovo to the northwest.
Geography: Macedonia is positioned on a plateau and is segmented by rolling hills and mountains. Though landlocked, the country has three large lakes and a number of rivers.
Political system: Parliamentary republic
Major religions: Orthodox Christianity and Islam
Main languages: Macedonian and Albanian
Money: The Macedonian Denar (MKD), which is not divided into smaller units. Expats should be able to easily open an account at a bank of their choice. ATMs are easy to find and access.
Tipping: Tipping is not expected but is appreciated.
Time: GMT+1 (GMT+2 from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).
Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. European-style plugs with two rounded pins are used.
Internet domain: .mk
International dialling code: +389
Emergency contact: 192 (police), 193 (fire department), 194 (ambulance)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. Roads are not always in good condition and drivers often ignore pedestrian crossings and red lights. Macedonia has a well-developed bus system, and taxis are also a popular and affordable mode of transport.