RQ: Overseas Housing
A reader recently asked ,
What is FSO housing like overseas? Does it vary with family size or rank?
Someone posted a similar question on the State Careers Forum, which, while having a sizable peanut gallery offering sometimes terrible answers/advice, does OK sometimes (as long as you put more weight on the green checked-users).
Housing overseas, first of all, is free. You’d be surprised how many things people find in their housing units to complain about when they effectively pay $0 in rent and $0 in major repairs (plumbing, electricity, structural issues if there are any). Post’s Housing section, usually a General Services Office function, normally does a good job maintaining the residences and making them habitable. Now, “habitable” varies greatly from country to country. European apartments tend to be small, especially if you have a large family. Housing assignments do take family size into account, but it’s also important to remember that your housing also depends on the rank of the position you’re serving in. Funny how FSOs have rank in person, but housing goes by rank in position!Anyways, more on “habitable” – while in London you’re going to have a small flat, in Africa you might get a 5-bedroom house with a yard, gate, and property walls. The nicer countries will have all the trimmings of first-world life like stable electricity and potable water, while other countries will have filters, distillers, and (if you’re lucky) a generator. Almost every post is furnished, meaning you’re given a standard set of furniture from the embassy pool and can switch out pieces depending on availability. The furniture is usually pretty nice – the dark cherry tables and cabinets the Department buys makes you feel at home everywhere in the world! Posts try to get a parking space along with each residence, but occasionally this means parking on the street. Housing units also need to meet certain standards for physical security, and the Regional Security Office vets all new additions to post’s housing pool.
Finally, if you arrive at post and your housing assignment is just awful, there is an appeals process to move you to another location. This involves approval from your supervisor in writing to take your request to the housing board. Supporting evidence is also important – photos of damage or adverse conditions helps your case. It’s not a guarantee, as sometimes the Housing board will prioritize repairs instead of moving you, but it is an option.
In summary, overseas housing is usually pretty good – at or above the local standard of living in terms of cleanliness, amenities, utilities, and service. Whether or not it meets “American standards” (whatever that is) in response to the Careers Forum question would probably depend on what your standard of living in the US is as well as the country you’re in.
Current FS employees – housing stories are welcome in the comments. I’ve had some great residences in my career, but also some horror stories. I’m sure you have some as well :)
Be sure to check out past Reader Questions in the Archives.