Wednesday, August 19, 2009

the complicated, vile process AKA bidding

This seems to be a popular topic amongst the foreign service blogs this month, so I thought I’d play too. Fortunately we don’t have to bid until next year, but I thought I’d post my thoughts and a few links to other blogs. Next summer I will look back and take comfort knowing that other people dislike bidding as much as I do.

Approximately one year before leaving post, all federal employees (State Dept and others) have to “bid” on the next post. It’s a vile, vile process. Based on the list of available cities, you have to choose six that are at your grade level, places you have researched and are willing to go to. I’ll let the other bloggers explain the process in more detail, but let’s just say, as fun as it sounds, it isn’t, and you may or may not end up in one of your original six choices.

In no particular order, these are the questions I ask myself when thinking of where we might move next.

Is it an accompanied post? Meaning, are spouses and children even allowed to go.

Hardship. Is it time to do another hardship post? (required every seven years)

Medical care. I have a class two medical clearance because of the amount and seriousness of my allergies and allergy-induced asthma. Because I have a class two med clearance, there are many places we can’t go, thus limiting the options even more. Does the city have quality medical facilities? Does post have a good working relationship with local doctors and dentists? Do they speak English?

How medically “safe” is it? What immunizations are required? Are there many dangerous diseases that affect the area? Is it necessary to wash the produce with bleach water? Is it necessary to take ongoing medication to prevent certain diseases?

Housing. What do the post reports say about the housing pool? Apartments or single family houses? How far is the commute to work? Is housing assigned or is it necessary to find your own housing? Is furniture provided or must you buy it yourself, then leave it behind 2-3 years later?

Language. What language is spoken, how difficult is it to learn, does post have a language program available to family members?

Vet care. Is it available, reliable, does the vet speak English?

Internet. How reliable and fast is the internet?

Mail. Is it an APO or pouch post? Having had both, I will mention how much I detest the pouch (no glass, no liquids).

Pollution. What is the air quality like? Do they burn coal, trash? Due to my allergies and asthma, would I be allowed to live there?

Crime. How safe is the city? Are there many housing burglaries and break ins? Is it safe for women to be out alone? Is there a terrorism threat?

Climate. What is the weather like? Distinct seasons or hot and dry all year?

Groceries and household items. What is available, not available? How expensive is it compared to other places?

Can we/ should we take a car? Small car or SUV? Some countries have restrictions regarding importing vehicles (age, left hand versus right hand drive). What are the rules of the road, or are there any?

Activities. Are there interesting things to do in the city? Is it safe to leave the city and explore other parts of the country? How difficult is it to travel to other places?

Of course people who have children have even more issues to think about (schools, extracurricular activities, reliable childcare, etc)

As I said, it’s a vile, complicated process.

For much better explanations of “bidding” and other peoples’ thoughts, please check out

Life After Jerusalem: Bidding

Email from the Embassy: Apples vs. elephants: The Bidding Process

Diplodocus: So Where Have I Been?

Girl In The Rain: The Bid List Is Out


  1. I added a link to this post, because nothing describes it much better than "vile, vile process"!

  2. Oh I hadn't realised you were staying in Dublin only for a short time! I can completely understand the difficulty of bidding for another place...but how does it work for settling in? do you get to know other wives and be friend with them? how often do you move? lots of love and thanks so much for your supoprt on my blog. Fran

  3. Thanks for the link! I wandered over here while taking a break from reading post reports. Not much of a break, though, if you're going to bombard me with things to think about. I'm outta here; I'll be back after I finish plowing thru these darn reports...

  4. Fran, yes, unfortunately we are only here for another 2 years :( The settling in and meeting people is easier in some places, more difficult in others. Moving is always a challenge. We generally move every 2-3 years, or 8 months as was the case last time (story in my March and April archives).

  5. Donna, I don't envy you. Post reports aren't exactly pleasure reading.

  6. Hi, I just found your blog. I am in the process of applying to the foreign service, and I am somewhat worried about obtaining worldwide medical clearance due to my allergies/asthma. I have mild asthma, environmental allergies, and several non-life-threatening food allergies. While the medical clearance department indicated it would likely not preclude me from service, I was hoping to get input from someone who has been through the process as to what the threshold is. I'd really hate to get my hopes up only to find out that someone with peanut and soy allergies can't be an fso. Thanks!

  7. Hi,

    I probably won't be very helpful to you because I married into the foreign service versus jumping through the hoops to join it. My understanding, and this may have changed, is that you need to be available for worldwide assignments (class one med clearance)if you are joining. I have a class two clearance because of my allergies (including life threatening peanut allergy)and allergy induced asthma.I know my class two status does preclude us from going to certain countries.

    I would try sending your medical records and allergy tests to the med clearance department. Or ask one of the other foreign service bloggers. Sorry I couldn't be more helpful.
    Good luck!