Expats thinking of moving to North Macedonia can look forward to living in an exquisitely beautiful country with lush forests, majestic mountain ranges and many lakes. Although fortunately spared much of the violence its fellow Balkan states have had to endure, North Macedonia has had its fair share of economic struggles and political instability, which have in the past dissuaded many expats from moving here.
Living in North Macedonia as an expat
North Macedonia is a lively and diverse melting pot of Eastern and Western cultures and influences. That said, ethnic tensions have plagued the country in the past and pushed it to the brink of civil war in 2001 when Albanian extremists declared war against the North Macedonian state. Although a peace treaty brought an end to the violence, tensions remain high and expats should avoid discussing this sensitive issue.
Most expats living in North Macedonia are employed by English language schools or NGOs that are involved with relief work and technical training, and the majority are based in the capital, Skopje.
Cost of living in North Macedonia
Compared to the rest of Europe, the cost of living in North Macedonia is extremely low. That said, the wages in North Macedonia are also much lower than in most European countries, and expats should make sure to negotiate a fair salary in order to live comfortably and enjoy the country’s many great offerings. According to the 2023 Mercer Cost of Living Survey, Skopje, the capital of North Macedonia, was ranked 200th out of 227 cities, making it one of the least expensive cities for expats worldwide.
Expat families and children in North Macedonia
Primary and secondary education in public schools is free in North Macedonia and compulsory for all children. Classes in public schools are taught in Albanian, Macedonian, Turkish or Serbian, but there are also a number of private schools in the country that offer bilingual classes for foreigners. That said, most expats choose to send their children to one of a handful of international schools in Skopje.
Expats looking to take a family trip out in nature will be spoilt for choice, with several exquisite lakes and national parks dotted around the country. North Macedonia is also host to a number of historical sites and monuments that are well worth a visit for any expats wishing to learn more about the country’s culture.
North Macedonia’s healthcare system has undergone considerable improvements in recent years. Primary public healthcare is now freely available to all citizens, including registered expats, under a universal state-sponsored health insurance scheme which includes unlimited visits to primary healthcare professionals and services. Employers and employees are obligated to pay monthly contributions towards this scheme. Private healthcare is also available, with many new clinics emerging in recent years. Expats are also able to take out additional private insurance to cover services not provided by the state system.
Climate in North Macedonia
North Macedonia has a continental climate throughout most of the country, including the capital, although the climate in the south and east of the country is more Mediterranean. Overall, North Macedonia experiences long, dry summers and mild, rainy winters with sporadic, significant snowfall in the highlands.
North Macedonia is a small but beautiful country that is situated in an ideal location for any expats wishing to travel around Europe. Along with great healthcare and schooling benefits, and a below average cost of living, the country boasts scenic views that would take one’s breath away. Despite its somewhat volatile political state, North Macedonia is a wonderful place for expat families to settle down in and enjoy new experiences.
Population: About 2.1 million
Capital city: Skopje
Neighbouring countries: North 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: North 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 official currency is the Macedonian Denar (MKD), which is not divided into smaller units. Expats can easily open an account at a bank of their choice. ATMs are also 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: 112 (general emergency) 192 (police), 193 (fire department), 194 (ambulance)
Transport and driving: Cars drive on the right-hand side of the road. Expats should be aware that roads are not always in good condition and drivers often ignore pedestrian crossings and red lights. North Macedonia has a well-developed bus system, and taxis are also a popular and affordable mode of transport.