If you’re wondering how life would be in Armenia, the best way to get an idea of course is to come to Armenia! Rent an apartment, give yourself at least a few weeks to soak in the pace, the activities, etc. It’s of course still quite different to live here than to just visit for a few weeks, but it will help you get a feel for things here much better than reading a paragraph on the web.
That having been said, we’ll write a little about the life here, so you can at least decide if you want to come out for a few weeks to test it out.
The pace of life in Armenia is slow. Yerevan of course has the fastest pace of life, with 1/3 of the country’s population. But even in Yerevan, a walk at 8am on a weekday will amaze you as there are hardly any signs of life. At 8:30 you see people have started to come out and kids are going to school, and at 9, there is the normal bustle of city life. If you want to get breakfast, go to a store, or visit an office, you shouldn’t be surprised that many places will still not open for another hour or so, regardless of when they are supposed to.
The city and country are littered with cafes, and you’ll be hard pressed to find yourself with a comfortable little place to sit and have an extremely cheap (50¢US) coffee or tea outdoors in nice weather. In Yerevan of course, there are much fancier cafes and options, so you can spend quite a bit more on a drink if you like. A half liter beer (17 ounces, or 1.3 American bottles of beer) will cost you 400-600 drams ($1 or $2US) at the same cafes, whether in a bottle or on draft.
People are overall quite friendly, though service can just as easily come with a frown. But if you are lost, or in the countryside, you can expect a local to ‘adopt’ you and help you find your way, or offer you something to drink or eat, and even invite you into his/her home.
You may find it’s easy to meet people in Armenia, and that the ‘6 degrees of Kevin Bacon’ is more like the 2 degrees of Ara Minasian. In other words, everyone seems to know just about everyone. Plans are often made at the spur of the moment, with plans to meet for lunch, coffee or dinner made 10 minutes in advance.
In the city center of Yerevan, called Pokr Gentron, you can walk anywhere in 5 to 20 minutes. If you don’t feel like walking, the taxis roaming the streets will take you anywhere in the center, or even just beyond for 600 drams (under $2US).
Trips to the countryside are quite rewarding, with the landscape changing dramatically as you go. Ancient monasteries, unspoiled nature and crazy adventures await anyone who goes off the beaten track.
Regional trips are very easy as well. Direct flights go all over Europe, the Middle East and Asia. London, Paris, Frankfurt, Prague, Vienna, Warsaw, Riga, Moscow, Sochi, Kiev, Athens, Istanbul, Beirut, Aleppo, Dubai and many other cities have frequent flights to Yerevan.
Yerevan has a dry continental climate with low humidity. Summers are hot, winters cold, with spring and especially fall having very comfortable nice temperatures. Shorts are now common in Yerevan in the summers, and skiing is an option at a couple of ski towns with new lifts. Other parts of Armenia and Karabakh can have very different weather and levels of humidity. Shushi is usually cool and often foggy. Much of Karabakh and Lori/Tavush can experience humidity. Sevan and other higher altitude areas are cold much of the year.
In Yerevan, most people live in flats which they own, though rentals are very common now. A construction boom in the last decade led to many large new buildings being built, and some were left unfinished when the boom ended. Prices dropped and have now stabilized. There is a wide selection of availability on the market currently. On the outskirts of Yerevan, or outside of the capital most live in houses with gardens. Prices for all of this fluctuates a great deal based on proximity to the city centers, size, type of construction, condition, and many other factors.
Fruits and vegetables are much more seasonal in Armenia than in the West, and when they are in season, they are usually unbelievably cheap and delicious. The summer season of fruits starts in May with mulberries and strawberries then apricots, peaches, and then an avalanche of other fruits into the late fall which is ended with pomegranates and persimmons. A couple of organic cooperatives will deliver in-season organic fruits and vegetable to your door at very low prices.