Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo Report of what it's like to live there - 11/13/11
Personal Experiences from Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This was my 5th overseas experience
2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?
Europe (Brussels/Paris) is about 8 hours away. Daily connections with Brussels Airlines, South African Airlines, Ethiopian Airlines. Almost daily connections with Air France, Kenya Airways, Morrocan Airways.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Houses and apartments. Not the best of quality and very pricey.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Very expensive -- a bottle of ketchup costs USD $8.00.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are many good restaurants, but they are very pricey. Fast food is very limited.
5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?
Are you kidding? This is Kinshasa.
6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Rainy season brings bugs, and having several bouts of malaria is not uncommon.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy DPO (for embassy personnel only).
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
$15.00 a day if you can find a good one.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The U.S. Embassy has a small gym for embassy personnel only.
4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
French is mandatory.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Just getting around would be difficult.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?
Many potholes. It's best to have a 4WD SUV.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Unreliable and pricey.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Vodacom -- very pricy.
1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes shaygays (gangs of kids) cause numerous problems.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
OK. Very Hot in the rainy season - and nice and dry during the dry season
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
TASOK (The American School of Kinshasa) is a good school. There are others, but I am not knowledgeable of those.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Good for families that like to stay home and create their own entertainment. Singles OK. Couples OK.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Marine Ball and occasional trips to Brazzaville.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
None really, nothing to do...everything is very difficult to do.
11. Can you save money?
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
3. But don't forget your:
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:
6. Do you have any other comments?
It will be a frustrating experience.