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

Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of the Congo 11/13/11

Background:

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

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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.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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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.

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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.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Skin-so-soft.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy DPO (for embassy personnel only).

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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.

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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.

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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?

Don't.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

No.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is mandatory.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Just getting around would be difficult.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No.

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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.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Unreliable and pricey.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Vodacom -- very pricy.

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Pets:

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?

No.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Unreliable.

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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?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Smart casual.

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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.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Unreliable.

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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?

Moderate.

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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

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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.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?


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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?


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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor.

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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?

Poor.

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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.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

No.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Marine Ball and occasional trips to Brazzaville.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Fabrics.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

None really, nothing to do...everything is very difficult to do.

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11. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

No.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

winter clothes

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3. But don't forget your:

DVDs.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It will be a frustrating experience.

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