Monrovia, Liberia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/07/19

Personal Experiences from Monrovia, Liberia

Monrovia, Liberia 08/07/19

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

We have lived in Wairoa, New Zealand; Bogota, Colombia; Moscow, Russia; and Taipei, Taiwan.

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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?

Grand Rapids, Michigan. Travel on Brussells Air takes 22 hours, connecting in Brussels and Chicago. Travel on Royal Air Maroc is a bit less expensive but takes 36 hours. Travel in and out of Monrovia is difficult and expensive. Flights do not run every day of the week. To travel direct to Morrocco or Brussels it's around $1,200. Even flights within West Africa are pricey.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most housing is apartments that do not have elevators. Due to climate and building construction, maintenance is a constant issue. Apartment sizes are smaller than would be expected living in Africa. Much of the diplomatic community is within walking distance to work. It's also an option to choose housing closer to the school which is a 20 minute drive to the embassy.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There are a few Lebanese-owned grocery stores in town. They have a wide variety of products available. Prices vary, but often tend to be higher than one would pay in the US. Produce in the grocery stores is limited and of very poor quality. It's best to shop local markets. Fruit and vegetable items are limited and you need to adjust your menu accordingly. Household supplies are available but of lower quality than in the US. Laundry detergent is ridiculously expensive.

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

Specialty items need to be brought to post. If you have a consumables shipment, use it first for liquids and specialty items then for every day items. Snacks are limited here.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There are about six restaurants that expats frequently visit. Options from sushi, Lebanese, Chinese, and pizza are available. There are two grocery/restaurant delivery services. Local cuisine is like it or leave it.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Not as much of a problem as I had anticipated. Rainy season brings tiny ants and dry season brings cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

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

There is not a local postal system that I'm aware of. DHL is an expensive option in the event of necessity. I receive mail through my diplomatic mission mail system.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Household help is inexpensive. People use nannies, housekeepers, gardeners, cooks, car washers and dog walkers. Quality of service is low.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There are gyms and personal trainers available locally. Yoga is a popular activity in the expat community. Weekly yoga sessions and retreats are available. Prices vary.

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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?

Credit cards are accepted in the grocery stores. ATMs are available in hotels but are often out of cash. I have heard of people being robbed when leaving ATMs. This is mainly a cash economy.

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

This is an English-speaking country so it is possible to go to a local church. There is an expat Catholic congregation.

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

English is the official language.

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

Yes. Many apartments do not have elevators. Sidewalks are uneven and often stalls of merchandise fill the space.

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Transportation:

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

The embassy community is not encouraged to use public transportation.

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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?

Four wheel drive with high clearance is best. Roads have potholes that grow worse in rainy season. Side roads are often dirt and will be flooded in the rainy season.

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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?

Yes. It is quick to get it installed once arriving in country.

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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?

Orange has scratch cards and monthly options that are very affordable.

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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?

There are two veterinarians in country that the expat community uses. There is no quarantine upon arrival. Make sure all your paper work is in order and that you have checked out requirements in connecting airports.

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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?

Some people have with NGOs. Local positions would not pay enough. The majority of our spouses work within our diplomatic mission. Currently, there are only full-time positions available.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Volunteer opportunities are available but you need to do your research and make connections. They are not as easy to find as one would imagine.

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

Business and business casual are appropriate depending on the office you work in.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Standard awareness is necessary. Snatch and grabs do happen. The embassy does a good job of alerting embassy personnel when protests are happening and streets are blocked.

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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?

It is best to be faithful taking your malaria prophylaxis. Local health care is not of reliable quality. Aspen Clinic is the best place to go in case of emergency. A Regional Medical Officer (RMO) is posted at the Embassy and will take care of Embassy officers and families. Medevacs are common. The dental clinic at ELWA Hospital is the only place to have your teeth cleaned or to go for a dental emergency. European dentists are often rotating through there.

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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?

Good.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Mold can be an issue but with dehumidifiers and air conditioners it can be kept in control. It is difficult to find specialty food items. and it is best to bring those items with you.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Rainy season really gets to some people. Most resorts in the area are closed during this time and outdoor activity is very limited.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

May - Oct. is rainy season. Humidity is high an rain is frequent. Temperatures are in the low 80s.
Nov. - April is dry season. It is not quite as humid and as the day grows hotter the humidity will burn off. Temperatures are in the mid 90s+.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

The American International School of Monrovia is the most common choice. They have classes through grade 10. This is a fine school for elementary age children. Our Lady of Grace is a Catholic school. Classrooms are more diverse. This is also a good elementary option.

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

Special needs support is not available.

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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?

There are three preschools to choose from. Cachelle Creative Center is the most popular due to cost and curriculum. AISM and OLG also provide preschool options.

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

It is difficult to find outside activities for your children, especially if they have a particular interest or talent.

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Expat Life:

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

Maybe around 500 in the city? Morale is excellent despite the daily challenges of living in Monrovia.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Yoga, Hash Harriers, and bird watching are ways to meet other expats. A lot of socialization is self-made and goes on within homes.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Because a lot of entertainment is self-made, all demographics seem to do well here. Our young family community is very tight-knit.

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

There doesn't seem to be a problem here.

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5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

No, often when a friendship is forged they begin asking for money or gifts.

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

We enjoyed hiking to a waterfall and visiting Monkey Island via Marshall. Robertsport and Labassa are excellent resort areas that are a good weekend away from the city.

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

Not really. The fabric, lappa, is unique and colorful. Bosh Bosh and Resurrection Bags make nice souvenirs to give as gifts. The handicraft trade is lacking here.

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

Close-knit community.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, we have enjoyed our time. We have had good local experiences and enjoy our time in the expat community. The lack of things to do has created more community opportunities and a slower pace of life which is very enjoyable.

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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:

Specialty food items and medications.

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

The House at Sugar Beach by Helen Cooper (Book) and Firestone and the Warlord (Documentary).

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