Monrovia, Liberia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/26/19
Personal Experiences from Monrovia, Liberia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No, I've also lived in Kingston, Baku, and Tunis.
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?
Home is the eastern shore of Maryland. Monrovia is not an easy city to get to. There are limited flights and they do not operate every day. Best flight is Brussels Air which usually flies every other day. You can also fly Air Morocco through Casablanca. Travel is always a day and can even be longer depending which way you are flying.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
My wife works for USAID.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
There is a wide range of housing but almost all units are 3 bedrooms units. If you have a large family there are limited options. Most housing is within walking distance (5-10 min.) of the Embassy. We happen to live further out so our drive is usually about 20 minutes but can run up to an hour.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can find most things but it does take some digging. Groceries are expensive here especially considering we are going through a period of inflation. You will usually shop at a few places because no one store will have everything you are looking for. Also availability of any one item is very inconsistent. You may find it in a store one week and then not see it again for a few months.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
The problem here is that getting fresh vegetables and some meat cuts are hard and these are not things that you can ship. We like to cook out and you can get charcoal here but the quality is not very good. Also if you have pets getting pet supplies can be very hit and miss. For a couple of months you could not find kitty litter any where but that is why we have Amazon.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Almost every restaurant has delivery through a number of delivery services. The problem is there are a limited number of restaurants and food usually take a long time to arrive. Local food is rice and beans, you can always find fresh fish but you do not want to have that delivered. There are a few sushi (yes sushi) places and some decent Indian. We have not found good Chinese but we are told it does exist.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
You will always get ants and water bugs during rainy season. You can spry all you want they will still come. There is malaria here but we have run into very few misquotes.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
All our mail is done through the Embassy. There is DHL and FedEx which we have used a few times.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
There is lots of help, usually cheap, US$100 a month for 3 days a week. Some people do have full-time help who will shop and cook for them and that of course will run much more. Finding good help can be a real challenge.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a pool and two gyms, tennis court and a basketball court in the Embassy. Our location, Ocean Club does have a pool and a nice gym but that is not a constant with all housing. If you do not have a pool or gym usually a friend will have one that you can use if you do not want to go to the embassy.
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 widely used but there are often problems with local merchants credit card machine so we always make sure that we have cash with us. There are ATMs, but they are often empty. Many people will cash checks at the Embassy and then have a stash of cash at home.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
This is an English-speaking country so language is not a problem. It is also a Christen country so there are a lot of churches but a service can be quite an experience. Church for the locals is a whole day experience. There are mosques but I do not know about other religions.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Just English but understanding the locals can be interesting.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, it is just not built for people with handicaps. There are very few elevators or ramps for example.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are local cabs but not much else. There are a few RSO-approved cabs that will come when you call.
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?
An SUY or Jeep is best. The roads are not good and once you are out of the main towns you will run into mostly dirt roads which in rainy season become unpassable.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
There is phone and internet that you can get set up within a few days of your arrival but the quality is not the best. Orange is the main carrier. Their phone service is OK but their internet is not good. Pay more for an internet server if you want any type of consistent service and even then do not expect it to work all of the time.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We did but usually we just make arrangements with our U.S. carrier and survive the additional cost. That is why you FaceTime.
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 is only really one vet here. Quite a few people have cats or dogs and if they go away they find friends to take care of their pet. Your pet does not have to be quarantined upon arrival but make sure you have all your papers in order or the airline will not even allow your pet to make the trip. Some families have used a service to ship their animals and as a whole it looks like that may be the best way to transport your pet.
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?
There are a lot of NGOs and a few schools where you can find employment but if you are looking for anything else then you had better be a self-contained business.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Again NGOs and schools will accept help. The Salvation Army and a number of charities are also here.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dress is very informal. You are in an African nation with their own style but most people are dressed in western fashions. It is hot and humid and although you will see jackets and ties usually only government officials dress that way for business.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime is on the rise because the economic conditions are deteriorating. You will hear about phones or purses being snatched but that is mostly local on local. The rest is common sense. Do not walk along the beach at night alone.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria is here and if you work for the embassy they will issue you pills. Medical conditions as a whole are poor but they are getting better. If you need any sort of surgery you will be medevacked. The real concern is that because there are limited flight in and out evacuation is not always a real option.
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?
There is no real air pollution here. The locals will burn tires and garbage from time to time but those are singular events.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Would have to go on a case-by-case situation to answer that question. If you have food allergies I would prepare my own food. I would not trust a local restaurant to prepare a meal correctly for an allergy.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
There is no winter here. There is a rainy season but at least it is always warm. If you are not working this is a place of limited options. There are a few restaurants, few clubs, a movie and no café scene. Each person has to be responsible for their own stimulation. A few people do get lost in the internet but with a little effort there is enough to do, you just have to work at it.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The American school is the primary education outlet for expats. The student body is expanding, it is now about 120 students. The education is fine, classes are small and more then a few parents will work as assistants so there is lots of involvement, but outside class opportunities are limited.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I do not know of any kids with special needs in the schools here.
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?
Again there are limited opportunities. There are a number of pre-schools but most are local, set up for local kids.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
There is sports activities but not a full slate. With limited student bodies come limited sports activities.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Do not have a good answer for that. The American community is the largest. Many Americans do not move out of the Embassy community which is unfortunate. Social life here is what you make it. We play bridge with people from the IMF. Have a poker group with people from the German, British and Irish community. Will travel with local friends. There are a few resorts you can go to for a weekend. We have traveled to neighboring countries with fellow Americans and met friends in Europe. Most everyone realize that resources are limited and are will to share in any experience they find or introduce new friends to old friends.
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?
We have met most of our social circle either through work or friends. You can also meet people through the schools, if you have kids or at your residence.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think this is a hard city for anyone. There are always some options but not a lot. You have only a limited amount of entertainment possibilities so your social life is what you make it.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
This is a very religious country, either Christian or Muslim. There is not much of an open LGBT community outside of the expat community.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
It is not hard to make friends but interactions with local is limited. There are no prejudices that we have run into, except maybe our own.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
As stated before this is a religious community, church is an all day event. With that said there are gender and religious issues with the local community. Given how small the expat community is there is a lot of support there for all people.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The weather, except the rainy season. It is easy to get to Morocco from here and that been the source of several good trips. The Ivory Coast and Guinea are place you should go. We have also been to Togo and Benin which were excellent. You really need a sense of adventure here.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
The beaches, if you like to surf. If there is anything new that pops up the word is passed very quickly. Anglers is a well known restaurant but unfortunately not frequented enough.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
This is not a shopping post. There are local handicrafts but only a few outstanding pieces. Your best bet is to have something made for you. There are many artisans who love to make commission pieces and the quality is usually much better.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
There is very little going on outside of the city. Good roads, restaurants even internet can only be found in the city.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
It was actually better then we thought it would be. Just be prepared to work, at find places to go, to meet people to make plans. Nothing comes easy here but there is a lot going on if you are willing to work a little.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Compared to what. My wife works for USAID so we are not going to get posted to Rome. There are much worst places to be. I will say that most in the expat community don't want to listen to complaints about lack of anything. We are all in the same boat and we want to create solutions not sit around and complain about what we do not have.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coat, unless you want to go to Germany in December. Your prejudices.
4. But don't forget your:
Rain coat, or umbrella which most people us to control the amount of sun you get.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Online there is very little and this place is changing so fast that stuff you read that is a year old does not apply now. Just keep an open mind and be willing to go with the flow.
6. Do you have any other comments?
This can be a good post but you have to be willing to work. If you are willing there are many who will help you, even join you. But few who will join you crying in your beer.