Maputo, Mozambique Report of what it's like to live there - 06/07/11

Personal Experiences from Maputo, Mozambique

Maputo, Mozambique 06/07/11

Background:

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

Israel/Palestine, Quito, Monterrey, here

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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?

Washington, DC

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3. How long have you lived here?

A little more than a year

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

American diplomat

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing associated with the US Embassy is typically an apartment for a household of 1-2, a small townhouse for 3-4, and a larger townhouse for 5-6. There are almost no properties which do not share at least one wall with a neighboring residence. Housing is all within 10 minutes of the embassy, 15 minutes of USAID's offices.

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

Most items are available, although inconsistently and at a price often multiples of that in the US. (Milk is US$10 a gallon in 2011.) If you're single or a couple, prices are annoying, but for a family it can be horrifying. For better prices, selection and consistent availability, many travel to South Africa monthly and buy in large quantities. (Aseptic package milk being about US$6 a gallon there in 2011.)

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

Paper products, maple syrup, diet soda, and lots more spaghetti sauce

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

Chain restuarants are few and quite expensive. There are a number of decent restaurants in Maputo, and all typically are expensive. (A simple lunch is US$15 in 2011.)

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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?

Cultural and religious practices for some and widespread poverty for many makes vegetarian options quite common.

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

Four strains of malaria, ants, termites, spiders, centipedes, giant water bugs (google it), flies, bees, wasps, and, oh, roaches. An entymological wonderland.

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Daily Life:

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

For official Americans, there is no DPO in 2011, only diplomatic pouch with severe restrictions on outgoing items. DHL and FedEx both provide dependable service in Maputo.

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

In 2011, US$150-200 a month will get you six days a week of excellent help in the house. Gardeners are a bit less, and pool guys (if you're so lucky as to have a pool) are even less still (but they only work a couple hours a week.)

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

Yes, but expensive. Those associated with the US Embassy can request access to the Marine House.

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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?

This is a cash society, and even among places where you might be able to use a credit card, very few of them leave you feeling your information is being well guarded. There are however many ATM machines, including machines inside both the Embassy and the USAID office areas. Not all cards will work in all machines, but odds are you will find one that will work ofr you. In 2011, ATMs here will let you withdraw only about US$100 a transaction.

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

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

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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?

The local language always helps, but neighboring South Africa makes English a language that is widely spoken.

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

Extreme difficulties. Sidewalks, when present, are in extremely poor condition and make it difficult for even normally abled persons to move about. Frequent electrical outages make elevators (often quite narrow) a dicey proposition. Housing is often vertical.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are not considered safe, nor are local buses.

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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?

The roughest roads you will encounter will either be deep in the wilds of Mozambique, or the streets in the city of Maputo. I'm being honest here-- even the dirt roads inside Kruger National Park are smoother and better maintained than the typical street in Maputo.

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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?

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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?

There are currently two cell phone companies in Mozambique: Vodacom (part of Vodaphone) and mCel (government owned.) A third company is set to enter the market in the next few years. In 2011, 3G service is offered, but data plans can be expensive. Bring an unlocked quad band phone, and you'll be fine. Dual SIM phones have an advantage, as calling the competitor cell phone company is something like five times as expensive as calling a number on your own network. Locals find it cheaper to maintain two numbers if they must, rather than pay the penalty for calling the other network.

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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?

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

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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?

Zero

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is an everpresent threat. Those who experience the fewest problems are those who avoid being out at night, who avoid high crime areas, and who maintain a high awareness of their surroundings.

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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?

There is no local medical care beyond the most rudimentary that rises to Western standards at this time. For anything more than the sniffles, you will have to go to neighboring South Africa or beyond.

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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?

Fair. There is a cloud of pollution that hangs over the city and everpresent dust, but the breeze off the Indian Ocean makes things seem fresh. Even still, you will find a layer of grime on your car every morning.

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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?

Semi-tropical, with Summer in the 90s and humid and Winter lows in the upper 50s and highs in the upper 70s to low 80s. Pleasant, all things considered. Maputo is as far south of the equator as Miami is to the north.

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Schools & Children:

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

AISM is the school of choice among the official Americans here, although there are other options. Expat Americans represent only something like 10% of AISM's population.

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

Limited. AISM attempts to meet the needs of all their students, but local resources are extremely limited. If you have any concerns at all, it would be best to check with the school before seriously considering coming here.

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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?

Yes. AISM has an (expensive) program, and there is a Montessori school as well. With labor costs under US$200 a month in 2011, a full-time nanny is an economical option that many exercise.

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

AISM runs a wide range of after school activiites for their students, from arts to athletics and everything in between.

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

Among the official Americans, the morale is quite high-- higher than a few years ago, owing to good current management at post.

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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?

Unless you are into the bar scene, you will pretty much be making your own fun. That said, the almost universally gorgeous weather makes a barbecue with friends a most pleasant way to spend an afternoon, without the distractions you would have in many other places.

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

If you don't expect too much from a city-- correction: if you expect almost nothing from a city, it's not too bad a place to live. It will seem like you've run through all the good restaurants the first week you're here, and have seen everything in the city by the next week, but if you make your own fun, this is really a quite nice place to live as a single, couple or as a family.

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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?

Maputo is a city built of many cultures, all of whom live together quite well. That said, there are strong racial and gender stereotypes layered upon Mozambican society, including a strong sense of class separation. For example, the ladies that help at our house were amused for a week after seeing their white male employer not only cook (well), but wash his dish afterwards. They had never seen that before.

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

Kruger, the beaches, the incredible warmth and friendliness of the Mozambican people.

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

Kruger Park, the beaches, Nelspruit, hobbies, gathering with friends, cooking out

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

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

If you aren't crazily going on expensive trips to other places, you can save lots of money, even families can save. (We bank every other paycheck.)

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11. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. If you don't expect much from a town, this really isn't that bad of a place to live.

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

Wristwatch. Man, are these people laid back.

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3. But don't forget your:

Anti-malarials and roadmap of South Africa.

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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?

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