Maputo, Mozambique Report of what it's like to live there - 10/17/12

Personal Experiences from Maputo, Mozambique

Maputo, Mozambique 10/17/12

Background:

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

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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?

DC is our home base, and it is a looooong flight to Joburg and then a puddle jumper to Maputo. Or you can go through Lisbon and then straight into Maputo. Either way its a nasty, long flight in coach

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. government and lived in Maputo fro 2009 to 2011, a sixth expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There is one compound that used to belong to USAID but is now shared among all agencies. It is nice for families with young children. Other than that, its a crap shoot: apartments for couples and houses for families. This is not your old AF housing, where everything is wonderful and all places come with a pool and a great yard. This was probably the worst housing we have seen in all our years of overseas living. Plus, the Embassy staff is not properly trained. Yoou get a poor quality of work when they do work, and skilled labor outside of the Embassy is not much better. If you run into a South African service company that has quality control, then hang onto them and ask for references for other jobs needed.

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

If you do local fruits and veggies, you can save some money. Also, using local shopping stores will help the checking account. More grocery stores are opening up there, so things might be a little better. The best steaks I've ever had in my life came from Swazi and SA. Cheeses were limited unless you wanted to pay an arm or leg for some imported items. South African wines are great!

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

Anything from the States thats' near and dear to your heart.

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

Some of the usual American nasty fast food: KFC and in Nelspruit, McDonalds. Maybe a little cheaper than stateside prices.

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

Malaria (four types), mango flies, ants.

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Daily Life:

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

The embassy has no APO/DPO service, only pouch. We were very limited on what we could bring in, no liquids.

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

Cheap, but quality is tough, as the good ones get hired quickly. If you have the time and want to train them, then you can find a young person that is willing to have a job. I never saw more young men walking around going nowhere than in Maputo.

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

Not really. The Marines have a gym you can ask to join, but that's about it. Get some kettle bells and go work out on the beach at low tide.

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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 use it, except in Nelspruit. Maputo for the most part is a cash-n-carry city.

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

Yes, I believe Catholic and non denominational.

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

Not sure about newspapers. I don't believe so, but DSTV out of SA is what the majority of us used for TV.

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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?

It helps a lot and breaks the ice trying to show your making an effort.

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

I wouldn't advise coming here at all. The city has more pot holes and crumbling sidwalks than any war zone I've ever been in. As a previous posting stated, Kruger Park has better roads than the city of Maputo.

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Transportation:

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

Nope. Stay away from them.

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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?

Bring you old SUV or buy a used one here. But do not bring anything you're afraid of get dinged or banged up. Some folks got by with sedans, but I wouldn't recommend that because when it rains the streets are like small rivers, and you have no idea what your driving in or over.

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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?

Internet is there, but it is not high-speed. Different packages are available, including ADSL/Cable/Wireless.

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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?

You can buy them there, and most companies will have a plan for you and the family. Pay as you go.

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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?

Not unless they are going into SA for a stay.

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

This is hit or miss. A kennel and some vets are here, and they try very hard but don't have the money or the equipment to treat an illness. But they do love dogs and cats. Most locals...well, all locals scream bloody murder at the site of a dog. A dog on a leash will cause man, woman, and child to run out into the street into oncoming traffic. I guess they figure it's safer to get hit by a bus than to be be attacked by a toy poodle!

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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?

Nop.e

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

Sharp casual at work, unless you have meetings, then it's suit and tie. Anything goes, really. Around Maputo: shorts, t-shirts and flip-flops are standard attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

Oh my, yes! Lots of crime and it can be violent.

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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?

Oh yeah, malaria is everywhere, as are mango flies, and medical care is not great. All of us went to SA for anything serious.

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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?

There was some pollution, but not anything that really bothered our family. The sea breeze usually blew everything away. Most pollution is from old diesel buses and trucks. The city of Maputo doesn't manufacture diddly, so there is not much in the way of air pollution from industry.

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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?

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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 where most American Diplomats send their kids. There is also a French school and a Portuguese school. We were not impressed with AISM at all. They bragged about how they were one of the best in all of Africa, if so I'd hate to see the worst. The kids were educated and had some great teachers, but the communication from the school on every front was severely lacking. This school didn't have the high turnover rate that most International schools have, so you have a group of kids that have been here for years and really are not into accepting others that quickly. If your kids are outgoing, theough, they will adjust eventually. Knowing what we know now, I would not have accepted my position due to the school.

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

Not much from what I've been told but I would inquire a little more.

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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?

Not sure, but did hear about a great Montessori school that went to the 3rd grade, I believe.

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

Yes, AISM offers some after-school activities, but again the communication there is horrible and it seems like the left hand has no idea what the right hand is doing. For example during a huge soccer match involving 4 or 5 schools, many parents were looking for a first-aid station, kit or a nurse, but they found nada, zilch, nothing. One child broke his hand, and another had a major asthma attack. So at the next big sports event, you would think these would be addressed. But nope. (Sigh!)

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty big with numerous Embassies/NGOs and expats.

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2. Morale among expats:

This is a mixed bag. Because of housing issues, school issues, and management problems, many people couldn't wait to leave. Those not dealing with these issues seemed to enjoy it. It is funny how one section manager can ruin numerous lives, and even when it's a known, nothing is really done about it. Things should be okay next year or the year after, unless you're inheriting their office; then you'll have to put the pieces back together. the pieces back together.

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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?

Many house parties and get-togethers, Kruger, and trips outside the city. There are a few restaurants that offer some awesome food, but outside of that not much. You'll need to spend money to get outside of Maputo once in a while. Oh, there are a few places, as far as nightclubs and a casino. I went to one club, once, just once: a very interesting clientele.

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

It is great for singles and couples and families with young kids; not so great for teens. The group at AISM that is still there throws parties starting at 11 at night all over town. Our kids couldn't understand why we didn't let them go out and stay out 'til the sun came up until one student was stabbed and robbed of his cell phone. And then the East Asian kidnappings started, with grandmothers and kids being held hostage for money. It's not Europe! Crime is everywhere. I knew it was bad, but the lack of common sense in some of these parents is amazing, and we battled for months with our kids on these issues until the bad things started happening. Then folks started to think, and you saw more house parties for the teens.

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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?

As a previous post said this country and city have a mishmash of cultures and races, so there are not many racial issues that I'm aware of. Gender, yes. Women are still treated as second class citizens.

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

Kruger, Vic Falls, Cape Town, and R&R. There is lots of great seafood in town, and 90% of the locals are very nice. But the other 10% were pretty bad.

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

Kruger!!! And there are some awsome local beaches. And great seafood that is comparable to anywhere in the world. We enjoyed weekend runs into Nelspruit for some first-world town life with movies and malls.

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

Some furniture, few local clothing items.

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

Kruger was, hands down, our biggest thrill. We didn't travel much inside Moz due to infrastructure problems, the lack of decent emergency health care, and the lack of just about everything. That being said, we had friends that went all over the country and very rarely made it into South Africa. The key is that you have to get out. Staying in Maputo, which a few folks did, turned them into grumpy old men. By going out and about you won't save money, nor will you by traveling to Nelspruit for groceries. Weather is tropical and seasons are reversed. So Spring, Summer, and Fall were not bad, while Winter was hot and muggy.

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11. Can you save money?

Depends on how much you need to get away from the poverty.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I would if the school was top notch as it advertised and housing was better. But if its the status quo no way!!

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

sense of urgency, common sense (well, bring some but keep it on the shelf). Thinking that the embassy is run by Americans and should hold all to that standard, alas, many of us let the locally-employed-staff continue to fumble around making the same errors again and again, not holding folks accountable or getting them the proper training.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience and a strong will for turning away from the beggars and the poverty. This place is not run efficiently in any shape or form, so be prepared. If you keep your expectations low, every once in awhile you'll be pleasantly surprised. Graft and corruption are the norm at every level of society.

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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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