Maputo, Mozambique Report of what it's like to live there - 02/26/20

Personal Experiences from Maputo, Mozambique

Maputo, Mozambique 02/26/20

Background:

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

Yes.

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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?

I traveled from DC to Maputo. The route that seems most common is to transit to Atlanta, then take the 16 hour flight from Atlanta to Johannesburg, then take the one hour flight to Maputo. Obviously, a 16 hour flight is a long trip, but it's not a terrible flight in spite of that. Once you are in Johannesburg, it's pretty easy to get to Maputo, since there are multiple flights between the two cities daily.

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3. How long have you lived here?

22 months.

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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?

We live in a large, relatively modern, apartment complex. Housing is generally quite spacious, and generally near to the Chancery. We live in a three-bedroom, three-and-a-half bathroom apartment with 2800 square feet. This is the larger of the two styles of apartment in our compound. The Chancery is only a mile away, and it only typically takes 15 minutes to get to work, even with traffic.

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

Overall, everything a person NEEDS is available for purchase in Maputo. Pork products, particularly bacon, are rare and expensive, and specialty products like turkey for Thanksgiving can be both expensive and small. Dairy products are generally shelf-stable, so they taste different. Tortillas and tortilla chips are hard to find and VERY expensive. You are better off making your own. American ketchup, mustard and mayonnaise are hard to find.

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

If you want any type of specialty beer, you need to buy it in South Africa or ship it with your consumables. There is not an IPA to be found in Mozambique. American condiments are difficult to impossible to find. In general, liquid goods are challenging to find.

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

Typically we use the Deliva App or A Porta. Deliva is an "Uber-Eats", style food delivery service, and "A Porta", is the same for goods. Indian Food, Pizza, and chicken are easily purchased and deliverable. Pizza Hut and KFC are the only American fast food available in Mozambique.

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

Bugs are surprisingly uncommon in our home. Roaches, mosquitoes and the like do exist, but so do geckos, which seem to keep them in check. Termites do sometimes infest embassy-issued furniture, but you can have the Embassy spray for infestations.

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Daily Life:

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

We typically use Diplomatic Pouch. Generally, it takes ten days to a month to receive packages from the US, and Amazon, Walmart, etc, all deliver to our pouch address. Local mail is slow and not dependable, although UPS and DHS exist for VERY expensive rates.

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

You can employ household help very reasonably. We paid US $350/month for a full-time Empregada (maid,) and this was fairly high. Babas (Nannies,) can be hired for lower amounts and drivers hired for even less than that. None of these are a requirement for life here, but they are commonly employed. Be aware that theft and a lack of attention to detail seem common. We fired our Empregada after 18 months because she destroyed clothes, broke dishes, and simply did not listen.

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

There is a small gym in our apartment complex, and numerous gyms you can purchase memberships to. Gyms are somewhat less expensive than they are in the US, and of similar quality. Gyms cost US $70 -$90 a month, or more if you want private lessons (from a Crossfit Gym, for example.)

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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?

Absolutely. Virtually all businesses accept Visa and ATMs are everywhere. In general it seems like they are safe, although it is not uncommon for ATMs to be out of order. Best practice is to only use ATMs within embassy controlled areas but this is often not practical.

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

For living in Maputo, almost none. It seems like most people have a functional level of English in the city. However, as you move out of the city, Portuguese becomes more common, and then local African languages dominate when you are away from cities and in the interior of the country.

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

Certainly. Our son was wheelchair-bound for three months and it severely limited our options. Housing, schools, shopping malls and so on are simply not accessible for people with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

I've only used taxis, and they seem generally fine. The RSO has only vetted two taxi agencies, and it is generally impossible to find one of these two companies dependably. I would not use the local buses, chapas (open-backed trucks,) tuk-tuks or myloves (vans.)

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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?

Something with four wheel drive and high clearance. Within the city and the surrounding area, the roads are paved, but out of town even slightly off the beaten path it is near impossible. I would suggest purchasing a vehicle within the Embassy community because it will be easier to find parts and service. I would not bring a sports car or something that can't make it over speed bumps.

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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?

Technically yes, but it is slow and expensive. We pay US $250 a month for 12MB speed. This is enough for streaming multiple devices, but just barely. We got our internet installed within the first two weeks of arriving. One thing we weren't prepared for was paying for three months in advance, which is common practice for businesses here.

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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?

Purchase a local phone and pay for data as you need it. I paid US $200 for a phone when I arrived, and generally pay no more than US $15 a month for the internet I use.

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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 veterinarians here. They seem inexpensive and will make house calls. To bring a pet into Mozambique you need a health certificate and a rabies certificate. One worthwhile thing to know is that Mozambicans do not commonly own pets, so they are somewhat scared of them, especially dogs.

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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?

Spouses can ONLY work through the embassy, as there is no third-party (bilateral) work agreement in Mozambique. I assume teleworking is authorized though. If you plan to work at the embassy, keep in mind that the security clearance process can be extremely time-consuming. People commonly wait 6-18 months for clearances. If you can arrive with a clearance it will save you a ton of headaches when you arrive. Pay seems low but not unreasonably so, given local expenses.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

It seems that people can volunteer through the local animal shelters, orphanages and the like. The help is definitely appreciated, but it can get depressing. The need in Maputo far exceeds the ability to meet it.

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

Men typically wear dress shirt, tie and slacks. At its most formal, men wear suits and women dresses.

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Health & Safety:

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

Generally I've always felt safe in Maputo. Petty crime happens, but it seems to be crime of opportunity. I've had money stolen out of my car and things go missing from my home, but never anything major.

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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?

Air quality can be bad from people burning trash, and I would suggest people take their doxycycline.

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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. In general the air is fine, but people burn their trash so it can put a lot of smoke in the air.

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

I take a daily allergy medicine and have never had problems. I don't have food allergies, but I would be careful eating out, because Mozambicans are not going to understand people not being able to eat certain foods, or if they do there is no guarantee food you order will be free of those foods.

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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)?

I think people sometimes get bored and frustrated because they feel like there isn't much to do. You will be happiest if you make friends and plan activities among your social group. There aren't great opportunities to go out at night, and what there are can sometimes be unsafe.

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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?

Hot and wet. Maputo has a wet season and a dry season, although rain seems to happen in both. Something to remember is that Mozambique is in the Southern Hemisphere, so seasons are reversed.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most children go to the American International School of Mozambique. In general, the facility is beautiful and the class sized are small. However, I don't think the school is particularly good. I realize I don't pay the $25,000/child personally, but I don't think you get the bang for the buck. The school uses the International Bacheloreate system, which seems designed to prevent people from asking questions or holding teachers accountable.

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

Pretty much none. As I mentioned earlier, our son was in a wheelchair for three months, and he pretty much couldn't go to school. There are no elevators, ramps or the like, and, in my opinion, the school has a real "fit in or get out", mentality. In my opinion, they will claim otherwise and will use a lot of comforting sounding noises to make you feel comfortable, but when the rubber hits the road, they don't seem to do much.

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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?

From what I hear, they are quite expensive. Your best bet is to employ a baba.

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

The school has lots of sports available. Swimming, basketball, volleyball, track and or course soccer are common choices.

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Expat Life:

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

There are about 300 Americans living in Maputo. It seems like people here are pretty happy overall. It's a beautiful place to live and there are lots of travel opportunities.

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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?

People get together for dinner commonly, or they'll gather at an Embassy event (Wine and Cheese, etc.) The Hash House Harriers have a strong presence here.

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

I think its good for singles and couples and families, but you need to be creative. If you're the type of person who feels like entertainment will come to you, you are likely to be disappointed.

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

There is an LGBT community. I think LGBT people are accepted in Maputo more so than the rest of the country.

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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. Mozambicans are extremely reserved and do not mix often with Americans. It is incredibly hard to become friends with Mozambicans, and they maintain a large social distance.

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

I haven't seen any real problems here. It seems like, for the most part, the issues of disparity in Mozambique are primarily economic. There is a sharp distinction between rich and poor here, and it is illustrated in every aspect of your daily life.

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

We traveled to local beaches (Ponta do Ouro, Makineta,) to South Africa (Kruger Park, Hazyview, ) and Swaziland. I would take up some form of ocean-based entertainment like SCUBA, surfing, or the like.

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

Just generally, be open to new experiences. There are lots of opportunities to do interesting, fun things, but they will take you out of your comfort zone.

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

There are lots of handicrafts locally available. However, you will see that many of the products you can find here are not natively produced. The common term for this is "Africrap." Buy your fill of it, but realize it is likely not indigenous to Mozambique.

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

I wake up every day and see the Indian Ocean. I can drive 30 minutes and find a pristine beach. It's a great place to be.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing really. Know you are moving to a place that's different than anywhere else you've likely been.

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

Absolutely. There are challenges, but I am a MUCH better person for the experience.

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

Cold weather clothes,

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bug spray, sense of adventure.

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

I wish I could. This place is essentially a black hole. Nobody knows anything about this place.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

No. Enjoy your trip!

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