Niamey, Niger Report of what it's like to live there - 10/18/17

Personal Experiences from Niamey, Niger

Niamey, Niger 10/18/17

Background:

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

Hyderabad, Lima, and Bogota.

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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?

California, USA. The trip takes around 18 hours through Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Large house with yard and pool. Commutes to the U.S. embassy are less than 5 minutes by car, and it is possible to walk or bike, although the roads are dirt. Homes are not well constructed, and have frequent issues with termites.

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

Local groceries are cheap, although the selection is not fabulous. Imported goods are outrageous, but lots of options are available.

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

Salsa, more ingredients for Mexican food.

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

There are several decent French restaurants and other options. Cap Banga is a nice place to spend an evening.

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

Mosquitos, termites, and geckos are all normal in your housing.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch was surprisingly fast, assuming that Air France was flying.

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

Inexpensive - most people have a housekeeper and gardener.

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

There is a small gym at the American Rec Center by the American school. It was not expensive. There is an annual softball tournament and horseback riding is available.

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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?

One or two of the hotels take them. ATMs are almost non-existent, and don't always work. Leave your plastic at home.

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

There are lots of missionaries, and basic Christian services were available in English. The Mormons have a small group that meets in a home.

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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?

French is a must.

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

Yes - no roads, no sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

The U.S. embassy did not permit use of any of the above. Having seen them build the train tracks, if it ever starts running, I'd avoid using it.

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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?

4-wheel drive with high clearance. Almost no roads are paved, and those that are have major pot holes.

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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?

No. You can get ridiculously expensive satellite internet, or get a little box from Airtel. Don't expect to stream anything. Turning your phone into a hotspot was also a popular option.

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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 two options - Airtel and Orange. Neither works 100 percent of the time.

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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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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 work at the American school or embassy, but most stayed at home or volunteered. There is no possibility to telecommute as the internet is terrible.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There were some opportunities with a local orphanage and some of the mission groups.

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

Business casual. Formal dress only at the Marine ball

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Health & Safety:

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

Lots! No traveling outside the city without permission and a caravan. Some petty theft, lots of terrorism concerns.

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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?

Malaria is a huge issue, as is meningitis. Medical care does not exist outside the U.S. embassy and a few charitable groups - expect any remotely major issue to require evacuation.

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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?

Burning trash and sandstorms can be hard on people with respiratory issues.

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

Depression is common.

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

Hot, hot, hot and dry with a short rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

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

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2. 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?

Everyone we knew used a nanny.

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

Some through the rec center. Swimming and softball were popular

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Expat Life:

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

Not large, mostly missionaries in country for years. Overall, morale is good, but the deteriorating security situation has them nervous.

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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?

American Women's Club, the American Rec Center.

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

Not a lot to do - definitely better for families.

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

As elsewhere in West Africa, LGBT is not really accepted, but unlike in other countries, it isn't against the law. Diplomats did not appear to have issues.

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

It's a majority Muslim country. Most of the Christian churches were burned while we were there, but this was seen as unusual. Few ethnic prejudices internally, definite issues with gender equality.

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

Hippos, giraffes, Cap Banga. Golfing on the sand golf course is an interesting experience.

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

Go see the hippos and giraffes.

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

Not really. Some leather goods, all ridiculously expensive for what you get.

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

Not much to do, so we saved money. The beef is shockingly good and cheap.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Winter clothes and expectations of Western living.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and insect repellent.

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