Freetown, Sierra Leone Report of what it's like to live there - 09/16/10

Personal Experiences from Freetown, Sierra Leone

Freetown, Sierra Leone 09/16/10

Background:

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

No. Too many to list.

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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?

From Washington DC to London is about 7.5 hours with a 3 hour layover, then another 7.5 hours to Freetown.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Attached to the US Embassy.

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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 is OK but should be improving in the next few months as newer housing is coming on line. Most are apartments 3 bedrooms, 2.5 baths. Newer housing should be single family stand-alones in a compound.

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

Very limited. Imported goods will cost almost double for most items that in the DC area.

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

Anything you can not live with out. Like your own bed.

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

None.

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

Small ants.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch. Sometimes twice a week, sometimes twice a month, but has restrictions.

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

Not sure. Maybe US$150 to 200 a month.

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

The embassy has a full gym.

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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?

Credit cards are not accepted here. It is a cash-only system. There are some ATMs, but not sure how safe they are to use.

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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?

Embassy staff is provided AFN. You can get other cable for about US$75 a month; not sure how good it is. All lose signal during rainy season at times.

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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?

No english is spoken here.

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

There are no sidewalks here and the roads are small and in very poor condition.

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Transportation:

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

NOT allowed.

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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?

A 4x4 is great to have due to the roads, but if you stay in the city you can get by with a regular car. Nothing new because it will get damaged.

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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 available but expensive and the high speed here is like dial up in the US.

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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?

Cell phone is provided by the embassy, but you pay for personal calls.

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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?

No.

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

Limited

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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?

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

Casual to shirt-and-tie at work. In public most anything goes except shorts.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty Crime.

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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?

Health care is very limited.

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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.

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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?

Rains 6 months out of the year usually from May to Oct.

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Schools & Children:

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

Do not know. I have heard good and bad.

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

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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?

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

None.

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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:

Good.

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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?

Within the embassy community it is OK.

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

Post is better for families and couples as there little for a single to do.

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

Not openly accepted.

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

None.

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

Nothing much to do here except for the beaches.

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

Go to the Beach.

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

Wood carving and local dress.

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

Has some nice beaches and if you good with your money you can save some. Rains six months out of the year.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you are careful.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

NO.

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

expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

bug spray.

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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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