Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/22/14

Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia

Lusaka, Zambia 08/22/14

Background:

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

No, Caribbean and Latin American countries.

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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 - 20 hours with a stopover in London, Amsterdam, or South Africa.

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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.)?

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?

Single family homes that are gates and maybe 7-15 minutes away. A few compounds - at least one seems to have no yard privacy and another does.

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

Availability of groceries is relatively good - but pricey. US$4-$5 for a can of tuna, US$2-$2.50 for fetuccine, US$15 for a bottle of extra virgin olive oil. If a part a of the American community, you can buy from the commissary but that is expensive too for many things and there is mostly a stock of canned and boxed "staples."

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

Olive oil, soy sauce, nut butters.

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

South African Fast food chains, a KFC, Subway. There are some okay restaurants - not a single spectacular one and prices can range from US$4 for a chicken schwarma to US$7 for fish and chips to US$20 for trout and couscous.

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

Cockroaches, ants, mosquitoes outside of Lusaka - the real risk for malaria is outside of the capital.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO or Pouch.

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

Widely available and is about US$200/month if they are experienced with American families.

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

Yes - cost varies and there is even a Cross-fit group and a former Olympian that runs multi-week boot camps.

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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?

I have not had an issue using my credit card in the grocery store or restaurants although I prefer to use cash. MasterCard is not easy to use in ATMs

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

Tons - Pentecostal, Baptist, Catholic, Ba'hai(sp?), even Buddhist.

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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?

None but people appreciate it when you can greet in local languages. English is the official language.

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

Um yes - there are no sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

Not safe and not affordable. If using a reliable taxi driver I think the price is about US$10 each way.

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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?

Any type although most people have SUVs.

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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?

Not high speed and about US$80/month.

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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?

MTN, Zamtel, or Airtel are fine.

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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?

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons - especially with HIV affected people.

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

At work - business casual to business and in public - casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really although there have been reports of carjackings and thefts from homes - not the violent crime you hear about in Nairobi or Johannesburg.

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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?

Quality of medical care is low.

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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?

Very dry and dusty - it bothers some of my family members but not all; It is bad when people start burning grass.

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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?

In May it starts getting cool and in June and July it is maybe 70s F during the day and 40s F at night. August is windy and the temperature ranges from 50-80F maybe, September it warms up, October is super hot, November the rain comes and lasts until March/April with 80s F for highs and 70s F for lows.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are a few schools - for ease my children are at AISL. The elementary schools is using the IB program and many American parents complain that their children aren't learning enough. I always wonder what those same parents would say if their children were strictly being taught to pass tests and not much critical thinking or creativity encouraged. That said, I wish the math curriculum was more rigorous and incorporated more rote learning.

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

Not many.

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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?

There are not many options but I've heard of three who people really like it and the cost is about US$4,000/year.

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

Yes through the school and outside - soccer, tennis, basketball, volleyball.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly large and generally good.

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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?

BBQs and getting together with friends.

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

Good for everyone although kind of boring.

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

Not at all.

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

Not overwhelming issues.

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

Lots of families with young children.

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

Many expats like to go camping or on safari. There is the Hash group, BBQs, movie theatres, Alliance Francais.

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

Purses made from plastic bags.

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

Weather.

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10. Can you save money?

Yeah unless you're traveling all the time or just HAVE to eat like "typical" Americans with all the processed food.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That the art scene is essentially non-existent and it is so expensive to go to nice lodges and most safari stuff requires 6+ hour drives.

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

Yes.

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

Preconceived notion that you will be living in a culturally rich African country.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good manners and patience - Zambians are into greetings (long ones!).

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