Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/08/16
Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
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?
Orlando, Florida. It takes about 21 hours from Orlando through Dubai to Lusaka.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Large and very modern. The layout is perfect with large bathrooms and kitchen. It is in a prime location in the Kabulonga area, close to supermarkets, schools, and work.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries can be pretty expensive, and what you want is not always available when you want it. For instance, cream cheese is easy to find sometimes, and then it disappears for months. Our supermarket has quite a lot of items, so there is always a substitute. But it might taste a little different since they are mostly South African brands and are made differently.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing really, I've been able to get almost everything I've needed and can order from the States when necessary. Packages come rather quickly to the DPO.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are lots of restaurants here, and although they are slow, there is delivery. There's a Pizza Hut, a Hungry Lion (something like KFC), there's a real KFC, Fishaways (something like Captain D's), Nando's (similar to Boston Market), and plenty of nice sit-down restaurants to choose from. Loads of steakhouses, Chinese, and Italian options, too. There's even sushi. And the coffee here is amazing. Practically every store has a cappuccino machine. The hotels also serve breakfast and dinner --- a little pricey, but really nice ambiance, and the food is good.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants, ants everywhere, especially when it starts to get cold.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO and Pouch mail at the Embassy. The local staff have expressed their frustration with the post office here. Everything mysteriously "disappears" if they attempt to use it. There are some companies that people can ship through, but there is a fee for that.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Help here is cheap. A live-in maid may be anywhere from 1000 - 1500 kwacha ($100 - $150) monthly. Live-out help may be about $150 to $250 monthly, and you are expected to pay transport. Transport is about 60 kwacha ($6) a month, but some people will try to claim it's more. It's not a requirement, though, so it doesn't have to be offered. Some people pay school fees (or a portion of it) for staff with receipts. Help is mediocre at best. Zambians do not like confrontation, so they will say they understand your requests when they don't, and do the wrong thing, which is frustrating. Also, do not assume that they know how to do something. You must be specific. Their living conditions are different from ours, so what might be obvious to you is foreign to them.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a nice gym at the Embassy. It's small but adequate. There are also other gyms around town that are bigger but I understand they are expensive. Some hotels offer the use of their gyms for a fee, and those seem to be a little cheaper.
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 use my credit cards at the supermarket and at restaurants without any trouble. There are quite a few ATMs around town, too, but I don't use them. I withdraw money at the Embassy.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Zambia is English-speaking, so there are plenty of religious services and churches around. It is heavily Roman Catholic, but I've also seen Apostolic, Jehovah's Witness, and Muslim places to worship.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None, but it wouldn't hurt to learn the common greetings.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
DO NOT TAKE THE BUSES - EVER. Taxis are okay, and the Embassy has a list of safe ones to use.
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 high-clearance vehicle is best, but you can get around with a small car. I drive a Corolla. Most of the roads are paved. Some dirt roads might be an issue when it rains.
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 it is expensive and unreliable. It is pretty much guaranteed to be out on the weekends and at night, when everyone is at home and using it. Frustrating for sure.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Whatever you do, don't get Zamtel; you will lose money and never get the full amount of time that you bought. There is also MTN and Airtel. Right now MTN seems to be working pretty well.
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?
Most Embassy spouses are able to get work at the Embassy or at the international schools. I have no knowledge of the local salary scale.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of them, and the CLO has info on that. Zambia is beefing up its fight against gender-based violence, and as a result there are lots of opportunities to work within the local economy.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Definitely business casual. Formal dress is only required at the ball or if there is a high-level visitor
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Pickpocketing and breaking into cars seem to be the main things here, so use common sense and you should be fine.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medical care is not so great. Lusaka was considered malaria-free for a while but not any more. It's rare, but you can get it. Stomach bugs are common, especially for those just arriving.
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?
The air quality is pretty bad. Folks burn trash all day long, and the dust from the dirt roads is horrible. If you're a walker or runner, you will be affected more.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Bring your zyrtec/benadryl/claritin or whatever you use, because you will certainly need it.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Haven't seen any. The weather here is divine - which really helps your mood.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot during the summer and chilly at night during the African winter (June through September).
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
AISL is the most popular. There is also ISL and LICS. My kids attend AISL, and the jury is still out on the level of learning that goes on. That school eems more geared to playing and building friendships.
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?
There are lots of pre-schools and day-cares around. Cost can run around K4000 ($400) per term. Not bad at all.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes. There is swimming at the Italian school, tennis at the sports center, soccer, horseback riding. You name, it it's here.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
I'd say the morale is pretty good and the community is pretty large. Zambia is "Africa light", so there's not much to hate.
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?
There are lots of running clubs and quiz nights. Get to know the local staff. They will take you to kitchen parties, Zambian weddings, Chizelas (be prepared for that one), etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is probably better for families. It might be boring for singles.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Homosexuality is illegal in Zambia, but the folks I know of who are posted here do not seem to have a problem.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Gender equality is a concern, but Zambia is moving to correct that. Which is more than can be said for some other countries.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The weather and the people. Both are awesome and can't be beat.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Some crafts at the market are nice, but if you've seen one you've seen them all.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can find almost anything you want, and it is easy to get around.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had known that I would be able to find some of my favorite things here, so there was no need to stock up like a mad woman.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Absolutely! In a heart beat.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectations of exceptional customer service or efficiency. Also, your need to hurry. It will just frustrate you.
4. But don't forget your:
Sunscreen and sunglasses.