Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 11/16/17

Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia

Lusaka, Zambia 11/16/17

Background:

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

No, this is not our first post. We have previously served in Quito, Ecuador, Sofia, Bulgaria, Caracas, Venezuela and Vilnius, Lithuania.

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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?

Our home is Northern Virginia and Denver, Colorado. If you are traveling without pets, the most direct route is through Johannesburg, South Africa (26 hours approximately). Otherwise, with pets, we go through Frankfurt or Dubai which increases the time significantly (+10 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 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 have a single family house and it is a bit older but with a huge yard. Most homes are either older and bigger or smaller homes in compounds.

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

As so much is imported from South Africa with high tariffs, groceries can be quite expensive (certainly more expensive than the U.S. with lower quality). Better produce can be found at the smaller markets.

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

I order so much more through Amazon than I have ever done at any other post. As my kids and husband really enjoy cereal, I wished I had shipped more varieties of cereal from Trader Joes, maple syrup and peanut butter (although, I manage to get the syrup and peanut butter through the DPO).

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

Fast food: KFC, Pizza Hut, and some South African chains. There are a few good restaurants here, but nothing really spectacular.

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

Lots of ants, flying termites for the first couple of weeks of the rainy season and mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and diplomatic pouch through the embassy.

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

Household help is very inexpensive ($1-$2 per hour). We have a gardener, because our yard is the size of a small city park. Everyone is required to have a guard, but the embassy pays for the guards. We have a housekeeper that comes once a week. Quality really varies.

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

The embassy has a very good gym as does the international school. There are others available around town, but I do not know their rates.

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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 safe to use. There are ATM's, and they work most of the time. We usually cash checks at the embassy cashier as it is easiest.

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

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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?

English is the official language--sort of. English is not most Zambians' first language, so don't assume they understand. Numerous tribal languages spoken here.

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

Absolutely, my husband bikes to work sometimes and it is just miserable. No sidewalks, potholes in the street, etc.

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Transportation:

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

The embassy recommends specific taxis. No trains or trams here and the buses are NOT SAFE.

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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?

We have a small SUV, but if you are planning to drive out in the bush yourself, a Toyota Prado or something similar is probably best. I have not heard of any burglaries.

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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?

Yes, but internet and wi-fi can be spotty depending on where you live, and it is expensive. Constant power outages mess with the routers.

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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?

I brought an unlocked iphone, and use the local Zambian provider MTN. It's fine.

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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 is one very good American veterinarian here and no, there is no quarantine. If you come with pets, you are advised NOT to go through South Africa-weird restrictions.

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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?

Many work in the school or in the embassy or have their own home businesses.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots and lots.

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

Business.

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Health & Safety:

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

Use common sense--Zambians are pretty polite and mellow people. I don't feel unsafe here at all.

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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?

Hospitals are pretty terrible. Anything mildly serious gets medically evacuated to South Africa. Mostly tummy issues when eating out or not cleaning your produce properly.

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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?

Usually, the "winter" (March-August/July) is my favorite as it is nice and cool in the mornings and evenings and is just a little warm during the day. September - November is hot, dusty and can be miserable for people with migraines/sinuses/respiratory issues. Lots of burning from September-November, then the rains come and they cannot burn anymore and it's a relief.

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

Dust and burning make some days miserable for people, especially in October and November.

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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)?

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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?

October is the hottest, driest month-Rains usually go from mid-November to March, Coolest months-April-July

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Schools & Children:

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

AISL is the school that most of the embassy kids attend, and it seems to have more at the secondary level. Other embassies sometimes send their kids to ISL (International School Lusaka). My kids have acclimated well, 10 year old and 16 year old (older one is in IB Diploma).



I will say that the IB teachers at the 11th and 12th grade level seem to be really knowledgeable and competent. At the elementary and middle school level, it seems more difficult for the school to meet the needs of the more advanced kids. My younger son was only a little above average in Falls Church City, Virginia but here, he is the youngest the school sometimes seems about a semester behind the U.S.. We haven't been the only parents to experience this. The school has promised they have certain programs for advanced kids, then when they arrive, the school has nothing ready. It's been an ongoing process of staying on top of the school and the teachers. I give my son some extra work outside of school to keep him from getting behind.

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

AISL says they have accomodations but as far as elementary and middle school kids who are a little more advanced, they don't really have anything--no matter what they say.

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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?

Pre-schools are available but I don't have experience with them.

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

Several within the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Most expatriates are from the UK and South Africa and they seem to run AISL.

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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?

"Braiis" (barbecues), outdoor get-togethers.

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

Some people really like it, because the weather is nice most of the time, the people are very nice and it is quiet. The people who seem to like it most are those that have full time jobs and do trips on their time off. For spouses and older kids, it can be a little too quiet and boring. There is not much to do here, not city to explore, no place to really "walk."

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

Probably not best for LGBT--still a lot of stigma and belief in witchcraft, religious beliefs against LGBT lifestyle.

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

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

We have been bad about exploring Zambia as it is so prohibitively expensive for families (often $1000 or more/night for a family of 4) to safari or anything. We are planning a trip for the spring. We have actually gone to Europe, because it's crazy cheaper then doing things in Zambia. People who have done safaris have loved it.

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

We are not big into camping, but if you are, you might love it here. Lots of campers really love it.

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

It really depends on your preferences: some women here really like the local, chitenge fabric (very colorful but a bit busy for me), lots of carved wood animals, etc... Not really my kind of stuff, but art is always subjective.

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

For 6 months out of the year, the weather is pretty nice without too many bug issues. The people are very polite.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How much I miss having a city to walk in-and how expensive it was to travel within Zambia.

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

No--it's not horrible, it's just not my preference and it's just too boring for me.

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

Expectations of reasonably priced travel throughout Zambia (example: hotel in Munich, Germany for 4 is cheaper than lodge room for one along the Zambezi). Expect to pay $150+/per person per night at almost any place. And make sure you have some hobbies you can do at home--without mine, I would go crazy here.

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4. But don't forget your:

High-clearance vehicle and patience.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

For people who seem to only go to African posts, Zambia seems to be quite a paradise; it's just not mine.

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