Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/23/08

Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia

Lusaka, Zambia 08/23/08

Background:

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

No, I lived in Accra, Ghana and Lund, Sweden.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

USAID.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

From the USA it is a very long trip. There are direct flights to Jo'burg from Washington DC - otherwise you'll have to go through Europe first. London has direct flights into Lusaka on BA, but that's the only direct flight.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Reasonably nice in the U.S. government housing pool - but expensive to rent if you aren't supported. All houses have a wall around them for protection. Most have pools BUT they are unheated, so it's worth investing in a solar pool cover if you are a swimmer. If you live in the Sunningdale area you can walk or bike to Melissa's grocery. Commutes are short and traffic jams are brief.

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

Expensive. you can buy ALMOST anything here now - but some stuff (like cheese) is ridiculously expensive, and there isn't much seafood available. Strangely there IS pretty good availability of vegetarian frozen foods like faux burgers etc. There is good veg, but not alot of fruit choices. You can also get a good array of chinese/japanese/thai ingredients, and some Lebanese stuff. limited brands though. Almost no diet soda available though - only occassionally coke lite. meat kind of pricey, and you won't find american styles of lunch meat and sausages.

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

Pet food. Locally available tends to either be limited to Pedigree and Alpo of indeterminant age, or a locally available vet line that is good but expensive. Bring your camping gear and fishing gear. canned salmon. good rechargable batteries. Bring koolaid and splenda if you drink diet, because there's almost no diet soda. Good ground coffee. flavored creamer. Books.

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

Restaurants here are disappointing if you're a gourmet, but there are plenty of places.

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Daily Life:

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

You can get mail through FedEx and DHL, but be prepared for a seriously high cost. Local mail is unreliable, and prone to theft.

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

Very available, costs about US$150/month for good help. You can find experienced staff through the U.S. embassy newsletter or via the CLO.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Do-able. Our cards only work in one or two different machines, but they do work. Check your reciept and the amount before you leave. You wouldn't use them at too many places, but you can use them at the high end safaris and to buy airline travel at Voyagers. It's a pain in the butt to open a local account (requires an application and letter from employer) but it does make life easier to have a local account, so that you can have a local ATM card, which is accepted at all the major grocery stores.

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

Yep.

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5. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Yep - DSTV is about US$100/month and the local paper is about US$1/day - but no home delivery.

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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 LOVE IT when you learn a little,

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

Probably - no sidewalks and all the damn doors open inward.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left side of the road, so our steering wheel is on the right side of the car.

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

There are few local trains. buses are safe from assault, but are risky from a driver's skill perspective. They are however pretty cheap. There are larger aircon buses that run to livingstone, but they crash too occassionally. Taxis are safe during the day.

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3. 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?

You'll want something that can travel on rough gravel roads and maybe off roads. Japanese made vehicles are the easiest to repair here, but parts availability isn't as bad as some other countries. There are some car jackings - seems like the latest tasty morsel is the new Toyota Land Cruiser. You have to get a newer model if you want airbags, and many new cars do not come with them here.

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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?

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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?

Celtel just became Zain (strange name that) they have the best coverage nationwide. All the companies are about the same price - which is more than you'd expect. we text instead of chat quite a lot. Don't bother bringing a fancy phone from the USA - the reception tends to be better on the ZK150,000 (US$35) local motorola phone available all over town, but it doesn't have too many bells and whistles.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Difficult to use calling cards from home, because the phone lines are too poor. Skype is technically illegal, but people do it. The internet connection is very slow though, depending on which service you have, so you may be limited to Skype chat.

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Pets:

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

Showgrounds Vet Clinic and PetVet are both EXCELLENT, first world quality clinics and can help you bring pets into and out of Zambia. Showgrounds runs a beautiful kennel service. PLEASE be careful with your pets though - we see alot of poison thrown over walls by would-be thieves in certain parts of town. Ticks are really bad, and almost all carry tick fever so you should also use monthly spot on tick repellent. on the up side, there's no local heartworm.

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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?

Yep, if you're flexible, good at networking and IF you can get a work permit. they are pretty tough about those, and I know several people who have been turned down for permits despite desperately needs skills (such as nursing). I'm working on the local economy as a vet without problem.

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

Zambians dress fairly conservatively, but its not as rigid here as say Accra was. I can comfortably wear shorts to go to the mall, but i wouldn't wear them in the city center market where the local's shop. Most businesses are smart casual or shirt and tie, and Zambian business people dress in suits.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good, considering that half the country seems to be on fire during the dry season.

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

In the expat housing areas, crime is pretty low, but not non-existant. Mostly break-ins. Theft by staff is common. Dog poisoning is a common event - thieves planning to break into the yard will often kill the dogs first, so be sure to keep dogs inside at night if you love your pets. Also, thieves do watch to see if you are leaving home, and plan their break-ins for your absence - so house sitters are not a bad idea. Having said all that - we feel VERY safe here and often walk to parties after dark (of course, we don't take money with us...)

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Malaria isn't as bad here as it was in Ghana, but HIV/AIDs rate is very high, so don't fool around without thinking. There is good medical care here though, if you can pay for private care, and you can always fly over to Jo'burg for specialty care. most common prescriptions are available (except some psychotherapeutics) and there are lots of generics - although some are crap.

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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?

Wet season lasts about 5 months, dry season about 7. Its always about 75-85F day/55-75F night here in Lusaka, but it can occassionally be quite chilly at night. Rainy season isn't the deluge that monsoon is elsewhere, but it will make dirt roads into the safari parks impassable

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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. 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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Expat Life:

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

Not sure, but it seems pretty big - depending what embassies you include in your world

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2. Morale among expats:

Seems pretty 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?

There are several good evening spots for dancing, there's a bowling alley and several places to play billards. lots of clubs, and there's a fun quiz night. Someone would be welcome to revive the X-mas Panto!

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

The more outgoing you are, the more friends you'll make - its that simple. there is a large population of expats here and there isn't a big gap between locals and those of us on post.

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

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

Not that we've experienced.

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

Safari of course, fishing, camping. There are also lots of club activities. This is also the place to take up outdoor exercising like tennis and golf, because it isn't pricey and the weather is always perfect. This is also the place to learn to ride dressage or jump.

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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 much really - not the craft culture that West Africa was. You can get some things from Congo at the monthly craft fair, but there's really not much that's unique. You might spend it on locally made artisan cheese from one dairy though!

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9. Can you save money?

It depends on how frugal you want to be. If you eat the local diet, and have your housing supported, maybe.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yep - in a heartbeat. We really like it here.

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

Surfboard, scuba gear, and winter coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

Binoculars, sweaters and fleece, good digital camera, money! Bring your horse riding gear! There are several really good stables.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Bitterness, by Malama Katulwende

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Bitterness, by Malama Katulwende

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Best weather in the known world!!

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