Lusaka, Zambia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/19/09

Personal Experiences from Lusaka, Zambia

Lusaka, Zambia 03/19/09

Background:

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

Kiev, Moscow, Bangkok, Santiago, and Dakar.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Still here; it's been two years.

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

NGO spouse.

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

12 to 20 hours, usually either through London or Joburg/Dakar.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most expats live behind large walls with guards. Most houses have pools and some have tennis courts as well. If you don't have a new house, chances are it's got an old fashioned layout, with a toilet across from the sink and tub. It's hard with kids. The rationale for the less than wonderful housing is that you spend all your time outside, so who cares?!

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

Same--if not more--than groceries in the U.S. There are no developing world prices here!

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

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, books and stationery supplies, anything your kids need; we joke it's like the old days in the USSR, when you can't find an item for months on end, then suddenly it appears and you need to buy a gross to prevent it from happening again...

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

Very little fast food; most restaurants are expensive and quality is unreliable, so most expat families can't affort to eat out.

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

None in Lusaka.

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Daily Life:

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

Employer.

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

Domestic help is easy and relatively cheap--about US$150/month.

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

Nominal.

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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?

It seems ok, but several times the receipt has indicated money came out and it didn't; our bank was able to resolve it, but you need to stay on top of it

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

Yes.

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

We don't have tv service; it's close to US$100 month. Newspapers are more expensive than in the U.S., and print crap: what Zambian can afford 75 cents a day for a paper?!

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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?

None.

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

Even the American School (AIS) isn't accessible!nothing is accessible.

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Transportation:

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

It's not encouraged and very expensive to take a private taxi.

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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?

You need a SUV--even in Lusaka. There are many roads that are unpaved or so damaged that you will seriously damage a sedan.

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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?

More than US$100 month, and that;s after installation and equipment and turn-on fees. All providers have problems, don't be fooled. Until zambia invests in improving capacity, it won't change or get any cheaper.

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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?

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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)?

It seems ok, but I hear bringing pets OUT of Zambia is prohibitively expensive!

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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?

VERY difficult to get work permit.

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

Casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Relatively good.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Carjackings happen, but mostly Zambian on Zambian. Expats are generally exempt. Phones are regularly pinched, and you need to be cautious generally, as you would anywhere, and esp in a market.

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

All medical care is through South Africa; the facilities here have terrible reputations of misdiagnosis and treatment.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Five months of rain, seven months dry; climate is pleasant for the most part.

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Schools & Children:

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

AIS, where my 3 kids are, is not at all American, in fact it is anti-American.there are no tests, no standards, no sense of transparency in anything the school does. Very sports-oriented and indifferent to academics. Poor preparation for older students; many teachers woefully unqualified.if you question anything or anyone there, you immediately are blacklisted by the school, and they become more uncooperative than ever.

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

None at AIS; very unhelpful in accommodating their customers--sorry, students and parents.

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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?

Yes, AIS is most expensive in town, and other schools don't want Americans because they think our kids should be at AIS!

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

Big sports emphasis at AIS; also various independent leagues in town you will hear about.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low--can't get over how many are anxious to get out!expensive living, poor schools, lack of options...

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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?

Mostly revolves around kids and home.

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

If you like to be outside; if you like culture and the arts, you are in the wrong country!

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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?

I don't think so.

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

Most people socialize at home

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

Typical African tchokas.

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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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, or lower them. This is Africa lite, the expensive version.

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3. But don't forget your:

Workbooks for kids to compensate for poor school, your books as shops are expensive and there are no decent libraries...

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Someone has to speak the truth about life here! It's incredibly expensive--travel is tough and expensive--Zambia is overrated.

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