Harare, Zimbabwe Report of what it's like to live there - 09/30/17
Personal Experiences from Harare, Zimbabwe
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived overseas in many countries. This was my first tour with the U.S. Foreign Service.
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?
California. Miserable trip to get back to the states.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
U.S. State Department.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Amazing. I will not likely live in such a great house ever again. Swimming pool, separate house staff quarters, huge yard. We put in a tree house and zip line, chicken coop and rabbit hutch. The yard is a dog's paradise.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get pretty much everything that you can in the states with some things cheaper and some things more expensive. Most things come from South Africa.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Nothing comes to mind.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Food delivery of pizza and chicken. There are all sorts of restaurants although nothing I would consider top notch.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants kept a constant path on the walls of our kitchen and we just left them alone. They didn't invade the food. Lots of flat scary-looking wall spiders but they don't bite that I know of.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic pouch but other services are available.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Good availability, high quality and inexpensive. I paid $250 per month for a full time maid and $200 for a full time gardener. Both lived in a house behind the main house.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Lots of options and there is a small gym at the Marine house for embassy staff. The best thing, though, is the quality and number of golf courses right in Harare. Super golf culture in Zim in both the white and black Zim communities.
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 is a plastic economy owing to the shortage of currency in the local economy. Bring a card that does not incur foreign transaction fees.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
We attended a Catholic church.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Don't think it's a city that accommodates wheelchairs, not sure about other disabilities.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
I used a local taxi guy to get the airport. Public transport in general however is far from safe. Lots of deadly crashes especially on the cross-country highway.
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?
Bring a four wheel vehicle. The pot holes have gotten crazy and you will likely want to go on safari.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
We paid $150 per month for unlimited super high-speed fiber optic internet. Worth every penny and better than what we have in the states.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Lots of options. Buy a cheap phone there or bring one that is unlocked. SIM cards are inexpensive and monthly plans are less than $25 per month.
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?
Great vets and kennel service and so much cheaper than in the US. No quarantine. Just be careful. If you are dog lover you will want to get a ridgeback. They are so much more pure bred than what we find in the states.
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?
It is tough to get a good job on the local economy. Zimbabweans are well educated and highly capable people. High unemployment means they will take the job.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Lots of options.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Depends on where you work. Business folks wear suits.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
The odd house break-in but nothing that we ever worried about.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Anything requiring serious attention will need to be addressed in South Africa which has excellent health care.
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?
Excellent air quality.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate is pretty perfect-- felt like about 70 degrees year-round. Never got too cold or too hot, very comfortable. It's like the southern California coast.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Harare International School was perfect for our daughter- she did 3rd and 4th grade there. Loved it. Beautiful campus, good teachers, IB program is good. The one concern we had was a seemingly low priority on mathematics. She took Spanish and French and swam on the swim team. There was also a French school which we heard decent things about, although it's smaller than HIS.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
I had a friend who was dissatisfied with their offerings for special needs kids but I think they were working on that.
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 there were preschools and I heard very good things but we didn't have our own children enrolled.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Minimal I think- -there aren't many organized activities outside of school in my opinion. Horseback riding is available though with several groups in Harare. Very affordable.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Small to medium....morale is excellent, everyone is happy to be in Zimbabwe. We knew only one family that was dissatisfied because the spouse couldn't find employment. Really no one wants to leave that post.
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?
Everyone loves to "braai" (BBQ)...parties at personal homes is common--lots of bars and restaurants too. Some restaurants have game (trivia) night, lots of people go on safari or to Vic Falls, golf, hunting etc... I think there was salsa dancing, running groups and often yoga classes.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Not great for singles because there are few to hang out with. Nice for families and couples because restaurants are very kid-friendly.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not really--President Mugabe is openly anti LGBT.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not sure how to answer the religious prejudices question--for us, we noticed a lot of Apostolic groups which are very conservative groups where women's roles are more closely aligned w/US beliefs in the 1800s. Child marriages in rural areas is common.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Victoria Falls, Domboshava, Manapools--basically the outdoor opportunities as well as tennis, golf and yoga.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
It's all good. Manapools game count was super awesome for husband, but me--not so much.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Yes, there are a ton of Shona sculptures, flea markets, and stores everywhere. There are a couple of malls but nothing great.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Weather, HIS was a good school, big houses and yards (outside city), nice people, generally felt safe.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Desire to hit the beach.
4. But don't forget your:
Binoculars, golf clubs, camera for safari photos, swim trunks
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The abduction and trial of Jestina Mukoko (the fight for human rights in Zimbabwe)
6. Do you have any other comments?
Our 10 year old daughter loved it, she had a lots of friends and loved the outdoors in Zim. The locals are lovely and beautiful. We still keep in touch with our housekeeper and her daughter.