Djibouti, Djibouti Report of what it's like to live there - 04/30/18
Personal Experiences from Djibouti, Djibouti
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
I have lived in several cities around the world, so it was not my first.
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?
U.S. and it takes about 22 hours to get back to the East Coast.
3. How long have you lived here?
A few years.
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?
It was free and spacious. You don't have any green space. Most homes do not meet earthquake measures either. The embassy did a good job keeping up with maintenance issues.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Lots of French foods are available and most items are not processed (like the inexpensive food at camp). Food in town is expensive.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You should ship cleaning supplies, but you have DPO so you can get anything shipped to you. I would recommend buying a Weber or similar grill. You'll use it quite often.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is everything in town except fast food restaurants like McDonalds or Taco Bell. Camp has Pizza Hut and Subway and there are plenty of pizza places for take out.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Yes, there is a fly season and then a mosquito one. Both are a pain especially when you want to sit outside.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is inexpensive. Don't expect top notch cleaning service but help is available and you'll have more leisure time if you hire them.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The embassy has a small gym and Camp has two. One new gym at Camp is amazing. They even have a full basketball court and spinning and other classes.
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?
Yes, it's safe to use them.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Catholic. Not sure of others.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Not much. Most people speak English and Somalian.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, I wouldn't recommend going there.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
We were not allowed to use them.
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?
Any Toyota 4x4. There is a Toyota dealership in Djibouti.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
It's available but costly.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I used a local provider.
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 are a few French vets. Djibouti is not a very dog-friendly city.
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?
There were plenty of jobs in the embassy but the hiring freeze prevented some EFMs from working. Camp has a number of jobs available.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Dockers and polo and for others dress shirts. It gets warm and humid, so dress code was causal.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
No, more safety concerns with drivers speeding down school zones. A young French girl was killed by a local driver who sped through a school zone as school kids were coming out.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There is a lot of talk about malaria but the biggest concern is Dengue which is normally contracted in the early morning hours. Most of the French and other locals stay in doors during the mosquito season. The season usually starts in April to June. In June, the heat kills all the mosquitos.
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?
It's good and moderate. The ocean air cleanses the air.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
You'll get stomach ailments and an occasional fly in your food and eyes. There is a fly season that comes before the mosquitos. The sun can also cause some issues, so daily sunscreen is recommended.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
I think boredom sets in after a year and many people tend to stay indoors during the warm season around June to September. This is probably the toughest time of year because activities closes down due to the haboobs or sandstorms.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It's nice around November to March and then it gets very warm and humid from April to June and then warm and dry until November.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
The embassy just opened one and the kids like it.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Not sure, but there are very little accommodations in my opinion for special-needs kids.
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 and inexpensive.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes at Camp.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Morale is generally good. You should make an effort to meet the expatriates. They will show you how to enjoy your time in Djibouti. Most expats buy boats and use them every weekend to take the family out. They normally resell them when they leave. If you don't make an effort, you could find yourself spending a lot of your time bored and at home.
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?
The embassy provides opportunities to meet locals and other groups. You have to make an effort to go out and meet them too and join in their activities.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I think its easier for married couples with small school age kids. Single do fine if they reach out to the expats. Boredom tends to affect singles more here though.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Not really, its mostly a Muslim community.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Not really. Djiboutians are used to having foreigners in their country. This includes the U.S., French, Germans, Spanish, Japanese, Italians and Chinese. Djibouti is an international security city, which makes it the safest in the region.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Fishing and snorkeling is amazing. A boat ride to the those spots are only 30 minutes away from the mainland. I miss it.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Fishing. Bring good fishing gear. Some of the fish out there will rip your lines and reels. Smoking or grilling is almost a weekly activity.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not really, but Kenya has some great handicrafts.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
You can save money and you have much more leisure time here than in the U.S. or any other major city in the world. You don't have to worry about congestion or traffic.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I expected it to be a rough place, but I was fortunate enough to have met others outside the job. You really need to come here with a positive mindset to make it an enjoyable tour.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I would go back but not for more than two years.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter coats and expensive dress shoes.
4. But don't forget your:
Water sports gear. If you like to dive, this is an amazing place.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Internet should have some good information.
6. Do you have any other comments?
This is very good post for families who want to spend time with their kids. You will save money and the work is very interesting and rewarding. If you enjoy water sports, you'll keep yourself busy here.