Djibouti, Djibouti Report of what it's like to live there - 09/15/20
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?
No, previously lived in Italy and Bulgaria.
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?
24 hours to U.S. easily - including at least one overnight flight.
3. How long have you lived here?
Lived there two years from 2014-2016.
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?
Stand-alone house, small outside area (tiled), carport for one car, three bedrooms (no closet space). Commute time not an issue to work, but commute to Dolto (French elementary school) was a beast. If your kids go to QSI or International School of Djibouti it shouldn't be an issue.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Expensive but if you go shopping without a specific meal plan in mind you'll be fine. Frustrating that sometimes you might need a particular ingredient that's been there every week for the past 6 weeks, but the time you need it it's not available. Go to the local produce markets for better selection and prices. Stock up when you find something you like. Seriously miss several food items we found and there - dijon mustard, snacks, a particular cheese, etc.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Good Indian, great French and Yemeni options. Expect long waits and pricey bills but I still miss the food.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
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?
Local Djiboutian help is great quality and price but likely speak French and Somali.
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?
Never used a credit card on the local market - cash only.
4. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
I speak French and my spouse did not; spouse got by with broken/limited French and English. Locals will appreciate your efforts in French.
5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, no sidewalks to speak of, and many other accessibility issues.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Probably but not allowed to take 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?
4x4. Toyota dealership in town makes it easy for basic repair/maintenance.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
I wouldn't call it high-speed, but it's available and pricey.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
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?
No local market work available.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
It's crazy hot here, so keep that in mind. Formal dress occasionally required.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Technically the eye of the hurricane; surrounded by Somalia, Ethiopia, Eritrea, and Yemen. Djibouti itself is a gem and I rarely felt unsafe.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria, dengue, and other mosquito borne illnesses. Anything other than the most basic would likely require a medical evacuation.
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?
Seasonal - but coastal air so generally pretty good.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Gorgeous 6 months out of the year, brutally hot six months out of the year. Get on or in the water and that will help with the heat.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Lots of military from different countries, but little dip corps or other expats.
2. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
3. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Swimming with whale sharks, snorkeling sable blancs, amazing trips to Tanzania, Cape Town, Seychelles, Dubai, Ethiopia.
4. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Not really but when I was there you could still find beautiful Yemeni antiques.
Words of Wisdom:
1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Rush to get things done.
3. But don't forget your: