Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there - 03/30/20
Personal Experiences from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
First overseas post.
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?
West coast of the US. Trip is 27 hours. Connections through Frankfurt and Chicago. Addis is a major airline hub. The ability to travel is a huge plus for this post.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is scattered. Two major neighborhood clusters. Post is moving a large portion of housing to an apartment building in 2021. Housing is generally one of the bigger complaints for folks. Some homes have yards, many have no green space. You can get cabin fever due to feeling stuck in your compound. Commute times vary from 30 minutes to an hour or longer depending on traffic.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Hit and miss. You can get many things through the commissary and Amazon. For fresh products, having domestic staff is almost essential for the help shopping. Everything has to be bleached before eating and even then you still might get E-Coli.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
All the liquids. Uht milk for when they run out in the commissary. Laundry detergent, way more than you think you need.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Sakura for Japanese and The Village for Mexican. Honestly, eating out is like playing roulette for GI issues. If you go out, you do it with the understanding you may regret it later.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
I had flies that housing/ facilities could not get rid of in a bathroom for a year. Some people have spiders. Nothing terribly extreme.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Post just went to DPO. Can’t comment on how the change went. Everything is shut down with COVID at the moment.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Most people have at least a housekeeper and a day gardener. Help is completely affordable.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Small gym on embassy compound. There are supposed to be a few decent gyms in Bole.
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?
The is a cash society.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I think there is a Catholic Church that does one service in English.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Amharic is a difficult language. Knowing a few phrases is helpful, but the country speaks 80 different dialects.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Absolutely. Nothing about this city is ADA compliant.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Public transportation is not recommended. Blue and white taxis are off limits. There are a few trusted companies people use.
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?
Nothing you are super attached to. Statistically, more people get in a least a fender bender. Driving here is a major stressed. Toyota for availability of parts, but you should put extra parts in your HHE
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is available. Speed is depressingly slow. Government turns it off for weeks at a time during a crisis or student exams.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Ethio telecom is the only local provider and no other plans will work here.
Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:
1. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business/ business casual.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime is a major concern at post. Political violence can often cause issues.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Most medical issues require a medevac to Pretoria or London.
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?
Air quality is bad. Post provides an air purifier for each occupied bedroom.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Ethiopian has a rainy season that lasts from May to September.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Weather is fantastic. If the summer of rain doesn’t both you, the dry season is in the 70s to 80 most of the time.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Huge community. With the AU and all the other missions in Addis, you will always run into other expats are events and restaurants.
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?
British embassy has Addis Arms with quiz, movie, and karaoke nights. People tend to host various events on the weekends. There’s usually something to do.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
There is a good mix of singles and families at post.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
In my opinion, Ethiopians seem to be very homophobic.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The ease of traveling around Africa and to Europe have been huge bonuses.
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Ethiopia is not nearly as charming as it’s east Africa neighbors unfortunately. Enjoy the opportunities to travel to Kenya, Rwanda, Seychelles etc.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
You can get textiles and baskets.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It’s a travel hub.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
It is not Africa light. This is a difficult place to live and one should come here with low expectations.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
No. The people here have made this place bearable. With a different crew, I don’t know if I could have stayed.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectation of working internet, belief that food will not try to kill you, and the ability to walk around freely.
4. But don't forget your:
Rain gear, Pepto, fans, blankets, and a huge dose of patience for anything you do on the local market