Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there - 06/29/21
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?
I lived in nine other countries before coming to Addis. And once I leave this city, I will never return.
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?
The US. It is easy to catch direct flights from Addis to the U.S., though the Bole International Airport in Addis can be a nightmare.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
5. 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?
My residence is in a slum, in my opinion. The house itself is nice, but there are no stores or restaurants anywhere nearby. Power outages occur almost daily. The commute from my house to work generally takes 25 minutes, but that is VERY early in the morning, when traffic is light. Coming home can take an hour or more. It once took me close to three hours. Unannounced and apparently pointless road closures are frequent, making the commute even longer.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most things here are readily available, but expensive.
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?
There are several good restaurants, but they tend to be expensive.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Lots of ants, but that's typical for Africa.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
I use only USG mail.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is plentiful, cheap, and, it seems, very often unreliable.
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?
Most businesses use cash only. Some have scanners for debit or credit cards, but these often don't work. When they do not, the restaurant or hotel or other business staff will say there is something wrong with your card. Not true. There are ATMs in the city, but I would only feel safe using them in the larger hotels.
4. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Many different churches and mosques.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is widely spoken.
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
They would have great difficulty.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Affordable, yes. Safe, no. Nothing here is really safe.
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?
Just bring something you wouldn't mind getting dinged up. The drivers here are horrendously bad, in my opinion. They cannot stay in their lanes. They will stop in the middle of the road to chat on their cell phones or talk to pedestrians. They usually don't use turn signals. They will cut you off in traffic, run red lights, drive the wrong way on one-way roads, and generally pay no attention to what they are doing. Groups of children/teenagers will surround your car to beg for money, or to steal your car's side mirrors. People walk in the street all the time - not just to cross the street, but to actually walk IN the street, with or against traffic. Bicycles and small motorcycles zip in between cars. This place is an absolute nightmare to drive in, and a lot of Americans no longer even try to do so.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
High-speed internet is available but, like almost everything else in Addis, it often doesn't work.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
I use a local plan. I don't know if that's best or not.
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?
In my opinion, this is a bad place for both humans and pets. However, there are good veterinarians around, or so I'm told.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Addis appears to be overrun by criminal elements. I never feel safe here. Never.
2. 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?
There is very bad air pollution here, for various reasons.
3. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
None that I know of. I don't know if this qualifies as a mental health issue, but most Americans where I work seem to hate it here, and from what I can tell, are unhappy to the extent of being miserable.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is moderate and mostly pleasant.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The size of the expat community is likely small to moderate, and their morale is poor.
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?
No groups or clubs, because it's not safe to go anywhere or do anything. Because of terrible traffic, most people tend to stay at home, or to socialize only with those who live very close to them.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
In my opinion, this place isn't good for anyone.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
I suspect that everyone feels uncomfortable here.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
In my opinion, this place isn't good for anyone.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The only highlights of my tour here have involved my been occasionally being able to get out of the country.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
None whatsoever. And I mean, really . . . none.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I had known how truly terrible a place it would be for me. I see the Addis Ababa of 2021 as a filthy, crowded, impoverished, congested, crime-plagued city. Maybe, decades ago, it was nice. It no longer is.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Sense of sanity.
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
The book, "Waugh in Abyssinia."