Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there - 07/23/22
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?
Ethiopia is the first place I have lived outside of the United States.
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?
Washington D.C., there is a direct flight from IAD to Addis. Easy to get in and out of Addis.
3. What years did you live here?
2022 (still living 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?
Houses can be decent sizes. They are a little run down but overall really great places to live. All houses are inside gated compounds. Traffic can be quite bad, depending on where you live and what times of day you go out.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries are relatively cheap. There aren’t all of the conveniences that exist in the US, but you get to be creative! have never felt restricted. There are lots of grocery stores in Addis.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I wasn’t attached to anything in the states so I am perfectly content, but people might want to bring nuts, packaged snacks, coffee creamer, etc.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There is a food delivery service that is pretty good! Lots of great Ethiopian restaurants as well as restaurants that serve pizza, burgers, tacos, shawarma. Lots of good 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?
I haven’t tried to mail yet
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Household help is very common! Most expats have guards for their compounds and houseworkers and nannies. I don’t have children so I haven’t found it necessary to have a domestic worker but many of my friends do. I have a guard that I pay 3500 etb each month, which is about $70 usd.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
I haven’t personally used workout facilities, I typically work out at home. I have expat friends who use gyms and have had good experiences. I have heard the bigger hotels have decent gyms.
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?
In Addis, many grocery stores and restaurants take card. I use atATMs all over the city and haven’t had problems. However it is still mostly a cash system.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are lots of international churches and some mosques.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
In Addis there are many people who attempt to speak English, many can understand even if they don’t speak. I highly recommend learning the local language. It means a lot to Ethiopians when you speak in Amharic. I have been invited into many homes because I try to speak with my neighbors and the people who run restaurants and stores. Language tutors are probably the best way to go. I pay 200etb per hour ($4 usd) for a language tutor.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
It would be very challenging for someone with disabilities to live here. The roads and sidewalks aren’t even and there is lots of hills. Elevation is also pretty high (7,700ft) and can make it difficult to get around.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Local minibus taxis are very cheap, however I do not recommend. Many local friends have told me it isn’t a good idea for foreigners to use them. There is a ride service (Ride) that is similar to Uber. It works pretty well and isn’t too expensive. To get from Bole to the other side of town it is about 250 etb ($5usd).
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?
In Addis, people typically drive smaller cars. All cars are manual as there are lots of hills. Bring something that you don’t mind getting dinged up. If you plan on spending anytime in the countryside, I recommend an all terrain vehicle. I spend a lot of time our country so I drive a Toyota Land Cruiser and it is definitely worth it. Rough terrain in the country side.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Internet is pretty reliable and not too expensive. It can sometimes be a little slow, but typically only during hours of high activity. You can do pay as you go or buy unlimited packages.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
The only phone service is Ethio Telecom. I use my phone from the States but bought a SIM card in country. Quality phones themselves aren’t too easy to find so I recommend bringing an unlocked phone that can use a SIM card from anywhere.
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?
Most Ethiopians don’t have pets. I haven’t heard of vet services, however vaccines and medication for pets is available.
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 hard to obtain work permits and can be difficult to find jobs. Teaching or remote options are good ideas. A typical salary for many Ethiopians is about 4000 etb per month (about $80 usd).
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are lots of people in need in Ethiopia. Many NGOs have food projects, ESL classes, and other ways to help Ethiopians. Good places to look for opportunities are with NGOs and international churches.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Ethiopia isn’t a very formal place. People are modest but not overly conservative. Older people tend to dress more conservatively. In the countryside, people are very conservative and wear long skirts. Most Ethiopians wear the same outfit for 3-4 days, so I do too!
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Ethiopia definitely has risks and security concerns. Petty theft, car jacking, and harassment can all be common, however most people are very kind and hospitable. It is good to be aware that Ethiopia is in the middle of a conflict and at some points it is wise to avoid certain areas. I recommend connecting with locals and develop friendships with people who will help you to be aware of local tensions that may arise.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Health concerns include unsafe drinking water and food-born illnesses. Diarrhea is common. In six months, I have had one bacterial infection that was easily treated with antibiotics. The infection came because I ate lettuce in a restaurant. Avoid fresh fruits and vegetables that are not soaked in something that kills bacteria. There are a few decent international clinics to treat mild illnesses, however for anything major it is recommended to go out of county. Medication and antibiotics are widely available
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?
As in any big city, air quality in Addis isn’t the best. It is also at 7,700ft so breathing can sometimes be a little strained.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
There is pollution to be aware of! Most Ethiopian food is gluten and dairy free. It is really easy to find vegan options. Nuts are not very common. In restaurants it might be a little challenging to find food if there is a unique allergy, but most food is really natural and made with few ingredients.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
None that I am aware of.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
It is really pleasant for most of the year! 70F and sunny for 10 months and 2 months in the summer of chilly temperatures (50F) and rain.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There are some really great international schools. However, local schools are not the best with large class sizes, limited English proficiency, and a lack of overall educational structure.
2. 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?
Preschools and day cares are widely available and pretty cheap. It is also very common to hire nannies and houseworkers to take care of children.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
The expat community is relatively small and spread out but many NGOs and embassies are within the country. Amongst expats who invest in the community, morale is pretty high. It can be challenging to live in Ethiopia, however Ethiopians are incredibly kind to those who are kind to them.
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?
Many expats socialize through going to international churches. There are also exercise classes, as well as various art or music groups throughout the city! Many locals socialize on a more close-knit level. Through getting to know the people who run souks (small stores) and fruit stands, you might be able to be invited into homes for meals and holidays.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I am a single and it can be challenging to live here as a single because of harassment as well as general loneliness. I have had to be very aware of security- not going out at night, not walking by myself in certain areas, etc, but my company has helped in a lot of ways. In every stage of life, there is challenges in Addis. It is a hard place to live but worth it.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes! If you try to make friends/ try to speak even a little Amharic, most people are incredibly kind and hospitable. I have been invited into so many homes.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Probably not. Most people are very religious
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Within Ethiopia there are definite ethic clashes, but from outsiders there isn’t much prejudice. Women typically need a man to answer for them.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting to know the people! Experiencing orthodox holidays such as Timkat and Meskal are really interesting. Gondar in the north west is really beautiful, there are really historic castles.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of fun things hidden in nooks and crannies! Best way to experience is to ask locals.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There are beautiful and unique paintings and fabrics! Many people buy netulas or gabis which are the blankets that people wear and wrap themselves in.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
A chance to experience life for Ethiopians, hospitable and kind people!
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Life is hard, but Ethiopians are worth the trouble!
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Rigidity, quick pace of life, and diving rules
4. But don't forget your:
Compassion, defensive driving, and patience
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Lamb- a film, shows a really beautiful and realistic depiction of life in the countryside.
6. Do you have any other comments?
Ethiopia has a few shortcomings like power going in and out, and it isn’t always the cleanest place; but there are so many beautiful things to embrace about Addis and especially Ethiopians! Lean into culture and language as much as you can and you will be met with incredible kindness. In Ethiopians you will see resilience, kindness, and a beautiful culture of community!