Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/08/23
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?
No, this is my third experience.
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?
USA. Direct flight from Dulles to Addis. About 15 hrs I believe.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What years did you live 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?
Most families live close to the school in Old Airport. The houses tend to be really big. The outdoor space varies but all houses have walls around your home with barbed wire. Maid quarters included in the compound and detached from the house.
Singles and couples tend to live near the embassy in an apartment building called Elevation. It’s nice, new, and modern. It has a pool, gym, cafe, and little market inside.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
All the food is expensive. Whether I’m going to the commissary, the big expat grocery stores, or the fruit stands on the streets, they all cost a lot. I’ll give you an example, we got four mangoes, four oranges, ten pears, and ten apples and it cost $75. I’m sure we’re getting a foreigner price, or at least I hope so.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
You can get most things through Amazon. This was my first consumables post and I wish I would’ve stocked up more on specialty favorites like cookie butter from Trader Joe’s.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Deliver Addis is very well run. You can order Ethiopian, Indian, burgers, pizza, Korean, etc
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We haven’t had any problems.
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?
Most people have a full staff. Driver, gardener, housekeeper, cook, nanny. Depending on their hours it’s anywhere from 150-300 a month per person.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
We got a pool membership to the Hilton and it was expensive. $400 for each adult and $200 for each child. You can also get gym memberships but I have no experience. Most people use the embassy pool and gym.
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?
Some places are cash only. Many places take credit card. Only use the ATM at the embassy or the American school.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There are a few places.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
You can get by without the language, especially if your driver is with you or you send your housekeeper to do the shopping for you.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There aren’t many sidewalks and a lot of potholes, and gravel.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Only allowed to use Ride but like I said most people have a driver.
2. What kind of vehicle(s) including electric ones do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, infrastructure, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car or vehicles do you advise not to bring?
Most people have SUVs.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, it’s available. It can take a couples days to a couple weeks for installation.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Local provider. The staff at the commissary can help set up.
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?
EFM positions at the embassy.
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?
Most people dress conservatively.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Absolutely. If you come here you’ll get a briefing.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Medevac is very common. There is an expat hospital called Nordic medical but anything invasive you’ll be flown out.
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?
Moderate. Not the worst I’ve experienced but it’s noticeable.
4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
I’ve haven’t heard of any.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The weather is a huge bonus here. From Oct-May the weather is perfection at about 70s and sunny everyday. June-September it will be more overcast with rain in the afternoon or morning or both.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
A few families chose the French school but the overwhelming majority go to international community school of Addis Ababa. The school does a great job with creating a community feel. Every week/month there is something to look forward to, from community markets, international breakfasts, yoga, performances, grade-level get together, book club, learning showcases etc. The campus is beautiful and a nice place to go for large green space!
The curriculum is behind the US. My kids really didn’t learn much, having been to other international schools they were ahead quite a bit. They’ll say all the right things about the education aspect and put a pretty bow on it but in actuality the school isn’t very challenging.
In addition to the education being lacking there is a bullying problem. The week we arrived was Halloween so we were able to go to a trunk or treat at the embassy before the first day of school. The first thing the kids at the embassy told my kids upon arrival is “there are bullies” and man did it prove to be true. Everyone knows it’s a problem across all grade levels. There are extremely rich Ethiopian kids that run the school and they are extremely mean. The school does not address this problem to the satisfaction of the parents.
It’s also hit or miss with the teachers. Some are so so amazing! Some are very bare minimum.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
They accommodate case by case. I know some people who do speech therapy at the school. Not sure what else there is.
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, but I have no experience. ICS starts at 3 years old I think.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Through the school only as far as I know.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
There are people from all over! It’s a great community at the school. No one really complains but I think we all know it’s not the best place ever. Find the things you like and make it work!
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?
ICS Events, embassy events, dinner parties, birthday parties, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
The embassy Community Liaison Office (CLO) is incredible. There is always something to look forward to. Many events for both families and singles.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Many people are very kind and helpful. I do feel there is an underlining anti-American feel though.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
R&R has been the highlights :) and all the embassy events!
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Entoto park, friendship park, unity park, the Hilton, the Sheraton, ambassador mall.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
There will be many events with vendors to do some shopping. It’s very enjoyable.
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It’s nice to have a big house and an active expat community.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
People in the community tend to get e.coli, tape worms, and other parasites and illnesses.
The country changes from day to day. They take the internet away, cancel motor bike deliveries, not to mention the war in the north. Be prepared to adapt and overcome.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I can live anywhere temporarily, but I wouldn’t want to come back. I am thankful for the experiences.
3. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
There’s an episode of no reservations or parts unknown that came here. It’s always fun to find an Anthony Bourdain episode for future posts.