Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there - 08/09/10
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, West Africa, Switzerland, Ireland.
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?
California, over a day via various European cities.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Government -- U.S. Foreign Service Office.
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
I live in U.S. Government provided housing in Bole. It is a fun neighborhood with tons of restaurants and clubs within walking distance. Others at the Embassy live in the "Old Airport" neighborhood, which is close to the "International Community School (ICS)" where our children usually study.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Anything local is cheap. Anything not local (e.g. European or other foreign wines, good cheeses, etc.) is quite 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?
Fast food? What's that? There are plenty of cheap, good restaurants.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Haven't had a problem. They say Malaria isn't a problem.
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?
Cheap. Good quality.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes, all over.
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?
There are more and more ATMs popping up in town. There are probably a dozen now that work with foreign cards.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
The International Evangelical Church (IEC) is popular and entertaining. There is a fun Lutheran Church. There is a nice, if poorly attended, Anglican church. I've heard of Catholic, LDS, and Pentecostal services in English, but I've not attended one.
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
A few reasonable, unbiased news papers. Skip the local TV.
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
Not that much, really, although it is really good for reaching out to know a modest amount of Amharic.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
There are almost no accommodations for physical disabilities anywhere. One exception: the brand new, about to open American Embassy is completely ADA-compliant.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
So-so on safety. I had a very exciting time coming around a corner in a taxi a while back, with no seat belts, and the door popped open.
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?
My favorite is a small SUV (e.g. Rav4.) Toyotas are the easiest to service. Other asian makes are also generally viable. For serious up-country work, go with a Toyota Land Cruiser Series 70, diesel, white.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
"EVDO" can be decent -- at least when it's not busy.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
There is only one provider -- ETC. It's a stodgy government monopoly. Yuck.
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?
2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?
Do yourself a favor: leave the pets at home.
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?
Lots. Though be very careful about your visa. Be sure to be legal. The authorities are really cracking down, especially with the folks who just show up then try to get NGO jobs.
2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
In my world, surprisingly formal. Suit and tie is quite normal.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Addis is actually quite safe. I walk across town routinely in daylight hours and apart from the usual begging and occasional hassle have not yet had a problem.(I am male, this seems to matter a bit.)Night time is a different story, though again, this is a much safer city than most.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
All the usual 3rd-world stuff, minus the nasty malaria.
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?
Unhealthy much of the time. Pretty nasty. Allergies are common.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Except for the "Krumpt" (the Wet Season from ~mid June to mid September) it is ideal. Though it's not warm enough to stay out at night without a jacket or a heater. Easy to wear a suit during the day.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
"International Community School (ICS)" is quite good. I've also heard very good things about "Bingham Academy", the Missionary school. The French Lycee is quite good as well judging by the sharp kids I've seen.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ICS is pretty good and getting better from what I here. They don't come out and say the support "special needs", but they have a "resource" department with solid teachers that can help. Better than many expat schools out there.
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?
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, through the schools. Quite good I hear.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Big. This town has tons of expats from all over. The African Union is based here, so there are tons of interesting Africans. And there are lots of Europeans and Americans here for a whole variety of reasons as well.
2. Morale among expats:
Good to excellent in my opinion.
3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Very good for families. Fine for couples. I can't really say about couples. Single men seem to be happier than single woman. I'm too old to do the club thing, but I hear it is lively.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Keep it to yourself. The Ethiopian culture is quite hostile to homosexuality.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Ethiopians are generally quite warm to all, though there are latent prejudices in abundance. No surprise there, though. No worse than anywhere else I've traveled.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Getting to know the people. Visiting the amazing historical sights.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
There are so many things to do! Restaurants by the hundreds. I don't know them very well, but I hear the clubs are good. There are numerous Jazz clubs in town. There are numerous trips out of town that can be done in a weekend. One I just tried: Awash National Park -- outstanding!
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Coffee -- the best in the world!
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Wonderful, friendly people, and a deep and rich culture.
11. Can you save money?
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:
bad attitudes, racism, preconceptions.
3. But don't forget your:
spirit of adventure.