Lagos, Nigeria Report of what it's like to live there - 11/29/15
Personal Experiences from Lagos, Nigeria
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. Other places in Africa and Asia.
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?
There are direct flights from Atlanta (Delta) and Houston (United), which are 12 and 14 hours respectively. From either hub, you can get anywhere in the States quickly.
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?
There are the Bells, townhome style older, government owned properties. Not a high quality spot, but they're quiet. Tarino is a former hotel, which is full of mold and located right on the main road on Ikoyi. It's mainly for singles or couples without kids. Cameron is the nicest, but it's mainly for families with kids. All of them aren't far from the GQ, where embassy folks take a boat to the Consulate. Without the boats, the commute would be 2 hours and there's no where to park. The GQ makes getting to work actually feasible.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get most things here; it just depends on what you want to pay. US$17 for real milk, US$40 for freezer burned ice cream, US$6 for half a pint of strawberries, US$20 for a small filet of mediocre meat. Most people bring empty suitcases to the States on R&R and fill them with frozen food. They'll make it back no problem. Use that consumables shipment to the max!
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Spare tires, potato chips, more dog food/medicine, cleaning supplies.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There's KFC, Dominos, and Coldstone's for American brand fast food. They're not too badly priced, but I don't eat there often. Decent restaurants? Ha. I get sick every time I eat out here. Cooks use the same knife to cut chicken and vegetables. They're blissfully unaware of what cross-contamination means.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Malaria is endemic. Everyone takes some kind of prophylaxis. I haven't seen any roaches in housing though.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Diplomatic Pouch. No liquids larger than 16oz. Its 2-4 weeks (closer to 4) on average.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Readily available. US$250 monthly for full time. The quality of help depends on your point of view though.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
The GQ has a gym as a part of membership there. Cameron and Tarin have small gyms too. I don't know about any on the commercial market.
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?
It's Nigeria, the land of fraud and scams. Never ever ever use a credit or ATM card here.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
Churches are everywhere, but I wouldn't know anything specific.
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
None. English is common, though can be tough to understand the accents and they don't always understand ours.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Polio (almost) being recently eradicated means there are still some victims of the disease around. They can't get wheelchairs. I've seen people drag themselves with roller skates on their hands while sitting on a wheeled board. Disabled people have it very tough here.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Nope. They're off limits in all circumstances. Local staff get robbed in fake cabs or buses routinely.
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?
High clearance. When the rainy seasons come, flooding is everywhere and the roads wash out because the streets are filled in with sand. It's entertaining to watch people pour sand and rocks into holes, only to have that wash away and gouge out a bigger hole when the rain comes. It's typical of the lack of planning here.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
"High speed" is relative. You can get Netflix-streaming internet for US$90 a month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
MTN, provided they don't get closed down by the government through fines, is everywhere. Cheap cards are everywhere.
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?
No quarantine. You can get the import permit from GSO prior to arrival.
There is no vet care. We met a nice woman who is a vet, but she treats pets because she's a nice person, not because it's her business. Without her though, it would be really tough on our pets.
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?
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are some groups that help orphans and the environment (ha). When you see how polluted the river and ocean are here, you'll realize how pointless any environmental volunteerism is.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Casual. Polo/Slacks, coat and tie are common. I can't describe exactly what women wear but it's professional attire.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Crime is critical here. Kidnappings for ransom of American citizens happen regularly. The local staff are victimized by robbers while stuck in the horrendous traffic they drive to work through. Political violence and terrorism are a concern as well, though protests aren't anti-American and Boko Haram hasn't had the same effect here as in the north or middle belt.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Malaria is endemic. There's not a good option for medical here. The embassy had the RMO position moved up to Abuja. A brilliant move since regional travel is centered in Lagos.
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?
Poor from pollution, though the breeze from the ocean helps. Harmattan isn't great with the dust though.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Dust is bad in Harmattan. Food poisoning is more of a concern.
5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Harmattan from January to March (dusty wind, slightly cooler) April-early June (hot) June-October (rainy) November-December (hot and humid). There's really not a great time of year here.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
There's AISL, but I don't have kids so I couldn't say.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
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?
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Relatively large because of the oil industry. Morale varies, though I'll be stunned if I ever meet anyone who actually likes it here.
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?
As I said above, BBQs, hosting people at home. The GQ helps with volleyball and other social events.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It's not a good city for anyone really. There's not much to do, so it's mainly BBQs, game nights, hosting each other on the weekends. There's a reason why there are no tourist books about Nigeria.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Amongst the expat community, no problem. Nigerians are virulently anti-LGBT. After the Supreme Court decision regarding same sex marriage, the media went nuts with anti-LGBT articles. I'd be afraid to tell any locals here.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Ha. Nigerians are some of the most regressive people I've ever met. North vs South, Yoruba vs Ibo vs Hausa, Christian vs Muslim. Prejudice is coin of the realm here. It's really sad actually.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Growing closer to my spouse because we have to keep each other entertained. There's nothing to do in Lagos.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Literally nothing. The Lekki Conservation Area by Chevron is nice for one visit. Other than that, there's a reason tourism isn't an industry in West Africa.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Trinkets and junk that isn't worth anything.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Aside from saving money by having absolutely nothing to do, there's nothing good about this city.
10. Can you save money?
Yup, because there's nothing to do.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How aggressive the culture is here. Kindness is perceived as weakness.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Nope. I've been other places on the continent and never seen anything like this place. I can't wait to leave.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Ideas that driving can be safe or relaxing. Hopes that people couldn't still have horribly prejudiced outlooks in a modern city. Any winter clothing
4. But don't forget your:
Patience. This place is more frustrating than any place I've ever been.
5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city: