Kigali, Rwanda Report of what it's like to live there - 09/13/13

Personal Experiences from Kigali, Rwanda

Kigali, Rwanda 09/13/13

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

First experience.

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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?

Atlanta, about 19 hours of flying time with a layover in Amsterdam.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Large houses close to the embassy. Traffic on its worse day in Kigali is still not that bad.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

We spend around US$150 a week on a family of four. It all depends on if you are buying and eating like a Rwandan, or if you are purchasing a lot of imported goods. Chicken breast cost about US$10 for 1 kilo, milk is about US$5 for 5 liters, and produce is reasonable at the market, but expensive at the grocery store.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

We actually did do it again and we shipped a lot of canned vegetables, and other canned type items. We also shipped some of our favorite dipping sauces. We are always ordering all our dry goods on Amazon. My recommendation is use your consumables only for liquids.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Fast food does not exist here. Even if there were a McDonald's, it would still take you an hour to get your food.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Mosquitoes and ants are my biggest complaint. And they are not even really a complaint so much as they are just two little facts of life.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Pouch.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Cost is rising because once help goes from one American to another they do not make less, and they typically get a raise. We pay US$580 a month for: a full time nanny (US$220/month), a full time housekeeper (US$200/month), a part time housekeeper on Saturday (US$60/month), and a part time gardener (US$100/month).

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

I think there are some at the nicer hotels, and at the Embassy. I just jog and do some push ups.

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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?

We use ours at the largest chain grocery store in the region, but that is it.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

Yes.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

TV is available. The best English package costs about US$100 a month.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It would definitely help, but everyone gets by OK without knowing anything beyond pleasantries. Most Rwandans speak some English.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many - I have difficulties pushing a stroller around.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

I think all local transportation is safe. Embassy staff are not allowed to take motos because the drivers are careless and always crashing.

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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?

Small SUV is fine. The more exploring you wish to do the larger the vehicle you need. A sedan type car would not work here as only primary roads are paved. You will be living on a bumpy dirt road.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Internet is available, but don't expect to stream video or skype whenever you want.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Readily available.

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Pets:

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.

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are 2 vets available (I think), but I have yet to have a reason for them.

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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?

No.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Business casual at work. Before I arrived I was told this was a conservative society, but I have not seen it. A woman has no problem wearing anything she wants. But be prepared for the stares just as you would receive them stateside.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Fighting on the border region with the Congo, and random grenade attacks in the city.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Malaria, but my family and I do not take the meds. Knock on wood.

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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?

Not too bad, but you do have vehicles spewing black smoke from their exhaust.

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Eternal Spring.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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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?

I use a nanny.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

I don't know, but I am sure soccer would be available.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

It is a decent size.

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2. Morale among expats:

In general morale is good.

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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?

Restaurants, bars, and house parties.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

I think overall it is great for all.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

I think it is ok, but I also feel like the Rwandans appreciate a little don't ask don't tell. With that being said there are gay and lesbian expats here and they do fine.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

None that I have noticed.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Having a large house during the nesting phase of being new parents, nice restaurants, and weather.

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

Go see the gorillas, a weekend on Lake Kivu, a safari in Akagera, or just relax in the wonderful weather.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Cheap carved wooden stuff that breaks easily. There is a small art scene.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The city is safe and clean, although there have been 3 grenade attacks in the last 8 months. I still go for runs, and my family and I take walks with no issues.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't spend it.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I let the whole being landlocked thing get to me, so probably not. It would depend on my choices though. Rwanda is higher on the list than many other options.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Impatience.

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3. But don't forget your:

Pet grooming tools.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Hotel Rwanda of course!

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Sit back, relax, and enjoy the ride.

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