Apia, Samoa Report of what it's like to live there - 12/08/18

Personal Experiences from Apia, Samoa

Apia, Samoa 12/08/18


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

Have lived in western South Pacific, east Africa, and Mexico as an expat.

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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?

DC is most recent home city. Five hours to LAX, 12 Hours to Auckland (or five hours to HI, 11 to Fiji), four hours to Samoa. Generally you want the HI flight but it isn't possible due to FAA rules. Nadi is a much improved airport with amenities. However, they don't allow you to enter until four hours prior to flight. So layovers are possible at a nearby hotel. Auckland is the most comfortable connection due to Air NZ. Great service and decent food. You have a great chance of getting a bump if you have small kids.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Five months as of this post.

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

A mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing in Samoa is tough. It is definitely not up to the expat scale as nearby Fiji or even Vanuatu. Homes tend to be expensive ($3500/month for executive level), or generally poor quality construction. Termites and ants are a true nuisance. It takes time to find a landlord and property that meet your needs. Be patient and don't stress. There are always openings given the turnover of short term employees from other international agencies.

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

Generally good but pricey. You will need to hunt at several shops to find what you want. Our normal Saturday trip is no fewer than 4-5 shops and open market trips. Expect to pay a premium for western foods. You can find decent NZ or Oz brands, and on occasion, American branded foods. Diapers are costly and not the least bit environmentally-friendly. We brought cloth ones to make up for the guilt. Local produce and products are cheap and if you don't mind a carb and protein heavy diet, you will be okay.

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

Other than my favorite habanero sauce, there are really only nice to have items we wish we brought more of. Like our favorite shampoos, soaps (Dr. Bronner's), detergent (clear and clean), and some ingredients to go along with the abundance of fresh fish (rice seasoning, miso paste, etc.)

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

There is no shortage of fish/chicken and chips here! A few pizza restaurants, but definitely no delivery. There is a range of local food stalls, to McDonald's, and fine dining at resorts. The best restaurant is Paddles which specializes in Italiano fare. A truly great eatery. While the food won't blow you away at most places, you can find some gems. Consistency is a problem but you'll quickly learn about island life.

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

Oh yeah. Termites are eating everything slowly. If you bring wood furniture, don't expect to take it home.

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Daily Life:

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

DHL DHL DHL. It's the only way to ensure you receive what and when you want. Regular USPS can take months and many times the package has been opened. FedEx exists here but it is cost-prohibitive.

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

This is one thing I didn't expect, but help can be extremely hard to find. The general belief is that Samoa nannies will steal from you. This was told to me by my Samoan staff. Many expats, and Samoans, hire Fijian nannies for their homes. Help is not expensive 2-10 WST/hour. Finding the right person to care for your young ones or home can be challenging. Like most things, it takes time. We relied on the recommendation of other expats to find our wonderful Samoan helpers. That's a good place to start. It's better to be safe and secure your valuables so you don't go down the road of many others.

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

There seems to be no shortage of gyms and work out spaces. Ten WST will get you an hour of crossfit. There are numerous pools and beaches that can offer a great workout. There is a local running group that meets weekly and holds weekend events regularly, including triathlons. Plenty of hiking and getting in touch with nature here.

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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?

More and more. We use cards for all store shopping. We only use cash at the open markets, stalls, and beaches (you pay for access to all beaches). ATMS are plentiful in Apia. Good luck finding any outside or there and the wharf in Savaii. No issues with them, but they aren't always working. Be prepared to come back empty handed and try again the next day. Don't run out of cash.

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


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

Not much in Apia. You will need more in the villages. You can hire tutors no problem.

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

Yes, you can hire for more money, but local buses run all over the country.

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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?

Import an SUV with 4WD. If you never plan to leave Apia, a sedan will be fine. As of right now they no longer allow for import of left hand drive vehicles. We got both of ours from Japan. One 4WD and one sedan compact. There are a lot of used cars on the market. You may have good luck grabbing an outgoing counterparts car, or finding a good deal at one of the yards. However, you will pay a premium. Gas is expensive so keep that in mind before buying that V8.

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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 expensive! There is almost no such thing as unlimited internet here. I say that because truly unlimited internet will run you $1700/month. You can buy decent mobile internet at $50 WST/month for 15GB. Digicel and Bluesky are the two cell providers that offer plans. It's generally cheaper to use your phone as a data port than a router.

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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?

Local Provider only, like Digicel or Bluesky. I've had visitors try to use their roaming privileges from the US without much luck. You can get by on spending about $100 WST/month for data and cell coverage.

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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?

Not many. Most spouses are plus 1 living. Taking care of kids and the house are the most common things done by the brave men and women who sign up to join their partners. There are opportunities but don't expect high pay or jobs that meet your skills. Keep an open mind and you will be fine.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty from PTA to other much needed organizational support. You won't have a hard time if you stick your neck out and ask.

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

Island business. Men wear island shirts (Aloha, Bula) for everything from casual to formal receptions. The generally accepted Samoan skirt and flip flops is the preferred cover up for men. However, long trousers/slacks with closed shoes are fine. Women should be aware of the conservative nature of Samoa. wearing long skirts/dresses is respectable here. Even wearing shirts and long shorts while swimming in the village beaches is recommended.

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Health & Safety:

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

Lots of petty theft. We'll leave it at that.

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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?

Medical care is scarce and not the greatest. We ready to evacuate for anything over a common infection or cold. Dengue outbreaks are common. No malaria. The occasional meningitis case is normal but dengue is the real concern. Keep mosquito spray handy!

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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?

Perfect. I breathe all day long.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Not great medical care.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Not a recommended post for folks with mental heath issues.

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

It's great. Nice hot days and cool nights. Only thing that fluctuates is the humidity.

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Schools & Children:

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

None. Look at Vaiala Beach or RLS for your young kids.

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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?

Yes, Apia has a Montessori school run by the Baha'i.

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

Some. This can be hit and miss. Plan on engaging them in other areas.

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Expat Life:

1. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Pools, beaches, bars, repeat.

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

Great post for families! Raise your kids here. Not so sure about single folks. May be tough.

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

You will exhaust all points of interest within the first 6 months. But they are great.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely, but you have to be ready for the island life. We've done this before so were prepared. Samoa is an amazing country and you will not regret it.

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

Warm clothes, watches, leather, wood furniture, expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

Beach gear, quality electronics that run on 220v (especially mobile phone), willingness to share.

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