Dakar, Senegal Report of what it's like to live there - 12/28/18
Personal Experiences from Dakar, Senegal
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No. Cairo, Dar es Salaam, and Dakar.
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?
Austin, TX. About 15 hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
Three and a half years.
4. 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?
We live in an apartment. We have a three bedroom apartment and each bedroom has a full bathroom each. There is a half bath for guests and a full wetroom for household help, a large living area, and a large-ish kitchen. We got lucky with it being a newer apartment and have great neighbors. We have a small backyard and small front yard, but it's enough for toddlers to run around in circles. We can walk to the main grocery store.
In Almadiesl housing is a mix; if you are closer to ISD school then you'll have a house. Houses are mostly older homes but everyone will have issues with leaks, A/C units breaking or leaking, sewage issues when the rains come, etc. Some apartments have an ocean view. some houses have pools. You can't have it all.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
nearly everything is available here, but you are paying handsomely for it. I use Amazon/Walmart for most of the dry goods. I buy meats from Casino and for produce there is a fellow that comes to the embassy from the downtown market with produce on Tuesday and Friday. There are plenty of street stalls and of course, Casino, if you don't mind their mark-up. Oh, FRENCH CHEESE and bread, but cheddar is hard to come by.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
I stocked up on black beans, petite diced tomatoes, chicken stock, sweetened condensed milk, glass-jar items, beer, and corn tortillas.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
JUMIA works pretty good, but selection is limited. I have written instructions to our place on the "notes" section of my phone so I can quickly send to delivery people. Food is good, but it's overhyped. Indian food is enough to get you by, but doesn't hit the comfort food level of East Africa! Lebanese is pretty good, but I expected better given the large Leb community here. No fast food chains, though I keep hearing KFC/pizza hut are coming soon...
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants and cockroaches; not much you can do about it other than keep things clean and having spray within reach.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
DPO/Pouch. Local post is fine, just more expensive, and non-embassy expats use it.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Affordable. Our maid tends to be a little on the slower side, but I think it's just cultural. She is eager to learn and will take instruction gladly. All the maids/nannies I have met are very sweet; ours is part of the family! There are plenty of shared drivers, most have full-time nanny and part time house-help.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Embassy has a small but adequate gym and their pool is great! there is Club Olimpique with private classes and instructors. Plenty of runners all over the place.
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?
Every now and again I'll use credit cards at the main grocery store or at the American food store. Embassy has an ATM but it breaks down often it seems.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
There is a multi-denominational service at ISD (school), and an LDS service, but I don't know where they meet.
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 it, but life is waaay easier if you speak some French.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis, yes. Nothing else is advised.
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?
4x4, though some have sedans and get around town without a problem.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Fiberoptics is popping up slowly. There are several other providers with Orange being the most common one. It's ok. I have data on my phone at all times, and end up using it often as hotspot for our home computer. Regular internet will take you about 2-3 weeks to set up.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Unlocked phone, use local provider and always have extra card refills.
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?
Yes on vets.
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?
Teachers, nurses, contractors. EFM jobs at embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Clinics and orphanages mostly.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business or smart casual. Senegalese love to dress well! While you can wear pretty much anything out and about if you are toubab/foreigner, it's a conservative country and they appreciate modesty.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Not many. Follow RSO's instructions and you should be ok.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Med care is fine. There's a couple OBGYNs, several dentists, and awesome osteopath and a physical therapist. I would say broken bones would require a medevac. There is SOS Medecin that comes to your home; we've used them several times for (strep throat/malaria scares) rather than lugging the whole household to the med unit. Med unit at embassy is fine.
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?
Air is really bad; that's been the hardest for our family. On clear days it's just beautiful you almost forget the bad days!
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
There are peanuts everywhere.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
The dusty blues, maybe??
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
August/September can be very hot. Dec/March can be pleasant and a little cool in the evenings. Gets dry and and humid.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Parents seem to really like ISD. There is the French Lycee which has some embassy families and they seem to like it if the French system is your thing.
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?
Plenty of preschools and creshes. They all vary, just have to do research on what suits you best. School teachers and principals can change often and then you're back at square one!
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, yoga, ballet, capoeira, surf, and swimming.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large expat community. Embassy community is ok and I'd say morale is ok, too. You gotta make friends on your own, rather than expect the CLO, for instance, to help and/or provide opportunities for getting to know people.
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?
The American club/association has activities; usually same MO, they rotate between Ebbet's field/pool/atrium.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes for all.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
If you're a toubab it's fine. However, it's illegal and it's a Muslim country so I think maybe not if you are Senegalese.
5. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes, senegalese are very friendly people. It's one of the best things here!
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Friendships made are the highlights. It's a nice enough country if you get out. Dakar is what you make it and you have to look deep to see the beauty of the city.
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Music, art, and surf.
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Lots of wax fabric and baskets. keep in mind the color in the baskets is plastic and not fabric. There is a bienale as well as an art show every year that gets lots of attention. There is a jazz festival in St Louis.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
French products from the grocery store! Easy access to Europe! Home services: hair, mani/pedis, massages, chicken, vegetables, milk, etc!
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I guess that the air quality was so bad.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
4. But don't forget your:
Patience, dehumidifier, humidifier, air purifiers, and sense of style!