Dakar, Senegal Report of what it's like to live there - 02/05/10
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 three other countries in Africa
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?
To get back to the U.S. there are two major airlines with direct flights, South African Airlines/United (Dulles and JFK) and Delta (JFK).
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Associated with the US government
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Single family homes and apartments - yards aren't that much. Difficult to get big cars into the garages so many people park on the street.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Groceries and paper products are pretty expensive - especially Casino. Quite a lot of things are imported. The one exception is probably seafood. Shopping usually involves going to more than one store.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
Paper products, dog food, U.S. products that aren't available here.(French products are available.)
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are lots of restaurants - some of what could be called fast food here would cost about twice the amount as the US.Higher end restaurants - probably the same cost as higher end restaurants in the US.Nice cream downtown has 40 flavors or so of homemade ice cream.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Some mosquitoes and a lot of flies. There is one type of fly lays eggs in the ground and can cause little worms in pets.(Be careful of these insects in locally bought fertilizer.)
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
U.S. government system for mail but they don't send out packages.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Often more than $200/month - at least in diplomatic community.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Yes. Women and some men wear longer pants when running. In some months - this is also due to the weather.
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 is probably OK - but we avoid using these here.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
I know about the Catholic, Baptist, and Interdenominational (one at Dakar Academy and one at ISD).
6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?
7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The more French and local language you know the better.
8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Not sure . . . should look at this carefully.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Taxis are safe and affordable - but be warned taxi drivers don't know French very well. And sometimes they will let you get into the car without really understanding where you want to go.
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?
For most of the year a smaller vehicle would be nice for Dakar. But when the flooding was occurring it was really nice to have a higher car - also better for outside of Dakar. Quite a few motorcycles who can zip through traffic - but it's dangerous as cars often swerve left or right unexpectedly to go around taxis, horse and carts, and other obstacles.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes - I think it's $40 to $60/month.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Widely used and they work.
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)?
Yes for vets - not sure that there are kennels - so important to have house help that are good withpets.
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 is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Senegalese dress very well - usually Fridays is a dress up day for them (especially for women) - with very beautiful traditional outfits.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Nothing unusual - be cautious right around the time it gets dark when walking or running.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Not an expert on this. Medical care seems pretty good.
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 that bad - but at certain points of the year it is quite dusty.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Hot at one point but then it cools down. Considered very nice by most people. However, the rainy season resulted in pretty severe flooding in Dakar. The flooding required cars to go through pretty deep water on some streets.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
ISD, French School, Bilingual School?, Dakar Academy. We chose Dakar Academy (Christian school) based on references from friends who found the elementary academics better and liked the less materialistic, value based education. The school is helping our child catch up on the basics - things that were not taughtsufficiently through an elementary IB program in another country. There is emphasis on community, kindness, and religion. Kids are very happy. It's like a family - they have a Best Bud program matching high schoolers with elementary kids and have pretty good sports. Library is big but some of facilities like soccer field are not as good. They have boarding kids starting in 6th grade.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
There is some - should contact school directly to find out more.
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?
No experience - but heard there is a Montessori school.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes - clubs host things for kids - even for non-members and schools. Horseback riding.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
2. Morale among expats:
High - because people are nice and hardworking and there are things to do.
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, nightclubs, music, and various cultural events.
4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Yes - Lots to do for everyone and good food.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
People in Senegal are conservative and religious - but they are also pretty tolerant of people who are different.
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
The country is over 90% Moslim - nevertheless, there is a lot of tolerance.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The beaches and the islands: Ngor and Goree and the restaurants.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Beaches, Islands, nature reserves, restaurants, and sports. Music is suppose to be good too.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Having clothes made here, jewelry,
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
The weather is very nice. Culture is fascinating. Senegalese are typically conservative and religious and very hospitable. Exercise is very popular here - with lots of runners, walkers, and some biking.
11. Can you save money?
Yes. But costs could add up quickly with house help and eating out a lot.
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:
Very cold winter clothes
3. But don't forget your:
Beach gear, kayak might be nice, bikes
4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Quite a few.