Dakar, Senegal Report of what it's like to live there - 02/11/10

Personal Experiences from Dakar, Senegal

Dakar, Senegal 02/11/10

Background:

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

Yes.

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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?

Washington DC. Direct flights from Dulles on United/South African Airways and from JFK on Delta.

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3. How long have you lived here?

20 months

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

US 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?

Housing pool is OK. Not great though it does appear to be getting better. Very few house have yards and Senegalese construction is very poor. Post is growing very, very fast and GSO housing is having a difficult time keeping pace.

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

Very, very expensive. Neither everything is imported. You can get cheap fish, bread and peanuts but that is about it.

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

Peanut butter, yellow mustard (neither exist here).

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

Closest thing to fast food would be Pizza Inn and Caesar's Chicken and Pizza.

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

Mosquitoes but some parts of town are worse than others. Almadies seems to have the worst of it. Fann and Fenetre Mermoz seem to be better.

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Daily Life:

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

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

We pay on the high side but it's still affordable. We pay our househelp 150,000CFA/month (approx. $300) for 40 hours a week and our live-in gardener/day guard 125,000CFA/month ($250).

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

No, not really.

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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?

ATM's are popping up all over and I have yet ti hear of any problems during my tenure.

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

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

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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?

Plenty. Some basic french is essential and some basic Wolof goes along way.

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

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Transportation:

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

Taxi are affordable and safe.

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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?

Any kind will work just fine. A 4X4 is the best option but not necessary by any means.

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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?

You never get the bandwith you pay for - know this going in. It's about double what we pay in the states.

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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?

Orange and Tigo are the two big carriers. I have add experience with both and prefer Orange.

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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)?

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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?

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

Business to business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

High crime post by US State Department definition is accurate. We have all manner of crime affecting the diplomatic community minus the big three: rapes murders and car-jacking.

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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?

There is a good German doctor in town many Embassy officials use.

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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?

Good to Moderate. Some bad days during the winter as the Harmaton winds blow dust and sand from the Sahara.

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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?

Hot and humid from June-October/November. Cools down with very little himidity from December-April/May.

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Schools & Children:

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

INternational School of Dakar (ISD) is a good school. No major conplaints. Have 2 children who are students at ISD and a spouse working there. Like any school, a lot depends on the teachers. There are some exceptional ones at ISD and some that make you shske your head in frustration.

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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?

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

Yes. There are a fair amount of sports and other after-school activities available for kids at ISD.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Overall - good, but not great. It's West Africa and while Senegal is the best thing going in this part of the world, it's still West Africa.

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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?

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

Good for families and singles.

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

Have not heard either way.

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

While a Muslim nation, Senegal is incredibly moderate and welcoming of other religious expressions.

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

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

Not much really. You've got Goree Island, Bandia Animal Reserve, a couple respectable beaches, Saly.....this is no East Africa. Nothing close to what you'd get in Kenya, Tanzanior South Africa.

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

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

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Winter clothes. It cools down during winter but never gets cold.

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3. But don't forget your:

Peanut butter.....seriously, bring lots of it!!!

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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:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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