Harare, Zimbabwe Report of what it's like to live there - 07/06/17
Personal Experiences from Harare, Zimbabwe
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
No We have lived in several countries in Africa and Asia.
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?
Door to door it is 20+ hours.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is excellent in terms of plot size and space.Maintenance is often an issue.Some houses don't have a working borehole (well) and that can be a nightmare.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Several South African chains (supermarkets) with lots of groceries available.Prices fluctuate and are now on the increase. Many products do not have information about ingredients which is scary if you know some of the realities in this country.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
All electrical items are crazy expensive. Good quality mattresses and furniture.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
If you like 'cuisine' - forget it, you won't find it. A few upmarket restaurants are pretentious but don't offer real quality (Amanzi for example, beautiful setting but so-so food).The thing is that there are so many good ingredients available, such as excellent beef, but the chefs are missing! For international standards everything is sub-par - at best. A few exceptions are Chang Thai / Sabai Thai, the Jam Tree, Fishmonger (very good) and Spice Lounge (best Indian).
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
The northern part of Harare (where all expats live) is infested with termites. Then the usual ants, some mosquitos depending on the season. Overall not bad.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Via local mail, things won't arrive and if they arrive in the PO Box of your organization it often takes months.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Readily available, often well educated. Salary ranges from 200-250 USD and bonuses are expected (Xmas for example) as well payment of school fees.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Lots. 50-100 usd per month. Harare International School allows parents of students to use the gym, tennis courts, etc. for free.
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?
At the moment plastic is the only option. Almost no cash left in the country. ATMs are still guarded but no cash available.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
We're not interested in these services but there are many churches and even groups who do their thing along the road (apostolic).
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is widely spoken.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes but not as much as in many other African capitals. One of the main shopping areas, Sam Levy, is quite accessible for example.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Combibuses are very dangerous - particularly for other road users. Long distance buses are very dangerous due to no maintenance, long hours and over speeding on roads with huge potholes.
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?
Many people import secondhand from Japan. Cheap but difficult and expensive to maintain. We have one 4WD and one sedan.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
ZOL is used by most people. Very expensive (we pay 200 USD) and when you use it during business hours they'll reduce your speed. Streaming is possible in most cases. The kids complain about very slow ping rates when playing games online.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Bring your phone. Locally you pay double for the same phone at home. Local SIM cards are easy to get. Data on mobile phones is very expensive.
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 - many good ones but also exceptions that should be avoided. No quarantine and when your documentation for the pets is OK, no problem with getting them in.
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?
Very limited - also due to strict labor laws and difficulties in getting work permits.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Harare is pretty safe considering the level of poverty in the country. Many people have 24-hour guards, alarm systems, electric wire etc.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
There are islands of excellence but most services are very limited and expensive. Quality of care is going down. For anything serious, medical evacuation is the best route. Lack of information on ingredients used in almost all products is scary. You don't know what you're eating. It looks nice but can contain all kinds of pesticides etc.
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?
Excellent air quality.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Not much available. Some gluten-free products available at very high prices.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Depends on how much you are affected by the reality of how this country is being managed.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Excellent climate. One of the best things about living in Zimbabwe.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Harare Interntional School pretends to be an IB school. For kids going to pre-primary and primary it is pretty much OK. Secondary is a completely different story - it should never be accredited by IBO as the school just is not up to standard. They're just an American school with some attempts to use IB slogans without really having the capacity to deliver. They try to do things cheaply (e.g. opting for local teachers with little or no IB experience in charge of diploma classes) while charging huge fees. Many of the teachers are just not qualified enough to deal professionally with the IB curriculum. Until recent changes school management were a disgrace. There are some positive signs of improvement under new management.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
Some efforts are made but the required expertise is missing.
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?
HIS has pre-primary but there are also other options available.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
To some extent.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Due to the economic situation the number of expats is decreasing but also some embassies have closed their doors recently. Morale is high as long as you are immune to how this country is being destroyed by its leaders, in my opinion.
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?
Outdoor activities, hiking, local safari parks and further away Vic Falls. Every once a while there is music concert. Once a year a great festival (HIFA) with lots of music, theater, dance, etc.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is not a city. It is a big village. Probably good for all with main attractions the nice climate, space, and outdoor type of activities.
4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Zimbabwe is very conservative when it comes to LGBT but in practice there are no major problems.
5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
There are definitely racial tensions that don't often come to the surface unless when going to concerts where a lot of alcohol is being consumed or when politicians make racist remarks. Overall Zimbabweans are very peace-loving and friendly though.
6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Climate, living on a one acre plot in a capital with lots of space for a vegetable garden, commute times (no traffic jams), Victoria Falls, Eastern highlands
7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Lots of outdoors opportunities, hiking, safari parks, Mukuvizi park in Harare, HIFA festival, theater, horse races - and lots of golf courses
8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Shona sculpture, quite a number of artists. Woodwork, typical souvenirs.
9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
No traffic jams, climate, Harare is a very green city.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Poor quality of secondary level education at the international school.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Probably not, due to the school.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Expectation that you will be part of the Big Change happening in Zimbabwe.
4. But don't forget your:
Ability to enjoy the many good things of living in Zimbabwe.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Dinner with Mugabe (Heidi Holland), The Struggle continues: 50 years of Tyranny in Zimbabwe (David Coltart).
6. Do you have any other comments?
So much potential but unfortunately one of the few countries where the people were much better off twenty years ago.