Harare, Zimbabwe Report of what it's like to live there - 02/09/19
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, have lived in Asia and Latin America.
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?
US. I underestimated how difficult it is to travel here. It’s a MINIMUM of 20 hrs to get to the States (most direct routing, no delays, minimal connections) but can be well over 30 depending on where you’re going. If you are flying with pets, it’s another level of difficulties.
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 nice. Outdoor living - swimming pools, tennis courts, expansive gardens are the norm. Rooms are on the small side and layouts are odd, some “bedrooms” don’t have closets, but it is hard to complain. Residences are scattered all over town. Commute times are rough to the new embassy, someone told me it takes them 1.5 hrs each way. Most people are now probably 30-35 minutes away, average.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
You can get steep discounts if you have USD, bringing things down more or less to what you’d pay in the US, but God help you if you don’t. Many things (bread, cooking oil) just aren’t available no matter how much you’re willing to pay. You can drive around looking for them, but then you’re burning gas, which can also be hard to find.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are good restaurants, but they are being forced out of business as supplies are getting harder to import without USD. Delivery is a tough sell because of the fuel prices/shortages. Right now there is good pizza, some decent pubs, barbecue, Thai and Italian, Chinese, but menu options are often unavailable, and there is an ominous feeling like they could all be shuttered tomorrow.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Nothing too bad, the giant flat spiders are not as bad as some previous people seemed to feel, they keep to themselves and aren’t aggressive. We get geckos in our house sometimes. We had some giant cane rats in the yard, but I think they are nocturnal because we almost never see them.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Pouch. God bless the pouch. I believe local mail is somewhat reliable, but takes a long time and customs is problematic with packages.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
$250-300 a month for a full time nanny/housekeeper. Most people also have a full time gardener, some people have drivers. Household help is very formal and standoffish, which I think is an adjustment to many Americans.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
$70/month in USD.
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?
International credit cards usually work. Literally no ATMs have any cash in them. If you can find a way to get cash, that is the best method of payment for discounts.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
English is fine.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
There are “combi” mini vans, which are dangerous and have become more expensive after the fuel price hikes. I think they may be off limits. Taxis are around, but you have to call them, it’s rare that you could hail one off the street.
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?
Everyone swears that 4wd is necessary, but I don’t know if I agree, the most common car here is the Honda Fit. The potholes are pretty severe, to be fair, so unless you are OK with driving slowly and carefully, I would advise that you get something rugged. Buy it locally, much easier and cheaper.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Can get it set up prior to your arrival if the previous occupant had it installed. It’s $225/month and pretty reliable, all things considered. Electricity and water may not function, but internet is usually up and running.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Google Fi and similar services do not work here, so get a local SIM.
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?
Vets are supposed to be good.
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?
Lots of stay at home parents here, I imagine telecommuting would be rough with the time difference.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
Not many that I’ve heard of. I’m surprised there aren’t more.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Business at work. Formal is never required.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
It is pretty safe here right now, but the political and economic problems could change that in a second.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
No malaria pills in Harare, but you are supposed to take them if you travel outside the city. If you take normal precautions and have routine immunizations, you should be OK. That said, if something goes really wrong, it will probably be a medevac. Doctors are here, but intermittently striking, and they have no supplies. Medicine is available but apparently only if you have USD.
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?
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Super weather, temperate all year round. It rains a little more from Nov-April, but it’s not like a monsoon, it’s like a few showers in the afternoons. It is drier and colder from May-Oct.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Harare International School is IB and seems to be fine, no big complaints. English language instruction and French/Spanish classes. They have lots of electives and after school activities on their giant beautiful campus, which is nice.
2. 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?
Most people use one particular nursery school, it’s half day in the mornings, seems reasonably priced.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Yes, and relatively inexpensive.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
It’s complicated, but generally speaking, the expat community is shrinking due to the political and economic issues and difficulties keeping businesses open, and as you would expect, morale is also declining.
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?
Few groups and clubs, people seem to make their own fun, barbecue, swim, hang out...
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
I would say it’s good for most, but the majority of people in the expat community seem to have elementary aged kids, so it may feel isolating if you don’t fit into that demographic.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Yes, the culture here is somewhat closed off and seems distrusting of outsiders. People are friendly and polite, but don’t seem interested in taking friendships to the next level.
5. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
6. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Climate, small town atmosphere, and safety.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
Tough to say, because things here can change on a dime. When we were getting ready to come, we were talking to people who were here 2013-2017 and thought it was such a hidden gem. It’s quickly becoming a very different situation now. Many of the nice things have remained, but people are justifiably very anxious about what comes next with the economy. So I would say, talk to people who are here NOW, not five or ten or twenty years ago. It was a different place then and it will be a different place tomorrow.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
I’m on the fence, but probably not.
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter clothes, fancy formal attire.
4. But don't forget your:
Consumables, medicine, drums of gasoline (just kidding, maybe), USD cash, spare car parts, flexibility, compassion...