Yaounde, Cameroon Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Yaounde, Cameroon

Yaounde, Cameroon 06/06/18

Background:

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

No, have lived in two other African cities, one Asian city, and one European city (twice).

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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?

Virginia, U.S.A. It takes a good 24 hours to get to Yaounde from VA. The flight via Brussels or Paris is 24 hours, then there seems to be an inevitable delay with flights arriving, and then a good hour to get home from the airport.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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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 is great. We have a huge fenced-in yard that is great for our pets. We are one of the furtherest families from the embassy and the commute should take 15 minutes by car. However, when school is starting or finishing and people are taking their children to school, or even just going to the supermarket, or it rains, then the commute goes up from there. In general the commute is very reasonable and beats the beltway dash.

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

Groceries are more expensive in the supermarkets here (Dovv, Mahima, Casino) as the goods are all imported. If you see something in the supermarket that you want buy it up, as you never know if it will be there next week (or even the week after). It is always an unknown as to whether what you say there last week will be there next week. Buy accordingly!

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

Yaounde is a consumables post so take advantages of it. Bring over lots of wine, as the supermarkets don't always transport wine from Europe (or South Africa) with respect, meaning that when you open it, it may be corked. Bring over sunscreen as it is expensive here. Actually bring anything that would be imported from Europe, as it will be more expensive here than normal.

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

There are a selection of restaurants offering pizzas which you can take out, too.

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

When it rains, sometimes the cockroaches like to escape to somewhere dry, maybe in your house.

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Daily Life:

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

All our mail comes and goes by diplomatic pouch and so takes three weeks to arrive/reach the destination. Plan accordingly! I have never used the local mail, though a teacher tells me that if she puts God-like stickers on her parcels they reach the destination, as the locals don't want to interfere with God! You can buy the religious stickers on the streets easily enough.

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

Household help is very reasonable; we pay about US$300 a month for a full time housekeeper. Our gardener is part-time and is paid about US$150/ month. Some people employ drivers, but I never saw the need for it. Parking is a nightmare, so a driver would certainly make that easier.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I used credit card at the Casino and Mahima supermarkets with no problems. Saves having to carry lots of CFA around (local currency is about CFA 500 to US$1) We only got money out at the embassy; either the ATM or the cashier.

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

Cameroon is supposedly bilingual, and there are English language services available, but be prepared for Cameroonian English which we did not always understand.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Having French would be helpful, but Yaounde is supposedly bilingual. However, Cameroonian English is a special kind of English, and the French seems different, too. You have to sometimes ask several times to get the answer to the question you asked. They use words and constructions a little differently here. There are French teachers here.

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

Yes, the sidewalks are used for parking vehicles, driving on or setting up a stall. The roads and side walks are uneven and often there are huge holes in them. There are strange steps everywhere, so leave your wheelchair behind!

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Transportation:

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

We are forbidden from taking the yellow taxis. The local buses are rarely on the roads, even though they look newish (at least in better condition than the plentiful yellow taxis.)

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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?

Bring a high-clearance 4wd. The roads, in our opinion, were not good, so be prepared to navigate tire-swallowing potholes. Don't bring a valuable car as it is likely to get scratched or dented as you navigate the roads. Toyota is a good brand as there are mechanics here who can repair Toyotas. Our local mechanic even had the fancy electronic sensor machine which connects to the car and tells you where the problem is in the car. Carjacking is not an issue. Bring the parts you need from the U.S. as parts will likely be expensive (but more importantly you won't be able to guarantee the quality of the parts). Drivers here are the worst I have seen, and we have been to several other African and Asian countries. Be wary of everybody on or near the road. The cars we have seen have been in very poor condition and did not seem to be driven well.

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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?

We have had the worst internet experience here, and we have lived in much poorer countries than Cameroon. Internet has simply been unreliable for us. We do not recommend Creolink. They offer high-speed unlimited Internet for about $100 per month, but our internet would always seem to disappear Friday evening or else Saturday afternoon (when Creolink closes and its employees go home). Internet would only return Monday around lunch time. Further more if there was a storm or heavy rain, service would also disappear. Others have said Orange Flybox works better than Creolink. Telecommunications infra-structure does not seem good here. You are forewarned!

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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?

You can easily get a SIM card for your unlocked smart phone and then pay upwards from $6 per month for service depending on what plan you want. Unfortunately the infrastructure here did not impress us. I once made a five minute local call which was dropped five times. This is not uncommon. You need to keep calling back. Sometimes the lines are so bad, that it sounds like the person is on another planet, when they are actually in the same city!

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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 quarantine required prior to entry. The vets here are not like we were used to back home; expect basic conditions and you won't be disappointed. I once had to compete with President Macron as I spoke to the vet assistant; he was speaking on TV which was on super loud right at the reception desk. When I asked her to turn it off, she seemed surprised! Some vets apparently do house calls, which might avoid the need to compete with President Macron...

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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?

It's very tough to find a job on the local market. There are a lot of qualified graduates here who cannot find work. If you can telework that would be good, but we found internet not to be reliable. If you are a teacher, ASOY is often looking for teachers (pre-K all the way through to Grade 12). Most people who get a job either work in the embassy or work long distance with their U.S.- based employers. Local salary pay appears to be very low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many; you can volunteer at one of the many NGOs in whatever field you would like.

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

Formal dress is required for formal events, e.g. national days, the Marine Ball, etc.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, avoid walking if the sun is not up, as you risk being mugged.

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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?

Malaria is prevalent, so take your anti malarial prophylaxis. I heard yesterday of a local who died of cerebral malaria. Apparently the local doctor at the hospital advised the family to see a specialist as he was unable to help.

You will need to be medevaced for many things as medical care is limited. I heard of a child and another adult who were medevaced for root canals. We found that the dental experience here is something to be avoided; even the basic cleaning for four people took four hours and left us feeling very sore in our jaws and mouths as we left.

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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?

Air quality is fine. During the dry season, things will be coated with a layer of red Sahara dust. The housekeepers manage to do a good job in ensuring the inside is dusted often. We have dehumidifers which we empty twice a day, as so much moisture is collected. Our borderline asthmatic son has not had any problems here though.

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4. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Yaounde living is not easy. To make it easier, take trips out of Yaounde to recharge your batteries.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Climate is like a hot summer all year round, so shorts and t-shirt weather. Even when it pours, it is not cold rain, but warm rain.

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Schools & Children:

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

We used ASOY which is fine, though weak in maths and science. Some parents complained about the lack of afterschool activities, but the new athletic director is working on changing that. Already she has made some positive changes.

If your child is french speaking, there is FUSTEL.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Schools have only very basic ability to deal with special needs.

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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?

There are preschools available. Household help is cheap, so you could hire a nanny for less than $300 per month, too. ASOY provides afterschool activities.

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

Yes, some children do horse riding at the local hippodrome. Others do art classes at the art teacher's house. Some do martial arts on Saturday mornings.

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Expat Life:

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

Expat community is relatively large. Morale varies with whom you speak.

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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?

You make your own fun. There are quiz nights and some bars. People often entertain themselves; parking is always a challenge at local restaurants/bars etc, so it is much easier if you have friends come to your place or you go to theirs.

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

Cameroon seems to be an aggressive paternalistic society. A Cameroonian's way of communicating may be perceived by Westerns as being very loud and aggressive. I have seen a motorist clearly at fault arguing as if his life depended on it with the other motorist. According to him, he should have been able to drive around the round-about while speaking on his phone and not have run into the car in front of him. The culture is also one of bullying - seen from adults all the way to small children. I have seen locals who are scared of dogs and will often make fun of others by actively pushing them into the way of a nearby dog to scare them. Children and adults may taunt others by saying the dog will eat them or attack them.

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

Climbing Mount Cameroon was great. If I did it again, I would come down through the elephant sanctuary. Visiting the gorillas at Mefou was also good. They have decent enclosures and it is not far from Yaounde. On a more regular basis, just walking in the fields or forest on weekend mornings has been great to recharge the batteries.

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

The golf course right behind the embassy is well worth using. It is green and clean(ish) as well as offering amazing views of Yaounde. Visit the gorillas in Mefou for a weekend trip. Climb Mount Cameroon.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Living here is not easy, and driving has been a frustrating factor for me.

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

I met some great people here and will miss them when we leave. Yaounde living is not easy, but I am glad we did it. I am also glad to be leaving.

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

Expensive cars with low clearance, winter clothes, ski gear and customer service expectations.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience, sunscreen and bottles of wine!

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Yaounde, Cameroon 04/30/17

Background:

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

No, multiple previous posts in Africa, Latin America, and Asia.

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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?

United States, about 20-24 hours to the East Coast via Paris, Brussels, Addis, or Casablanca.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The housing is pretty good overall, and the typical commute varies from one to ten minutes. The houses tend to be on the larger side. Some have yards, and some have pools, but few have both. There are some newer apartments for singles and couples, which tend to be very close to embassy. The embassy is located at the edge of Bastos and Golf, in the expatriate area, and the housing is all in these areas, too.

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

The availability and cost were both better than I expected. The main supermarkets (Casino, Mahima, Dovv, etc.) aren't huge, but they're well-stocked. There's also a very nice butcher than has quality meats at U.S. prices or better as well as a nice selection of cheeses. The commissary at the embassy is very well stocked as well, including a large selection of frozen foods that fills in the gaps where products are too expensive or not available locally. For dry products, Amazon or other online grocers come in handy to get better prices on dry products such as cereal that tend to be more expensive locally.

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

This is a consumables post, and the key thing is to make sure to ship any liquids, creams, gels, etc., that cannot come via pouch. This would include both food items and cleaning products.

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

There are several solid restaurants with various cuisines. Looking at the current rankings on Trip Advisor gives you a good idea of what is available, although there are several others as well. Most are in the Bastos area and readily accessible from the embassy and housing. There isn't fast food in the American sense, but there are a few restaurants that provide a Cameroonian version, and there are a few places that have good pizzas, too.

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

It's warm all year, so ants can be an issue if you leave food out. Mosquitoes aren't that bad at most houses, but you're still advised to take precautions such as mosquito nets over beds, particularly for children.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the pouch, which takes 2-3 weeks in most cases. It has the normal size and weight restrictions, which allows you to receive most things you need other than liquids, which are much more limited. Outgoing mail is limited to letters and very small packages.

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

Household help is readily available. Quality varies, but many people have been very happy with their employees. Housekeepers are almost universally employed, as the houses get very dusty in dry season if they aren't regularly cleaned. Most people with kids have nannies. Those with yards usually have pools. Many have cooks (or let their maids cook), but it can be hard to find someone who knows foreign cuisine. Several people have drivers, too, since Cameroon generally restricts diplomatic families to one duty-free vehicle. Cost varies, but roughly $10-15 per day is a reasonable estimate.

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

The embassy has a good gym with machines, cardio equipment, and free weights, which is open to embassy staff and their families. There is an outdoor basketball court; a flat, grassy lawn that has been used for soccer, ultimate frisbee, and flag football; and a nice pool on compound that includes lap lanes,. The tennis court at the residence is available for use as well.



The embassy literally overlooks the adjacent golf course, which costs $500 - $1,000 per year for a membership or $25-35 for a day, plus $8 per 18 holes for a caddy and $2 for a small bucket of balls at the range.



There is also a weekly volleyball game and monthly softball game in the community. Probably the most popular walking route in Yaounde starts just down the street from the embassy, with hundreds of locals and expats walking to and up Mont Febe each morning, evening, and weekend.



In addition, there are gyms, pools, squash and tennis courts, etc. available on the local economy. Most are as cheap or cheaper than in the U.S., but the quality tends to be lower, too.

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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?

Credit cards are not commonly used thus far but may become more common in the coming years. There is an ATM at the embassy, and people have used others, such as the one at the Hilton, without problems.

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

There are Catholic and Protestant Christian services available in English. I'm not sure about other religions.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

English is more common than I expected, but French is definitely the primary language. Still, you could probably get by with only the basics for shopping and going to restaurants. There are classes available at the U.S. embassy for staff and dependents.

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

This would be tough place to be if you have limited mobility. The U.S. embassy and housing would be fine, but the city isn't at all set up for it otherwise.

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Transportation:

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

We don't use the street taxis, trains, or local buses, but they are affordable for locals and other expats who do. There are car services, including Uber-inspired versions, that are available and reasonably priced. You can thus get by with just one car, particularly if you don't mind walking since many things you need will not be that far away.

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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?

Locally available makes include Toyota, Mitsubishi, Hyundai, Kia, Ford, Citroen, Peugeot, and Mercedes, so parts for these are more readily available, at least in the models sold locally. If you plan to travel outside Yaounde, you'd benefit from having a 4x4 with decent clearance, and it's useful locally in rainy season, too. Some get by with a sedan, though.

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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?

Internet has improved greatly in the last couple years, following Cameroon's connection to a new offshore cable. Speeds aren't nearly as high as the U.S. but will support online video streaming. Prices vary between $40 and $120 depending on the specific connection you choose; most are in the $40-70 range. Installation varies but can be a matter of a few days in some cases.

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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?

You'll want to use a local provider, if you're not issued a phone. Just bring a GSM phone and get it set up with a local SIM card and plan after arrival.

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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?

There are local veterinarians that people use for standard care without any problems. There are actually a few dog breeders in Yaounde, so pets are not entirely uncommon. There is no quarantine and no other restrictions, to my knowledge.

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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?

Most either work at the U.S. embassy, telecommute to a U.S. employer, or don't work. I don't know any who work on the local economy, other than at the international school.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

People have been involved with orphanages, women's groups, churches, NGOs, etc.

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

It varies based on your specific job but leans towards business casual. If you have a formal meeting or attend a reception, it's business dress, but some also are able to be on the casual side of business casual almost daily. Shorts aren't common in public except when exercising (many exercise in long pants, but some in shorts), but casual dress is otherwise common in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

In Yaounde, there are the standard security concerns with petty theft, pickpocketing, etc. Break-ins happen but are not common, and overall it's a fairly safe place as long as you are smart and not in places you shouldn't be. There are security concerns further afield, such as in the far north, but you will never be there unless it's for work, in which case you'd have plenty of security.

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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?

Malaria is endemic, so you need to take your prophylaxis. This is sub-Saharan Africa, so HIV is something you don't want to chance. This is a Zika zone; it's not exceedingly common, but there is the option of an immediate medical evacuation during pregnancy. There are well-trained doctors available, and the emergency medicine in Yaounde will keep you alive if needed, but the medical facilities are limited overall, so anything serious or requiring surgery or non-standard tests requires medical evacuation to Pretoria, London, or the U.S.

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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?

There is a fair amount of pollution and dust, particularly in the dry season. It isn't a major health issue for most people.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Nothing unusual.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

There are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons. September and October are the wettest months, and the rains usually start sometime in August and end sometime in November. The main dry season starts after that and runs through February. It rains fairly regularly again until June, and then there is another, shorter dry season that lasts a couple months and isn't nearly as dry as the one between December and February.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American School of Yaounde has made a large investment in its facilities in recent years, and its classrooms and library are quite nice now. There is also a basketball court, playground, pool, tennis court, and small, artificial turf sport field available; there isn't enough space for a full-size field. The elementary school generally gets good reviews, with classes ranging from 10 to 18 students. The high school classes are smaller but gradually growing, and the IB program is available.



There is also a French school, Fustel, that is a good option if your kids speak French and are admitted. Rain Forest International School is a middle and high school that also has an American curriculum, but it tends to have only missionary kids and locals, as it is very far from the U.S. embassy and housing.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

ASOY has a dedicated learning support counselor and works to accommodate minor learning disabilities. Details are available at http://asoy.org/asoy-academic-program/student-support-services/.

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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?

ASOY has a preschool and has before and after-school care, but it is relatively expensive, and bus transportation isn't available for preschool students, which can be an issue since the school is downtown. Fustel's preschool is a bit cheaper, but it is even farther from the housing, as it is at the Fustel primary school campus (the lycee is closer to our housing). Ecole Le Flamboyant is a bilingual (primarily French, some English) school that gets good reviews, is near the housing, and is reasonably priced, and some have used Amity International School and 1, 2, 3 Soleil! in the past and been content. Nannies are probably the most commonly used option for preschool-aged kids.

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

There is an informal soccer group at the U.S. embassy, and embassy kids take full advantage of the pool and playground.



ASOY families have free access to the facilities there after school and on weekends. After school activities include soccer, basketball, volleyball, badminton, tennis, swimming lessons, hip-hop dancing, and African drumming and are free or have a nominal fee.



Fustel and Le Flamboyant also provide a range of after school activities for a reasonable price, and tae kwon do is available at the Hilton. There is also a horse riding club near the embassy.

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Expat Life:

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

The expatriate community isn't huge, but it's concentrated, so you see most all of them. Morale varies but is pretty good on the whole. Yaounde isn't exactly nice in the traditional sense, but it's very livable once you get used to it and can be very enjoyable if you don't expect Manhattan.

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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?

Exercise, hanging out at the embassy pool, Marine house happy hours or movies, entertaining at home, and going to restaurants are most common. Les Gourmettes is a club for expat spouses and has activities in French and English. There are a few local swimming and tennis clubs, but they aren't popular with Americans since our facilities are free and nicer.

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

It's probably best for families with small kids and couples. Many singles are happy, but some are not if they want Western dating opportunities, as that market gets small quickly. Older kids would currently have relatively few peers.

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

There are some that do not seem to have major issues, although it is not common, at least openly, among locals.

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

Gender equality is better than many places in Africa. There is an issue with the Anglophone region, but Anglophones and Francophones get along relatively well in Yaounde. Catholicism and Protestant Christianity are most common, but there is a sizable Muslim minority, and there are no major issues with this.

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

With little kids, this can be a great place. There is plenty for them to do, and you can have plenty of household help. You also get to spend lots of quality time together, as the commute is almost non-existent. There are some decent travel destinations as well, between the beaches, mountains, and parks.

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

Gorillas, beaches, mountains.

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

There are some talented local artisans, particularly with wood.

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

Short commute, exercise opportunities, decent restaurants.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

It can take a while for people to warm up and to get used to the local lifestyle and rhythm, but this can be a very enjoyable post if your expectations are reasonable.

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

Yes, definitely, as long as I didn't have major medical problems or high school kids, although the latter may improve in coming years.

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

Winter gear.

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4. But don't forget your:

Umbrella and sports gear.

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Yaounde, Cameroon 04/22/14

Background:

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

No.

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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?

DC. With the time difference, a flight will take approximately 24 hours. Flights normally route through Brussels or Paris. Flights only arrive on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday transitioning via Paris on Delta code share Air France.

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3. How long have you lived here?

8 months. Arrived September 2013.

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

Foreign Service Officer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are new apartments normally occupied by single personnel. The housing pool is generally old and rife with problems that keeps folks busy getting GSO or Facilities to fix them. Average commute time from most home is 15-20 minutes max.

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

There are 3 main grocery stores here, Casino, Dov, and Mahima. All are very expensive. The Embassy has a large commissary stocked with American food ( dry & frozen) which makes it convenient for embassy personnel.

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

More consumables from the U.S. ELSO is very expensive.

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

Cafe de Yaounde is an excellent restaurant that serves a variety of dishes (French, Italian, and American). There is a good Vietnamese restaurant close to Select Bakery and La Salsa has really good homemade pizza. The outdoor grill/lounge at the Hilton serves wood-fired pizza, chicken tika that is quiet good. The Hilton also has a great Saturday brunch and a 2 for 1 happy hour everyday in the rooftop lounge.

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

Roaches, ants galore!

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch. Arrives every 2-3 weeks. You cannot mail packages back to the U.S. larger than a DVD box unless you want to spend an outrageous amount.

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

Domestic help is readily available with recommendations from previous mission personnel. It's relatively inexpensive based on the number of days in the week they work. I know of no housekeepers who live on their employers' compound. Some know how to cook, most don't.

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

Free to all Mission personnel at the Embassy.

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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?

You must have a card with a smart chip to be able to use it at restaurants and grocery stores. Most places operate on a cash basis ( CFA).

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

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is the native language here and in the local markets, you will need it to ask questions regarding items and the cost.

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

Yes. Sidewalks are in disrepair and the few stores here do not have accommodations as there aren't any laws governing to make it a mandatory requirement.

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Transportation:

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

No. Mission personnel are prohibited from using them.

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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?

Definitely an older model SUV. The roads are chocked full of pot holes, washed out, and never repaired. Local taxi drivers are the worst and you have to be diligent and defensive while driving. A turn signal means nothing; they will pass you on the right or left. They always make 3-4 lanes out of 1. You are taking your life in your own hands driving here.

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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?

That all depends on your idea of high speed. Credo link seems to be the best but there are frequent outages and it's about US$120 a month for internet only.

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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?

Unlock your U.S. cell and use Majic Jack or Viber with the wi-fi.

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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 quarantine.

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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?

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Deaf school and orphanages seem to be the primary focus for the mission.

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

Work is professional dress. Public: shorts, t-shirts.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is the most stable country in the Central African Region. Embassy personnel must get permission from the RSO to travel in the Northern Region of Cameroon due to kidnappings by Boko Haram.

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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?

Malaria. Take your meds!!

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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?

Fairly healthy except for locals burning trash every day.

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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?

Temperatures range in the High 80's to low 60's F during the dry season, December to mid-March. It is very rainy and humid April through October.

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Schools & Children:

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

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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?

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Expat Life:

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

75 U.S. direct Hires and there is a good esprit de corp. CLO arranges a lot of events to keep morale high.

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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?

CLO events, parties at the Marine House or getting together with friends.

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

It's much easier for families than singles.

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

No, LGBT is illegal in Cameroon.

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

Not that I've witnessed.

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

Word carvings from local artists.

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

A 4-hour drive to Douala or Kribi where there are beaches. There are a few hotels in those ares but they aren't American standard.

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

Wood carvings, paintings, tailor made suits and dresses.

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

Saving money definitely as there aren't any malls, or movie theaters.

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10. Can you save money?

Definitely unless you spend it all on food. The differential is 20% and the COLA in the 40% range.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

How poor the infrastructure is and how expensive food is in such an impoverished country.

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

Yes. I have learned a lot about the local culture and have come to understand and appreciate these warm and inviting people.

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

Winter clothes!

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4. But don't forget your:

Shorts and flip flops.

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Yaounde, Cameroon 01/23/14

Background:

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

No. We have done other assignments in Africa and Europe.

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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?

Our home base is Washington DC and it takes about 6 hours to Paris and then another 7 or so to DC. All the flights out of Yaounde are red-eye. That can be hard with young kids.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We lived there for 3 years and just recently left in 2012.

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

My husband worked at the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are apartments, semi-detached, and detached single family homes. When you are filling out your housing questionnaire, this is important to know: the Embassy has a killer swimming pool and amazing play ground. With that in mind, do you want an apartment or a semi-detached house with no yard within walking distance to the Embassy? Or do you want a single family home with little or no yard? Do you want a newer home? Do you want an older home with a huge yard? (there are only a couple with huge yards.) Do you want a single family home with a pool?

It's important to prioritize what you want because you will not get everything. You can get the newer home with the nice kitchen, but have no yard or pool. You can get the old house with an awesome yard, but no pool. Or the ok house with a pool. Just figure out what is the most important thing to you, and put that as your number one on the housing questionnaire. Also, things will go wrong with the houses, but MGT had some awesome staff that will help and fix things.

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

Yaounde has a few ok groceries stores. The selection is ok. There are no fresh dairy products available in Yaounde, at least while we were there. Fresh produce, chicken, and beef is bought from the market. Then your housekeeper soaks it up in bleach water to kill all the bacteria on it.

What makes Yaounde special is that the Embassy has a frozen food shipment once a year. Think spare ribs, blueberries and strawberries. You make a bulk order, store it in your freezer and ration it out for the rest of the year. Lots of people go heavy on the cheeses and meats. There is a new butcher shop in town, so maybe that'll cut down on the ordering of meat, but it sure is nice to order those special American treats. Christmas hams, Thanksgiving turkeys, etc.

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

I would ship extra tires in HHE. Also, anything you may want for the kids - trampoline, play sets, little pools to put in the yard, arts and crafts, kids paints, birthday gifts, etc. You won't be able to buy these things locally.

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

Not so much fast food. Cafe Yaounde, an Italian restaurant, has great food. La Salsa is another popular one. There are restaurants scattered about. Some have live music, so that's a plus. If you like to eat in, a lot of people hire amazing cooks.

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

Cockroaches. I shudder at the memories. There are snakes and spiders, but we never had any problems with them. Malaria is prevalent. We took mefloquine the whole time there, in the city and when traveling.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the Embassy pouch.

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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 had a driver and a housekeeper/cook. It was about US$250 a month per person and then some added on benefits like transportation allowance, toiletries, etc.

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

Embassy has a small gym. Otherwise, I know of nothing. Some people go running in groups.

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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?

It's a cash society. The embassy cashier will cash checks for you.

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5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Yaounde is strong on the French. You may be a little lost without some basic French, but both French and English are spoken in the country.

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

Yes. Think lack of infrastructure. No sidewalks, bad roads to walk on, no elevators in buildings.

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Transportation:

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

Afforadable, yes. Safe? I'm not sure. Embassy provides motor pool assistance for all family members, but it's first come first go, semi-unreliable service. You will want to have your own car.

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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?

We had a 4x4 and it was great. Toyota is king in Africa, so if you need repairs and spare parts, go with toyota. Qualified technicians are hard to find.

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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?

We got our internet through the embassy, but ask the CLO if they still offer it. Creolink offers services. There are other options, but I'm not too familiar with them.

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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?

No. You can get a prepaid there. You may find someone who can unlock your iPhone and then it'll work.

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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. Vets are available and seem good. We took in a street cat and the vet was knowledgable and did a good job.

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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?

Not too many. You may need to get a job through the Embassy or an NGO.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Endless...

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

Cameroonians go a bit more formal people for official things. Most official events are business dressed. In public, casual is fine. Women can wear sleeveless tops, but it's a bit more racy to show leg. Longer or knee-length shorts and skirts/dresses are considered more appropriate.

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Health & Safety:

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

In Yaounde, it's the normal things. Lock your doors, don't go around with lots of money, jewelry, or purses. Just put a bit of cash in your pocket when out and about. Don't walk around with a camera taking pictures. If you do have a camera, ask before you take pictures of people. I think the security concerns are more important when traveling out of town. Travel up north may be prohibited for U.S. embassy employees and family members ever since the French family was kidnapped while vacationing there.

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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?

Medical care is a big one. We survived stitches, broken bones, a pregnancy, and one medevac during our tour. The Embassy Health Unit was amazing through it all. The facility itself is amazing. It's brand new and has its own lab. The staff is really supportive, especially of kids. Anytime the kids get sick, they are there and have a great pharmacy to help. The trickier part is the city and a way out. We had a medical emergency while the President was out of his palace. That's when all the roads are down and traffic is even messier than usual. We had to wait until the roads opened back up before we could get medical attention. If there is an emergency medevac, then it's one flight a day and hopefully you get to the airport in time and hopefully there is a seat left type of thing. If medical concerns make you nervous, this should probably not be your first choice to live.

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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?

The air quality is ok. Some seasons are better than others. It's common to burn trash on the street (not cool when tires are included in the trash heap).

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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?

There is the hot and wet and the hot and semi wet season. Pack your crocs because they are easy to wash mud off during the wet season. There is a bit of a cool period, usually in August, and you may wear a long-sleeve shirt or cardigan then, but otherwise, pack for the tropics.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is the American School. It seems nice. It's across town from the Embassy and all the embassy housing, so going through downtown traffic to get your kids isn't ideal. Our kids went to Flamboyant, a French-speaking primary school. It was awesome and we loved it. They only allow 16 kids per class (preschool to 5th grade), so if you want to explore this option, sign up as soon as you get your assignment to Cameroon. The waiting list is LONG. Even if you don't want to go to this school, get on the waiting list because you may change your mind once you get there and see how cute it is. We really liked the director, teachers, curriculum, extra activities, and community of expats and locals.

Here is the blog: Ecole Internationale "Le Flamboyant"

The CLO should be able to help you get registered.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I think none.

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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?

There is 1-2-3 soilel as well for preschools, and they accept younger kids than Flamboyant. Otherwise, people usually just have nannies.

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

Yes, through Flamboyant and the American school. Nothing competitive, just afterschool type of things.

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Expat Life:

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

The size of the expat community is small to moderate, but there are some awesome people there. Lots of Germans and French.

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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?

Having fun with friends. Watching movies at home at night. Personal hobbies.

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

Great city for families. The embassy community and morale was really high while we were there, so it seemed to me that singles and couples did well too. Lots of get together's and BBQs that included all. Not a lot of outside entertainment (no movie theaters, bowling, etc), so if you're cool with gatherings with friends and your own hobbies, then you'll be fine.

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

I would avoid living here if I were gay or lesbian because it's against the law in Cameroon. Society is pretty harshly against it.

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

I think being a member of the expat community, you are a bit separated from this. There are not a lot of White people about, so if you are White, you'll be a minority, but women can walk around in regular clothes and the country is both Christian and Muslim.

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

Making amazing friends. Enjoying lots of family time.

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

The hidden gem in Yaounde is the Embassy pool and playground. It is seriously awesome. The pool is a huge lap pool with a larger square on the end (shallow end) for the kids to play. The playground has 3 slides, swings, a sandbox, etc. There are tables, lawn chairs, and a bar area at the pool with big fridges and charcoal BBQs. We would go and spend Saturdays at the pool and playground. The view from the pool is amazing. Lush hills covered in palm trees and it overlooks the golf course (so if you like golfing, there is a golf course). There is a horse club that offers lessons and horse rides to kids. The horse club (hippique) is also close to the Embassy. You can have kids birthday parties there too or just order drinks and sit on their veranda.

Outside of town, we loved Kribi, the beach town about 3 hours out of Yaounde.Our favorite hotels to stay were Ilomba and Hotel du Phare. Our absolute favorite was going to grand Batanga beach in Kribi. All along the beach are outdoor kitchens (as in a fire and a couple of pots). You rent a private section of the beach for a day and the cooks will smoke and grill fresh fish, prawns for you. Fry plantains and bread fruit and finish off with a platter of fresh tropical fruit. (About US$40 per person plus you pay more for drinks.) It's great to go with a couple of families and enjoy the day together. Nothing tastes better than fresh fish on the beach.

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

Amazing crafts. The Cameroonian circle tables carved from one piece of wood. Hand dyed batiks. Juju hats. Baskets. etc.

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

The weather is great. You can save bucket loads of money. If you have an adventurous spirit and a great 4x4, then touring the country is also possible.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes! Nothing to spend it on except occasional trips to Kribi.

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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. Expectations of infrastructure.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure and patience.

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Yaounde, Cameroon 05/14/12

Background:

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

No, Addis Ababa.

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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?

United States.

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3. How long have you lived here?

6 months.

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

Spouse's work.

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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 is a problem. There are plenty of houses but also lots of apartments. Problem is securing one. There are termites in the rental that are making me sick but the management won't do anything.

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

Expensive. Fresh fruit and vegetables are freshest in the local markets, but you have to be careful and pick yourself. The sellers don't like to but will sell smaller quantities. 6 pack of President milk at Casino will cost you 6290CFR, small loaf of bread 450cfr at Calafatas, 6pk of Water 1830cfr, Cheerios 4290cfr, 3 pk paper towels 1490cfr. You have to negotiate when shopping and best buys can but are not always at Marche Centrale.

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

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

Pizza Roma and the Cafe upstairs are decent. There is a rotiserre chicken place a block away on Bastos. La Boulangerie Calafatas is the best bakery and has some decent quick pastries for lunch. I would stay away from Dolce Vita... hygiene does not appear to be their area of interest.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Limited. Don't count on organic produce; you just don't know.

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

Mosguitos, ants, roaches.

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Daily Life:

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

Post office.

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

PROBLEM!!! Hygiene, quality of work, comprehension. Need to observe and teach or expect to get stained clothes, floors washed with dirty water, bathroom sponges/cleaners used for other parts of the house. We have someone come in 3 days per week, 4 hours per day and do not let her enter the kitchen.

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

Don't know.

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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?

A pain in the neck especially around pay day. Expect long lines and ATMs that have no money to dispense.

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

Catholic - very difficult to find but available. I prefer mass at Mont Febbe.

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

Don't have TV. Newspapers are available in English.

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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?

In Yaounde FRENCH is important but you can get by with a dictionary, lots of patience and perseverance. Having a driver who can help translate has been a life-saver.

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

There are no ramps and even the ones that exist would be a problem. Also, doorways do not accommodate wheelchair access.

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Transportation:

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

There have been scenarios where foreign passengers have taken taxis that already have other local clients and the foreigners have been mugged. You must negotiate if you take a taxi. Find yourself a reliable driver and stick to him. 2500cfr for no AC, 3000+ with AC.

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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?

We pay a driver with auto.

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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?

Available.

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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?

Indispensable.

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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?

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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?

Don't know, but doubt it.

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

Casual. Women tend to overdress, sometimes inappropriately.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, but if you take precautions (well secured home base, travel with someone, don't carry lots of cash, don't show all your jewelry, stay away from tougher areas...), you should be fine.

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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?

Yes, starting with malaria. If you have allergies or asthma, be careful.

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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?

Depending on where and when, the weather can be moderate to unhealthy.

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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?

Tropical. Rain comes for a short time (anywhere between 30 minutes to several hours).

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Schools & Children:

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

The American school is expensive and located near the Hilton Hotel which places it far from people in most housing areas, considering traffic can be a nightmare. The recommended school has a long waiting list and so you have to find a place that 1) has English (if that is your language) or will facilitate communication for your child 2) ask lots of questions because information is not easily given (discipline, hygiene, curriculum, communication, calendar, syllabus, credentialing/certification, health reports of staff, student/teacher ratio)...

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Don't know. Appears to be limited, even at American School.

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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?

See above. Eccole Le Flamboyant #1 recommended but it has a long waiting list. Soleil #2 recommended.

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

I doubt it. Most childhood activities appear to center around school.

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Expat Life:

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

Not very big in comparison to other countries.

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2. Morale among expats:

Annoyed.

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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?

If you are single with friends and auto, ok I guess.

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

Not for families. It is not child-friendly. There are no parks; playgrounds are connected to businesses that charge for use of OLD rides, many which are not safe; limited sidewalks makes going for a walk a problem depending on neighborhood; apartments do not have areas for children to play; water IS A HUGE PROBLEM (we are on 4 days of NO water, no one reminds you to get water storage containers); home owners/building managers/realtors do not tell you that it is on you to install mosquito screens or water filters or water storage tanks for rentals that do not include it; when you rent you have to register in your name and will need a map showing the address, a receipt of a previous bill, and an authorized letter for the transfer of services to your name; restaurants; single person may get pretty lonely unless they have friends and wheels.

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

NO. The people here are VERY homophobic.

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

Not that we have witnessed, but there are prejudices from the French Cameroonian toward English-speaking Cameroonian

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

Staying home with my child.

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

VERY limited: Primate Park and Ebogo. If you don't have a family you could go to the restaurants and be done with all of them within a week.

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

Sad to say but Cameroon does not have anything worth buying. Other than masks, there is nothing that can be pointed to as memorable. They have cloth that they imprint with logos for every holiday but after shopping for local cloth I found that it too is imported.

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

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11. Can you save money?

NO!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Good clothes. Nowhere to wear them and they will get damaged by bugs.

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3. But don't forget your:

Bug repellant, medicine including over-the-counter meds like after-bite creams, ibuprofen, antacids, children's products. MOVIES!!!!!

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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?

I wish I had found this site before we came. It is hard to get connected. There is a playgroup that gets together and shares information, but it is limited. Consider yourself on your own. Check grocery stores' bulletin boards for info.

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Yaounde, Cameroon 09/22/11

Background:

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

No, second African city.

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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?

Wash. D.C. The trip goes through Paris, which isn't such a hardship. It's a long (7 hours) flight overnight from Yaounde, or you can travel through Douala, which is 4 hours drive.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year

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

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?

Embassy housing is very close to embassy. I walk to work.

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

Groceries are reasonable to expensive, and not always available. Produce is expensive.

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

Excellent surge protectors. We lose power very often, and some days about 10 times in one day. Get ready to hear the hum of a back-up generator wherever you are!

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

Fast food? Ha. There are plenty of restaurants - $20 for a nice meal roughly.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

As soon as I figure out how to say that in French, I'll ask someone! I hear that the local produce has a lot of chemicals on it. I grow my own vegetables, and gardeners are so cheap that there's no reason not to.

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

Mosquitoes are around, especially if you go to a restaurant for dinner and sit outside! Bring bug spray in your purse when out at night.

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Daily Life:

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

Through US Embassy.

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

Help is cheap and good.

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

I haven't seen any. The US Embassy has a decent gym and ASOY (school) has a pool and tennis courts.

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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?

Never been crazy enough to try that here.

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

Yes, but I don't know which.

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

The newspapers in English or French are so slanted that they are worthless.

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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?

You need some French in this "bilingual" country unless you happen to travel to the sliver of it that is English-speaking.

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

There are some sidewalks but many areas without. Sadly, it's a poor country so you see a fair number of disabled Cameroonians (injury or treatable conditions) and they are well treated.

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Transportation:

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

The US Embassy staff is not allowed to take buses or taxis, or drive between cities after dark. Trains are basic but OK.

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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?

Four-wheel drive is handy for potholes, but not necessary. Streets are fairly narrow. Traffic is manic so leave your 1952 Lincoln at home.

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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?

Slow and expensive.

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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?

Get one. Any land-based service here, meaning phone, water, and electricity, is shaky.

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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)?

Our UK vet is good but has a primitive facility. Kennels = your maid or gardener.

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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?

Work for an non-governmental organization, or sit home and knit.

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

Forget shorts and mini-skirts for adults. My high schooler doesn't get funny looks for her American teenage wear, though.

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Health & Safety:

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

Just the big difference between the incomes of expats and the average Cameroonian. That creates incentive for robbery. There are guards at all houses of any worth, basically.

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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?

Malaria. There's a French-run clinic that is OK. This is not the place to have an emergency in, however.

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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?

Usual stuff for Africa - taxis that should have been scrapped decades ago, belching smoke, and trucks doing the same. It's not horrible.

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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?

Lots of rain, including some amazing thunderstorms, but what gets on your nerves is the number of consecutive gray days.

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Schools & Children:

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

American School of Yaounde (ASOY) - the school is very small and the campus badly laid out with somewhat shabby buildings. BUT this year the school spent money raising salaries and has some excellent high school teachers. They offer many more AP classes than you'd expect. Classes are small and that's great. My high schooler has one class with only three students and another with four. The school board hired an architect who created a surprisingly good plan to re-arrange the buildings, and build new ones. If this 3-5 year plan goes forward, the school facilities will be very nice. First to be built would be a semi-open air amphitheater, to us instead of the basketball court now used for plays and assemblies. On the negative side, there are few clubs or after-school activities because there aren't that many students.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

I think ASOY is fairly accomodating, at least unofficially. I'm thinking of the case of a hyperactive boy who has been creatively handled.

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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?

At ASOY

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good, but not great. There's a mass exodus in the summer of unemployed spouses and kids.

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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?

For embassy folks, you can forge one but you do get the fishbowl effect.

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

Singles, especially women, will die a slow social death. At the US Embassy, the Marines create many activities (and you can be old and still fit in fine!), including happy hours and intermural type Ultimate Frisbee and volleyball. There's a club scene of sorts and some good restaurants, but not a lot of choices. Men can date beautiful Cameroonian women, but I don't think it's as easy for expat women to find Cameroonian men they want to date. For American Embassy folks, there's stuff to do together including well-organized weekend trips, but it gets tiring doing things with the same people.

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

Homosexuality is illegal here, and results in prison. Don't even think of acting in a manner that can be interpreted as homosexual. Sorry.

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

People seems pretty low-key about other people's religions. Racial? There aren't enough of any minority (including whites) to be an issue.

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

The scenery is beautiful. While the buildings in Yaounde are generally ugly or squalid, the surrounding mountains with lush vegetation make up for that.

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

Get out into the country. But take your own toilet paper and be prepared to be flexible.

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

Beautiful fabrics.

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

Saving money; experiencing Africa - which is mind-opening the first time around; people who don't sneer at your lousy attempts to speak French.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, but the trade-off is that it's boring here.

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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:

Heavy winter gear, but bring more long-sleeved shirts and sweaters than you'd expect to need.

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3. But don't forget your:

Ability to relax and realize that things move very slowly here and often in a completely illogical method.

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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?

It's not Cape Town nor Nairobi, but it's not Bangui or Libreville either. Somewhere in the middle for African cities; you can forge a pleasant life here.

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Yaounde, Cameroon 03/28/10

Background:

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

No. I've lived in Cairo, Egypt and Tallinn, Estonia before this.

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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?

We live in IL, and fly from St. Louis to Chicago to Zurich then on to Yaounde. Total trip with layovers is over 24 hours. Other flights go through Paris or Brussels.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since August 2008.

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

Husband is with the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

We live in a large duplex (5 bedrooms, 6 baths)only 5 minutes from the US Embassy. Walking time is 20 minutes. All of the expat houses and apartments I have seen are enormous. Depending on traffic, you can be in downtown Yaounde or the American school in 10-15 minutes. However, when traffic is bad or if the main highway is closed because the President or First Lady have a motorcade travelling through town, expect to be in your car for a very long time. In those cases, it can take a couple of hours to drive 5 miles.

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

Expensive, expensive, expensive!There are a number of decent grocery stores that offer a variety of European brands of foods and fresh produce, but it is very costly because most everything is imported. Milk is not fresh, it is UHT.For the comfort foods and familiar brands of toiletries and such, the US Embassy has a SMALL commissary, and things on the shelves there are all too frequently out of date. However, the commissary does provide a shipment of frozen foods and another shipment of dry goods once a year that they open up to the embassy community. You have no idea what a morale booster it is to be able to order Digiorno pizzas and Kraft cheese and chicken nuggets!

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

More pool toys.

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

Fast food restaurants do not exist here, but there are a good number of pizza places, coffee shops, Oriental, and other restaurants available. All are expensive though. A milkshake at the coffee house down the street is about $7 and a meal for our family of 6 at the Chinese buffet is over $200.

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

Malaria-bearing mosquitos are a huge problem, and I personally know of several people in Yaounde who have become ill while I have been here. The houses also frequently have ant infestations.

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Daily Life:

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

The US Embassy's diplomatic pouch. Cameroon does have a postal service that is fairly reliable for outgoing letters though. My daughter visited a post office down the street on a toddler group field trip and mailed a post card to her grandparents in FL that arrived in only a week. I wouldn't trust the national system for anything more than letters.

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

Readily available and quite cheap. My housekeeper works 5 days a week for about $200 per month. It is not unusual for one family to have a housekeeper, nanny, driver, cook, and gardener.

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

The US Embassy has an excellent gym and pool, as does the Hilton Hotel and Club Noah. ASOY's rec center offers a pool and tennis courts.

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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?

They are not widely used or available here. Only 2 local grocery stores have card readers, although the Hilton and some banks offer ATMs.

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

There is an English-language international church that meets at the Hilton Hotel. Other local churches offer some bi-lingual services. You'll find Protestant, Catholic, and Mormon congregations, as well as mosques in the city.

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

Most of the newspapers and magazines I've seen are in French. Subscribe to your favorites if you can. Satellite TV is readily available and the US Embassy provides AFN to its employees.

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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?

It's pretty necessary, if only to be able to get meat from the market, read food labels, and communicate with the hairdresser. French tutors are easy to find and the US Embassy offers free classes to employees and EFMs on-site.

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

Everything would be difficult here if you have physical disabilities. The houses and apartments all have staircases and split-level floor plans, there is no handicapped parking to speak of, elevators are virtually non-existent, and the sidewalks are in as horrible condition as the roads.

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Transportation:

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

Safe?Not really. The US Embassy provides a staffed motor pool to give you rides wherever you need to go just to keep you out of the taxis and buses. I do know friends who will take taxis, but only if they specifically tell the driver not to take on more passengers (common occurance) or if they know the driver personally.

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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?

Big, rugged SUV with good road clearance a shocks. The roads here are terrible and they only get worse during the rainy seasons.

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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?

High-speed internet is actually good quality here. For a little over $100 per month, Creolink will give you high-speed, VOIP, and satellite TV.

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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?

Cell phones are widely used and readily available here. Most people use prepaid cards.

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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)?

There is an excellent American vet who works under the radar. She was a God-send when my Yorkie broke his leg in September. Kennels don't exist. Most families who need vacation pet care just have their maid or friends watch their animals. There is also an excellent groomer who will come right to your house with very little notice.

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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?

I don't know, but I have noticed that many of the restaurants and stores I frequent are owned by expats. Most of my working friends have jobs at the embassy.

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

Cameroonians tend to dress nicely wherever they go. Expats can get away with being more casual in town, but dress up at work.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yaounde is designated as a high crime post, but in the daytime I have never felt unsafe. However, I do know of families from other embassies who have had their homes broken into, one of those families on numerous occasions. There's a reason that the houses all have high walls, razor wire, and 24-hour guards. But if you don't do stupid things, you're basically safe.

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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?

The US Embassy has a well-staffed Health Unit with a FS nurse and a local nurse. You go there first with all your little emergencies and family illnesses. Other expats use a French doctor. Serious problems and childbirth have to be handled via medevac. There is at least one good German-trained dentist and she did a great job when my oldest son broke a tooth playing basketball.

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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?

Usually good, although during the khamseen season on the Sahara, a couple of really strong sand storms can actually float dust down over this section of Africa that will cloud the sky for days.

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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?

Summer all year round. For two years straight my family has spent New Year's Day at the pool at the US Embassy. There are two rainy seasons and two dry seasons, each lasting about 3 months.

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Schools & Children:

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

I have 3 children in the American School of Yaounde (ASOY), covering elementary, middle, and high school ages. My oldest son will graduate this year in a senior class of about 20 students. He has a mild learning disability and I have been very pleased with the counseling and accomodations that have been made for him. The high school offers a good range of AP courses, though it is not an IB school. All of the grades throughout the school have small class sizes (usually under 15 students per grade) and the teachers give a good amount of one-on-one time to the kids. Beginning in the 2010-2011 school year, ASOY will have a new director, so expect some changes from the current status quo. Other families enroll their children in a French elementary school with an excellent reputation.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Handicapped children, no. None of the schools here have facilities anywhere near able to accomodate children with physical handicaps. As I mentioned above though, ASOY does have a fledgling learning resources program for children with learning disabilities.

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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?

Preschool is available at ASOY and at the French school, but it is quite expensive. There are also a couple of decent local daycares that friends of mine use on a drop-in basis. My toddler daughter has thoroughly enjoyed the very active expat playgroup scene, sometimes going to friends' houses with me or often with my housekeeper.

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

ASOY has an active, competitive sports program offering soccer and swimming teams for all grades, boys and girls, plus a middle and high school program also offering basketball. There is a Cameroon baseball league, but it isn't well organized and has not had much success getting off the ground. You can find red clay soccer fields on nearly every street corner to watch local pick-up games.

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Expat Life:

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

The diplomatic and NGO community is good-sized and you'll meet a lot of people if you have kids at ASOY.There is also a very large community of American and European missionaries.

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2. Morale among expats:

Hard to gauge. The friends you make become close and you learn how to help each other through the various stages of culture shock. I suppose morale can be affected by how easily you are able to communicate with folks back home and if you can receive packages in the mail. Expats either absolutely love it here or absolutely hate it. You don't find many people in the middle.

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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?

Movie nights, dinner with friends, weekends at the pool at the embassy or ASOY, a lot of nights with my older kids' friends in my living room eating my food.

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

Families with small children who are easily amused do well here, but I can't answer to the singles or couples scene. However, families with teens find it very difficult to stay satisfied. There are just so few outlets for teenagers outside of the club scene. The school does a good job of offering sports and after-school activities, but when kids want to go out and socialize on weekends, it is mostly at each other's homes or a local coffee shop because there are no malls or movie theaters or the like in town. But if you have adventurous children who love the great outdoors, then this isn't such a bad spot.

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

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

The local women do not get treated well by local men, but I have not had any bad experiences myself.

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

For Thanksgiving, our family spent the weekend with missionary friends in the NW province where I visited an excellent teaching hospital staffed almost fully by American doctors.

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

If you want to work on your golf game, this is the place. There is a lovely course that runs up the mountainside right behind the US Embassy that offers 18 holes and a driving range where you can take lessons. You can either purchase a membership to the club a year at a time, or just pay as you play. It is also interesting to take a day trip to visit a local pottery school or shop in the crazy markets. Yaounde has a city zoo and there is a gorilla sanctuary just outside of town.

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

Very talented local artists, African crafts and fabrics, well-made shirts and dresses from tailors, and trips to the beaches or up north.

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

Year round summertime and the chance to spend good quality family time with your children. It's also a wonderful opportunity to see Africa in the raw.

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11. Can you save money?

Good grief, not unless you are just extremely disciplined in your finances.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

If it were just my husband and I, or us with our 2 younger children, sure. You do learn to relax here. Having Westernized kids in middle and high school has made this a very difficult post though.

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

Snow clothes, although keep a coat on hand in case you have to travel during the winter into the States or Europe.

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3. But don't forget your:

Pool toys, a good camera, bug spray, and a sense of adventure. Also ship in your car parts that you think you will need.

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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?

I would never tell families with older children not to come here. For one thing, it makes things all the more difficult for the teens who are here to not have a lot of choice in the friends department. Teens can survive if they are able to think outside the box when it comes to social entertainment. They can also do very meaningful volunteer work with missionary organizations. But you do have to know that if you aren't used to Africa, Cameroon can feel very isolated. Culture shock can hit you hard and if you don't have the support you need to get through it, you will be miserable.

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Yaounde, Cameroon 01/31/10

Background:

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

2nd foreign post

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

2nd foreign post

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3. 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?

24 hour trip to the U.S. when you factor in layovers. The best airlines to use are swiss air or SN brussles. Air france is called Air Chance in these parts and your luggage will be routinely taken off in Douala and will often not make it to Yaounde for a week.

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4. 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?

24 hour trip to the U.S. when you factor in layovers. The best airlines to use are swiss air or SN brussles. Air france is called Air Chance in these parts and your luggage will be routinely taken off in Douala and will often not make it to Yaounde for a week.

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5. How long have you lived here?

a little over 1 year

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6. How long have you lived here?

a little over 1 year

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

Working at the U.S. Embassy

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

Working at the U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

My commute from home to the embassy is 1 minute walking. Many houses are in walking distance, the rest are about a 5 minute drive. Many of the embassy houses are now brand new, though the houses in lower Bastos tend to be old and have electrical problems. All houses are large, average 4 to 6 bedrooms.

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2. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

My commute from home to the embassy is 1 minute walking. Many houses are in walking distance, the rest are about a 5 minute drive. Many of the embassy houses are now brand new, though the houses in lower Bastos tend to be old and have electrical problems. All houses are large, average 4 to 6 bedrooms.

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

Groceries are extremely expensive, everything is imported. Grocery stores here are more expensive than in Paris. Cameroon manufactures nothing, even the milk and eggs in stores come from France.

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

Groceries are extremely expensive, everything is imported. Grocery stores here are more expensive than in Paris. Cameroon manufactures nothing, even the milk and eggs in stores come from France.

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

Spare tires for the car. Tires here run 300$ to 400$.If you don't have pouch mail or consumablbes I would bring everything you can possibly bring. Moral is significantly lower for those expats without such privilages, due to the lack of availability of most items here and the prohibative costs.

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

Spare tires for the car. Tires here run 300$ to 400$.If you don't have pouch mail or consumablbes I would bring everything you can possibly bring. Moral is significantly lower for those expats without such privilages, due to the lack of availability of most items here and the prohibative costs.

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

Fast food as Americans know it does not exist, but there is Cameroonian roasted beef, called Soya, roasted fish on the streets, brochettes everywhere and great rottiserie chicken on every corner. Excellent French and European food available (though be prepared to drop 100$ for two if you want to have wine with dinner) also a wide variety of asian restaurants available, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian. Pattiseries are everywhere.

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

Fast food as Americans know it does not exist, but there is Cameroonian roasted beef, called Soya, roasted fish on the streets, brochettes everywhere and great rottiserie chicken on every corner. Excellent French and European food available (though be prepared to drop 100$ for two if you want to have wine with dinner) also a wide variety of asian restaurants available, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese and Indian. Pattiseries are everywhere.

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

They say malaria, but I rarely see mosquitos. Malaria is uncommon in Yaounde for people living with screens on their windows, but more prevalent in the rest of the country.

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

They say malaria, but I rarely see mosquitos. Malaria is uncommon in Yaounde for people living with screens on their windows, but more prevalent in the rest of the country.

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Daily Life:

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

No real postal service. If you don't have diplomatic pouch privilages you are out of luck.

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

No real postal service. If you don't have diplomatic pouch privilages you are out of luck.

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

The only thing cheap here is labor. Domestic help is from 150-250$ per month.

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

The only thing cheap here is labor. Domestic help is from 150-250$ per month.

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

The Hilton has a gym as does Club Noah. If you are lucky enough to work for the U.S. Embassy there is a great gym inside along with a pool outside and a basketball court.

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

The Hilton has a gym as does Club Noah. If you are lucky enough to work for the U.S. Embassy there is a great gym inside along with a pool outside and a basketball court.

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7. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are usable, though if you have another method of getting cash that is preferable. One major French grocery store, Casino, takes visa card.

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8. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

ATMs are usable, though if you have another method of getting cash that is preferable. One major French grocery store, Casino, takes visa card.

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

Yes, there is an American church that meets at the Hilton.

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

Yes, there is an American church that meets at the Hilton.

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

There are several English newspapers and DSTV is available for English cable as well as Creolink and Megahurtz which have English and French and Arabic channels.

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

There are several English newspapers and DSTV is available for English cable as well as Creolink and Megahurtz which have English and French and Arabic channels.

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13. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is not necessary to live here, but it will greatly increase the quality of your life. Those with fluent French are the happiest, those with no french struggle.

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14. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

French is not necessary to live here, but it will greatly increase the quality of your life. Those with fluent French are the happiest, those with no french struggle.

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

Do not come here is you are physically disabled.

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

Do not come here is you are physically disabled.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are unsafe. Trains often derail. If you can't afford to have a car here, don't come.

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

Taxis are unsafe. Trains often derail. If you can't afford to have a car here, don't come.

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3. 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?

SUV, preferably a Toyota or Mercedes if you want to have an easy time finding parts. Roads are bad outside the city and also dangerous. Car accidents are frequent and fatal and the road between Douala and Yaounde is rumored to be the second most dangerous road in the world. Bring an SUV just for safety alone.

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4. 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?

SUV, preferably a Toyota or Mercedes if you want to have an easy time finding parts. Roads are bad outside the city and also dangerous. Car accidents are frequent and fatal and the road between Douala and Yaounde is rumored to be the second most dangerous road in the world. Bring an SUV just for safety alone.

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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?

Pretty good for Africa. Internet fast enough to use Skype for 50-100$ per month that includes cable and a VOIP telephone.

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2. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Pretty good for Africa. Internet fast enough to use Skype for 50-100$ per month that includes cable and a VOIP telephone.

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3. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are easy, cheap and use pre paid cards.

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4. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Cell phones are easy, cheap and use pre paid cards.

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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?

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2. 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?

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3. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

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

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really, quite safe, only crimes of opportunity. I have not heard on anyone having a home invasion or a car jacking.

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

Not really, quite safe, only crimes of opportunity. I have not heard on anyone having a home invasion or a car jacking.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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4. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

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5. 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?

Great air, no pollution problems.

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6. 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?

Great air, no pollution problems.

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7. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The rainy season is REALLY REALLY rainy and quite unpleasant, particularly August. The dry season is very pleasant, though quite hot.

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8. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The rainy season is REALLY REALLY rainy and quite unpleasant, particularly August. The dry season is very pleasant, though quite hot.

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Schools & Children:

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

Many complain about the American School as being very mismanaged. It seems to be better for high school or elementary school, but the middle school is a problem. Every parent with french language opts to put their child in the French school which has a better reputation.

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

Many complain about the American School as being very mismanaged. It seems to be better for high school or elementary school, but the middle school is a problem. Every parent with french language opts to put their child in the French school which has a better reputation.

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3. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None, do not come here if you have a child with special needs.

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4. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

None, do not come here if you have a child with special needs.

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5. 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?

Available though extremely expensive. Preschool for ages 4-5 at the American school is over 2,000$ a semester. There are 2 decent french pre-schools which are a bit cheaper. However, most opt to join diplomatic play groups and use nannies. Nannies are plentiful and cheap, 150$ a month for full time.

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6. 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?

Available though extremely expensive. Preschool for ages 4-5 at the American school is over 2,000$ a semester. There are 2 decent french pre-schools which are a bit cheaper. However, most opt to join diplomatic play groups and use nannies. Nannies are plentiful and cheap, 150$ a month for full time.

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

Yes. Football, tennis, basketball.

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

Yes. Football, tennis, basketball.

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Expat Life:

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

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

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3. Morale among expats:

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4. Morale among expats:

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5. 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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6. 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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7. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Great for families with small children. Though Cameroonian women and men are very aggressive. Without exagerating I have seen 6 couples come here married and leave divorced, due to infadelity on both sides. Singles also have a decent time, especially men. Francophone individuals will have a much better social scene.

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

Great for families with small children. Though Cameroonian women and men are very aggressive. Without exagerating I have seen 6 couples come here married and leave divorced, due to infadelity on both sides. Singles also have a decent time, especially men. Francophone individuals will have a much better social scene.

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

There is a small underground gay scene, but there are much better places in the world to go if you are gay.

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

There is a small underground gay scene, but there are much better places in the world to go if you are gay.

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

No problems whatsoever.

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

No problems whatsoever.

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

Eating fresh cooked fish on the beach in Kribi and Limbe, grinding and roasting freshly picked coffee beans with Monks in a beautiful monastary in Foumban.

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

Eating fresh cooked fish on the beach in Kribi and Limbe, grinding and roasting freshly picked coffee beans with Monks in a beautiful monastary in Foumban.

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

Mefou Park for a day trip to see animals. The closest beach is about 4 hours away. Not much to do in Yaounde besides eating and nightlife. If you are not good at entertaining yourself you will be bored.

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

Mefou Park for a day trip to see animals. The closest beach is about 4 hours away. Not much to do in Yaounde besides eating and nightlife. If you are not good at entertaining yourself you will be bored.

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

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

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

Beautiful beaches and landscapes, unspoiled coastline with virtually NO tourism industry, so if you like to experience raw beautiful coastline with no high rise hotels, Cameroon is it. Also stunning landscape in the North and West.

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

Beautiful beaches and landscapes, unspoiled coastline with virtually NO tourism industry, so if you like to experience raw beautiful coastline with no high rise hotels, Cameroon is it. Also stunning landscape in the North and West.

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21. Can you save money?

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22. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

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

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

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

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5. But don't forget your:

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6. But don't forget your:

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7. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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8. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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9. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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10. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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11. Do you have any other comments?

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12. Do you have any other comments?

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Yaounde, Cameroon 11/30/08

Background:

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

First assignment but second time living overseas. I lived in various cities in Romania previously.

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2. How long have you lived here?

11 months.

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

U.S. Foreign Service.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

The main links are with Paris, Zurich, and Brussels. Each one is limited to about three flights per week with a flight of nine to eleven hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

The housing here is very generous and oversized compared to the norm. Currently most units are houses with a yard. There are also some modern duplexes for smaller families. All housing is within a ten minute drive of the U.S. Embassy.

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

Fresh produce is plentiful, delicious, organic, and relatively inexpensive if you can barter in French. The pineapples, mangoes, bananas, and avocados are especially good. All the supermarkets are quite overpriced but they carry most items that can be found in the USA.

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

Any liquids that you will ever need (not allowed in the pouch), plenty of spare car parts, nuts and baking items, paper products (plates, cups, silverware, napkins), and fans.

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

Euro Marche provides great italian dishes in minutes. There are several roadside vendors who make rotisserie chicken, and a few restaurants who make US style fast food. The best restaurants are the sit-down style and they provide a wide array of ethnic dishes. They can get pricey though.

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Daily Life:

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

We have weekly pouch service.

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

Very available and very inexpensive. I pay my housekeeper about US$150 a month and that is a good wage.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

This is a cash economy. Your cards are useless except for shopping on the internet.

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

Yes, some international church services are offered in English. My church is only offered in French, so we're learning it.

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

Cameroon is mostly French, but also has two english speaking provinces. Because of this they do have some english articles in the newspapers and some TV stations are in English. Most expats get the Armed Forces network and/or English cable channels via satellite.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Basic French is needed to get into town for shopping and night life.

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

The Embassy is well equipped for you, but most other places are not.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right hand side driving like the USA. Cars built for left-hand side driving are no longer allowed.

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

Buses and taxis are off limits to U.S. personnel because of security risks. There is one train that operates from Douala on the coast up to Ngaoundere in the north. I have yet to take it, but it sounds fairly decent. For the most part, you drive yourself around or ride in a government vehicle.

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3. 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?

I brought a humble front-wheel drive minivan to haul my wife and kids around town. We do fine but if I could do it again, I would've brought a similarly sized vehicle with more ground clearance and possibly 4WD as well. Many of the roads (even in the city) are not paved and are poorly maintained. If you plan to travel outside of town, you definitely need 4WD. I also wouldn't bring a brand new vehicle here as it is likely to be hit and scratched.

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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?

Yes it is available. Costs are coming down all the time, but it is still quite expensive - US$150/month for broadband.

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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?

Embassy provided me a good cell phone for official use and limited personal use. My wife got an inexpensive local phone which uses prepaid minutes and it has been very helpful.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Within the Embassy you can call using IVG lines to the WashDC area for free. At home VOIP phones are provided to call anywhere within the USA for free. Cell phones can also be used with reasonable rates.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I believe so. A handful of expats have pets.

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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?

Only decent jobs are EFM jobs within the embassy.

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

At work dress is fairly casual. Polos and khakis are generally acceptable. Cameroonians always try to wear their best when seen in public so we expats should do the same.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Good. Yaounde has surprisingly low pollution levels. The air is quite clean and trash deposits are not frequently seen in the city.

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

Yaounde is designated as a critical security threat post. There are cases of violent crime that occur regularly, but there are in the continental U.S. as well. All housing has 24-hour security guards as well as security upgrades on doors and windows. There is a threat but it isn't a daily struggle. I have yet to encounter any problems.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Yaounde has some excellent talent in the form of surgeons and specialists, but the facilities are poor. The embassy's health unit is great and generally covers everyone's needs. They occasionally bring local doctors into their clinic when needed. For more serious medical problems, expats are generally sent to Pretoria on medevac.

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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?

Generally between 65 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit. Cameroon has a dry season (November to March) and a rainy season (the rest of the year).

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Schools & Children:

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

My son attends kindergarten at ASOY, the American School of Yaounde. His teacher is super and the class size is small at only six students. The facilities are adequate but seem somewhat old. However the swimming pool area just got a renovation. The complex also has a tennis court, a basketball court, and a soccer field. The school provides a convenient shuttle. I am very happy with the education my son is receiving.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Not sure.

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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?

ASOY also offers preschool to 3 and 4-year-olds but their rates are quite expensive. It is much more economical to hire a local as a nanny.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly small. Most embassies are here with few expats, but there are a lot of countries represented.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. Many expats have extended their posts because they adapt and enjoy living here. The climate is hard to beat.

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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?

There are plenty of opportunities to host and attend gatherings and they are fairly frequent. GSO provides tents, dishes, and other equipment to make parties more enjoyable and feasible.

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

This is definitely a great post for families. Singles may find it hard to adjust as there isn't a lot to do after work hours unless you can entertain yourself. Couples should do fine.

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

This is not really socially acceptable here. On the other hand, polygamy is very common.

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

I happen to be Caucasian/White. When I go to the outdoor markets I am generally the only White person there. Some people may cry out "le blanc" but it is usually harmless. They are just shocked at seeing a White guy. Cameroon enjoys religious freedom and I have not seen any prejudices of that kind.

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

Visit national parks to see chimps, gorillas, monkeys, etc in their natural habitat. The Embassy is right next to a beautiful golf course. On compound there is now a nice walking trail, basketball courts, and a beautiful swimming pool.

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

African material and clothing, unique woodwork, animal masks, stools, drums, furniture, etc.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, in a heartbeat.

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

Warm weather clothing, expectations of western-style living, and paralyzing fear of malaria and other African diseases.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, hat, and a good book.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

A new video about post was recently submitted to FSI. It sums up life in Cameroon very well.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Cameroon is a great African post where you can experience life in Africa without a lot of the instability that is so common in neighboring countries. The people are generally very friendly and helpful to foreigners. All major climates/terrains of Africa can be found within Cameroon. The weather is almost always perfect in Yaounde. I love it here.

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Yaounde, Cameroon 09/29/08

Background:

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

No.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Government.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Zurich/Brussels/Paris - 8 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Houses tend to be quite large - our house is at least 3x what we had in Virginia. Yards are often less large - some have pools which is nice, though the American School, the U.S. Embassy and several other clubs also have pools. Construction quality is below what we are used to, but help is cheap. Expats live in the Bastos neighborhood - 5 to 10 minutes from downtown, embassies, shops and schools.

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

Western goods are readily available, but marked up significantly. Substitutes are available, but often of very low quality.

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

More gifts for kids birthday parties - what they have available is overpriced junk.

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

Can get delivery pizza, take out rotisserie chicken, and many restaurants do deliver.

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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?

Very available - US$100- 400 a month depending on how much you overpay. Domestics working for Cameroonian household get as little at US$50.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Cameroon remains basically a cash society, and using electronic means is a risk we have chosen to avoid using cards.

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

Yes.

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

Yes - a few.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Can get by in English - but French is needed to get around outside the expat zone.

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

Yes, able-bodied persons are at risk from holes in the sidewalk, crumbling culverts, and odd bits of rebar poking out in unexpected places.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

On the right (most of the time anyhow).

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

Train connecting Yaounde and Ngaoundere is safe and affordable, some bus companies are safe and reputable, many are overcrowded and very dangerous. Taxis are the sight of substantial crime - so the recommendation is that you contract with a known taxi driver(s) and call them when services are needed. Very affordable.

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3. 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?

Recommend a 4x4 - as it is easy to get into places even in town where you want it. More important than traction though is clearance.

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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?

Available - very expensive.

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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?

Get one - they are ubiquitous and the best way to communicate. Coverage is very good in urban areas, and in a surprising amount of the country.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Use skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

Decent vet.

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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?

Some - especially NGOs.

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

Formal.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate to good.

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

High crime - but mostly crimes of opportunity.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Lots of tropical diseases - funguses.

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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?

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Schools & Children:

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

We have three children in the American School of Yaounde and have been very happy with their experiences. Although the facilities are showing their age, the staff is excellent and dedicated to the kids. The student body is very diverse and fairly small (170 kids K-12) and has an extremely welcoming and tolerant feeling - and all of kids - who have extremely different personalities, have been welcomed, and feel happy and accepted. I should note that they are in the Elementary program, and the High School grades have struggled with a tendency to have a clique of French-speaking kids who have attended the school for many years.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

American school has a director with a special ed background, and a part-time special ed teacher.

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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?

Cheap (US$300 month or less) household help is available - English or fFench speaking. The American school has preschool - expensive if you have to pay it yourself.

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Expat Life:

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

A few hundred.

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2. Morale among expats:

HIgh.

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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?

Very good for families - especially with younger kids - singles have limited nightlife, though the adventuring possibilities around the country are fabulous.

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

Technically homosexuality is against the law - so there is certainly a stigma to consider, but there is a community.

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

Expatriates are spared most of these injustices, but the role of women in society is certainly an issue for the locals. Religious tolerance is a strength of cameroon, and tribal tensions are very well hidden, but there are undercurrents.

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

Visit gorilla reserve - buy local handicrafts - go to go-kart track where the only restriction is your own good judgement - visit beaches of Kribi and Limbe, do a challenging hike up Mt. Cameroon, see crater lakes, small villages, traditional chieftains homes, see traditional festivals, dancing, music - go fishing, go on safari in the northern part of Cameroon (giraffe, elephant etc) - there is LOTS to see, though distances can be long and conditions bumby.

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

Handicrafts.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes - tons.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat.

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

Sweater.

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3. But don't forget your:

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Yaounde, Cameroon 06/17/08

Background:

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

Fourth overseas posting.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Affiliated with the U.S. Embassy.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

Dulles to either Zurich or Brussels (about 8 hours) and then another 9 hours to either Yaounde or Douala.

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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 varies greatly and does not correlate with ones grade/position. Post is making a large effort to obtain new housing. All housing, regardless of age, have many maintanence issues that you can expect to spend a lot of time and frusturation on. Most houses have large, beautiful yards, some with pools (though pools do not often work and become large mosquito attractions). All housing have generators due to frequent power outtages. All houses seem to have servants and guards quarters. Don't be impressed by this.

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

There are a few new, Western-style grocery stores - combined with the small commissary, I have found everything that I need.

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

Toilet paper. Wine. I use Netgrocer, and have been satisfied with this.

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

No fast food.

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Daily Life:

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

Dip pouch.

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

Cheap and knocking on your gate when you arrive. Choose carefully. About US$200 a month for full time housekeeper/cook and same for driver.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

This is a cash-only society. Don't use your credit cards.

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

Few.

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

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

Depending on your job; A little French would serve you well, but not necessary.

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

Very difficult. There are no sidewalks, stairs or ramps. Mostly dirt rubbles that you must walk over. Of course the new Embassy is ADA compliant.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Same as in the U.S.

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

No. This is a crime critical post with RSO restrictions.

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3. 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?

Probably a 4 wheel drive. Expect to be in several fender benders.

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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?

Free service through the Embassy.

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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?

Most people in Cameroon rely soley on their cell phones, as the phones frequently do not work here.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Skype.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

I've heard that there is one good vet.

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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?

Not the local economy, but the Embassy has a lot of positions for EFMs.

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

Cameroonians are more formal. Regular business attire for work, and for receptions, cocktail attire will do.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Very unhealthy. There are no emmissions controls for vehicles. Locals also burn their trash, houses are covered with mold, and orange dust permeates the air.

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

This is a crime critical post that experienced civil unrest in February 2008. All Embassy housing has security bars on windows, 24 hour guards, and high walls covered in razor wire.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Cameroon is known as the petri-dish of Africa. There are many health concerns here, and if they don't kill you, then a traffic accident will.

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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?

Always nice. Rain and sun.

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Schools & Children:

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

ASOY is the American school in Yaounde. This is a small school with about 160 students, mostly international and English as a second language students. The American kids are the minority. ASOY experienced a student murder on campus 4 years ago, followed with a school bus accident that took the lives of several students and teachers. The school is slowly recovering and adjusting to a new school director that was appointed after the murder. Retention of top teachers seems like a challenge for ASOY, as does maintaining a challenging American curriculum for all grades (K-12). The school is currently undergoing re-accreditation, and it will be interesting to see if they are successful. The school campus is very run down. The school frequently does not have water, making it difficult for students to even flush the toilets or wash their hands. All this being said, the staff at ASOY is committed to the students and they do the best that they can. There is also a couple of french speaking schools that are very good in Yaounde. Some embassy families send their children to either Fustel or Flamboyant.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

There seems to be a concerted effort to make accomodations. Although I can't help but attribute this to the fact that a lare percentage of the student population are just learning to speak/read english.

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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?

The only preschool available is at ASOY, although expensive - the kids seem to be happy and well adjusted.

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Expat Life:

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

It's large in Yaounde and Douala, as there are many NGOs and other Embassies.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low to very low. The school is disappointing, the housing frusturating and the lack of anything to do maddening, and if you're single, the lonliness will get to you. Combine this with civil unrest, and you have low morale.

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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?

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

Yes, in fact couples seem to do well here and have made a super contribution to post. Cameroonians, however, frown upon gay relationships.

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

None that I've encountered.

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

Kribi, gorrilla sanctuary, Douala, Limbe, swimming. The Embassy has a new, beautiful recreation center. Dinner parties and garden parties are also fun. That being said, you may grow bored quickly as the sight seeing and cultural activities are limited.

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

Masks, but they all eventually warp.

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9. Can you save money?

No.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No. Although I have hopes for this post with the new embassy compound, new housing and new school director - I see a steady improvement if the security situation remains stable.

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

Notions of a beautiful, serene Africa with elaborate housing. Ideas of incredible safaris and carefree hikes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and sense of humor, as well as bug repellent

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Constant Gardener. While this movie takes place in Nairobi, the street scenes, hospitals and locals are very typical to what I've seen here.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Yaounde, Cameroon 06/11/08

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. How long have you lived here?

April 2004-June 2006.

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

I am a U.S. Government employee.

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4. Travel time and best routes to this city from Europe or the US:

19+ hours from U.S. through Paris (3 flights/week), Brussels (1 flight/week) or Zurich (1 flight/week).

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Most housing is clustered in two neighborhoods, and commutes are 10-15 minutes or less. Usually, it's either large, new house with very little yard, or a smaller, older house with large yards. Many expats live in apartment buildings with decent 24-hour security.

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

Fresh fruit/vegetables, flour, bread, eggs, milk and meats are readily available and affordable. Your chicken won't be boneless or headless, but it's available. Canned goods are expensive and usually dented. Many cooking goods are available, but bring you're own unique spices (such as anything Tex-Mex or Mexican food related)Paper goods, automotive parts, detergents, cosmetics, hygiene products, and clothes are very expensive and of poor quality.

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

Any unique brands that you enjoy, ship in quantity. Toilet paper!!!!

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

No fast food. It's a fun prank to tell someone that they're opening up a McDonald's finally...There are about 5-7 restaurants (Italian, French, Chinese) that expats regularly frequent, but in the city there are many places to eat, if you choose to be adventurous.

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Daily Life:

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

Cameroonian Post is completely unreliable. Letters will be okay but not much else.

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

Pushy and affordable. US$150-$300 month/full time. Be patient and selective.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Cash society. ATMs are rare and require extra caution. Some hotels will accept credit cards, but watch your bills.

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

Yes, the Cameroonians are a deeply devout group and there are several options.

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

Local news is not that informative, most information is gathered via the internet.

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

It's good to know basic French for shopping and market negotiations.

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

There is absolutely no support or infrastructure for anyone who cannot move on their own.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, center, left, and then back again. It is supposed to be right.

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

Affordable: Yes. Safe: No. There is no mass transit system, just taxis. Embassy employees are banned from public transportation.

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3. 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?

The general taxi is a Toyota Corolla. If you are going to drive outside the city and be adventurous, a four-wheel drive vehicle with good ground clearance is recommended. Jeep, Toyota, Nissan, etc are easier to get parts rather than Ford, Chevy, Buick.

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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?

Local internet is untrustworthy and expensive. Our provider was US$150+/month for 28.8kbps speeds and was up maybe 70% of the time.

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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?

Get something local (US$60-$80) that can be lost/stolen. It uses the same pay-as-you-go system as Europe. Unlocked quad band phones will work with a local SIM card.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

Local calling cards are unreliable and costly. Use a callback service or internet voice-chat programs.

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Pets:

1. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

There are a couple of vets, but the services are limited only basic vaccinations and microchipping. If you want surgery on your dog/cat, it will be on your dining room table. Bring plenty of dog food/cat food/supplies. The available items are expensive and poor-quality.

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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?

Unless you speak French, the job opportunities for expats are limited. The available jobs are usually very low paying.

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

Usually a suit for business men, but very casual in the city. The Muslim areas up north require a more strict observance of covering up for men and women.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Unhealthy.

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

Any house that doesn't have 24-hour guards and substantial fencing will be broken into. There is no travel allowed for U.S. Government employees outside the city after dark. Lots of economically motivated robberies for cellphones, cash, jewelery.

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3. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Local health care is risky. I had a digital x-ray for a sprained softball ankle, and it was US$7, but I didn't have a lead apron.

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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?

Rainy season and dry season. Dry season however is just a less-rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

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

The American School of Yaounde (ASOY) offers K-12 with small classes. The graduating class is usually 10-15 students, and the younger classes increase in size from there. The school offers neat weekend activities that are open to many expats.

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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?

Nannies are readily available (US$150-$300/month) and you must be careful.

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Expat Life:

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

Small, mainly diplomatic or French business-related. Douala is the economic capital and has a much busier expat environment.

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2. Morale among expats:

It varies based on the group, but if you wish, there are some very positive people who enjoy the challenge and the opportunities to see things and travel places that tourists can't go.

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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?

Lots of house, dinner parties. Many themed events or celebrations at ASOY. There isn't a lot of nightlife.

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

The family is good for families/couples, but not really singles. The dating scene is VERY limited and the single expats had noticeably more difficult times. Travel in/out to nice vacation spots is expensive and time consumming.

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

There were several gay expats in the country, but it is difficult due to the fact that homosexuality is illegal in Cameroon. Entrapment situations happen regularly for gay single males, but not gay couples of are not romantically involved with locals.

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

The country is bilingual and mainly dual religious, Muslim and Christian. If you are White, you will have attention and be asked for money/gifts everywhere you go, but there is not so much negative racism.

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

There are gorilla sanctuaries and reserves around the country, and beaches near Douala. In addition the tallest West African mountain, Mount Cameroon is there, along with the beaches. You can play outdoor sports (tennis, soccer, golf)year round. One of the most fun and dangerous things we enjoyed doing was going to the go-cart track that was also a bar...There aren't a lot of nightlife opportunities, so most of the social outlets were theme parties, dinner parties, etc.

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

Fantastic cloth, wooden figures, tablecloths. Be careful with the incredible furniture, because the wood will warp over time. It ALL will warp, even if they tell you that it's treated.

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9. Can you save money?

Travel in/out of the country is expensive, but you can save money if you are wise with your dining habits.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. We really enjoyed it and explored a lot more of the country than my colleagues. If you have an adventurous mindset and don't mind using the side of the road as a toilet, come on over.

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

Cold weather clothes, nice electronics (due to the unpredictable power quality)

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience and adventerous attitude! It's a beautiful country and can offer a lot if you're willing to search for it.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Tears of the Sun (2003), Blood Diamond (2006)

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

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6. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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