Djibouti, Djibouti Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Djibouti, Djibouti

Djibouti, Djibouti 04/30/18

Background:

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

I have lived in several cities around the world, so it was not my first.

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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?

U.S. and it takes about 22 hours to get back to the East Coast.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A few years.

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

Job opportunity.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

It was free and spacious. You don't have any green space. Most homes do not meet earthquake measures either. The embassy did a good job keeping up with maintenance issues.

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

Lots of French foods are available and most items are not processed (like the inexpensive food at camp). Food in town is expensive.

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

You should ship cleaning supplies, but you have DPO so you can get anything shipped to you. I would recommend buying a Weber or similar grill. You'll use it quite often.

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

There is everything in town except fast food restaurants like McDonalds or Taco Bell. Camp has Pizza Hut and Subway and there are plenty of pizza places for take out.

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

Yes, there is a fly season and then a mosquito one. Both are a pain especially when you want to sit outside.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO.

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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 inexpensive. Don't expect top notch cleaning service but help is available and you'll have more leisure time if you hire them.

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

The embassy has a small gym and Camp has two. One new gym at Camp is amazing. They even have a full basketball court and spinning and other classes.

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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?

Yes, it's safe to use them.

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

Catholic. Not sure of others.

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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?

Not much. Most people speak English and Somalian.

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

Yes, I wouldn't recommend going there.

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Transportation:

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

We were not allowed to use 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?

Any Toyota 4x4. There is a Toyota dealership in Djibouti.

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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?

It's available but costly.

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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?

I used a local provider.

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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 a few French vets. Djibouti is not a very dog-friendly city.

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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?

There were plenty of jobs in the embassy but the hiring freeze prevented some EFMs from working. Camp has a number of jobs available.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Orphanages.

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

Dockers and polo and for others dress shirts. It gets warm and humid, so dress code was causal.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, more safety concerns with drivers speeding down school zones. A young French girl was killed by a local driver who sped through a school zone as school kids were coming out.

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

There is a lot of talk about malaria but the biggest concern is Dengue which is normally contracted in the early morning hours. Most of the French and other locals stay in doors during the mosquito season. The season usually starts in April to June. In June, the heat kills all the mosquitos.

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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?

It's good and moderate. The ocean air cleanses the air.

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

You'll get stomach ailments and an occasional fly in your food and eyes. There is a fly season that comes before the mosquitos. The sun can also cause some issues, so daily sunscreen is recommended.

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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)?

I think boredom sets in after a year and many people tend to stay indoors during the warm season around June to September. This is probably the toughest time of year because activities closes down due to the haboobs or sandstorms.

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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?

It's nice around November to March and then it gets very warm and humid from April to June and then warm and dry until November.

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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 embassy just opened one and the kids like it.

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

Not sure, but there are very little accommodations in my opinion 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?

Yes and inexpensive.

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

Yes at Camp.

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Expat Life:

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

Morale is generally good. You should make an effort to meet the expatriates. They will show you how to enjoy your time in Djibouti. Most expats buy boats and use them every weekend to take the family out. They normally resell them when they leave. If you don't make an effort, you could find yourself spending a lot of your time bored and at home.

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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?

The embassy provides opportunities to meet locals and other groups. You have to make an effort to go out and meet them too and join in their activities.

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

I think its easier for married couples with small school age kids. Single do fine if they reach out to the expats. Boredom tends to affect singles more here though.

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

Not really, its mostly a Muslim community.

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

Not really. Djiboutians are used to having foreigners in their country. This includes the U.S., French, Germans, Spanish, Japanese, Italians and Chinese. Djibouti is an international security city, which makes it the safest in the region.

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

Fishing and snorkeling is amazing. A boat ride to the those spots are only 30 minutes away from the mainland. I miss it.

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

Fishing. Bring good fishing gear. Some of the fish out there will rip your lines and reels. Smoking or grilling is almost a weekly activity.

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

Not really, but Kenya has some great handicrafts.

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

You can save money and you have much more leisure time here than in the U.S. or any other major city in the world. You don't have to worry about congestion or traffic.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I expected it to be a rough place, but I was fortunate enough to have met others outside the job. You really need to come here with a positive mindset to make it an enjoyable tour.

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

I would go back but not for more than two years.

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

Winter coats and expensive dress shoes.

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4. But don't forget your:

Water sports gear. If you like to dive, this is an amazing place.

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

Internet should have some good information.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is very good post for families who want to spend time with their kids. You will save money and the work is very interesting and rewarding. If you enjoy water sports, you'll keep yourself busy here.

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Djibouti, Djibouti 06/14/16

Background:

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

No, I have lived in Mexico and South Korea. This is my second assignment in the FS. My first was Bridgetown, Barbados.

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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?

I'm from New Jersey by way of Virginia. There are a few connections that we use most often: Djibouti -> Addis Ababa -> DC or Djibouti -> Paris -> DC. There is also a connection through Doha.

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3. How long have you lived here?

I have lived in Djibouti for almost 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 quite comfortable. Most houses are 3BR/2.5 BA with generators, gates/yard area, and covered parking. Some houses have rooftop areas, which are great for BBQ's, sundowners, wine & cheese soirees, and watching July 4th fireworks. There are a few clusters of Embassy housing. The closest area is Haramous, located in the same neighborhood as the Embassy, so the commute is a few minutes. Some people choose to bike to work during the cooler season. The other two housing areas are no more than a 10-15 minute drive. Everything is close in Djibouti City.

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

Djibouti has a handful of supermarkets, including Casino (a French-owned chain) which is expensive. A basket of goods (e.g., cheese, bread, pasta, lunch meat, milk, eggs) can run more than $30 or $40USD. It is easy to leave Casino having spent $200 with only 3-4 shopping bags. Luckily, there is an Ethiopian supermarket called Bambi's, which sells some fresh meats, dry goods, household supplies, beer/wine/liquor and it's more reasonable. Nougaprix is a local supermarket downtown with a broader selection of fruits/veggies and household goods.

Cash Centre, located near the Kempinski hotel, has a decent (and expensive) selection of household supplies/decorative items, dry goods, and some frozen products. They now have a bakery on site, so don't go hungry!

Djibouti also has Camp Lemonnier, the U.S. military base. They have a small Navy Exchange (NEX) and many mission personnel shop there for American snack brands, household items (cleaning supplies, toothpaste, beauty products, etc), DVDs, work out clothes, and electronics - all tax-free. The NEX is a nice supplement to the local market.

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

Nothing in particular. Djibouti is a consumables post, though, so take advantage of that.

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

There are several really enjoyable and delicious restaurants. One of the oldest restaurants is Cafe de la Gare, which recently underwent stunning renovations to its dining area and they built a second-floor bar/lounge. The food is pricey ($50/pp with cocktails) but delicious, and the service is the best in town. Definitely an expat watering hole. La Gazelle is another great French restaurant located in Gabode (near some Embassy housing). The friendly owner is from Senegal (and used to be a chef at Cafe de la Gare). It's BYOB and open late. La Mer Rouge and The Melting Pot are favorites among expats for their seafood, sushi, and camel meat (!). Hotel Palace Kempinski has an outdoor restaurant named Bankouale, known for seafood, and an Italian restaurant indoors. Both are expensive but okay when you're feeling like a fancier night out.

Following a terrorist bombing at a local restaurant in 2014, Embassy personnel were restricted from visiting downtown. Now however, that restriction has been lifted and we can experience some of the nightlife. La Chaumiere is a hodgepodge of Asian/French cuisine and the site of the aforementioned bombing. They rebuilt and are better than ever (with better security, too). Time Out Cafe has a restaurant downstairs and a sports bar/lounge upstairs. Color Cafe is a hole-in-the-wall local restaurant with good fish sandwiches and fries. Beverly Cafe's top floor restaurant has great views of the city and port. L'Historil is a clear relic of French colonial times, a bit rundown and overrun with cigarette-smoking French expats, but the food is decent. There's an Ethiopian spot called La Terasse down the street.

You can find the open-flame Yemeni fish specialties at Jenatyn (pronounced Janna-TAIN) and Saba. For Indian, there are two restaurants - Singh's and Kurry (located near the Embassy). Near the Port of Djibouti, there's a Lebanese restaurant called Mont Liban with very inexpensive large plates, fresh juices, and hookah. Pizzaiolo is also near the Embassy and expensive -$20 for fish and chips! Allo Pizza serves, yes, pizza. A new restaurant named Urban Kitchen just opened near the airport and for now, they serve an array of coffee/desserts, hamburgers, fries, and chicken/beef sandwiches. At Camp Lemonnier, there's Pizza Hut, Subway, and the galley (Taco Tuesday, Steak Saturday, and other specialty food nights to feed the 3,000+ military personnel).

So, in short, there's something for everyone!

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

We had a beehive that grew on our patio door while we were away for R&R. That was wild. But by African standards (or any standards), there are surprisingly few vermin here. I was very pleasantly surprised. Ants and the occasional dead cockroach is all I've seen.

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Daily Life:

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

Between FPO and the pouch, we can get just about anything. Never shipped anything locally.

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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 available, but the really good people get snatched up quickly. Many houses seem to rotate the same nannies/cleaning ladies/cooks. We have an Ethiopian woman who cooks/cleans once per week for $140/mo. Americans tend to pay their household staff much more than French expats. Many Embassy personnel also employ day guards to sweep up outside/wash cars/keep an eye out. I do not know the costs for day guards or nannies.

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

I use the Embassy's gym. We also have a pool on compound, and the Marines just got a basketball court. Camp Lemonnier has a wide array of aerobic and sporting activities (CrossFit, salsa dancing, soccer, flag football, softball, basketball, beach volleyball, table tennis, foosball, swimming, and monthly 5K's) and they are building a massive gym to replace their current one, which is under a huge tent. All these activities are free. I haven't seen any local gyms, but I heard about one located near the Port/Corniche.

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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 widely used here. They are fine at Kempinski, Sheraton, Casino, and BiBi Modi's (a local alcohol vendor). There are ATMs at the Embassy, Casino, Kempinski, Sheraton, and nearby Cafe de la Gare. They are safe to use. USAA's Mastercard debit cards do not work here - you must have Visa.

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

Camp has weekly religious services. The local Catholic services might be in French or English, too.

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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?

People are speaking English more frequently, especially at the more popular expat restaurants and grocers. You can take French classes at the French Institute of Djibouti and the Embassy offers French tutoring. If you can learn some Somali, now THAT would go a long way.

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

Yes, Djibouti would be challenging for those with physical disabilities. There are virtually no sidewalks and those you find are uneven and treacherous. The Embassy is the only building with an elevator (that I've seen).

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Transportation:

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

Embassy personnel are not permitted to take local transportation.

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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 bought a 2009 silver 4Runner and it's been fantastic. I probably would have brought something even older, like a 2004 because Djibouti is rough on vehicles. SUV's are needed when driving out to the regions especially. The terrain is quite rugged. I wouldn't bring anything that you're afraid to get beat up. There's a local Toyota dealership that also does servicing, but personally I am not convinced of their quality of work. We started using Roberto Garage and they are well-run, organized, and fast.

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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?

Hi-speed internet is available at a hefty price. For the largest package - 6MB Unlimited - it costs more than $2,000/year. It took about 2 weeks to set up. I recommend getting extenders so it's available throughout the house. Right now we only get strong connections upstairs, nothing downstairs.

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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?

I bought an unlocked Samsung from the NEX at Camp Lemonnier and installed a local SIM card. Then I buy local credit as needed. I haven't had any issues. Some Embassy personnel do use their unlocked iPhones.

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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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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?

This is a really great post for spousal employment - and all full-time. Several spouses work at the Embassy in jobs such as the Housing Assistant, Facilities Assistant, Political/Econ Assistant, CLO, and Consular Associate. At Camp Lemonnier, several spouses are employed as contractors and in banking. I do not know of any spouses working on the local market.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

If you want to help out, there's plenty to do. Local orphanages are popular, and English conversation practice groups are on the rise.

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

Day-to-day, the Embassy dress code is business casual (slacks, button down, dresses) and on Camp, it's more casual but there is a dress code for entering the Galley, for example. Close-toed shoes, no hats or sleeveless tops, etc. Most local women choose to cover their hair, but those that do not are not mistreated or maligned. Formal dress is required if you attend events such as the Marine Ball, Lions Club or Rotary Club galas.

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Health & Safety:

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

Based on informal conversations with colleagues, we all feel pretty safe here. I think the Camp presence (and other foreign militaries) helps with that sense of security. But common sense and intuition should prevail wherever you are, and Djibouti's no different. You can read the latest security message on our Embassy website. http://djibouti.usembassy.gov/message_us.html

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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?

Stomach bugs and respiratory ailments go around regularly. I developed allergies to the dust and dryness. Local medical care is mediocre, at best. We use the Embassy Health Unit and, if needed, Camp can assist with limited services. There is a new clinic that opened and seems promising, but otherwise, preventive care is king. Get lots of rest, drink lots of fluids, stay active, and keep your Imodium handy.

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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 generally good. During the very hot months (May - August), the sandstorms and humidity can irritate allergies and respiratory issues. Staying hydrated is very important, too.

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

Definitely bring whatever meds you normally need, and I'd recommend that you reach out to the Embassy Health Unit before arriving to find out what is available locally.

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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)?

Nothing stands out, but I will note that you have to juggle different workweek schedules and that can feel disorienting. For example, the Embassy workweek is Sunday-Thursday; Camp Lemonnier is Monday-Friday; and I understand the French schools (for those with kids attending) is Saturday-Wednesday. And of course, Washington is Monday-Friday. It takes getting used to, but we all adjust.

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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?

From October to April, the weather is gorgeous. Mid-high 80s, mid-low 70s at night. Low humidity at that time, too. That's also whale-shark season. But from April to September, it is super hot and humid, more than 100 degrees. By June-July, you are just moving from one air-conditioned place to another.

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Schools & Children:

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

In August 2016, QSI will open its first American-style school in Djibouti - QSI International School of Djibouti. It's going to be K-8, all English, and located near the Embassy. There are a few other English schools that will open this year, too, offering many options for those who want an alternative to the French schools, Dolto and Kessel.

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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?

Many Embassy toddlers go to Minimoys, but since I do not have kids, I can't speak to the experience.

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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?

The expat community is growing. With the foreign militaries alone, there are Italians, French, Americans, Germans, and Japanese. The diplomatic community feels insular - except for the occasional reception, there's not much overlap or interaction with other Missions despite the small size of the community. The French air base has started an exchange with the Embassy (i.e. pairs us with a sponsor) that allows us access to their facilities. It's a good chance to practice French/English, too. The French base also offers a lot of activities for individuals, kids, and families such as photography club, dance classes, soccer, tennis, arts and crafts, sailing, etc.

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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?

A popular activity among Embassy staff and expats is Dolphin Excursions. They have the Djibouti Divers Club, snorkeling, and beach excursions available year round (except August). https://www.facebook.com/DolphinExcursions/. Many French families take their boats out to Moucha and Maskali Islands on the weekends. There are also trips to Lac Assal, Lac Abbe, and White Sands beach.

The French Institute has great cultural programs and the Embassy sponsors a monthly American film (subtitled in French) - https://www.facebook.com/Institut-français-de-Djibouti-483613261744341/

Most people socialize over one another's homes for dinners and parties. Downtown Djibouti-ville has restaurants and nightclubs that are popular among expats and some younger Djiboutians.

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

It seems to work well for everyone. The Embassy has a mix of singles, families with kids, and couples without children, and we all get along very well. The CLO has worked really hard to identify people's needs and organize events for everyone across the mission. So there have been ladies' nights dinners, wine and cheese events (for adults only), kids' birthday parties, pool days, "Scotch & Stogies" (for the guys), karaoke, tea time, and of course, Christmas and Thanksgiving parties. Camp Lemonnier also features family activities for kids, like soccer and firefighter/safety demonstrations. Many Embassy staff participate in the monthly 5K races/3K walks. Salsa dancing and CrossFit are also very popular. The singles that I know at post seem to have a good mix of friends and hobbies inside and outside of the mission.

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

The majority of gays and lesbians in Djibouti remain closeted because it's a highly taboo subject. It would be a challenging environment in which to live openly.

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

In Djibouti, the prejudices are mostly clan-based and unless you've really done your homework, you won't be able to differentiate people from the dominant and minority clans and sub-clans. But any Djiboutian will tell you that clan politics dominate everything. Djibouti is 95% Muslim and the other 5% is a smattering of Christianity. There is a Catholic church in town, a Catholic-run orphanage called Caritas, a Catholic organization in Tadjourah, and Lutheran World Federation all providing services to the local community. To my knowledge, they are well-respected and operate without interference.

Gender equality has a long way to go, but Djibouti's First Lady is quite powerful and uses some of her vast resources to support women-focused initiatives. She runs an organization called The Union of Djiboutian Women, an orphanage and a training center. She has close ties to the Ministry of Women and Families and keeps tabs on many programs related to women's empowerment. At the grassroots level, ordinary Djiboutian women shoulder most of the responsibility for child rearing - with many families having 5,6,7 kids - and they sometimes work multiple jobs to overcome the high costs of living and/or high unemployment in their families. An overwhelming majority of Djiboutian men spend their afternoons and evenings chewing hypnotic khat leaves, which can drain the family's resources, create friction among families, and stunt national productivity.

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

The best part of Djibouti is the marine life/excursions. Most of the year, you can hop on a boat and spend a day snorkeling and diving, lounging on the beach, and soaking up the sun. The Lac Assal tour was worthwhile, visiting the lowest point in Africa. I also have really enjoyed the Ramadan season because of the fantastic and opulent iftars. The food is iso delicious.

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

East Africa is beautiful so trips to Kenya, Ethiopia, and Tanzania are must-do's. You can also travel easily to Seychelles, Mauritius, and Dubai.

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

You won't find a ton of great artwork and handicrafts in Djibouti. Other countries in the region do this much, much better. There are some local baskets, keychains, purses, etc but many of the Djiboutian "souvenirs" are imported. My husband bought a goat skull encrusted in salt from Lac Assal (impulse buy!) and that will be staying here...

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

Djibouti is pretty low-key despite all of the activity happening around it. There's not the crazy hustle-bustle nor traffic congestion you'd find at other African posts. Everything is close by, maybe 20-30 minutes to get from one side of town to the other. Camp Lemonnier is a definite plus, not only for our safety and security but sometimes you just want American products and Camp provides that fix.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I would have shipped an older car. Djibouti's desert climate and rough terrain is hard on cars so I would've brought something older that could get knocked around more.

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

Yes! But I would arrive in November instead of August (when temps are over 110 degrees).

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

Fancy clothes and shoes (they will get dusty, faded, and worn).

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4. But don't forget your:

Snorkel, sunblock, and hats.

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

"Djibouti" by Leonard Elmore (which I still haven't finished)
Fleur de Desert (film)
Plenty of great articles about Djibouti are circulating in the Financial Times, WSJ, Foreign Affairs, The Economist and so on.

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Djibouti, Djibouti 08/14/15

Background:

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

Not my first tour. I have lived in La Paz, Niamey, Antananarivo, Berlin, and a short tour in Baghdad. I have a pretty good idea about living in third world communities and this is my third Africa tour.

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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?

New Mexico. There are several ways to get to the U.S. from Djibouti. Air France to CDG is my favorite but only flies once a week from here. Ethiopian Air is the most convenient but I'm not a fan of that airline. Poor maintenance and a confused staff running the airport in Addis but they received "Best in Africa" awards (not from me). There are also connections through Dubai and Doha. Fly Dubai lost my luggage in both directions on one trip but the United connection to DC wasn't bad. Qatar is supposed to be nice but I haven't flown it. Trips are expensive out of Djibouti but available and people here make trips to India, Thailand and to Mauritius and seem to think the connections are not bad.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A little over 2 years with 1 to go.

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

Government (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?

Housing is pretty good by Africa standards. Most two story with funky stairs and mismatched tiles. All the houses have generators and we're installing BIG voltage regulators to smooth out the bumps. Water is not potable and is rough on clothes but not toxic. We all brush our teeth with it but don't drink it. We have bottled water for drinking in all the houses and GSO provides it on a weekly delivery. Commute is less than 15 minutes from anywhere in town.

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

The French store Casino has nearly everything but it's expensive. There are alternatives and local produce stands that are good if you don't store it long.

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

Dive gear and sun screen. Big hats. Synthetic oil for oil changes.

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

There was a "Big Boy" hamburger place here (an obvious knock off) and someone actually tried it. Other than that it's all regular restaurants and diners. And nothing in Djibouti is fast.

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

Ants, but that's all over Africa. Mosquitoes in the winter but we've gotten a handle on keeping them out of houses.

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Daily Life:

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

FPO or Pouch. Local mail probably doesn't work and I wouldn't try it for anything other than a post card.

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

Ours is US$250/mo. That may go up soon but probably not much.

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

I only know about the one at the Embassy and it's not bad. Not large but not bad.

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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?

There's an ATM at the Embassy that dispenses Francs and you can get US$ at ATM's on the base.

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

Catholic and the base has a lot of others.

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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?

Je ne comprond pas Francais. Sorry, that's the only French I really know. I get by fine without it.

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

Definitely.

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Transportation:

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

Either not available or "don't use"

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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?

4wd is the way to go. And bring parts from the U.S. The Toyota dealer here doesn't honor new car Toyota warranties if they didn't sell it.

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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?

US$100-150 a month for really bad internet. The rule in Africa is you pay for 4 meg and you get it "when it's available". Catch 22. It's never available. But Skype works most of the time and some people even download and stream movies. I just buy them from Amazon. BFF.

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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 and replenishment cards are available. Djibouti Telecom is government owned and really sucks but it's the only show in town. Embassy has a way to call from your cell through to the U.S. on VOIP and texting to the states is about 25 cents a text.

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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?

The Embassy has jobs for any EFM who wants one. The security clearance is a bear though.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots

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Health & Safety:

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

Aside from paranoid RSO's, not really. Djiboutians are opportunistic but not mean. Probably pickpockets and stuff like that.

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2. 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?

In the winter it's glorious. In the summer it's hot (up to 120F or more), dusty, and humid. But it could be snow so I'm happy. Don't come here if you don't like warm/hot weather.

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

Great in the winter, some storms and hamseen (sp?) in the summer. Watch the movie Hidalgo and you'll get an idea of the occasional storm here.

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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 only a French school right now and I've heard everyone with school age kids who don't speak French do home schooling.

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

Not much if anything for non-French speakers.

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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?

I think they are available and there are nannies.

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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?

Pretty big for essentially an island and morale has been great through several rotations. Those who don't hybernate do the best.

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

Only the two of us (me and my wife) and we have fun. There's a hopping bar thing downtown but Djiboutians can be pushy.

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

I think yes. Not sure.

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

Only among their own tribes and it's not too bad.

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

Diving has been the big highlight. There are two dive shops (one English and one French) and they have great trips, including large boats (one that looks like a 50' pirate ship). The trips to Corambado (sp?) beach are fun and the beach is great with white sand and a restaurant. Arta Plage beach is rough but has great snorkling. And the dive boats go to White Sands beach and to Mousha Island all the time. Oh! And there's an 18 hole golf course. Pretty rugged and you have to dodge the goats and camels but it's a way to swing a club on the weekends (which are Friday and Saturday here).

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

a go-kart track but I haven't been yet.

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

Djibouti has the best winters I have ever experienced. Highs in the mid-80's F and lows in the mid-70's with fairly low humidity (for a coastal city). There are some natural sites that are interesting to visit, Lak Abbe' and Lak Assal are two large lakes that were seperated from the ocean during geologic events and have interesting attibutes (thermal vents and salt encrusted skulls). The Foret du Day is a high altitude ecolodge that is nice for camping. But the diving is absolutely awesome. The reefs here are not over-visited and are clean with a LOT of fish, including sting rays and manta rays. The whale sharks come into the bay every winter and are cool to swim with. There are restaurants from hole-in-the-wall Yemeni fish bbq (which is amazing) to high end French cafe's (with excellent food). And Indian and Chinese is available and pretty good. It's expensive here so mid-level (Chinese and Indian) is US$25/person. The expensive places are US$100/person. There is places to get pizza and hamburgers that are surprisingly good. The French base has extracurricular activities if you line yourself up with a sponsor. Mine likes to dive so we spend a lot of time with them. Be warned though, summer is hot here.

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Djibouti, Djibouti 02/28/13

Background:

1. Your reason for living this city (e.g. corporate, government, military, student, educator, retiree, etc.):

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

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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?

USA. Multiple routes are available, but none is direct. The cheapest and fastest is usually via Ethiopian Air (Djibouti to Addis, Addis to DC), but for official travel one flies through Europe.

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4. How long have you lived here?

by Taylor Denyer

(Taylor is a U.S. Foreign Service spouse who has been living in Djibouti for six months, a fourth long-term expat experience.)

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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 for the diplomatic/expat community are built large. Most US Embassy employees are assigned spacious homes. There is little in the way of grass or garden space, however.

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

Most things are on the pricey side, since nearly everything is imported, but some things are surprisingly affordable. Diplomats and those working for NGOs can use a company called Seven Seas to order frozen and canned foods in bulk.

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

Nothing.

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

There are some good restaurants in town, although nothing in drive-through style unless you count the roasted chickens sold outside the grocery markets. Expect to pay in the range of $12/plate to $50 for dinner.

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

Some neighborhood battle mosquitoes, but malaria is not a real issue inside the city.

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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 embassy pouch and FPO.

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

Housekeepers are easy to find. Expect to pay at least $14/day plus transport fees. Currently the Americans pay significantly more than the French, who pay significantly more than locals.

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

Yes.

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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?

Available at the main shops, although then you have to deal with the processing fees.

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

The Roman Catholic church incorporates English in its Thursday evening mass. The Protestant church tries to incorporate some English into its Sunday evening services. The only other groups I know that worship in English are at Camp Lemonnier (Americans can attend these).

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

There are a few English-language news channels on locally available satellite. Otherwise, you would need to use AFN or download via the internet. Not expensive.

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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 should at least learn French, but it is possible to survive on just English if you stick to the up-scale shops.

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

There is a lack of sidewalks in many areas; many buildings don't meet ADA standards; there is no safe public transport; and no high-tech medical facilities.

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Transportation:

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

All are not safe and not allowed if you are connected to the US Embassy.

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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?

A high-clearance SUV is best if you plan to drive to the beach or anywhere else interesting out of town. Bring a diesel vehicle if possible.

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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. Various plans are available. They are on the expensive side, but not terrible.

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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?

There is only one company (a government monopoly) in town

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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 a vet with a kennel in town.

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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 for those who want to teach English.

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

Relatively casual due to the climate. No need for women to dress any differently than they would in their home country.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not particularly.

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

There is a French hospital. The US Embassy also has a good team in its health unit for embassy families.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Good.

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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?

Winters are comfortably warm and sunny. Summers are, admittedly, extremely hot and can get dusty. It rarely rains.

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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 children attend the French school. The French military children attend them too, so they are up to French government standards.

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

I do not know, although tutors are available for children who do not speak French.

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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?

This is an issue. Most Americans and French hire Ethiopians as nannies. But their education levels are low, and few speak basic French or English, so communication is difficult.

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

Somewhat.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good.

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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 parties.

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

Yes. With so many countries stationing troops here, there are social circles for all demographics.

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

I am not aware of any of the gay couples at post feeling unsafe or harassed.

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

Djibouti is a moderate Muslim nation with expats from all over living here. While there clearly are inter-ethnic tensions and problems for women, I am not aware of this directly impacting expats who come here to work. There are a few Christian congregations that the government has given permission to exist and worship openly, as long as they do not engage in efforts to convert the Muslim population.

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

Swimming with whale sharks, day and overnight trips to Moucha Island, seeing landscapes that look extra-terrestrial (like the chimneys of Lac Abbe).

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

Go to the beach, snorkel/scuba, kite surf, sand surf, go boating, etc.

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

Scuba excursions.

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

Beaches, snokeling/scuba, boating, sun, few crimes against foreigners (muggings, shootings and carjackings are not a concern), clean air, modern grocery stores with gourmet French cheese and such, fascinating (in terms of natural beauty) daytrip options, French schools, French hospital. Americans can eat and watch movies at Camp Lemonnier. The French military has several clubs,

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11. Can you save money?

Possibly--if you are strategic about your grocery shopping.

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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:

coats and blankets

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3. But don't forget your:

swimsuits and snokels

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

Sadly, I'm unaware of any decent books in English about Djibouti.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Not to my knowledge. Better to search Djibouti home videos on youtube.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

We had prepared ourselves for the worst, but we have really loved our first six months. Ask me again after my first full summer here.

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Djibouti, Djibouti 04/13/10

Background:

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

Yes.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

From Washington, D.C., the trip can take up to 30 hours if you are flying via Paris on Air France (that flight from Paris to Djibouti flies once a week), and the layover in Paris is 12 hours. You can also fly to Djibouti via Addis, Nairobi, and Dubai. Depending on the route and timing of the flights, you may have to overnight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 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?

Housing is hit or miss. The quality of the houses varies. There is a compound of 6 town-homes, and they are not very nice. There are other houses that are larger, but the workmanship is not well done. Other houses are extremely nice and spacious with some sort of garden area.

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

EXPENSIVE! Everything is imported. Do not be surprised if you spend $300 at the grocery store in one visit - with only 2 bags of groceries to show for it. Food comes into Djibouti at the end of the week, and that is when everyone goes (and you'll go too). Take advantage of your consumables allowance. Why pay $3 for a can of tomato paste when you can get it for $0.50 at Giant? A small example, but when you're using 30 cans of tomato paste...

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

The following items are not available or are so rare you'll never find them when you need them: chocolate chips, vanilla extract, crisco, pie fillings. Many people order from amazon and netgrocer.

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

"Fast food" is non-existent here. Everything takes an hour or longer. Many people call ahead to restaurants and then swing by to pick it up. Pizza is done this way a lot. There are rotisserie chickens at many of the supermarkets. No side dishes.

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

There are mosquitoes, so bug repellent is a good thing to bring. Also there are fruit flies and an occasional cockroach. If you keep your house clean, you won't have a problem.

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Daily Life:

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

The embassy receives mail via the pouch. It usually takes about 2 weeks for mail to arrive (from ordering to delivery). You can return items through the pouch. FPO was available, but there was abuse of some sort by someone in the embassy, so we may not be able to use it anymore.

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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 expensive in Djibouti. Availability is hit or miss. There are not a lot of English-speaking housekeepers.

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

The embassy has a small gym. Camp Lemonnier has a very large gym that U.S. Embassy people are allowed to use.

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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?

Camp Lemonnier has recently opened a Navy Federal Credit Union. There are two other ATMs in town. I have heard of many people using them and have not had a problem. I would be cautious about using a credit card here. Shopping is generally cash only, but with fraud being what it is nowadays, I wouldn't take the chance.

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

Camp Lemonnier has a chapel with many services, all in English.

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

No English language newspapers. The embassy does get AFN, and you can get satellite television, but it is expensive.

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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 can survive with no French, but it would be useful to have some basic French so you can recognize grocery items etc. With that said, more and more Djiboutians speak English. There are two different versions of a menu at a restaurant - the French and the English.

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

The roads are full of potholes, sidewalks are not on every street, and many roads are unpaved. Parking is wherever you can find a spot, and you'll often find yourself squeezed in by another car. Ramps are non-existent. I would not recommend coming here if you have physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

No to the local trains. No to the buses. Taxis are okay if you are stranded and nobody can pick you up. Bargain before you leave. You'll be ripped off either way, but like I said, only if you are stranded.

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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 an SUV. If you can bring spare tires, do so. Tires are really expensive here. Throw some oil and air filters in, too. You could get them here, but the money you'll save! There was a recent crackdown on window tinting. We were told that if it was factory made, it was fine, but these rules change like the wind, and really a lot of it is misinformation.

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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! HAH! Internet is very expensive and slow. It is good enough for Skype, but connectivity will be hit or miss. Djibouti Tel has blocked Vonage.

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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?

The embassy issues cell phones to its employees. Blackberries and other global phones don't always 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.

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

There is a vet here, and I have heard that he offers good services. There are no 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?

No. There are a few jobs at the embassy for spouses, but they are very few and limited. There is always talk of establishing this job or that job for spouses, but it is all talk and no one ever does anything about it.

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

Business casual. The water is hard on clothes here. In public, people should dress conservatively, as this is a Muslim country.

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Health & Safety:

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

Not really. Crime here is very low, although you do have to retain your street smarts. Lock the doors, don't have valuables out in plain sight, don't wave wads of cash around, etc.

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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 present in Djibouti, so MED recommends that you take the medicine. Medical care is limited. The embassy does have an RN who can distribute meds, but for anything more serious you have to go to either the French hospital or Camp Lemonnier.

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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 moderate. It is dusty, and some parts of the city smell like sewage.

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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?

The "winter" is in the 80s (October to April). The summer is very hot - up to 120 degrees with high humidity (May to September).

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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 a French elementary and high school. Lessons are offered only in French. There is a small Indian school that does teach in English, but it is a one-room school and it only goes up to second grade, I believe.

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

There are no accommodations 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?

There are some preschools around, but people generally have nannies at their homes to take care of their children.

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

No.

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Expat Life:

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

There is a small English-speaking expat community. There are a lot of Americans at Camp Lemonnier, but they rotate out every year. Plus, unless you have a reason to get to know people there, such as working with them, going to church with them, etc., you may find you don't have too many friends from Camp.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale at the embassy is low. This is a small embassy, and Djibouti can be a difficult place to live -- with the heat and lack of things to do. When personalities don't mix well, people try and do what they can. But people are overworked and there are many frustrations here. Our home life is too closely tied with the work life. It can be difficult.

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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?

Unfortunately, not much is going on here. There are a few CLO events here and there, but nothing regular (sadly, no end-of-the-week Happy Hour to look forward to). There are some people within the community who throw parties, but it seems to always be the same few folks.

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

This is a small, quiet town. The bars and clubs are okay - many are frequented by aggressive prostitutes. The Kempinski Hotel is expensive. Families with school-aged children are disadvantaged by the lack of English-language schools. Singles may be bored, especially if you don't drink or go out to the bars/clubs. Couples may find it enjoyable, but it can be a bit boring.

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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?

Not that I know of.

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

The beach and whale sharks.

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

Whale sharks, beach, boat trips.

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

Nothing really. Most curios are from other countries in East Africa (namely Kenya).

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

This is a hardship post, and the experience will be what you make it. The Djiboutian people are very nice and hospitable. Crime is low. There are restaurants and a bowling alley, but beyond that it is pretty much home entertaining. Djibouti is on the ocean, so there are beaches to go to. The whale sharks are here from November to January.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes! But you'll have to take advantage of your consumables allowance, restrain yourself at the supermarket, and limit your travels outside of Djibouti (airlines tickets are not cheap). The two highlights for everyone during the week are the mail days - so you'll to make a choice there, too.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, maybe. As in any embassy, it is all about the people you serve with. This has been a difficult post to work at. People do what they like with no regard to the rules and regulations, and with no consequence. It can be very frustrating when you need to do your job, and to ensure your house isn't falling apart around you.

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

winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

beach and snorkeling equipment. I would bring a cooler and some patio furniture. The embassy provides some plastic furniture that breaks due to the hot sun.

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Djibouti, Djibouti 08/15/08

Background:

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

1st Foreign Service experience.

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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.)?

U.S. Embassy.

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

Most common and most direct route is through Paris. Plan on at least an 11-hour layover in Paris for the once-weekly flight, so it's a two-day effort.

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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 French are often housed in townhouses or nice appartments, but other expats go in more for villas. U.S. embassy housing was large, kitchens tended to be well below American standards though, and gardens, due to the extreme climate, were limited.

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

Plan for things to be expensive. That's what the COLA was for. But while things are expensive, I found most things I would need were available. You could eat pretty normally and equip your house pretty normally. There were five decent grocery stores, nothing like Safeway, but they had what you would need. If your favorite brand of boxed milk ran out of stock, it might be a few weeks before the next shipment came in. But there was always another brand or another option. One of the grocery stores even carried block cheddar cheese, and the best grocery store had an amazing selection of French cheese. One thing not available: really good bread. You could get small, expensive loaves of Pain Complet, and the ubiquitous, cheap, baguette. And very expensive commercial brioche. But not much else.

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

More toilet paper and laundry soap. The brands of toilet paper available in Djiboutian stores just were not the same.... and the laundry soap was outrageously expensive. Also more American snack foods. Things like Cheezits and Wheat Thins were NOT available in the local grocery stores and the military NEX was so small, they did not usually have these. Other fun snack foods were available. You could get Japanese snack mix, for example, with sesame crackers and wasabi peas. Go figure. And French snack foods. But sometimes, I just wanted Cheezits.

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

No fast food. There are many decent restauarants in Djibouti city. You can find gourmet French food, the

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Daily Life:

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

I heard from local expats that Djibouti's mail system was not dependable. I did subscribe to a French magazine that was delivered monthly via international post. I got 10 out of 12 issues.

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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 very available, moderately priced (We paid $200/mo for all-day help three days a week) and of variable quality. We really loved our housekeeper and she did a great job without a lot of prodding. She would shop for us at the local market, wash the veggies and fruits, iron when needed, do the household laundry, and do the regular cleaning. She also took excellent care of our two dogs. It was also possible to find household help that would cook, but I did not know anyone whose cook did much more than basic dishes.

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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?

You cannot use credit cards. Two local banks put in ATM machines, but I never tried them -- it didn't seem like a good idea. If you are affiliated with the US Embassy or Miliatry, the NEX took credit cards. I believe the nicest grocery store took credit cards, but only at one register and there was a surcharge for the privilege, so....

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

There were church services for Americans on the military base. Otherwise, I think the services tended to be in French. For Christians, there is a French Catholic Diocese as well as Ethiopian Protestent/ Orthodox services.

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

Ha ha ha. The cable/satellite television option packages had a few English language channels, I think, like CNN. The Embassy was provising AFN so I did not end up subscribing to local cable/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?

I think you will really benefit from speaking French. It's a very French-based culture after many years as a colony. The education system is in French, and it is not very common to find people who speak English, though that is changing. You are also likely to run into people who speak neither French nor English, but usually someone will be around to translate if at least you speak French.

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

As a developing country, this would NOT be a do-able place for someone with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Yes. As seems to be the case in many developing countrys, traffic laws are fluid. Drive on the right, but be prepared for anything. Luckily, the volume of traffic in Djibouti is low (but growing), so the craziness of local driving often has a cushion for error. There were, however, many accidents.

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

Local taxis were affordable but neither terribly comfortable nor terribly safe. The use of local taxis is approved by the USEmb at the time of this writing with a few safety caveats. Often, people would cultivate a relationship with a particular taxi driver. Plan on $8-$18 for a fifteen-minute ride from the airport to the other end of town.

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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?

Bring something rugged. Many Asian dealerships (Hyundai, Kia, Toyota, Mitsubishi, and Nissan) are reprented in Djibouti. But you might find as we did that your American-model still has different parts than what the local retailers carry (we could not get parts for our American-model Toyota engine).An SUV is a good idea not only if you want to get out of town (the road to the beach required a 4x4), but also for the occasional flooding. A good rain shower will put many of the roads 2 feet or more under water for days. However, you will see some regular Toyota Corrolas or the equivalent driving around, so it's possible to get by in the city with a smaller car. Unleaded fuel is availabe in the city ONLY, so once you get out of town, you will only find diesel, and only VERY limited diesel at that. We carried gas cans whenever we ventured out of town and always traveled in groups of two cars or more. Not because of a security threat but because if you break down out there, it's tough. There are no tow trucks in Djibouti.

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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?

As mentioned above, when DSL became available, unrestricted band-width was $600 per month. The price has since dropped to something like US$300 per month, plus there are cheaper (and slower) options available. Dial up was coasting people around $50-$100 per month (billed on usage).

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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 available, but the cell phone service is pretty bad. It was a government monopoly, so what are you going to do?For the first year I was there, you couldn't get a SIM card to save your life. We spent over $100 to buy a used SIM card for my husband. But that situation was eventually resolved and now you can buy a SIM card for a more reasonable amount: maybe $60?

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

I relied on the Embassy's phone line. Djiboutian phone service was horrible while I lived there. Rates for direct-dial to the U.S. were extreme. There were call-back services but I never used one. Skype was blocked when I first arrived, and only dial-up existed for most of my tour. When DSL became available, unrestricted band-with DSL was US$600 a month. The price has since dropped to a bargain-basement price of US$300 per month. People now use Skype from home successfully.

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Pets:

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

There is a French vet who seems to have full capabilities.

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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 a growing economy, and it seems like someone could make a way for themselves doing consulting or working at the Port, but reality is: you need to speak French, and even then, there's not much available.

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

Dress code is casual. When it's 120F degrees, you dress to survive. Sandals are a must in all seasons. Very light weight linen and cotton clothing was key. It's a Muslim country, but the culture seemed very accepting and forgiving of Western immodesty. Still, I think it was best to cover your shoulders and thighs.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate pollution. Can be fairly dusty during khamseen season, but although the electricity source is a smoke-belching diesel-burning plant, and although unregulated diesel vehicles are common, the low-density of cars and the fact that Djibouti is literally surrounded by the ocean keep the pollution factor moderate to low.

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

While I was there, Djibouti felt very safe. There were some incidences of minor crimes of opportunity against Expats, but I could walk or jog alone at any time and not feel unsafe. Due to proximity to other national conflicts and terrorist interests, and due to rising levels of refugees from both political violence and famine, the security situation will probably slowly become more dangerous. Proximity also made for a regular terrorist threat but our lifestyle was not curtailed.

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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?

Very limited medical care. There is a French hospital which I fortunately never needed to use. Their Emergency room had limited hours and we had to get

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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?

Clear and sunny all year round. Rain only a few times a year if that. But when it rains... oh la la.

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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 are no international schools in Djibouti. There are two French schools (pre-HS) that seemed to be of good quality. One officer sent his pre-schooler to the local Indian school so he could have a mainly English-education (school was in English with Hindi as a 2nd language).

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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?

There seemed to be several preschool options, all of which were taught in French. I did not have children and did not know anyone from the Embassy who sent their children to any of the local preschools (other than the Hindi school), so I don't know the quality. Due to the prevalence of the French expat community, I assume these preschools/day cares, which catered to French expats, were adequate.

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Expat Life:

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

There are many French expats in Djibouti, but other Expats are limited. The UN is present, WFP...There are not a lot of other Embassies from Western countries. The French. The Chinese. The rest were African, NEA.

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2. Morale among expats:

Varies. The French have a good system of support, but you have to have an

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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?

Djibouti is a hardship post. It's a small country-city. There is not much to do. Infrastructure is rough. As of this writing, the city offers a bowling alley and go-karts. There are several dance clubs and bars, and now with the fancy new Kempinski hotel, a casino as well. There are bars -- you can get a drink -- but it's a small world and for families, the options are limited. Especially in summer, it can be difficult for children because they cannot really play outside. That said, the beaches outside of the city, though hard to get to, were gorgeous, fairly clean, and usually mostly empty. The snorkeling right off the coast was wonderful year-round, and I'm told the SCUBA diving was great too. Hiring a boat (or connecting yourself to someone who has one) is a great idea -- deep-sea fishing was wonderful, the islands were beautiful. Getting out of the city and visiting the mountains or other features was also ALWAYS a great experience, but this was like camping: you have to be comfortable sleeping in a hut and using a rough toilet/shower.

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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?

No. Djiboutians have their prejudices, but overall, theirs is a very open, friendly culture. They accepted Westerners and Western styles.

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

Visit the mountains. Monkies, baboons, camels... in forests filled with different varieties of acacia trees. Visit the lowest point in Africa, Lac Assal. See the flocks of flamingos and the funky hoodoo formations of Lac Abbe. Travel regionally to Yemen, Ethiopia, and Kenaya and Tanzania.

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

Djibouti is not known for local handicrafts. Woven palm baskets are about it locally. You can buy neato handicrafts from Ethiopia, Yemen, and Kenya, but nothing is low-priced.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Don't eat out a lot. Don't visit the fancy Kempinski too often. Don't do too many weekends in Dubai.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Djibouti would not be at the top of my list, but it's not a terrible place either. If you can eat well and visit fabulous unspoiled beaches, then it's not so so bad. If you needed to get away (and if you could get the time off), you could easily do long weekends in Dubai, Addis, or Nairobi. The work in Djibouti was extremely tough, and the tiny Embassy made for some extra challenges. These were challenges probably common to many small Posts.

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

Warm clothes. Street bike.

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3. But don't forget your:

Heavy duty surge protectors and UPS's for your household electronics or they may get fried by regular and extreme electrical spikes. Hats, sunglasses, sunscreen. Beach toys of all kinds. We wished we had a kayak. If you like to camp, Djibouti is good. As someone said: think of it as a two-year camping trip. That is a good attitude to take. You'll live in a nice house with a rough kitchen, and water might run down the stairs like a waterfall the two times a year when it rains. Don't forget mosquito repellent and mosquito netting -we were glad we had ours. Outdoor furniture like hammocks and sunshades was welcome on the beautiful roof-top terraces during the cooler winter months. Bring your mountain bike. Check to see if your housing will have closets -- bring Ikea-style shelving if not. And plan on a rough kitchen so Ikea-style rolling butcher carts and hanging pot racks might help.

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Djiboutian people are friendly and open. Women in Djibouti often play an important role as breadwinners and many run their own businesses. Many Djiboutian males chew Khat every afternoon. Educational opportunities are limited, and unemployment is high, though there is heavy economic investment largely from UAE investors. It was not a terrible place to live, but not wonderful either. Litter, trash, open sewers, giant pot-holes in the few paved streets, crumbling Colonial architecture, crushing heat and endless dust are all realities. But because the people are friendly and accepting, not as patriarchial as in surrounding cultures, and the countryside was accessible and unspoiled, it was not a terrible experience either.

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Djibouti, Djibouti 04/01/08

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?

2 years.

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

I am affiliated with the U.S. Government.

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

There are very few flights in and out of Djibouti.

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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 a few stand-alone houses and those tend to be very large. The most common type of housing is to have two to six units on one compound.

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

It's limited availability and extremely expensive. Djibouti is one of the most expensive places to live overseas.

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

Jet Ski.

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

There is no fast food and only one good restaurant outside of the Kimpinski Hotel.

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Daily Life:

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

The pouch is very good and you can get things in about 10-14 days.

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

Low quality and very expensive.

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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?

None available.

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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, very expensive.

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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?

Very little.

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

HUGE.

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Transportation:

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

Right-hand side of the road, but there are both right and left hand vehicles on the road and there are no rules.

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

Local taxis are unionized and considered safe.

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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?

4x4, bring extra tires.

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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, 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?

It's a monopoly, so there is no choice.

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

IVG from the Embassy.

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Pets:

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

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?

NO.

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

Casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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

Very little crime, but because of location there is a very real terrorism concern.

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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?

Very HOT! Health care is very bad.

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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 HOT, no - not all of the time. The weather from November to February is very nice.

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Schools & Children:

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

One French school and it is the worst overseas school I have seen in the foriegn service.

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

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?

Poor. It's hard to find good help.

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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.

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2. Morale among expats:

Average.

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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 like bars, yes. If not, then not much.

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

This not a family Post. It is good for singles.

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

NO.

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

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

Diving and fishing.

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

Nothing.

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9. Can you save money?

No, and until the management officer changes at Post COLA will remain under valued.

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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:

Winter clothes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hat.

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Wait until after this summer to go.

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