Addis Ababa, Ethiopia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 02/08/19

Background:

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

We've lived in Baku/Azerbaijan, Tashkent/Uzbekistan, and have now been in Addis Ababa for almost two years.

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

We're from the US. Trip is a long one. Flying from Addis to California through Frankfurt, Germany. It's not difficult to get to Addis from some large cities around the world, but there may not be flights to where you want to go very often throughout the week.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We have been here almost two years.

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

Work at the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is provided by US Embassy. We are not fond of our housing here and we are a flexible family used to living in other quirky cities. Yes, the house is gigantic, but what I wouldn't give for a little house and some green space for my children! The only positive is that we living in Old Airport so we're not far from the school. My husband has a long drive to the embassy for work though. For families living in Bole or elsewhere, their children ride the bus or are driven for up to an hour (depending on time of day) to get to and from school. Please really think about whether you want to come here and can handle living in a house that may frequently need repairs or having your child endure long "commutes" to school for a few years.

We have two children and we feel that there is no outside space for them to play when they are home. However, other people are lucky and have much nicer living conditions. It seems be risky, and it feels as though family size is not taken into consideration.

We've tried very hard to make the house safer (and asked for help) however, we still do not feel the house is as safe as it should be. There are many situations from many families here (including ours) who seem to have experienced dangerous issues with electricity and water, generator issues, and problems with mold (leak issues). There seem to be issues with electrical bills, and I could go on and on. We had no idea until we arrived how off-kilter things would seem.

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

Limited here but it's fine. Mangos in season here are great and you can find avocados, raspberries and strawberries certain times of the year. Apples are expensive. We don't eat the meat from here so we order from overseas or bring back with us when we can. You can find salmon exported here (expensive but a nice change from chicken)! For the quality, groceries are a bit expensive. Soaps, laundry detergent , cleaning supplies and dish soaps aren't that great but will do if you have nothing else. Might be a good idea to bring your own (or put in a shipment if you get one).

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

More wine and beer that we like...more dish soaps...

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

Deliver Addis is a good option and the food is usually fine (sometimes gets a bit tossed around in transit). A great restaurant is Mamma Mia and Mandoline.

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

We have ants off and on but not a big deal. We had rats and that was another problem that seemed to take a long time to address.

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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 mail services through the embassy.

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

Household help is inexpensive but we've struggled finding people who take the initiative and do quality work. We are not a family who would ever use a nanny but there are some good ones out there. People employ day guards, drivers, housekeepers, nannies, cooks.

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

The gym at the embassy is fine. We always just have our own gym stuff with us.

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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?

We never use credit cards here, it's all cash. There's the ATM at the embassy and at the school (ICS).

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

Learning some basic Amharic can be helpful and opens up doors, people seem more willing to help. Many Ethiopian speak English. There are classes and tutors teaching Amharic.

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

Yes, it would be difficult to get around given the condition of streets, sidewalks (if there are any), and would have limited access to buildings (stores, restaurants, etc.).

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are fine. Some of them are metered and others are not. We are told not to take local buses or trams. I've heard of some people taking trains but I'm not sure how safe they are. They're all affordable but as a foreigner, people will try to charge you a lot more.

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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?

SUV of some sort. You'll see that when you have problems with your car, the mechanics don't really know how to fix it or will fix it temporarily. Don't bring anything that can't get scratched, bumped, mirrors torn off of or can't handle a lot of rain.

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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?

There's no "high speed" internet! We've had worse in Baku, Azerbaijan, but it's still pretty bad here. The Embassy seems to be trying to find a better way to help people get internet more efficiently. It's been a mess since we arrived to get and pay for internet.

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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?

Bring your own and use a local provider. You'll have to buy data which can be expensive.

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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?

We only know of one veterinarian and not sure he's qualified but it's all we found here. We adopted two kittens from the street and this veterinarian came to our house when we needed his services. The cats seem to be fine.

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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 spouses I know of work at the embassies or work by telecommuting. I've been working at the school (ICS). Salaries aren't great but there's not much else to do here. It's sort of the norm in many countries for expat spouses and partners.

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

In public places, it's casual. Women here often wear jeans or long skirts/dresses.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. As in any giant crowded city, you need to be aware of your surroundings. I'm usually fine as a foreign woman walking in the city, but have had on occasion a person jump out at me or yell at me. It doesn't seem safe to be out alone at night whether you're a man or woman. Since we've moved here there have been many occasions of unrest in and outside of the city. There are protests. There are numerous reports of foreigners being attacked and/or being robbed. It's a challenging place to live.

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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?

We've been sick here often. There are always stomach problems that might be caused by food or water. There's so much air pollution that I think this also affects our immune systems. In more severe instances, we've gone to the Swiss Clinic for help and have been thankful for that. The embassy is far from our home so if we had an emergency it would be difficult to get there in time. We've been lucky so far and haven't needed much medical care. I think almost any serious medical condition would need evacuation from here!

Stress and even mild depression is a major health concern here for many people. It's a tough place to live when you see so many Ethiopians struggling to survive on a daily basis and feel almost helpless in it all.

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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?

Terrible air quality everywhere but if you live at the embassy then they say it's good. Where we live in Old Airport it's terrible. Pollution from vehicles and a lot of dust in the air.

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

I wouldn't trust anyone but myself with preparing my food if I had food allergies. Honestly, I don't think this city is where you want to go. Maybe find another amazing city in Africa!

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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 mentioned above stress and depression. People are generally not happy here, but this comes from our view of all of the people we know. It's a very difficult post to be at especially if you have children and you actually spend time with them. There's nothing to do in the city. And there's a risk when you travel outside of the city. Maybe we're more cautious than others?

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

There's the little rainy season in March and then the normal rainy season from June-August. Then for the rest of the year it's warm throughout the day and cold in the mornings and nights. We were happy to have a fire place to keep warm here. You need good blankets on your beds for a lot of the year.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are many international schools here (Greek, Italian, French, British, American. etc.). Our children (7, 10) attend ICS. We're pretty happy with the school and the school grounds are beautiful. Sometimes the communication from the school isn't very good. Our kids are happy and enjoying ICS.

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

ICS has a learning support team including a school psychologist, counsellor, speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist. The school tries to be inclusive. It's a work in progress. It's the most support I've seen at any international school my children have attended.

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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 many preschools here. My children didn't attend so I think most are inexpensive. The preschool at ICS is expensive but amazing. It's an inquiry based program. Young children can sign up for an after school program that costs extra. There may be changes next year for the Early Childhood program.

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

There are sports and activities in and outside of school. The opportunities inside the school have been good. The selection in the city and at school is limited but this school has more activities/sports than any other school we've been to. Students can play soccer, rugby, running and other sports depending upon their age. After school activities provide a wide range of choices from dance to art to math games.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large community that is spread out through the city. It's challenging to live here. We all make the best of it but it's tough.

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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?

Typical ways to socialize might include restaurants or formal events. There are some nice bazaars to go to that occur every month or around certain holidays. There are groups but we're not involved in those. We generally socialize with other families with kids.

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

I hate to answer because I'm not single and don't really know. I imagine you have more freedom so could get out more to see the country when it's safe. I think for anyone who lives here, there's just nothing to do. Going out to restaurants is okay. There are no parks or places to walk around. You have to be really careful if you go to the mountains. When you're out, people ask for money. It seem to be a good city in which to test your relationship.

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4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?

Yes, I've made friends with locals here at work and it's been great. Any foreigners stand out here so you just have to be ready to get stared at.

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

I think yes to all of these.

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

Amazing trip to Lalibela, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Blue Nile. Felt good after they lifted the security warning to get out of the city. The countryside was beautiful.
We found a great place to go horseback riding. Our children have learned to horseback ride here.
Love the coffee ceremony and the coffee here.
We enjoyed Meskel. ICS does a great job of inviting people to take part in Meskel.

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

Horseback riding on the mountain

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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 can find all of these things at the monthly bazaars or the bazaars at the school (baskets, furniture, art work, jewelry, pottery, clothing).

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

We have learned to be resilient and appreciate what we have. We've had good discussions with our kids about poverty.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

We wish we knew how difficult it was going to be do live here. We wish we knew how unsafe it would be to go out to the countryside. We wish we knew that we may end up unhappy with the housing issues or that morale would seem so low.

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

We love a challenge and adventure. We would not move here if we knew what we know now.

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

Good health, both mental and physical.

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4. But don't forget your:

Immodium, pepto, charcoal, and antibiotics.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 10/23/18

Background:

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

No, I've also lived in Beijing and Brussels.

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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?

The Netherlands.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years (2012-2014).

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

Business.

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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 are usually quite nice. Most expats have a two, three, or four bedroom stand-alone house on their own little compound, often with a garden and a patio. I'd say about half of the expats live the Old Airport area, the rest are spread throughout the city.

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

Basic groceries are available, but lots of the non-basic stuff can be unavailable at times, and some things are just not available ever.
Vegetables are seasonal, which means during winter options are limited. All export items are expensive, but if you don't buy those, you shouldn't break the bank shopping for groceries.

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

When we lived there, there were no restaurants that delivered, or we weren't aware of them at least. There are quite a few decent restaurants spread around the city, some take a while to get to. Local restaurants are everywhere, and cheap. Most international cuisines will have a restaurant, but sometimes only one.

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Daily Life:

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

Sending mail or packages is not a problem, post office works quite well. We received mail at work, since they didn't deliver to individual houses. PO boxes exist.

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

Cheap and easy. We paid 50 USD per month for a maid. She came three times a week for a few hours, but I've heard other expats paying the same for a full-time maid. Live-in nannies are paid about the same I think, and night guard as well.

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

They're around, although not many. Not cheap, but not expensive either.

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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?

ATMs aren't common, we used the one at the Hilton hotel which was near our house. Credit cards only accepted at upscale places. Mostly a cash economy. It might be different now, this was four years ago (2014).

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

You will get a lot of praise if you speak Amharic, but you can get by without, although you will need to use gestures a lot.

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

Yes, the smaller roads aren't great, and sidewalks are few and far between, plus lots of potholes. Also, Addis has a lot of hills, which would make it even harder.

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Transportation:

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

We were told big buses were unsafe, but if you mind your belongings, I think it should be ok. We mostly used the small blue buses, that travel set routes, and can be waved down anywhere, and will stop wherever along their route you ask them to do so. Cheap, but sometimes quite crammed (when you think it's at maximum capacity, the driver thinks it's only half full).

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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?

Buying a car locally is very, very expensive. We didn't drive one, we biked and used the small busses and sometimes a taxi (which are annoying because they don't use a meter and they overcharge expats, plus you have to negotiate the fare, which I hate).

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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?

Haha, noooooo. You can get internet at home, but it's slow and capped (unless you pay a lot more). It might be different now, this was four years ago (2014).

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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?

Local provider, not too expensive, decent coverage.

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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?

Yes, some veterinarians, not many, but some will come to your house. Not sure about kennels, but hypothetically you could pay your maid, gardener, or guard to take care of the dog for a monthly fee lower than one day at the kennel in some countries.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. 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.

We felt Addis to be very safe. We never felt like we couldn't walk home at night. There's crime in every city, so also some in Addis, but it's mostly crime of opportunity. Addis is probably safer than most US or European cities.

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

Medical care is not good. For anything serious, go abroad. I wouldn't want to undergo anything that would require full anesthesia in Addis.

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

Good to moderate, although I've heard the amount of cars has increased a lot since we left, so that might have affected the air quality.

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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 weather is pretty much perfect, apart from the rainy season, which last for three months, maybe four.

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Schools & Children:

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

Two main options: ICS and Sandford. ICS is the best (and the most expensive), but Sandford is decent enough. More international students at ICS, but both have good international teachers. Sandford offers IB, not sure what curriculum ICS offers.

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Expat Life:

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

Mid-size, due to all the NGOs and embassies. Morale seems ok, the hardships of living in a third world country creates some sort of 'we are all in this together'-feeling. We made great friends from all over the world in Addis.

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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?

Expat events are heavily visited.

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

Not great for singles I'd say. Good for couples (lots of day trips and short holidays to be done around Addis and in the rest of the country). Good for families I'd say, because you'll have a nice house with a garden, and nannies are cheap. Not many things to do for families though, except play dates.

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

No, I think you'll have to hide your sexual orientation if you're not straight. I'm sure there's some sort of underground scene, but probably hard to find and participate in.

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

It's such a beautiful country, with so many different things to do. For Africa, it has a lot of interesting cultural sights that you can visit, in addition to some wildlife excursions. It's by no means a mono-cultural country, so there a lots of different things to experience: Islamic culture in the East (Harar), Orthodox monasteries throughout the country and rock-hewn churches in Lalibella, relics from the Axum kingdom, the tribes in the South enough to fill many holiday breaks.

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

The Danakil depression is quite an experience. It's the hottest region on Earth, and contains sulfur lakes, a salt flat, the Erta Ale volcano that you can climb and spend a night at, next to the lava-filled crater. Not cheap, but worth it. Sweaty affair though.

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

Yes, some nice handicraft items.

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

It's a good base to explore the rest of the country from. The food is good, but the city doesn't have very much to offer to be honest. Friendly people though, and safe. Ethiopian Airlines is Africa's best airline, so it's a good base to fly out of to other countries, although travel is expensive within Africa.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The frequent power and water outages, and the very slow internet. Many expat homes have backup generators for power, and large water tanks to have a buffer for the water outages. We didn't, so it took some getting used to. Valuable experience because of it actually. The slow internet was my biggest source of frustration, as I never realized how addicted I was to what the internet has to offer.

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

Yes, I loved our time there, despite the hardships. It's a great country, and I'm so happy to have experienced it. Our fellow expats were quite wonderful, as it takes a certain type of person to move here (crazy and/or great). Two or three years is enough though.

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

Netflix subscription.

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4. But don't forget your:

Candles for when the power goes out.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 08/29/18

Background:

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

No, this is our third overseas assignment and first Africa posting.

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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?

The USA. Travel time ranges from 16 hours to 24+.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About one year.

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

Spouse works for US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is the biggest and worst challenge at this post. Sizes range greatly, yards, commute times, etc. The office that manages housing seems to face a lot of challenges, and I feel there is room for improvement.



Many houses are bigger than what you find in the US, but the maintenance does not seem up to US standards. The condition was not what we expected when we moved in, and numerous repairs have been necessary since then.



I feel as though if there is an earthquake here, none of the houses will be left standing. I have heard of people regularly getting regularly electrocuted here. Power outages, water shortages, gas shortages, etc. seem to be frequent.

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

Ethiopia regularly experiences shortages of the following items: milk, flour, sugar, eggs, etc., etc., etc. Produce is very affordable and okay quality. Imports are very expensive and not reliable. Local milk contains aflatoxin which is a known carcinogen and is not recommended for drinking. The good meat in the country is exported to South Africa. There are some small growers that sell high quality, organic produce, but it is seasonal. All produce in Ethiopia is seasonal. Most expats find a network of friends to keep tabs on what is available in the local market so that they can buy it when it is in stock. EVERY EXPAT brings back meat, cheese, fish, yogurt, sour cream, etc. in their suitcases any time they travel outside of Ethiopia.

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

We maxed out our shipments so we couldn't even dream of shipping more. The common theme is to ship liquid items since you can't ship them in through the embassy mail.

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

Restaurants are hit or miss and inconsistent. They struggle to stay open with the challenges of operating in Ethiopia. My understanding is that outside investments are not allowed, and all businesses must be majority Ethiopian-owned. Sishu, Bake and Brew, Five Loaves, Yod Abbisynia, etc. Generally though if you want to go out, you can find something. Keep your expectations low and take your probiotics, as stomach issues are common. DeliverAddis is a great option for home delivery.

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

Plenty of critters around here. Ants, roaches, rats, spiders, mites, Kenyan Ants (yikes), bullet ants (double yikes), moths, moths, moths, silver fish, and many, many more.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy mail. They recently started charging to send outbound packages on top of the fee to ship from Virginia to wherever it is going. Many people seemed disappointed to see that.

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

Plenty of availability and usually under US$200/month, but quality really varies. Most people have a housekeeper, day guard/gardener, cook, nanny and driver or some combination thereof. Just be careful and don't be afraid to fire bad staff or poor performers, as there are plenty of people that need work.

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

There are some gyms around town, not sure of cost.

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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?

Not widely accepted and be careful where you use it. ATMs are around but again be careful where you use it

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

Some but limited.

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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?

Little, you can find plenty of English speaker.

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

I think this would be a terrible option for someone with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Buses, trams, trains and blue donkeys are off limits. Taxis are expensive for a developing country. Many taxis are not in good condition and there are no seat belts. There are a few GPS-based taxi services.

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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?

An SUV with clearance. Buying locally is expensive but if it has been in country for many years than it will sell faster as the value-added tax (VAT) is reduced each year for locals.

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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 is extremely slow and expensive here, but it is internet in the developing world.

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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?

Bring an unlocked smartphone and carry a cheap local phone. Petty theft seems to be almost guaranteed.

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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?

Vet care seems to be poor. I have heard spaying and neutering are not done in sterile environment and sometimes on a kitchen table or in a carport. There is no quarantine. Rabies is common and there are street dogs are in many places. I have heard that the government puts out poisoned meat for street dogs to eat with absolutely no notice to the public. It could then be picked up by birds and dropped in yards which could then be eaten by family pet. Adopting local pets comes with risks but many people do it.

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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?

NGOs, inside embassies/diplomatic missions. Telecommuting is challenging because of the internet and I have heard people have lost jobs because of it. Working inside Ethiopia can be difficult unless your government has an agreement. Local salaries appear to be low.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

You are not allowed to volunteer in Ethiopia as it is seen as taking away job opportunities from locals.

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

Business/business casual at work. Formal at formal events.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. I have heard of pick-pocketing of money, phones, etc. in a variety of ways: hey will spit on you and as they wipe it off steal from you or they will distract you with flyers. I've heard of car mirrors being taken off the car while one sits at a traffic light, and some violent attacks but those are more rare. I've even heard of theft inside the mission, never leave anything 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?

Check CDC website at https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/destinations/traveler/none/ethiopia. Medical care is poor. Embassy Med Unit has vaccines and staff to support. Staffing levels vary on timing and the availability of EFMs to apply for work.



If you are not with the US Embassy, it is my understanding you will need to go outside of Ethiopia for vaccines. The country keeps only those for 9 months old children and younger. Very limited.

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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?

Bad and this is a post with heavy metal poisoning. Those with asthma or upper respiratory issues should not come here. The high altitude and poor air quality (much from diesel, lack of catalytic converters and burning trash) makes getting colds frequent and difficult to overcome.

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

Pollen does not seem to be a big issue here, but mold is. Even in high altitude mold grows extensively during the rainy season. This year it is lasting four to five months instead of two to three. Those with food allergies should just be mindful when eating out. There are so many food allergies to have that it's hard to say.

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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)?

Depression, as it feels tough, isolating and hectic here. It's also seems crowded and can feel very lonely. People don't have seasonal affective disorder but they definitely have depression. It's important to have a plan if you think you could experience depression or your children. I've heard of children leaving post because they have struggled here.

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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?

Climate is cool in the evening and warm during the day (in the sun). Rainy season can be very cold compared to dry season.

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Schools & Children:

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

ICS is good. Communication from the school seems terrible. I've found some excellent teachers, some meh teachers. The school has plenty of room for improvement. The current head of of the school seems like he can't be trusted. It is a truly international school but the campus is owned by the US Embassy and that is does not seem to be kept in mind.



Some kids go to Lycee and like it there. Some go to Lion Heart Academy. There are a handful of preschools in the area, too.

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

ICS -- little to none. you may be requested to pay out of pocket if they decide that your child has behavioral issues even after being evaluated and shown not to have behavioral issues -- tens of thousands of dollars.

Lycee -- may be better equipped since they are part of the French School System.

Some pre-schools are working to build special needs programs.

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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?

Preschools are available and not much cheaper than ICS. They are spread out around the city. The level of the school seems to vary greatly. Most families hire a nanny to help out. I would not expect to much from your nanny.

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

Very limited in my opinion.

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Expat Life:

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

Very large in size.

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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?

Through school, get togethers at houses, jazz clubs, and embassy events. I'm not sure about clubs

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

It's better for singles and couples as the stresses seem to be easier to manage than for families. That said, plenty of families have a wonderful tour here.

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

NO! It is illegal in Ethiopia.

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

There is no gender equality in this country. Fairly religious tolerant so long as you are Christian or Muslim.

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

So easy to get out of Ethiopia on Ethiopian airlines. You can make this your launchpad to see Africa and Europe. Even though it is a real struggle to be here, you find amazing people to spend your time with and make it good.

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

Traveling inside Ethiopia is relatively easy too. Hidden gems? No, anytime there is a gem the entire expat community shares it! HA!

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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 it depends on your style. Opals. Coffee. Coptic Crosses. Woven cotton things...

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

travel to other parts of Africa and Europe

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How crowded and polluted it is and that is a very isolating place.

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

No. Largely due to work-related issues.

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

Taste of really good food, fast commute, and clean air.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience, manners and acceptance.

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

There are many that can be found via a Google search.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

It is a tough place, but you can make it work for you if you keep trying and take breaks away from here. You have to get away or Addis will chew you up.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 07/28/18

Background:

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

No, this was our eighth overseas post. Other posts were in Asia, Middle East, and Africa.

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

Virginia in the US. Roughly 14 hours with Ethiopian Airlines from Washington D.C.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three 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?

For USG employees, houses are rent out in local economy all over the city. Some comes with large yard, others does not.
It is hard to rent a decent house under $2000 per month rent in Addis. Most of the lower rent houses tend to be old and small in size - bungalow style with 2 rooms plus but may come with yard. In Old Airport 2 years ago, if you pay around $4500 per month, you could get a house yard and good size house.



Newer and larger house does not mean it stands well. Most houses are built with poor quality and an odd layout and you will more likely to have maintenance issues throughout the year. Some landlords will increase the rent 20% a year, so when you rent your house, so do lock in your rent while you are there and make it clear what is landlord's responsibility and your responsibility once things do not work. Local landlords have different way of approaching than western ones.



Bole is very convenient as far as accessibility to restaurants, shops, airport, etc. Many families with children that attend ICS live near school in Old Airport where there are fewer restaurants. If you live in Bole Homes (by the airport), Gerji, or CMC, your childrens' commute to ICS will be long. Addis has many road construction to accommodate large traffic, and major construction in Kera area will affect the ICS community. Lebu has very nice gated community, and it is close to Old Airport, but the road congestion is normal and it will take you so much time in and out of the area.

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

Availability is not stable. Some items, such as sugar, imported butter, cream, Jasmine rice, glutinous rice, coconut milk, good orange juice, and long shelf rice milk, as such disappear from store shelves for a while. Due to depreciation of the ETB, businesses suffer from lack of hard cash like US$. With the high import tax and regulations, imported goods become scarce time to time and are quite expensive. With civil unrest happens in surrounding cities of Addis, roadblocks could happen, and vegetables and fruits can seem to cost 100% more than the previous week, and sometimes one cannot buy them. Groceries can be more expensive if you buy at supermarkets.



Throughout the year, you will see basic vegetables, such as potatoes, carrots, onions, cabbages, tomatoes, garlic, green beans, peppers, beets, leeks, avocados in small local veggie shops, and additionally broccoli, cucumbers, zucchinis, herbs, red peppers, and others in super markets. Bananas are available throughout the year. Other fruits are seasonal or imported. Electronics such as kitchen appliances to fridge to washer seem expensive.

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

What I was happy to have brought:

Canned fruits - pineapple, berries, mandarine oranges, pear, peaches.

Canned fish - sardines (available in local stores, but pricy).

Asian ingredients - Thai curry pastes, fish sauce (available in Fantu sometimes), Pad Thai sauce, Chinese sauce, Dried noodles, Instant Noodles (we were not fond of Indo-mee, and other Vietnamese brand noodles), coconut milk cans (available in Fantu sometimes)

Vanila extract

Sugar and short grain rice. Rice that we bought in a local grain shop turned out gray and did not taste good even though we throughly washed prior to cooking. Packaged imported rice was good, but at the end of our stay, we could only find Basmati rice.


When we go overseas, we bring back butter, cured meats, and cheese. Our friend recently bought 1kg of cheddar cheese for 2500 ETB in Addis.

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

'Deliver Addis' is useful. There are takeouts and take away available. There are many restaurants to choose from. Some are good for Addis, others are not stable in quality and taste. Indian, Mediterranean, Yemeni, Brasilian, Sudanese, Ethiopian, Italian, Burgers, Pizzas, Sandwich, Japanese, Chinese, Korean, Lebanese, French, etc. There are lots of coffee shops.

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

Bedbugs, fleas, and mites.

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Daily Life:

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

Through diplomatic pouch. You can also receive your packages and letters to your business or organization's office. You can send your packages and letters through local post offices. When you send a package, do not seal it. Postal workers have to check the content of your package. The main office near Churchill street is very crowded, so go to the ones in the city.

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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 we have found that those that seem good and speak English are hard to come by. Household help can cost from 2500 ETB to 9000 ETB per month, 5 days a week (8 to 11 hours a day), at least from what I have seen. They may have bonuses twice a year; some give one month salary each time, some give half of a month salary each time. Some do not pay medical, transportation, and phone card fees, and others do not. Some give Ethiopian holidays off, and others may give US or other holidays off.



The depreciation of the ETB, cost of gas, food, transportation, and rent have gone up, and it seems to make the lives of locals harder. You may want to consider this when you negotiate the salary. It's my understanding that one room rent near Haya Hulet can cost 800 to 1000 ETB per month. A kilo of bananas used to be 15 ETB and sometimes it goes up to 30 to 40 ETB per kilo.

Many expats hire day and night guard, a domestic help, a nanny, and a driver.

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

Local gyms are available throughout the city whether they are quality ones or not:

Old Airport - Adot, Laphto - both small, but decent

Meskel Square - Ti'la - vey expensive but quite nice - has juice bar, but small

Bole - Bole Rock

Hotels has gym - Capital hotel, Sheraton, Hilton, etc.

Juventus Italian Club does not have a gym but has group exercises like Capoeira, kick-boxing, Zumba, Tae Kwon Do, Yoga, Pilates, tennis, football, basketball courts, and table tennis.

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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. ATM are everywhere, but ask your friends which one they use. Once your card is eaten by the ATM machine, it is a lot of hassle.

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

Catholic, Evangelican, Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Jehova's Witness, etc.

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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?

You can get by without Amharic, but it is definitely helpful if you speak even a word of it. You can bring smiles on locals. :-). Classes and tutors are available.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

Except for taxis, they are affordable, but none seem safe. I have heard local buses, and trains have pick picketers. I have also heard issues with mini buses and female passengers being robbed. Many taxis do not appear to have seat belts, or nobs for windows, and doors may not close properly. I was in one when a door opened suddenly while running (most of them are very old). Newer taxis say that they are metered but most of the meters do not work. Many expats have private taxi guys that they use. Their price can be a bit higher, but for peace of mind, they may worth it. Taxis are quite expensive and you can easily spend $20.

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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?

Toyota high clearance vehicle due to pot holes, lots of water during rainy season. The carjacking risk is low, but side mirror theft and burglary can happen. Within three years, I have heard of three friends side mirrors being stolen. I have heard that local criminal groups will then try to sell the mirrors back to you.



Do not leave anything visible in the car. Your child's school backpack can be a target of burglary. Recent years, even Toyota parts may be hard to get due to local businesses' lack of hard cash.

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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?

ADSL is available but not high speed and is not reliable and very expensive compared to US. It can take a week to 3 month to install. Once it is out, it takes 2 days to 3 months to fix or never able to fix. The new Prime Minister has talked about privatizing communication sector, so there may be better services with competition of companies with lower price in the near or far future.

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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 brought unlocked iPhones. You can get local smart phones or other kinds of phones. I used local provider, Ethio Telecom.
For expats, you need to bring these items to Ethio Telecom:
1. Passport

2. A copy of your passport page that has entry date stamp (for registering your phone)

3. Your phone

4. Cash - 30 ETB for 3G SIM card. More for 4G SIM card, and how much ever you want to store value in your phone.

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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 vets, but we do not have pets, so we do not know much one would spend.

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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?

Diplomatic missions, international school teachers, independent consultants and contractors, home based business, telecommuting, full-time and part-time. The local salary is not that high. If you are hired locally, make sure that the local employer comply with local regulations.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are lots of opportunities within your child's school. Orphanages, street children recovery institution, battered women centre, and diplomatic spouses group also have opportunities.

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

Same as U.S. Some wear formal dress at balls like Irish Ball, Marine Ball, Christmas balls, and such.

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Health & Safety:

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

There seem to be lots of pickpocketers, crimes of opportunity happens during day time and night times, especially after 9 pm. We learned that the following incidents happened to our friends while we were there, and we have heard of more. Just be aware of surroundings and do not walk alone after 9 pm.



1. Group of thieves or even children may surround a person and take your computer, iPhones, money, wallet when you walk alone.

2. Someone spills drink on you, and pretend to wipe off the liquid, but take what is in your pocket or purse.

3. Some may ask for direction, and take things from you.

4. Someone will point to your tire and when you stop and look at your tire, others will take your belonging.

5. I have heard of many who have been attacked from behind and arm lock your neck. While you lose consciousness, all your belongings are gone.

6. You do not lock your car door. When you stop, robbers will get in and take you to isolated place. Your belongings are taken.

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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 are a couple of good western operated hospitals, the Nordic and Swedish hospitals. Overseas trained local doctors are available.
I do not know specifically what conditions require medical evaluation, but sounds like there are enough of it.



Health concerns do come with living here for sure. Food poisoning, sickness due to water-borne illness/sanitation issues, skin disease transmitted by people, bug bites, etc.; not just one or two, some people can get more than 20 bites a day, to respiratory issues, dental emergency. You do not want to have any serious injuries.

I heard that there was insulin shortage in the country. Local medicine is quite inexpensive.

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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?

Bad air quality. It does have an impact on health.

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

Bad quality of air and people burn their trash outside and they cause respiratory problem.
Many stray dogs are out and some get bitten as they walk outside.
I think you can control food allergies, eating at home.

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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)?

Not that I know of, but many feel life is Addis is very stressful.

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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?

Very comfortable temperature over all, but the temperature and weather can change dramatically within a day, between 8C to 27C. Layers of clothing are important. The rainy season is in June, July, August, September. Small rainy season in March or April, but every year was different. During the dry season, you can expect to have shortage of water supply. During the rainy season, you can expect power outage more so than rest of the year.

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Schools & Children:

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

ICS is expanding and getting more students every year. It is the most expensive school out of all the international schools in Addis. Some upper grade teachers can have improvements, and some are very good. (I say there is no perfect school or human beings). Our child had an amazing experience at the elementary school here. The new head of school has different approach from the last one, and hopefully will move forward into a good future of the school. Other international schools are: Sandford, Bingham, Italian, Swedish, Andinet, Greek, Lycee Francaise, and German. There may be more.

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

I do not know much, but Andinet School has a good special ed teacher I heard. ICS accepts children with Down syndrome, and autism. Please inquire the school, as every situation is different.

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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?

Preschools and day care are available but I do not know anything about them.

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

Some sports activities for kids are held at Juventus. Horseback riding (Italian Embassy, one near Mekanisa Ato church), ballet, soccer, and are available. There may be more.

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Expat Life:

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

Expat community is big. Overall morale is rather low.

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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?

Going out to eat, home entertainment, hiking, running. There are running group to toast masters. Your children's school or organization may have more.

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

Single people - I heard from some singles that it was hard to meet other singles, but I saw opportunities for get together.

Couples - maybe best out of there groups. No need to worry about children' sickness or education.

Families - there may be quite a lot of challenges. There aren't many public places such as parks for small children to go out and play outside. The air quality is not good, and you may worry about what if situations like sickness, big injuries, and others. We wished that there was good medical facilities.


On the other hand, Addis Ababa is the hub to many international destinations in the world. You will enjoy time out of the country with easy access and quite affordable.

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

Not sure.

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

I sensed that it is more like male chauvinistic society. I sensed locals were not fond of Chinese nationals. There seems to be division among local ethnic groups.

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

Lalibela, Gondar, Axum, Bahadar, Arba Minch, Harare, Gheralta, Simien, and Bale Mountain. Some say Danakil is the best. Some do camping, trekking. If my children were older, I would have gone to the south to visit some tribes.

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

Entoto Mountain was one of the good place to go running, for walk, and camping, however, recently I have heard that many foreigners have been attacked more aggressively than before. Maybe behind British Embassy area to rock hewn church ruin can be enjoyed. There are one day trips that you can make from Addis if there is no restrictions due to civil unrest.

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

Ethiopian silk and cotton products. Baskets, some art, and coffee.

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

Humbling experiences and able to see things different ways. Nice weather during dry season.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

There were a couple of things that I would have liked to known before moving here.
1. Every process of getting a driver's license to selling a car takes so much time and effort, especially when you have to do it on your own. You need to be on top and aware of every step, even if your organization's worker is helping with you. They may have different time frame than yours.

2. As a USG family, I felt like the organization for getting things done needs to be better.

3. When you leave the post, and if you are selling your car, please be aware. Your car is purchased by duty free personnel such as diplomats. Once he/she pays you, and register the car with the government, then your belongings will leave the country. If you sell your car to non duty-free person, such as locals, he/she may pay for the car, but if fails to pay for duty, therefore, cannot register the car, then your shipment will NOT leave the country until the person pays the duty and register.

4. There are so many regulations.

5. I do not think the internet is reliable which is hard for students, and family.

6. Civil unrest can limit your travel within this beautiful country.

7. Cost of living.

8. Things are hard to get such as gas, diesel, food, quality goods.

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

No, unfortunately. Three years was good for me.

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

Any expectations of western world, sour and bad attitude, closed mindedness. Bad attitude is like a flat tire, you can’t get very far until you change it.

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4. But don't forget your:

Low expectations. Positive attitude. Remember that there are people with nothing that still manage to smile. Sense of gratitude. Be courageous. Adventurous mind. Your comfort food like special chocolate from Trader Joe's. :-).



We were glad that we brought winter gear for visiting Europe during winter. We were happy to bring our swim suits for visiting Seychelles, Zanzibar, and Mombassa. I was happy to have rain boots for walking in mud and deep water during rainy season. I was happy to that I brought seeds to grow some vegetables in my pots.

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

There are books and movies out there, but I just did not have time, so I check youtube about Addis. Some people may have blog. ICS has a great compilation of information. Some embassies and NGOs have information, too.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This post is solely from my experiences and added with my friends' experiences. Others may have different experiences from mine. My answers to some of the questions may scare you, but these are normal for developing countries. It is an amazing country with rich history and culture and good people. Stay healthy. Try to embrace your life in Addis. You can always change your attitude and do not complain unless you are willing to change it. You can always find good and the best in worst situations if you encounter. You will never know what brings into your life.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 01/01/18

Background:

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

We have lived in Jordan and Israel, so this is our third post overseas.

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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?

The USA, There are direct flights to DC from Addis or many options if you fly through Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

12 months.

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

We are here with the US embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is very mixed: we have a big house with no yard some have smaller houses with a larger yard. The houses are very spread over the city. The international school is located in old airport. which can be almost one hour from the embassy in rush hour traffic. The quality of housing is not great. You will be spending a lot of your time on work orders and following up on work orders. Most of the time things will not get fixed, so you will have to live with it. It can be very frustrating.

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

The US embassy has a commissary, which has some things. Other items you can get in the local market, but many times there will be shortage of things like cream for cooking, sugar and at time gas for your car. Things here are very expensive especially if you want Western quality food products (if they are even available). Bring a big cooler for when you travel.

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

Anything with liquids, because you cannot ship liquids through pouch.

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

There are about 10 restaurants that we use at times, like pizza, hamburger Ethiopian food and a few Italian places. But again if you are a foodie forget about great food in Addis.

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

Addis is at high altitude so no malaria, but as soon as you leave Addis you need to take malaria meds.

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Daily Life:

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

Through the US embassy.

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

Household help is fairly cheap. Some people have a full-time housekeeper and a day guard, and some people hire private drivers for full time or part-time.

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

There are a few gyms around--not sure about the quality. There are a few expats that teach yoga and Pilates.

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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 hit or miss. Some bigger stores accept them, but it all depends if there is a internet connection that day. Ethiopia is mostly a cash society.

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

I think there are a few English-speaking churches around.

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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?

For shopping and getting around, you will be fine with English, but it is always very helpful to know a few phrases in Amharic.

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

A very hard city to navigate when you have a disability.

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Transportation:

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

Local buses are not recommended but taxis are cheap.

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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 four-wheel drive. The roads here a terrible, and in rainy season they become even worse. Parts are hard to get so bring whatever you need from the U.S.

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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 is the worst internet we have ever experienced and the most 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?

We use a local provider for our cell phones.

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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?

I do not have any pets so I am not sure, but I know that people have vets for their dogs and cats.

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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 are not very many options for jobs, Telecommuting is difficult because of the slow internet.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Ethiopians like to dress nicely but casual clothing is accepted.

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Health & Safety:

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

There is some pickpocketing around town but I am not sure it is any more than in a major European city.

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

Medical care is terrible, if there is any issues you will get medical evacuation. most likely to South Africa. All hygiene is a big problem here, and the water is not clean.

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

The pollution is really bad. We have purifiers in the house that we brought from home, and I am really happy we did. If you are in town it can be hard to breathe at times.

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

I would be careful if you suffer from asthma.

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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)?

Morale at post is very low, and people can feel discouraged about being here.

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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?

Addis has a nice climate, because of the altitude. The summer season is not to hot and the rainy season can get cold and wet but not too bad.

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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 International school here in Addis is our saving grace, the school is wonderful. You feel welcome right away and the academics are also good.

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

It is a very accommodating school.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

I think there are a few around town, and ICS also has a preschool.

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

There are almost none.

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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 in Addis is very big, there are a lot of embassies and NGO's. I think the overall morale is pretty low.

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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?

School is a great place to meet for coffee, otherwise I think most people host their own events at home.

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

I think the single crowd here are doing OK. There are a few bars and clubs. For families the school is great but Addis does not have a lot to offer. No playground or green space. There is only one movie theater, and not much else to do.

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

I am not sure but I do not think so.

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

Ethiopia has a lot of tribal issues.

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

Going to Lalibela and seeing the rock churches. Also Arba minch is nice to see wildlife.

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

Going to the Portuguese bridge.

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

No this is not a shopping post, but you can buy some local handicrafts like scarves and handwoven towels, baskets and coffee.

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

There is a lot of sunshine and people are nice.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How bad the pollution is and how poor the overall morale is among the embassy staff. Also how little there is to do in Addis itself.

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

No.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 09/05/17

Background:

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

No. I've lived in Western Europe, and also West Africa.

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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?

Houston. The trip is usually 30 hours or so, with a layover in Frankfurt. If you're based in DC you can now fly direct, though on the ADD-IAD leg this requires a fuel-up stop in Dublin. 17 hours is a VERY long time to be on a plane.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I live in a retro '60s "villa," basically a small bungalow with a huge yard. This is not representative. Most housing at post is small houses with no yard in Bole, or huge rambling manses with no yard in Old Airport. I make repair and maintenance requests often, but have not had serious problems with my house. There is a generator and I use it frequently, as city power is unreliable.

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

The embassy commissary has a good selection of U.S. groceries, though at a significant markup. On the local market meat quality is very poor and vegetables often leave something to be desired, though the fruit is wonderful. You can even get locally-grown strawberries and raspberries here, very rare for the tropics. Cheese is not a big part of the local diet and is sometimes flown in frozen, which messes with the texture. People often bring back meat and cheeses in their suitcases from Nairobi or other international destinations.

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

Bring your favorite brands of soaps and detergents, since you can't send those through the pouch. Any particular beers or wines you like. Pet food and cat litter are not really available outside the commissary and there you have only one choice, so put Fido's favorite kibble in your consumables shipment.

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

There are a lot of good restaurants to choose from, though they can be hard to find the first time. I was amazed by the quality of the Italian food, complete with handmade fresh pastas. Other options include French, Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Greek, Indian, Yemeni, burgers, brunch, pizza, and Ethiopian, of course. If you are vegan you will love this country; due to the huge number of animal-product-free "fasting" days in the Ethiopian Orthodox calendar, every single restaurant has at least one vegan option at all times. Costs are probably on par with what you'd pay in DC, so eating out is not cheap. There is one delivery service I know of - Deliver Addis - and it works quite well if you're very careful about where you put your house marker when you sign up. Don't expect your food in under an hour though.

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

I had ants for a while until we sprayed, but nothing out of the ordinary.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch. DPO is still "coming soon," but don't hold your breath. Plan for about two weeks from order to arrival, though sometimes you can get stuff in a week if you're lucky.

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

Most people seem to have a day guard and a housekeeper, either full- or part-time. Drivers, cooks, and nannies are also available for those who want them. Quality seems to vary greatly, particularly English ability. So cheap though! My (minimal) staff costs less than $300 a month, total.

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

The U.S. embassy has a small gym and a swimming pool long enough for laps, which is nice in the dry season. Bole has several gyms, often in hotels, including personal trainer services. No idea on price. Addis is home to Africa's oldest Hash House Harriers club, which includes both running and walking trails. Yoga and Pilates classes are available inside and outside the embassy.

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

Major hotels and some tour companies will take credit cards, but it's basically a cash economy.

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

There are at least Catholic and Protestant services available.

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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 speak no Amharic beyond pleasantries and rarely have a problem making myself understood, though taxi drivers may need some supplemental hand gestures. My housekeeper runs a lot of my errands for me, which helps a lot. Classes are available at similar rates to the U.S.

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

Yes. Sidewalks are limited and often cracked and broken, doorways are narrow, and even single-story houses often have a few stairs.

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Transportation:

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

We're only allowed to take taxis, and these are very hit or miss. Many of the little blue Lada taxis do not have seatbelts or working headlights and/or windshield wipers. There are some taxi companies whose vehicles seem to be in better condition. Most taxis are not metered and those that are don't want to use them - you're unlikely to be able to bargain any trip down to less than $10. Build a relationship with a taxi driver so he knows how to find your house, since addresses don't really exist here.

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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 something with a high clearance for the potholes and rainy-season floods. Something you won't worry about getting banged up a bit - the driving here is INSANE and everyone ends up with scratches and dents or worse. There is a Toyota dealership in town that can source parts and fix you up if needed. With other makes you basically have to mail-order parts and hope the embassy motor pool or a general mechanic can do the job. My car has 4-wheel drive; I rarely use it, but a couple of times I've been glad to have it. On the bright side, due to Ethiopia's unique vehicle import tax regime, depreciation basically doesn't exist and you'll be able to sell your car at the end of the tour without losing a penny.

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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?

Ha. Ethiopia has the world's most expensive internet, and it is highly unreliable. For my $150/month I can sometimes stream low-res with a little buffer time, and other times have absolutely nothing. Bring books and DVDs.

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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?

EthioTelecom is your one and only choice. The 3G service is quite good, when the government hasn't shut it down, but again, data is expensive. Sometimes you have to dial a few times before the call actually goes through, but it usually works fine. Roaming is available in a surprising number of countries, but don't even think about trying roaming data unless you have a whole bunch of money you don't know how to spend.

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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 vets who can provide basic services, but only the basics.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I don't think spouses can work on the economy, though there are a number of international organizations in town that offer some employment opportunities. There are some EFM jobs available at the embassy. Telecommuters would have a hard time here given the lousy internet situation.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Business or business casual depending on your job and your boss. Casual Fridays. You can break out your tuxedo and ball gown for the Marine Ball and maybe one or two other events, but you're also fine in a suit or cocktail dress.

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Health & Safety:

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

Pickpockets are an issue when walking around, and have reportedly been getting more violent and aggressive. Otherwise Addis is a pretty safe city. Wear your seatbelt.

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

Medical care here is not good, and folks are regularly medically evacuated for anything more than routine colds and GI issues. Between the rainy season and poor sanitation, you will get both of those often. On the bright side, Addis is too high up for malaria, so you will only need anti-malarials when traveling out of town.

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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 not good, due mainly to unfiltered vehicle exhaust and some trash burning, though certainly not at Beijing levels. You can check out the EPA air quality monitor readings here: https://airnow.gov/index.cfm?action=airnow.global_summary#Ethiopia$Addis_Ababa_Central.



The altitude (7000-8000 ft, depending on what part of town) can compound breathing issues, though most people eventually adjust.

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

This is not a good place for people with asthma or other breathing problems. I'd be wary about eating out if your food allergies are serious.

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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)?

People get stressed out, mainly from accumulated small stressors. There's also the chaotic driving, which has increased my swearing ten-fold.

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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?

Most of the year it's 75 degrees and sunny, all day, every day. The summer rainy season gets dreary and it rains very hard for an hour or two every day. It can get quite cold at night and houses have no insulation or heating, so bring some thick blankets.

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Schools & Children:

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

People seem to really like the international school, and a French school is also available.

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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 are several options for pre-schools, though I don't have any experience with them

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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 here is huge and varied. There are over 100 diplomatic missions in Addis, plus the United Nations and the African Union, and plenty of NGO workers and students and teachers and businesspeople and more. Addis is a love-it-or-hate-it kind of town, with very few people in the middle. Even people like myself who enjoy living here need a break now and then.

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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?

Eating out, movies, dancing, live music, house parties. There are lots of festivals and bazaars in the dry season, especially in the run-up to Christmas. Internations is relatively active here, and the Hash is a good way to meet people.

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

Addis is a good city for anyone who's willing to make a bit of an effort to find a social circle and make their own fun. However, my colleagues with children have complained that there are few activities for kids outside of what is offered at school.

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

Ethiopians have a very strong taboo against homosexuality but are not confrontational. I know one gay man here with a partner; he tells people they're friends or roommates, and if locals have any doubts about that they do not bring it up.

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

There are some tribal and religious prejudices in Ethiopia, though as a foreigner those attitudes generally do not apply to you. If you are Asian or Asian-looking you may be mistaken for Chinese, who are not always popular due to their complicated economic relationship with Africa. Ethiopian society is highly patriarchal and significant gender inequalities exist, but again, as a foreigner this does not apply to you. Catcalling on the street is no worse than in New York.

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

Ethiopia is a big and beautiful country, and I still haven't made it to all the places I want to go before I leave. For cultural experience you must visit the stone churches in Lalibela. The most amazing natural site I've been to was the Dallol hydrothermic pools in the Danakil Depression, though this trip is quite demanding and not for the faint of heart! The Simien and Bale Mountains are also breathtaking.

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

The annual Meskel celebration is a lot of fun, with bonfire block parties on every street. If you're into coffee some local coffee shops do tasting events.

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

Silver jewelry is nice and relatively inexpensive. Opals are also mined in Ethiopia, though not cheap. There are lots of scarves and other handwoven linens, and leather bags and accessories. There are many craft bazaars in the dry season, especially close to Christmas.

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

Addis has the best airline links in Africa, so it's easy to get to Europe, Asia, or elsewhere in Africa on vacation. Massages are very cheap, and the coffee is incredible.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

All the history! I highly recommend reading up on Ethiopia's fascinating history before you arrive; it really helps put things in context.

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

Absolutely. I like it here so much I extended.

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

Antimalarials, Netflix addiction.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good humor, big umbrella.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 08/31/16

Background:

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

No. We had lived in Morocco together; my husband has been all over - Pakistan (x2), Tashkent, numerous extended TDYs.

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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?

US (DC). On average, from door to door is almost 24 hours, given the nightmare of the airport here in Addis (factor in three hours at least and you will mostly need it, especially on a Friday or Saturday night - all flights out of her are late evening for the US).

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3. How long have you lived here?

12 months.

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

US embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is fine-ish. All large houses/compounds (although it's my understanding the embassy is going to add some apartments to the pool this years). On one hand, I'm not complaining: I live here for free, thanks to the US tax payers and for that, I'm honestly really grateful. However, let's be real: the houses are fraught with issues...constant work orders in at any one time. There is nothing in the way of insulation so you will be cold here, especially from June through September when the primary rainy season is in effect. It gets cold at night. The embassy provides space heaters but a) those always scare me, especially given the electrical nightmare that is Addis and b) they are not efficient, plus the metal gets scalding hot and don't really emit heat beyond a couple inches' radius of the heater.

Mold. None of the bathrooms have exhausts/vents. This means a growing (literally) wave of what almost looks like black mold in our bathroom that peaked during rainy season. The embassy's solution? Paint over it. Neither of us has respiratory issues nor are we smokers but honestly, don't come here if you have breathing issues (we'll get to air quality later). I know there were posts about pests/rodents - honestly, we don't have too much of an issue although the rainy season seems to have brought ants. Occasionally we see some quasi-scary looking spiders but it's not terrible.

Location - we're in Bole Rwanda, adjacent to 'little Mogadishu' because of the large population of Somalis. Without traffic, which is almost never, we are about 25 minutes (6 miles) from the embassy. With traffic and when it's raining, just forget about getting home in anything less than an hour.

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

Hit-or-miss, expensive and crappy quality. Also, as someone else posted, you can't find everything you need at one store so you have to go to at least two or three. Because traffic is a constant nightmare AND there is, literally, no parking, this translates into an all-afternoon affair and not a cheap one at that. You can find some western things at some of the stores but you will pay through the nose for those. You can also hit the commissary up but be prepared for a limited quantity and to pay a huge mark-up. Wine/beer - you can get but don't expect the best quality and expect to pay more for it. HH supplies, like soap and bleach? Again, the quality is terrible. Bring a lot of that with you when come to post...you will be thankful you did later.

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

Laundry detergent, paper towels, toilet paper, hand soap, tooth paste, pasta sauce, peanut butter/jams, cat/dog food. As someone else said, if we could ship perishables - definitely cheeses (all sorts), veggies and meats.

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

We use Deliver Addis frequently - quality is hit or miss and luckily, the guys know where we live but as the other person stated, forget about addresses so expect the drivers to get lost the first couple of times. Oh and nobody, and I mean nobody in this country, seems to have change and everything is cash so plan on having lots of smaller bills on hand for everything (restaurants frequented by ex-pats are an exception).

There are some decent places but one reason we don't venture out is that it's a process: traffic, no parking, traffic after dinner when it's likely darker out and way, way more dangerous to drive because there are few street lights. They are useless and pedestrians just don't understand that while they have the right, as they should, stepping out in front of car in the dark when nobody can see you, is very dangerous. Driving is a nightmare. So...on the rare occasion we do go out to a restaurant, there are some decent Italian places, relatively.

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

See above. Not really although a bit of an issue with ants during the rainy season.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch. Allegedly, DPO "...is coming soon" but I've heard that for the last 12 months. Not holding my breath. I sent a set of important documents (was selling my house in the US) by DHL and it made it to DC within three working days. I was pleasantly surprised.

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

While I've only encountered having to hire domestic household staff at one other post, this has been more challenging. People definitely try to gauge you (expected) but the quality of work has been hit or miss. Also, English is an issue and if you do find someone who speaks English, s/he will expect more. I will say, however, that paying more someone with experiences of having worked with expats is worth it. We do not have a driver but employ a day guard/gardener and a housekeeper/cleaning woman. The embassy provides night guards (non-optional).

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

I'm a gym rat and having access to a place to exercise is important. There is a gym at the embassy which is fine but come lunch time, it's crowded. After work, very crowded. I'm not sure why they built such a small facility when there are hundreds of people employed at the embassy. The pool and tennis courts are nice. I don't know about outside gym facilities: before we came here, we bought a good quality treadmill, which has been a life saver, as well as kettle bells, bands, etc. So...we use a combo of the gym at the embassy and our equipment at home.

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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?

I've used CC at the large hotels without problems. We use ATM cards at the embassy and a couple of the banks. It's almost 22 ETB to the dollar so as one person pointed out, you are carrying around a ridiculous wad of cash (that is the most vile currency I've ever handled - much of it is literally falling apart/disintegrating and even the new stuff smells awful. Do carry around hand sanitizer for that purpose alone).

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

I am not aware as I am not religious but I've heard there are catholic services.

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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?

Lots of Ethiopians do not speak English well or at all although it is taught in school (speaks directly to the level of education but that's another issue). I believe university is in English too although not totally sure. Where you will run into the most trouble is likely in the taxis b/c frequently, they have little to no English and with the lack of addresses? you can see where the challenges are. I think there is a "survival Amharic" class at the embassy.

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

Serious difficulties. I hate to say it but I don't recommend this city if you are physically impaired. The infrastructure just does not lend itself to easy mobility (no sidewalks, pot holes, mud/small rivers during the rainy season), trash upon trash, etc.

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Transportation:

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

Nope to the local 'blue donkeys' (mostly blue and white vans) and I don't recommend the buses. The taxis are not really affordable and almost remind me of US prices - ten bucks one way to the embassy from where we live and the drivers will always give you 'firengi prices.' I recommend finding someone in the beginning, getting his number and using him exclusively to help defray costs and also, he will know where you live, which is challenging b/c actual addresses do not exist.

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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?

Something that you don't really care about if it gets dinged, scratched or worse. Also, the roads are mostly terrible and during rainy season? Terrible-er. They will do damage to your car. People drive here as if they haven't ever been in a car before and I've heard that most people just pay off whatever ministry is running this, just to get the license. It shows. The volume of cars/trucks on the streets is overwhelming. Also, the cars/trucks are in terrible shape. Also, people do NOT obey traffic laws and I'm pretty sure said laws are considered optional by local drivers. I've been to Mexico City, Delhi, Casablanca, Luanda and other traffic-clogged cities. This is, by far, THE WORST.

And driving? This is the most stressful place I have ever driven (I used to think driving in NYC or DC or Morocco was tricky; forget it...this place takes the cake). Oh - and the gas quality? Terrible. Luckily you can pick up some sort of treatment at the embassy but we brought our own oil. Recommend doing so if you care about your car.

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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?

This question made me laugh (and then irritated). High-speed? It's more like the dial-up we had back in the '90s, but at modern-day overly-expensive prices. So you get the worst of both worlds: crappy, slow connectivity AND you pay through the nose. Then there are the days/weeks on end without internet for a variety of reasons and with little explanation. It's all infuriating and I agree with the person who commented on the teleworking situation. Ironically, I telework for my company back in DC. I rely on the regular Ethio-telecom connection and then have the hot spot wifi. We pay hundreds of dollars just to have some sort of semi-secure internet connection for me. It's been 90% ok -- save for the week two months ago when the GOE decided to turn off access, nationally, to social media sites. The only problem? They are so inept on all levels that they essentially broke the entire internet, if that's possible. And it affected phone service.

There was internet at the embassy (which is where I went - the pool/gym area has wifi and I was hanging out there a lot), but it was dial-up speed. Unbelievable, actually. We're promised more of that should the GOE feel the need to further oppress people and in response to potential civil unrest. Plan on having a router ready. We bought the router from the person who lived here before us but that's risky too because the 'make-ready' nonsense that goes into the house between occupants means a high volume of people coming/going who can easily take the router and then it's your problem.

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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 have one but again, like the internet, it's a monopoly controlled by the GOE. It's crap. At peak times, don't expect to be able to get calls out. Non-peak times, it works but you get dropped calls left and right. The telecommunications infrastructure was managed by the Chinese so the quality is just terrible. You can pick up a SIM card anywhere if you have an existing phone but you will have to jury-rig it for iPhone 5s or less (the SIM card won't physically fit appropriately).

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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?

This was an important issue to us as we came with animals (cats) and of course, given the stray dog population in this country, we now have dogs (NB: for animal lovers like myself and my husband, this place is heart wrenching. I know many other countries are as well but it's worth mentioning. I almost can't stand going outside because inevitably, you will see dog/cat/donkey/other carcasses (once saw two recently hit/killed donkeys just lying there and for days. People drive like hell and most people don't know how or understand the potential damage a vehicle can do to humans/animals).

There are a couple of decent vets but they have limited vaccines and equipment. There is not one x-ray machine in this entire country accessible to animals (so I'm told by the vets; not even at the university). We've picked up two dogs both abused on the street and each with a broken leg. The vet could not x-ray them and had to palpate by hand (which itself necessitated anaesthesia-- all IV...no access to gas anaesthesia, which is far more tricky for dosing and takes longer for the animal to recover from). One dog's leg could not be set so he's had to live with the consequences. Vaccines are another issue. If possible, if you have a good relationship with your vet, see what can be arranged although I know there are strict regulations on the movement/transfer of rabies and other vaccines (plus they require cold chain so they would have to on your person when you came over). Complicated but there is very basic vet care here.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

I'm not entirely sure but I think they stink - not intellectually satisfying and low-pay. I'm fortunate enough to have my old job, here (teleworking) but that's an anomaly. I have one friend at post here who was a vet in the States. Now? She is applying for an admin job at the embassy. I am not judging anyone or any job but simply stating the facts. From a financial perspective, making that sort of salary adjustment would be really difficult for most families/people, let alone what it does to one's career, etc.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I'm not sure but I would think so: there are dozens of NGOs and not-for-profits and the poverty and needs are staggering. Also, my vet friend volunteers with one of the local vets, which is an awesome arrangement.

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

what you would expect for an embassy: business attire, then business casual on Fridays (half day). I brought several gowns for Marine Balls and other formal events. It rains a lot so bring boots.

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Health & Safety:

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

Mehhhh...hard to say. As a woman, I never really feel 'nervous' or scared but I don't really do a lot of solo walking - mostly because the infrastructure doesn't support it and the vehicle pollution is a factor. We've gone hiking up Mount Entoto (near the embassy) and you get the usual interest from locals. I've done it by myself too during the day but in hindsight, probably not a good idea. Mostly, Ethiopians are not violent and frankly, I'm more afraid in DC and getting into it with someone because we have a gun culture. Here? Not at all. Rapes, murders...you don't hear about that really. It's mostly petty crime and pick pockets (throngs of kids that look innocent but are stealing from your pockets). If you have read the news lately, unfortunately, there is a percolating and growing civil unrest and many Ethiopians have been killed throughout the country. On the other hand, it's a huge post and with hundreds of kids/families. I think you just need to be aware, like anywhere else.

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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?

We don't have kids here so I can't speak to that and we are generally pretty health so I've only used the medical folks once (serious food poisoning); they are busy and I think there are rotating physicians so if you are looking for some intimate relationship with a health care provider, forget it. You can get basic vaccines and I think basic meds.

Medical conditions to be wary of: malaria (not in Addis but below 2100 meters), dengue (in Addis there have been outbreaks), cholera (currently, big outbreak although the GOE insisted on calling it "acute water diarrhea" because I guess the optic of "cholera outbreak" made them look bad...?), rabies (dogs, monkeys, cats for sure) - get vaccinated before you come, allergies/respiratory stuff; and of course...GI issues.

Do not think you will come here and somehow avoid this..you WILL get sick the question is really around the frequency. I've been traveling in developing countries for 11 years and Ethiopia is the only place that no matter what, I would somehow get sick. Now that I live here? You do the math. The embassy recently started testing the air quality for particulate matter, etc. Apparently, we are worse than Beijing and Delhi. If I had children and/or respiratory problems (asthma, COPD, history of smoking), I would not come to this post.

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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?

See above. Terrible. I don't know if it's are but it's terrible. I also had an issue when I first came with my contacts -- I started having pain and weird vision in one eye (I'm a contact wearer during the day, hard lenses). The physician here triaged me to an ophthalogist here - apparently western trained and very good. I ended up going to the States for work and was seen there. I had suffered some sort of corneal strangulation and subsequent scratching and deposition of some sort of bodies. Why did all this happen? Because we are at 7500 - 8000 feet AND it's filthy. FYI -my eye is fine but I don't wear contacts as much now, use a wetting solution/gel and bit the bullet on disposables. Those really helped and I think the money spent on them is worth it given we have a year left here.

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

See above. This place is filthy and the air quality, horrendous. Also, when we first got here, there was an aflatoxin outbreak with the local dairy. We buy milk at the embassy (UHT) but the cheese and yogurt? We were buying local. Apparently, if your health is fine, this isn't too much of a concern but women who were pregnant, breast feeding and people who were immunocompromised were recommended to avoid local dairy. We do a six-month or so Kenya meat/cheese order, which is ok but don't come here thinking it's Whole Foods quality...just near Whole Foods prices.

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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)?

Morale stinks here I think. People are agitated and frustrated - the traffic/driving alone will just take years off of your life. I know I'm painting a dark picture but it's true. As I mentioned, we actually choose not to leave the house a majority of the time because of the: driving/traffic, lack of parking, potential to see dead/dying animals, extreme poverty that is just killing us (please note: I've been in development work for over ten years and have seen terrible/sad things, etc but on a daily basis, month after month for a year now? It's taking its toll.). Polio is a problem here too so it's not uncommon to see the repercussions of it - the begging is over the top. I think depression is a problem. Luckily I travel for work (although, to developing countries) but sometimes to Europe and the US. It helps getting out for sure. Then there's the airport though...

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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?

Ok for me, this is the one perk: it's not hot AND I happen to love rain (the problem here with the rain is that people turn into huge morons and it makes the traffic worse, if that's possible). There is no humidity and it never gets really hot (upper 80s maybe, at most?). The major rainy season is end of June-early September. The housing insulation doesn't really exist so it gets colder. You are at around 7500 feet so be prepared. My parents (sixties) came and were on Diamox although they are smokers).

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Schools & Children:

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

I hear ICS is good but we do not have children here.

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

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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

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Expat Life:

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

relative size? Large. I have heard figures of about 30,000 expats in Addis. Morale? Low (at least among Americans).

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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?

Parties mostly (at peoples' homes). I ride horses and use the British Embassy so that's been nice to meet people. For local stuff, I'm not really sure how to answer.

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

I think as far as being a FSO, there are a lot of people and definitely, single people even though this is a big family post. There are lots of embassies here, the AU is here, tons of NGOs so...lots of single people circulating through (good for dating, not so good for longer term I guess due to the transient nature of posting every couple of years). Good for families I think, mostly b/c there are so many here. I'm not tapped into that part of the FS as again, we don't have kids here.

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

Absolutely no way, definitely not. Ethiopians are very very conservative and devout. I was in a cab the other day and some jerk driver was going on about sins and how gay people were sinning, etc. If I had another way to get where I needed to go (and if even knew where I was at that moment!), I would have just told him to stop and left the cab.

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

Yes; Ethiopians are all part of different tribes, which has caused many deaths this past 12 months, particularly in the SW of the country. Gender issues? Definitely. I don't know how else to say this and it's not meant in any other way than to be upfront, but this is a very male-dominate society and women play a secondary role. I have heard from several Ethiopian women that they do not date Ethiopian men b/c of how they are treated. Obviously, this is anecdotal but I've seen it too (as a woman). If this sort of thing is something you cannot tolerate, think before you come here. It's not Europe or the US. It's the Horn of Africa.

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

There are aspects I like very much about Ethiopia and the history and culture. People are generally really welcoming and super laid back, which I love (and actually, take that into account if you plan on working here -- overly aggressive and loud people will not get far in the work place. Ethiopians are demure and passive so coming in and just bowling people over and being obnoxious won't work).

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

The Born Free animal preserve.

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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. The stuff gets old. The baskets/weaving stuff is nice but...how many baskets can one person buy? The coffee rocks though. If you are a coffee person? You are coming to the right place.

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

Advantages? Three hour plane ride to the Seychelles and a major hub to other SSA cities if you need to travel. That's about it. Well, and the coffee.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Everything I just said above: health stuff, driving/traffic and realities of moving around the city. They also took the COLA away, which I don't understand. This may not be a hardship post like Pakistan, for example, but it should be a hardship post.

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

No.

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

expectations around internet/telecommunications

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4. But don't forget your:

Rain gear, Immodium, antacids, Gatorade or other rehydrating liquid, bleach and sunblock (at this altitude, if I'm outside for more than ten minutes, I really do get sunburn - be careful out here).

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

No.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

I realize I sound really negative and down and maybe even ungrateful. I always think about this situation as we are guests here in this country and the people and culture are beautiful in many ways. But the realities of living here outweigh those pros. I know too I keep harping on the driving. That's because it impacts everything we do here. And it is so so dangerous and there are far too many confounding factors regarding the driving that I don't know how to improve it even a little. Also, if you are seriously ill or hurt here? You have to be med-evac'd out (and even dent-evac'd). I would hate to have an appendix burst, for example, or...hurt in an MVA an have a life-threatening trauma of some sort. I could have done this for one year. Two? No. I'm done already.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 08/22/16

Background:

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

No, we've lived in numerous posts from Scandinavia and Eastern Europe to South America.

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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?

US. Depends from where in the US, but anywhere from 18 - 30 hours. Significantly longer returning to US, since altitude at post precludes "direct" flights.

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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.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

House. Large house, but dysfunctional. Poor quality electrical system, plumbing, sewer. Constant problems, constant repairs. Very little yard.

We are located in Gerji (near the airport). Embassy calls it Bole, but locals correct this. Lots of Embassy housing here. It's basically a village that's been annexed by AA. Unpaved roads (swamps) goats and cows cause traffic jams. Nothing within reasonable walking distance, and unsafe to walk in any case as there are no sidewalks. The shortest commute time from here would be 30 minutes at 6 a.m. on a Sunday. Week-day commutes are more like 45 minutes with normal (non-rush hour) traffic flow. Can be 90 minutes on return to home.

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

Meat is impossible here - unsanitary and unhealthy. Only reasonable meat is imported - from Kenya or South Africa. VERY expensive and always frozen. Often exhibiting signs of frozen/partially thawed/refrozen. For this reason, we rarely eat meat here. Because of poor transportation/shipping infrastructure in country, vegetables are highly seasonal and often of quite poor quality. Anything else is imported and VERY expensive.
NO prepared or convenience food available at any price. Household supplies are of poor quality and often very expensive.

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

If there was a way to do it - almost everything - meat, dairy, good veggies. We use Amazon quite a bit, but there are limits. A consumables post, but living out of cans is an unpleasant prospect. Hard to know what to bring until you are actually here, and it depends on how you live. We spend most of a day every week preparing food for the week. Shopping (usually 3-5 different stores and markets) to find necessities is very time consuming. We bake bread here (available bread is not good and rarely fresh), we make yogurt and process our own dairy (from UHT), etc. Cleaning veggies is a necessity with water/sanitation issues and epidemic disease fairly common, if unacknowledged by GOE (cholera, typhoid, etc.). Good place to lose weight; interest in food disappears after a few weeks of this routine.

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

There is an online service called Deliver Addis, but it's not reliable. Plus it requires internet, which only works intermittently. No street addresses in Addis, so they often get lost and by the time you receive food it is cold and inedible. There are some "average" restaurants, but no real fast food. Even the most expensive restaurants (Sheraton or some of the Italian places) are only "great" in context - compared to the dearth of quality/selection. I've never been anywhere like this - where there is really no "cheap but amazing" street food or local fare. Love Ethiopian fare in the US and abroad, however the poor quality of ingredients here detracts greatly. Restaurants, regardless their mediocre quality, can be quite pricey.

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

We regularly have issues with infestations in the house. Spiders...ugh. Ants, moths, you name it. Not tropical, but the houses are so poorly built they are basically high-level camping, so easy for pests to enter.

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Daily Life:

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

We have pouch service. We were told prior to arrival that DPO was in process. A year later, the answer is the same. Don't hold your breath. It may never actually happen.

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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 relatively inexpensive, but you get what you pay for. Housekeepers and nannies command a premium for any amount of English, no matter how slim. We hear constant stories of problems with help. Unless you will be home to supervise, work ethic/standards are unenforceable and pretty much zero here. Our first housekeeper stole from us and skipped out on work regularly. Our current helper is acceptable, but slow and prone to laziness.



Despite the fact that this is not a danger pay post, we are forced to accommodate "night guards" provided/paid by the Embassy, a roving patrol that accesses your compound with no notice throughout the day, and it is strongly suggested that we pay for day guards. This amounts to 24 hours a day of security presence - no privacy, and yet no danger pay.

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

There is a gym of sorts at the Embassy, through the Commissary. Relatively expensive for what it is. Pool and tennis courts as well. Small considering the size of community and lack of other options. We understand there are gyms in the nicer parts of town (Old Airport), but haven't really seen much that you'd use in Bole/Gerji.



There are "national clubs" like Juventus that offer classes in the evening. Not inexpensive and requires a car.

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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?

None of our credit cards work here (neither chip nor otherwise), except at the major American hotels (Sheraton, Marriott, Radisson). There is one ATM at the Embassy for use. Also daily, limited-hour, cashier services to cash checks. Basically it's a cash economy.



Side note - I laughed at the comments of others when I arrived about their issues with the local money. After year, I am a convert. The local money is the Birr (ETB). The paper money is old in most cases and disgustingly filthy. It smells foul. Most keep the bills in a baggy or something sealable. The conversion rate is currently 22 to the dollar, so writing a check for $500 results in wads of cash. Having to pay a bill, travel agent or some such, results in transporting a vast bulk of bills. Even eating out, in a nicer restaurant, requires an enormous amount of bills.

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

Catholic definitely. Don't know 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?

Purportedly you can get along in English here. English is legally the language of schooling from high school through university. But it's a measure of how low the general educational level is that English is not really common. Many speak a few words, but rarely do you find someone who really can communicate. From household help to restaurants and grocery stores, it's difficult. Amharic is not easy to learn, with its own alphabet and an unusual grammar. There is a post language program, but not consistently. I see signs for local classes, but unsure of quality.

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

YES. Nothing, including the mission itself, is really accessible.

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Transportation:

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

No. Not safe, not affordable. We aren't allowed to use what passes for public transport here (minibuses and a limited stop metro), for safety reasons. Cabs, even private car services, are broken down economy cars, rattle-traps, with no safety features, and barely functional. Of course, even for this poor quality and unsafe service we pay the premium (foreigner) rates. A typical trip from home to Embassy is $10 or more each way. As everything is negotiable, that is the base price. A weekend trip around town can be significantly more expensive.

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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 crossover, mini-SUV would be recommended. There are plenty who get by with sedans, but the quality of the streets, even in-town, is quite poor. Many residential streets are unpaved and become swamps in rainy season. Even the best commuter arteries are littered with enormous potholes and erratically placed and unmarked speed bumps. Definitely would not recommend a sports car here. Standard parts seem available (oil/oil filters), others (tires, air filters, car parts) not so much. All VERY expensive.

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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?

The availability of communications (internet, mobile, phone, data) is laughable. Mission refuses to clarify the reality of the communications situation here, for fear that no one will bid. They'd rather deal with the horror and complaints from new arrivals.



Ethio Telecom (ETC) is a government monopoly, with GOE following the lead of China. China provides much of the expertise (construction and design) here, and it shows. Poor quality, poor planning, lots of government control of access. While you can buy home packages for US$100-150 a month, we were advised and can confirm that unless you purchase the more expensive packages, ETC will provide only intermittent service. We pay $300 a month for internet and often go for weeks at a time with no service. This is the cost for 4 mbps service (we measure regularly and rarely reach anywhere near that). To compare, we pay $125 a month for a cable/internet package in the US that provides is up to 150 mbps service. If you or your family members will need internet access for educational or work purposes, this is not the post for you. If you need consistency of communications for interface with extended family or children in the US, this is not the post for you.



In addition, same levels of access are not available in all housing areas. Bole/Gerji has particularly poor infrastructure. The best quality infrastructure is available in the much nicer Old Airport residential area. (See update below).

If you are assigned housing new to pool, you will have to pay to have cable/internet run to the house.



Mission promotes mobile hot spot service (4g purportedly) as a reasonable alternative. It rarely reaches the level of 4g service and is prohibitively expensive - much more than the $300 a month we pay for spotty wifi.



You should bring your own routers and cables. Be ready to start haranguing post for installation on the day of arrival. Even with immediate request and daily reminders it takes 3-6 months (up to never in some sad cases) to get installation at home. All our interaction with ETC is through the Embassy, a necessity because of language and inattention, but one the Embassy doesn't take much responsibility for. In sum, a very poor communication context.



UPDATE APRIL 2014: It's hard to say this politely. Effective immediately, a good percentage of US Embassy housing is now situated in a neighborhood that has NO (and will have NO) access to internet. None. MGMT and housing board are apparently NOT communicating this truthfully to bidders.



If you are considering Addis and have any interest in any level of internet access, make sure your housing survey specifies that you will NOT accept housing in Bole Homes. Understand that attempts to correct this upon arrival will not be successful. There are a host of other problems in this neighborhood as well. Remember, many would say they wouldn't survive here without access to Amazon Prime or other mail order options. Not possible without internet.



Additionally, make sure that you have at least one, better two, functional VPN's available on all your digital tools (laptops, tablets, phones). The government is constantly blocking websites, various VPN's, and definitely social media. Most of us switch from VPN to VPN, picking different connection points every time we access.

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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?

ETC, again, is a government monopoly. No outside providers function here. Roaming is incredibly expensive.
Local service is very spotty. No difference in quality between 2G, 3G and 4G. You get what you get.

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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?

I understand vet services are quite limited. There is one that is frequented by the expat community. I understand services are expensive, with a lot unavailable here. As for the rest - travel.state.gov. Lots of street dogs, spottily cared for by day guards it appears. There is a tendency for locals to use poisons to keep away rodents, etc. We've heard several stories of poisons being inadvertently broadcast by birds, etc., resulting in inadvertent pet deaths even within home compound.

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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?

If you're in development, there could be work on the economy. Enormous development sector here. If at the Embassy, typical EFM jobs - low pay and lower levels of respect or job quality. Telecommuting is impossible due to lack of communication infrastructure.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of volunteer opportunities. Poverty is rampant, and development represents a good portion of the economy and money flows here.

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

On rare occasions, formal dress (Marine Ball? Burn's Night?). Standard office attire. Casual Fridays.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, there are. Standard big city concerns. So much poverty means constant harassment by beggars. Petty street crime is common. Current political unrest, while only recently acknowledged by DoS, has been standard since our arrival, almost a year ago.

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

Medical care is not really available, nor is what is available of reasonable quality here. Everything requires evac - dental procedures, maternity, just about everything.



Med unit often treats with antibiotics without testing, because testing for even common things is not available here. GOE very sensitive about optics, so even epidemics remain largely unreported. Currently there is an outbreak of cholera in Addis, but only recently has the mission issued directives or given the community notice.

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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?

Poor. Addis is at altitude, and pollution and air quality is poor. During the rainy season, everyone seems to have constant respiratory infections, exacerbated by air quality. Post has recently started testing and advertising air quality.

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

Not the place for you.

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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)?

Rainy season here is the worst I've ever seen. Much prefer actual winter over this. Often dark and dreary for weeks at a time. Impossible to get out, with poor quality of roads and little opportunity for exercise. We understand a lot of mission personnel are on antidepressants.

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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?

Good temperature. Cool to moderate, year round. Very cold at night during the rainy season. Not snow, but gets into the 40's at night. No heat or AC in housing. Extremely wet for 4-6 months a year. Sunny, but not hot the rest.

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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 a number of international schools here. Most go to ISC and appear to like it.

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

Don't have kids in school at this post, although I cannot imagine there is a lot of special-needs services here, considering the low level of services overall, particularly med/health awareness and services.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Again, no personal experience.

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

Again, no personal experience.

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Expat Life:

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

Expat community is fairly large here, probably due to the fact that this is a country/economy completely dependent on international development assistance. I would say the morale is generally quite poor.

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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?

At home. Some restaurants, but expensive, difficult to access and not of great quality.

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

I suppose this is a better post for families than singles and couples. There is a sparse cultural scene here. Jazz, if you know where to look and traditional dance/music the same. Theater is non existent. Film, similar. Art, there is some, but geared to tourists. Reading materials in Amharic largely.



I guess this is the place to note that AFN is widely used here, a measure of how poor communications are and how sparse the recreational offerings. There is cable out of South Africa, for $100+ a month.

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

NOT. No recognition of this here. Very religious and conservative society (orthodox christian and muslim) and you regularly hear seemingly enlightened people talk about "sins against god." Being "different" is not only NOT valued here, it's downright dangerous.

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

Yes. Very conservatively religious here.
Gender equality doesn't exist here. We live in the 19th century (or earlier).

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

Meeting some of the few cultural figures here - musicians and dancers. The good feeling you get from helping others is readily available here - so many to help. We've tried to travel, although it's really quite expensive for what you get, accommodations are often of mediocre/poor quality and tourist infrastructure non existent. We loved some of the hiking opportunities we've found. Standard tourism - churches at Lalibela, etc.

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

We are "get out and explore" types and that's hard to do here. Between security restrictions, lack of language, poor infrastructure, and a generally very closed society, it's difficult. Can be extremely expensive to travel both in and out of the country.

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

No, not a shopping post. Once you're acclimated you will start to notice weaving culture, etc. Generally of poor quality. If good quality, extremely expensive.

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

Don't really have an answer for this.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That communications are so poor as to be nonexistent.



That the mission is unmotivated to document post issues resulting in no appropriate compensation/allowances - COLA, danger pay, or R&R travel. It is generally recommended that we "get out of town" every 3-4 months to relieve the stress of living here, but allowances/pay does not reflect this. In fact, many go to Nairobi for a break. This is laughable considering that Nairobi, with a much more "first world" feel for much the same cost as living here, has significantly higher allowances and is given double the R&R's of Addis. Inconceivable.



That the basics are difficult here. Housing, transport, even food.



This is a high stress posting, with few if any opportunities for relief in country.

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

Most would not be this honest, but probably not. That sounds like a "diva" response, and indeed the old AF hands are quite critical of this kind of honest response. Dealing with the Ethiopian context is one thing. Dealing with it, with no acknowledgement or appropriate support from the mission is another.



Living with hardships is a part of the Foreign Service. But there are mechanisms to compensate for this for a reason. It does not reflect well on this mission that those mechanisms are not in pace at this post. We've heard from a number of people that a posting to Kabul or Baghdad is easier.



We came, hoping to really explore the unique culture. That's difficult to do, with no/limited language, security restrictions and no real tourist infrastructure.

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

Telecommuting job or plans for distance education.

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4. But don't forget your:

Galoshes, rain jacket and umbrella (rainy season is endless here).

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

Cutting for Stone (Verghese) - fiction, set in Addis for much of the book.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

There used to be a question about "savings." It's important to note that this could be a post to save if you are willing to eat the same, basic food daily and if you are willing to forego travel or access to the limited and expensive communication infrastructure. Most do not live this ascetically. It can be a very expensive place to live.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 02/08/16

Background:

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

No. Dakar, Senegal and Geneva, Switzerland.

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

DC. The trip is between 13 and 24 hours depending on which way you're flying and your connections. There's a direct flight from DC on Ethiopian that takes about 13 hours. But flying back, they can't fully fuel the airplane because of the high altitude at take-off. So if you go 'direct' on Ethiopian it's 17 hours with a refueling stop. Otherwise, you go through Frankfurt, which takes ~24 hours in either direction.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years (2014-2016)

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

Government--US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All detached homes with yards of various sizes. Families with school-aged kids generally live in 'Old Airport' which is a ~40 minute commute to the embassy. Families with young children, couples, or singles generally live in 'Bole', which is more of a "downtown" area about 20 minutes from the embassy. Generally speaking, there seem to be either older houses with great yards or newer houses with very little outdoor space.

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

Variable. It's a consumables post, and there's a reason for that. You can get most things, but not consistently and if it's imported it will be expensive. They periodically have shortages on staples, such as sugar and flour, so people often rely on the commissary or pouch for those types of items. Everyone at the embassy orders their meat in bulk from Kenya via the commissary because local meat is low quality. But produce is plentiful, good quality, and cheap.

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

Generally, any liquids you'll want for the duration of your time here (Contact solution, any brand-specific cleaning products, etc.). Also, if you have kids, bring any large items you might want with you (outdoor play equipment, bikes, highchairs, etc.). It's crazy expensive to try to buy those things here.

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

No fast food or international chains at all (I hear a rumor KFC is coming though). Generally, there is a nice selection of different cuisines (Thai, Indian, Korean, Chinese, French, and a ton of Italian). And eating out here is ridiculously cheap. Be aware, food safety issues are a problem, but if you stick to your basic rules around no uncooked vegetables and well cooked meats it's not horrible.

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

None. In fact, this is one of the few malaria-free posts in Africa, because of the altitude.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch, but the embassy is in the process of becoming a DPO (should be complete sometime in 2016)

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

Plentiful and really cheap. A full time housekeeper, nanny, or driver will cost around US$175 per month. And that includes the premium that expats pay for someone with good English and previous expat experience.

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

There's a gym, running/walking path, and pool at the embassy. There are a bunch of fitness clubs frequented by locals, but no one from the embassy community uses them.

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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?

Don't do it. Fraud is rampant, even at the high end shops, hotels and restaurants that accept cards.

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

Not well informed on that--I know there's an international Anglican church that is used more widely by protestants within the embassy community. I'm sure there are others, but I can't say specifically.

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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?

None, as long as your household staff speak English passably well.

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

Yes. Nothing is accessible.

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Transportation:

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

People will use taxis in a pinch, but they're pretty much held together by duct tape and they aren't actually that cheap.

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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?

SUVs are popular--But it doesn't have to massive. Roads don't tend to flood, but constant road construction and low quality to begin with result in some bumpy rides, especially if you want to get out of the city into the surrounding areas. Each family is only allowed one duty free vehicle, so most families have drivers.

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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?

Kind of. When our internet works, we can stream low-quality videos. However, it will occasionally cut out for weeks at a time. And it's expensive--roughly US$100 per month. Internet, phone networks, and general connectivity is one of the major complaints among the expat community here.

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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?

If you want a smart-phone, get an unlocked one before you come. Otherwise, buy a cheap phone when you arrive. It's a government monopoly, so you have to buy your SIM when you arrive. Data is expensive, but domestic calls and texts are dirt cheap.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. There are a few vets, all of whom make housecalls and are cheap compared to US standards. There are no advanced facilities here, but for routine vaccinations and the occasional check-up it's fine. However, rabies is endemic among the street animals, and locals leave poisoned meat on the streets to control the stray population, so people generally keep their animals only within their gates.

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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?

Yes and no. The US embassy has a bilateral work agreement and there are tons of development jobs floating around. But almost all other countries don't have an agreement in place, so you can't work here if you weren't brought into the country on a work visa. And there are basically no private sector jobs. So if you're a US Embassy spouse who works in development, it's pretty easy. Otherwise it's really really hard.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Surprisingly limited. A few people volunteer to teach once a week at local schools, but I haven't really heard of anything other than that.

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

Conservative--no short skirts or revealing tops. Dress code at work is generally consistent with US business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

No. The city is very safe. There are some reports of petty crime (muggings), but they're rare and generally non-violent.

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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?

Everyone has bouts of food poisoning. Air quality can exacerbate respiratory issues. Medical care is pretty sub-par. Anything more specific than what a family practitioner can handle will generally result in a medevac to South Africa.

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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?

Depends on the neighborhood. At the embassy, pretty good. In the downtown area, where about 40% of embassy families live, it's pretty unhealthy.

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

Nothing in particular springs to mind. I'm not sure I would trust eating out if I had a severe food allergy, simply because I'm not sure you could ever communicate clearly enough with the waitstaff about your limitations.

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

Wonderful. There's a rainy season, which gets chilly, that last a few months during our 'summer'. But most of the year is sunny, no rain, in the mid-70s F during the day. I never wore tank-tops, but I also never wore anything heavier than a sweatshirt.

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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 an international school, and I believe it has a pretty good reputation. But I don't have a school-aged child, so can't comment personally.

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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?

Yes. There are a number of daycare/preschool options run by different expat 'groups' (American, French, Italian, etc.) and well attended by the international families. On the high end, there is one large option run by an American that charges similar fees to American daycare. We use a smaller, Montessori daycare run by an Italian lady that we've loved and it costs ~US$250/month for five mornings a week.

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

I think there are sports programs available through the international school

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Expat Life:

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

Huge expat community--in addition to all the major embassies, there's a large UN presence and the African Union is headquartered here. Morale is pretty bimodal. Some people love it. Some people really dislike it. It can be a frustrating place to live day-to-day, and spouses in particular seem to often struggle to find a groove.

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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?

Mostly social life revolves around house parties, meeting for meals at restaurants, or group trips to the embassy campsite. That probably changes slightly when kids get older and families are more involved with the international school.

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

Better for families and couples, I would think.

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

No. This is a very conservative society with regards to homosexuality. So if a large, active gay community is important to you, this is probably not the place to be.

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

Nothing major, but it's not a particularly welcoming society for outsiders. Locals can be stand-offish to downright hostile to foreigners, and it seems to be particularly bad for Asians. Even people of Ethiopian descent who have lived outside of the country too long tell stories about being treated badly by locals.

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

Good travel-domestically and internationally. Great weather!

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

The history and culture of Ethiopia is truly unique within Africa--there are some incredible historical sites in the country (Lalibela's rock-hewn churches, a bunch of castles built by the emperors in the 14th century, etc.). It's also got some incredible natural offerings--hiking in the different mountain ranges, volcanic craters/lakes/plains, etc. The embassy actually owns a camp-site that up to five families can share at a time, which people love to book for weekends to get out of the city. Also, travel to East Africa and Southern Africa is relatively easy, as is going to Dubai or Istanbul for a weekend.

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

Traditional coffee sets; traditional shawls/clothing for women

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

Low cost of living. Interesting history. Good travel opportunities within Africa and up into the Middle East.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, cost of living is incredibly low here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I remember that when we were considering Addis it seemed to have a reputation as a great post. But there are a lot of people who struggle here. It's not really a friendly place and there are a bunch of restrictions that make the first few months a particularly tough adjustment (It takes 3-6 months to get your car registered, even if you buy it from another embassy family at post. In the meantime, public transportation isn't available and housing is pretty spread out through the city, so spouses are isolated at home with lousy internet and phone service. Spouses who don't work in development have a really hard time finding employment outside the embassy. Etc.). It actually wouldn't have changed our decision to come, but it would have been helpful to have more realistic expectations.

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

Yes. But I would cut myself some slack over the first three months' adjustment period and I probably wouldn't stay for more than two years.

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

Cold weather gear. Your expectations of building friendships with locals.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen. And a couple complete series of "Fill in the Blank" DVDs--you need to be able to entertain yourselves and kids without access to internet.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

Cutting for Stone

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 05/12/14

Background:

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

No, second expat but first time in Africa.

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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?

Northern Virginia. Not an easy flight unless you are allowed to take the direct Dulles-Addis route on Ethiopian Airlines (not a code share). Formerly you could connect through Amsterdam or Frankfurt but KLM pulled out so now it is only through Frankfurt, often with a touch down in Khartoum.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most families live in the Old Airport neighborhood, near the international school about 30 - 40 minutes from the U.S. Embassy. Most others live in the Bole neighborhood, shorter commute but traffic can be bade. Some houses are huge mansions designed by people who have never actually lived in the West but have seen a lot of TV shows. Very impractical layouts and poor quality with little or no yards. Other houses are smaller.

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

Produce is super cheap and generally good quality. Anything Western or imported tends to be very expensive. We used our consummables shipment and the pouch to major extent.

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

A lot of Western food items.

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

No fast food, some decent restaurants but we never found anything consistent that we loved. Prepare for a lot of doro wat and injera.

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

Some nuisance bugs but nothing too bad.

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Daily Life:

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

Through embassy pouch.

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

Domestic help is very inexpensive but the quality does vary. We paid around US$200/month for full time housekeeper and also had a part time helper and a security guard.

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

A few gyms but they tend to be expensive. When these open, the equipment and facilities tend to be nice but maintenance over time is an issue.

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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?

Very few places accept them. We would use the ATM at the major hotels occasionally but usually only at the Embassy.

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

Most Christian denominations are represented and there is a large missionary population so finding English services is not a problem.

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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?

Amharic is a very difficult language to learn. It helps to have some but you can get by without it. Just don't expect everyone to speak English and even those who graduated from university (all high school and university is conducted in English) don't necessarily speak or read very well.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are marginally safe but tended to be more expensive for ferenji (foreigners). Avoid buses and minibuses (blue donkeys).

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Four wheel drive is preferable to do out of town driving although quite a few folks get by with sedans or minivans. High clearance is key and bring spare parts. Mechanics can make anything run but not necessarily make it run right.

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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?

Once again, government monopoly. Our neighborhood got DSL in 2012 but was rather unreliable. Cost was around US$60/month.

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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?

State-owned monopoly and all that entails.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine, some decent vet care (ours was trained in Cuba) but no kennels. Usually you have household help or guards who can watch pets while you're away.

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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?

Very hard to get work permits.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

A lot of chances to help out but a quick note about "do-gooder-ism": few things are more annoying than a church youth group flying in and spending a week fixing a school or the like. It makes them feel warm and fuzzy but don't fool yourself about who the actual beneficiaries are. You've spent thousands of dollars to come here and do a job that could have been done by an Ethiopian for a few hundred dollars with no guarantee that the work you've done will last. What is useful is volunteering to help teach or tutor kids and to spend time at an orphanage helping any way you can. Plenty of chances to make a difference on an individual level as well. Choose your spots carefully however, avoid creating dependence if you can.

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

Pretty formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

We felt quite safe most of the time. There is petty crime and there have been problems late at night in the Bole area but nothing worse than any big city. Be smart, go in groups, etc. The big safety concern is driving. Roads are poorly maintained as are most of the vehicles. People tend to walk on the streets or cross without looking. And don't get me started on the livestock and dogs wandering around . . .

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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?

Avoid the water, wash the produce. Everybody seems to catch a stomach bug at some point, "a touch of Addis" some call it!

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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?

Generally OK; a lot of charcoal and trash burning so some mornings can be hazy. The combination with altitude gives some people problems.

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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?

Very moderate climate. Addis is at around 7000 ft elevation which keeps malaria away and means that it never really gets above 85 degrees (F). The sun can be intense so wearing a hat is mandatory. During the rainy season (July - September) it pretty much rains every day, torrential downpours, and it can be quite cold. We even had hail a couple of times.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our kids were in elementary and middle school at ICS, the largest of the international schools. We loved it: good teachers, responsive administration, and a real community feel. The campus is something of a haven for all family members due to the lack of green space elsewhere in the city.

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

ICS does try to tailor programs for special-needs kids and there were a few that seemed well-integrated when we were there.

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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, quite a few. ICS offers one as well as Head-to-Toe, which is run by an American and usually has a couple other expats on staff.

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

Yes, through ICS. Also horseback riding is popular.

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Expat Life:

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

A lot of expats around from embassies, the African Union, and all the humanitarian groups. Most are just passing through but there are a lot of long-term residents who just fall in love with the place (and quite often with a particular Ethiopian). Morale varies, some people can't take the rainy season and the grinding poverty and say this is their hardest posting. Others love it. Living here is not easy but making an effort to appreciate the country and people will greatly improve your time here.

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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?

Entertaining, cultural restaurants, clubs.

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

Good for families; singles and couples tend to struggle with a lack of activities. Ethiopia is a big country so it is actually kind of hard to get out of town to the big attractions and flights to other countries can be expensive. However, it is what you make of it and we knew a lot of happy singles and couples who were enjoying their tours.

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

Homosexuality doesn't officially exist. People don't really talk about it but there is some nothing like the legislation and throwing people in prison like in other African countries. There were a few couples who seemed to get by just fine but there is not a thriving community.

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

Some ethnic issues between the different groups and there seems to be a concerted effort by the government to control the preaching of Muslim imams. The overall culture is proudly Ethiopian Orthodox so anything outside of that is viewed as foreign.

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

Lalibela and the stone churches, Arba Minch, Awash Falls National Park and especially camping at Lake Langano, the only Rift Valley lake safe for swimming.

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

Some fun overnight trips: Wenchi Crater, Awash Falls Lodge (make sure you drive to the oasis hot springs), Lake Langano. Addis itself is not too exciting but there are some fun hikes and bike rides around there.

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

Nice artwork, furniture, cultural clothes, teff!

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

Great climate, fascinating culture, pretty easy to save money. People are generally friendly, everyone has a relative in the U.S.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, definitely.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nothing can really prepare you for the poverty. People are generally happy and take care of each other so we never so starvation but it can be hard to see the living circumstances that some are in with no realistic hope of it every getting much better.

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

Yes.

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

Shorts, objection to being the center of attention wherever you go.

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4. But don't forget your:

High clearance vehicle and patience, not to mention sunscreen, umbrella, and sweaters.

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

First half of Cutting for Stone.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 01/07/14

Background:

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

I have served at posts in Europe, West Africa, and Asia.

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

D.C. There is a direct flight (Ethiopian Air). If traveling on orders, you may be forced to use a more expensive and less convenient carrier transiting through Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

U.S. 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?

Generally, there are two types of housing. Older ranch-style homes with a bit of a yard, and goofy palace-like places with little to no yard and barely any on-compound or street parking. Most homes will have some sort of electrical issue, so be patient and bring lots of candles and several quality flashlights (even if you have a generator). Traffic is becoming gnarly with newly installed traffic lights all over town and the random, massive-scale, road construction all over the place, pushing commute times up towards 60 minutes and longer at times. Driving is a huge test of nerves and patience. Leave your road-rage at home and keep you head on a swivel.

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

If you divest yourself of expectations of having large U.S. style grocery stores, you'll really like the availability of seasonal produce. You have to shop around to find a store or fruit stand to meet your needs, but it's totally doable. Food is cheap, unless you go after processed foods. You have to clean your veggies and fruit. Instead of using bleach (yuck) we use a cap of food-grade hydrogen peroxide and a drop of grapefruit seed extract. No carcinogens and we have not been sick once during our year and a half here.

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

Lots of coconut oil (so many uses). Nuts are expensive or unavailable, so ship a variety of nuts in bulk. Grapefruit seed extract, expensive but a gallon will last forever and you can clean your food and sanitize dishes with a drop or two. Food-grade hydrogen peroxide for cleaning veg and fruit. Fish oil (helps stave off sunburn and reduce use of sunscreen) - at altitude sunburns are easy to come by. Anything else you can't get via pouch or mail due to regs. Mosquito nets.

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

If you die without McDonald's, living abroad is probably not for you. That said, if you need fast food for some reason, there are some local burger joints. There is one burger joint located in the Edna Mall area. The burgers are better than American fast food, and probably a million times healthier. Cost range at the many decent restaurants varies, but are a lot cheaper than in the United States. They tend to use unhealthy oil and MSG in a lot of stuff, so beware.

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

Black biting ants (a month or two) and mosquitoes. Our house is plagued with swarms of mosquitoes 10 months out of the year. No malaria issues in Addis Ababa, but we need mosquito nets around all of our beds to keep them from biting and buzzing in our ears. No issues during the day but they harass us relentlessly at night. Most houses do not have this issue - it's a roll of the dice.

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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.

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

Readily available and inexpensive. Most domestic staff members have not received raises in years, yet the cost of living has shot up, so please consider this when paying your staff. Our nanny works five days a week and we pay her 3,500 birr per month. We have two day guards/gardeners that alternate days Monday through Saturday (Sunday no coverage). We pay them 1800 birr each per month. You'll learn it's wise for a number of reasons to maintain coverage at your home during the day. We have a lady come to clean, do laundry, and iron one day a week for 800 birr per month. Some people hire drivers so they don't have to hassle, but I'm not sure how much they pay, probably around 2000 birr per month, but that's just a guess. Get references and take time to conduct proper interviews to get a good fit. People who are unhappy with their staff usually fumbled the interview process. Day guards usually come with the house you move into, so be prepared to continue on with what the previous occupant was paying + benefits (time off - usually holidays). Rarely do people move in and terminate the day guards/gardener that come with the house, which would be considered a heartless low-blow in the community.

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

Push-ups and sit ups are free at home. No idea on costs outside in the city. I'm guessing hotel gyms are a little expensive, but not prohibitively so.

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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?

I've used the ATM at the Hilton a few times with no issues. We've also used our credit card an Bambis grocery with no issues. That said, it's probably better to rely on cash while you're here.

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

There are several protestant English services in town. The International Evangelical Church (IEC) is probably the largest.

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

English is fine. If you don't speak English, basic Amharic is necessary.

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

Yes, nothing is set up for wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

Blue mini-vans are off limits to American personnel due to crime on-board. Other taxis might not work very well and sometimes don't have seatbelts or steering wheels that are attached. They jack up the prices for foreigners, so that' a pain to negotiate every ride.

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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 vehicle with some clearance and height so you can see pedestrians and survive bus collisions is advisable. However, folks who just stay in town survive just fine with sedans. Roads to other cities are gradually becoming better, so in theory, if you do your research, you could drive a sedan to some locations.

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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, at US$96 a month. They are slowly rolling out broadband service to various neighborhoods. We got ours after being here for four months. Quality depends on luck and the neighborhood. We go a random day or week here and there where it has gone out, but when it's working we can Skype and stream Netflix (VPN service required for Netflix). Others with broadband complain they can barely check email. It's hit or miss. EVDO can be used for small stuff like email, but it's a pain. If internet and landline phone service is important to you, please make sure you move into a house where there is service. There are some homes (maybe 20 percent) that can't get internet, there is no landline phone, and cell coverage is spotty at best.

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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?

Beware, cell coverage is sporadic and coverage does not extend to all houses. Texting often works better than voice calls, so a phone with good texting ability is a plus.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. There are at least two fairly decent vets in town that can do basic care. Lots of people adopt street dogs, and they can vaccinate for rabies, and treat for flees and ticks. The vets can spay and neuter. One vet will come to your house and do it on the table (weird). The other vet does a better job with pain meds for these procedures and also does it in his office and can keep the animal for the day. The street dogs here are awesome compared to what you might find elsewhere in the world (night and day between Turkey's homeless dogs and those of Ethiopia). The dog we found in a ditch here has turned out to be the best dog I've ever had. Instead of hassling with trying to order and stock dry food (unhealthy anyway), we crock-pot meat and appropriate veggie scraps, plus some oats (google proper recipes). This is much healthier and a lot cheaper than dry processed dog food, plus you'll never run out. We send our day guard out to buy meet once a week and cook it over night. I'm often tempted to eat it myself and the dogs love it and it makes the vet happy.

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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, maybe some opportunities at day cares.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many opportunities with NGOs.

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

Pants in public (you'll get weird looks in shorts). Wearing your sweatsuit or pajamas out in public is discouraged as it is anywhere outside of the U.S. Button down shirt at work or a suit if that's the culture of your office. The locals dress very nice and always look sharp, either in suits or traditional wear.

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Health & Safety:

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

Pick-pocketing occurs with frequency while walking in most public areas in Addis Ababa. Most petty crime can be avoided if you focus on good security practices. Residential break-ins are extremely rare and there is no such thing as carjackings here (yet). There was a spike of violent muggings during the dark hours last year, but this trend seems to have abated with law enforcement efforts.

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

Medical care is a bit spooky here. Have a robust first aid kit and knowledge of how to use it. Also, it is essential to have a solid understand of medevac procedures and emergency numbers. Europe or U.S. for serious stuff, Nairobi or Pretoria for not so serious issues. Dental care is cheap and excellent in Pretoria, so if your crown is going to break, plan on that happening here and go to Pretoria - it's a fraction of the cost of dental work in the U.S. I got a cleaning, a replacement crown digitally photographed/porcelain, one filling, and a mouth guard made in ONE visit in ONE day at a great dentist in Pretoria. Cost was about 800 bucks (not including airfare/hotel). You can replace fillings safely in Addis Ababa for cheap, but some are too nervous to do so, perhaps with good reason, so do your research. I'm always worried about our kids getting hurt here. I am not comfortable with anything other than stabilizing at the local hospitals. The health unit at the Embassy is great.

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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 awful on the streets due to vehicle emissions. Once or twice a year the city allows everyone to burn rubbish; when that happens, it's like an apocalyptic war zone and it's best to stay inside. Some people suffer from issues with the air but our family has had no issues. At work and at home the air usually seems crisp and clean.

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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?

One long rainy season, one short rainy season. The dry season is dream-like. You'll never sweat in Addis Ababa.

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Schools & Children:

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

ICS is great. There is a faith-based school (Bingham Academy), but getting there is a bit of a pain. You have to balance housing location with personal needs - try and live closer to work, or school, or split the difference. Put some thought into housing location if you value your time and sanity.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

No personal experience (we use an in-house nanny/tutor for our tots and play dates). There are quite a few preschools in town, but I have no personal experience with them so ask around, some are better than others.

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

At ICS.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium size expat community. Plenty of NGOs, foreign missions, and faith based organizations. Morale is probably average to high for those who understood what they were bidding on. Morale is low at work (but that fluctuates with difficult and challenging personnel) and will probably get better this summer. Morale is low for folks who somehow expected they were coming to the African version of Manhattan (you'd be surprised at what people complain about).

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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?

Happy hours at work (finally starting to take off). Meeting up at hotels for entertainment/restaurants, but mostly entertaining at home.

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

It's an average city. Unless you are creative and have a hobby, you can get very bored here. Families, couples, and singles tend to entertain at home or go to restaurants. Some folks brave the night clubs, which are said to be not bad, but are prone to shenanigans and fights (usually because the expat is acting absurd). Don't come here if you expect it to be like your favorite city back home. Folks who are flexible, understanding, patient, and creative have a wonderful time. Rigid types suffer.

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

Under the surface and in some regions. Generally not an issue for expats. Women sometimes get harassed by local men. Every once in a while someone will approach your car and do something lewd or inappropriate.

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

There are some beautiful sights if you get out of the city. Our family loves the inexpensive produce and Ethiopian cuisine. You can eat very healthy here. The coffee is wonderful (especially the export grade stuff sold at the commissary). There are great restaurants if you get out and find them (do not rely solely on lists provided by Embassies or NGOs, which are sorely dated). Social events at home tend to be the primary entertainment in town, unless you like the club scene. If you run on the streets, you will likely be met with cheering crowds. Bring your mountain bike for rides in the Entoto mountains, which are just up the hill from the U.S. Embassy. Hiking the mountain is wonderful, save for the kids who pester you at the top for money to watch your car.

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

Exploring the Entoto mountains. Trying new restaurants (expats tend to focus on only a fraction of those available). Weekend trips to resorts/sights. I'm unable to divulge hidden gems or they won't be hidden any longer!

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

Coffee (need to shop around for taste/preference). Local pottery. Carved items. Scarves. Orthodox crosses are popular.

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

You can save quite a bit of money if you're frugal. Domestic help is readily available and our family has had outstanding experience (cook, nanny, cleaning person, day guard). Our nanny and day guards seem like part of the family. There is a lot of history (Queen of Sheba) in Ethiopia, but you have to travel outside of Addis Ababa to enjoy. The temperature during the day, year round, is perfect. Although the rainy season can become taxing after a month or two, the temperature is still wonderful. It gets VERY chilly at night, so it's great to have a fire pit on the porch or to take advantage of your fireplace to help heat your sitting area.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, without a doubt, especially if you don't thrive off of processed and imported foods.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It's hard to travel out of the city with young kids (driving is exhausting on these roads with toddlers and airporting around is difficult). That said, some tougher families do this magically with no problems. It's super chilly at night, year round, and homes do not have heating and cooling, and do not retain heat from the day. An electric blanket and cozy clothing is advisable.

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

Yes, but you have to maintain a good attitude with driving. My patience started to wane after about a year with the increase in traffic, so I have to really try to keep calm on the road.

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

Road rage, shorts (unless you want to swim at a hotel or resort), unrealistic expectations.

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4. But don't forget your:

Good attitude, manners, and patience. A quality first aid kit and emergency supplies is a must (visit ready.gov for handy lists). Matches, bring good quality matches. The local matches do not stay lit. Starting a fire at altitude is a science and often topic of conversation with lots of misadventure. Good tip: use ripped up cardboard as a starter, so save your packing materials! Consider bringing light bulbs, local stock often burn out quickly with the poor electric supply

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

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6. Do you have any other comments?

A great place to spend quality time with your family and learn to cook great food!!!

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 11/02/13

Background:

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

Not first expat experience - I've had other assignments in Asia.

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

Washington DC - 18 hours with connection through Dubai.

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3. How long have you lived here?

14 months.

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

U.S. 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?

Provided by U.S. Embassy leased from a local landlord; wide variety of layouts and quality. Commute to Embassy fluctuates -- anywhere from 20 minutes to over an hour if traffic is bad or city has decided (usually arbitrarily) to completely close roads. I could not imagine trying to find decent housing on our own or dealing with a landlord directly for 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?

Certain items can sometimes be hard to find or completely nonexistent. Cheese and seafood (in particular) are very difficult to find in any decent quality.

If you want things you may be accustomed to in the U.S., be prepared to: A) accept alternate versions/similar products from the Middle East; b) pay at least as much here for them as you would in the U.S. The U.S. State Department classifies this as a "consumables" post so we are allowed limited shipments of things that aren't otherwise available.

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

Cooks go through oil and sugar like crazy, so more of those would be useful. (Often sugar shortages in town.) More Mexican/Asian food ingredients. More toddler squeezy fruit snack pouches, as those can't be shipped via the pouch.

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

No fast food whatsoever. A few decent restaurants are scattered around town. Prices for a nice main dish range from US$5 to $12+. Don't expect amazing things on the menus though. And drink options are often disappointing -- or exorbitant.

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

Sometimes ants during rainy season but generally nothing in Addis Ababa as it is not in a malaria zone. Other parts of the country do have mosquito/malaria problems.

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Daily Life:

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

We are fortunate to have use of the diplomatic pouch. Customs will heavily tax things through other carriers.

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

Plentiful but quality varies wildly. As of this writing, part time housekeeper ~US$75/month; full time driver ~US$160/month; full time day guard/gardener ~US$105/month; full time nanny ~US$130/month.

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

Available but costs are unknown.

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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?

Don't. It's a cash economy, and the few ATMs around are not trustworthy. Online is also done at your own risk.

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

We don't attend, but we know there are some available.

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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?

None, really -- most Ethiopians speak English.

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

Terrible difficulty. There is nothing to accommodate disabilities. Nothing.

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Transportation:

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

All are not safe; embassy personnel not allowed to use the "blue donkey" minibuses. Probably affordable if you can figure out where it's headed or communicate with the driver.

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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?

SUV. You want high clearance AND four wheel drive here. In some cases it's better driving OFF the road than on it. A majority of the SUVs here are Toyotas, though nearly every brand is represented.

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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?

ADSL, available only to businesses or through a special arrangement for embassy residences -- though not all neighborhoods are capable of having it. Otherwise, Internet is dial-up speed via horrible pre-paid EVDO sticks with capped bandwidth AND capped download.

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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 only option is Ethio Telecom. SIM cards work in any unlocked phone.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

No quarantine. A few okay vets here (one spayed and microchipped our newly-acquired Ethiopian cat with no problems). No kennels we are aware of.

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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. Even if you found something, the pay would be abysmal. (Paid) Opportunities with foreign NGOs are also much rarer than you might think.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots of volunteer opportunities with various NGOs.

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

Work: business (suits, etc.). Public: casual (jeans and t-shirts for the most part; depends on personal preference).

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Health & Safety:

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

Mostly petty, non-violent crime like pickpocketing. However, a woman probably should not walk around at night alone.

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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?

Poor quality health care. Embassy personnel get medical evacuations for anything serious, or ANY dentistry. Most common concern is stomach issues from ingesting unclean food. At home, all veggies and fruits get the bleach treatment.

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

Good to moderate in general but very unhealthy on the roads with the vehicles spewing black exhaust. The air itself isn't that bad but the altitude compounds the issue especially for those with asthma or other respiratory problems.

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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?

Very temperate for most of the year, with a 3-4 month rainy season that is wet and slightly chilly.

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Schools & Children:

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

International Community School (ICS) of Addis is where almost all embassy families send their children but I have no personal experience.

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

Several preschool options are available. The most popular include Head to Toe, Flipper, and Brana. We went with Brana as it was significantly less expensive than Head to Toe.

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

Probably through ICS.

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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 expat community. Generally, morale seems to be medium/low.

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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?

Watch DVDs in your own home. Visit other expats' homes. Basically, just things at home. There is one movie theater that plays *some* American films.

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

There seems to be little to do in this city for any foreigner but I imagine that singles or couples without children (or those with older children) would have a better time than families with young children.

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

Probably not. It's neither open nor looked upon favorably here.

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

Women are definitely second-class citizens here -- even to the point that our male Ethiopian household staff would not listen to my (foreign) wife. They preach religious tolerance here but the practice is different. The Muslim population is frequently persecuted.

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

Seeing the cultural sites outside of Addis Ababa: rock-hewn churches of Lalibela, castles at Gondar, stelae and tombs at Axum.

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

If "in the area" includes day trips out of town, then yes: the Old Portuguese Bridge near Debre Libanos is a nice place. If we're just talking about inside the city, then no.

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

Baskets, opals, coffee, art, scarves.

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

Saving money. Weather outside of rainy season can't be beat.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Wish we had known there was little to do in Addis (especially for young children). Ethiopia is a very interesting country, but Addis Ababa is an incredibly boring city (unless you like nightclubs).

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

No.

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

Cold weather clothing.

Expectations that:
- anything will happen on time.
- you can get a straight/complete answer from one or two questions (without multiple follow-up questions).
- your Ethiopian Airlines flights will operate as scheduled.

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience.
Rain coat or umbrella.
Sun screen, sun hat, sunglasses.

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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 06/04/12

Background:

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

Fifth expat experience.

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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?

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are two major neighborhoods where most people live within the expat community. One is close to the school. The other is closer to the embassy. As the size of the expat population grows, people will start moving to other neighborhoods within Addis or on the outskirts. Traffic is crazy; therefore, in all honesty, I can't write a predicted commute time.

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

It is getting expensive. High inflation here.

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

Cheese, more car repair parts, pet food, etc....

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

Fast food? No. But good restaurants are appearing.

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

You can find it.

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

Addis is a malaria-free zone. However, once you leave the city limits, you will be in a malaria zone. Make sure your pets are protected from fleas and ticks. They cause health issues. Bedbugs are making headway here.

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Daily Life:

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

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

Inexpensive and it is easy to find qualified people.

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

Yes. They are everywhere.

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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?

Use them at the Hilton's/Sheraton's ATM machines.

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

Yes

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

DSTV cheap and western. Papers: mostly local, but cheap.

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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?

Don't need much.

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

The altitude is rough on everyone. This place is not designed for those with mobility challenges.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable? Yes. Safe? Spotty. Some have brakes that work....some don't. Some have doors that don't fall off....others, not so much.

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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?

Toyota SUVs.....that's 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?

Still very poor, but slowly getting better. Bandwith is not good enough for youtube as of yet. Very spotty connection at times. Not a place to live if you are taking online classes. Every now and then VPNs get blocked.

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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?

Can get them anywhere and on the cheap. 3G simcards can be found for 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?

No. Many people here have pets.

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

Not bad vet care.

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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?

Many embassies and NGOs here filled with expats. However, it is VERY hard for the spouses to find work on the local market outside of the particular embassy they are assigned to. This cannot be stressed enough. If you are seeking to have two incomes, it will be very hard.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Other than pickpockets and aggressive panhandlers, no special concerns.

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

Medical care is getting more spotty. One popular clinic that expats visit may be shutting down soon.

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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?

Pollution is growing. LOTS of exhaust from the ever growing car/truck population (traffic is awful). Car pollution + high altitude causes lung issues for many here.

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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?

It rains each day for four months, then it is dry. Very moderate temps. Weather-wise, a very nice place to live.

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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 majority of kids go to ICS.

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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?

Lots of them.

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

Through the schools only.

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Expat Life:

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

BIG.

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2. Morale among expats:

Decent. Many call Addis "Africa Light."

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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?

Many short trips outside of the city are a good way to keep social and happy.

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

Sure.

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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 noticed openly.

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

Easy traveling in and out of country.

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

Get out of town. Lots of trips are around. Both short weekenders and long trips are rather cheap.

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

Coffee -- It's the birthplace of the coffee bean.

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

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11. Can you save money?

A little.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Toss a coin.

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

electric-powered or biodiesel car. It ain't going to work here. Get a tough SUV or a small car you don't mind getting dented on a regular basis. Most people leave their car here in country when they depart.

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3. But don't forget your:

sweaters.

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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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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 08/09/10

Background:

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

No, West Africa, Switzerland, Ireland.

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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?

California, over a day via various European cities.

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3. How long have you lived here?

13 months.

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

Government -- U.S. Foreign Service Office.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I live in U.S. Government provided housing in Bole. It is a fun neighborhood with tons of restaurants and clubs within walking distance. Others at the Embassy live in the "Old Airport" neighborhood, which is close to the "International Community School (ICS)" where our children usually study.

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

Anything local is cheap. Anything not local (e.g. European or other foreign wines, good cheeses, etc.) is quite expensive.

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

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

Fast food? What's that? There are plenty of cheap, good restaurants.

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

Haven't had a problem. They say Malaria isn't 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?

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

Cheap. Good quality.

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

Yes, all over.

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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 are more and more ATMs popping up in town. There are probably a dozen now that work with foreign cards.

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

The International Evangelical Church (IEC) is popular and entertaining. There is a fun Lutheran Church. There is a nice, if poorly attended, Anglican church. I've heard of Catholic, LDS, and Pentecostal services in English, but I've not attended one.

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

A few reasonable, unbiased news papers. Skip the local TV.

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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?

Not that much, really, although it is really good for reaching out to know a modest amount of Amharic.

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

There are almost no accommodations for physical disabilities anywhere. One exception: the brand new, about to open American Embassy is completely ADA-compliant.

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Transportation:

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

So-so on safety. I had a very exciting time coming around a corner in a taxi a while back, with no seat belts, and the door popped open.

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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?

My favorite is a small SUV (e.g. Rav4.) Toyotas are the easiest to service. Other asian makes are also generally viable. For serious up-country work, go with a Toyota Land Cruiser Series 70, diesel, white.

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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?

"EVDO" can be decent -- at least when it's not busy.

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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 provider -- ETC. It's a stodgy government monopoly. Yuck.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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

Do yourself a favor: leave the pets at home.

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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?

Lots. Though be very careful about your visa. Be sure to be legal. The authorities are really cracking down, especially with the folks who just show up then try to get NGO jobs.

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

In my world, surprisingly formal. Suit and tie is quite normal.

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Health & Safety:

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

Addis is actually quite safe. I walk across town routinely in daylight hours and apart from the usual begging and occasional hassle have not yet had a problem.(I am male, this seems to matter a bit.)Night time is a different story, though again, this is a much safer city than most.

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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?

All the usual 3rd-world stuff, minus the nasty malaria.

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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?

Unhealthy much of the time. Pretty nasty. Allergies are common.

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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?

Except for the "Krumpt" (the Wet Season from ~mid June to mid September) it is ideal. Though it's not warm enough to stay out at night without a jacket or a heater. Easy to wear a suit during the day.

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Schools & Children:

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

"International Community School (ICS)" is quite good. I've also heard very good things about "Bingham Academy", the Missionary school. The French Lycee is quite good as well judging by the sharp kids I've seen.

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

ICS is pretty good and getting better from what I here. They don't come out and say the support "special needs", but they have a "resource" department with solid teachers that can help. Better than many expat schools out there.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

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

Yes, through the schools. Quite good I hear.

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Expat Life:

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

Big. This town has tons of expats from all over. The African Union is based here, so there are tons of interesting Africans. And there are lots of Europeans and Americans here for a whole variety of reasons as well.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good to excellent in my opinion.

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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?

Lively.

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

Very good for families. Fine for couples. I can't really say about couples. Single men seem to be happier than single woman. I'm too old to do the club thing, but I hear it is lively.

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

Keep it to yourself. The Ethiopian culture is quite hostile to homosexuality.

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

Ethiopians are generally quite warm to all, though there are latent prejudices in abundance. No surprise there, though. No worse than anywhere else I've traveled.

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

Getting to know the people. Visiting the amazing historical sights.

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

There are so many things to do! Restaurants by the hundreds. I don't know them very well, but I hear the clubs are good. There are numerous Jazz clubs in town. There are numerous trips out of town that can be done in a weekend. One I just tried: Awash National Park -- outstanding!

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

Coffee -- the best in the world!

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

Wonderful, friendly people, and a deep and rich culture.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

bad attitudes, racism, preconceptions.

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3. But don't forget your:

spirit of adventure.

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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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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 06/01/10

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 Nairobi, Dar es Salaam, London, and Iquitos (Peru).

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

Washington, DC is home base. On Ethiopian Airlines, the trip is about 15 hours. With a connection in Europe, west Africa, or the middle east, it's 20 hours or more.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Government / U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most expat housing is in single-family homes in individual walled compounds. Expats live in both the older neighborhoods and the new ones, so styles vary. The enormous houses with pools, expansive gardens, etc. found in some parts of Africa are not common here, but housing is generally very nice. Commute time ranges from 15 minutes to over an hour. Avoid rush hour if you need to cross town.

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

Groceries are tougher to come by in Addis than many other places, as there are no large supermarkets. Shopping generally entails multiple stops at markets, specialty shops, and several supermarkets (which don't all carry the same items).Cost isn't too bad, but imported products (think olives, cheese, packaged goods) are very expensive. Good quality meat can be hard to find, and pork and seafood are almost non-existant.

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

Check with local contacts or work colleagues before coming - if you are able to ship things in, there are all kinds of goods not available locally that it's nice to bring. Packaged foods, imported wine and specialty foods, etc. are very hard to come by. Pet food is impossible to find (and the price of gold) here - I'm glad I shipped it in large quantity.

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

There isn't much fast food, at least not in the sense of chains. There is excellent Ethiopian and Italian food in every neighborhood. Indian, Chinese, Korean, Thai, French, Belgian, Greek, Turkish, and BBQ is also available. Restaurants are very affordable:good Ethiopian food can be had for a few dollars, ten dollars will buy a nice dinner at any of the above, and it's difficult to spend more than thirty dollars anywhere in town.

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

None.

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Daily Life:

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

I use the pouch. The mail is reliable, though.

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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 widely available and affordable.

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

Yes, there are a variety of choices across town - gyms, pools, tennis courts, one golf club, etc.

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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?

ATMs in Addis are not reliable at all. There are only a handful throughout the city, not all of them take foreign ATM cards, and they are frequently broken or out of cash. There is a dramatic foreign exchange shortage in Ethiopia, and it can be hard to get foreign currency, even at banks. You should prepare in advance for trips or expenses that require spending foreign currency. Credit cards are more widely accepted than ATMs, but are still a rarity.

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

Orthodox, Catholic, Lutheran, Anglican, and international non-denominational. Possibly others.

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

There are a few local English-language weekly newspapers, but the quality is poor. There is no English-language broadcast TV.ArabSat and South African DSTV available - I'm unsure of cost.

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

Very little. Ethiopians greatly appreciate foreigners' attempts to speak Amharic or other local languages, but very few do.

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

Very few provisions are made for individuals with physical disabilities. There are some modern buildings (shopping areas, office complexes, hotels) with elevators, but only in the newer parts of town.

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Transportation:

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

None are safe, all are affordable. Safety is an issue of working brakes, seat belts, headlights - not generally a crime threat.

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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 four-wheel-drive SUV is best. If you don't leave Addis, you can get around in a sedan, but even in Addis the roads are ugly. You don't need a huge SUV, although many people drive Land Cruiser- or 4Runner-sized cars. Toyota is the most popular.

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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?

Moderately high-speed internet is available. It's not great, but is getting better. It's not cheap. Again, it's through the state-owned telephone company.

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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 provider, the government-owned monopoly. Service is terrible - far worse than in other African countries. Be prepared not to talk to relatives and friends in other countries. Foreign phones and blackberries often do not 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)?

I have been thrilled with my vet, and there are several others in Addis, too. I am not aware of any 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?

Not many.

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

Business casual is the norm, and dress is conservative at work. The cool weather (at least at nights and in the rainy season) is a factor too. Out on the town, anything goes.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, Addis is one of the safest cities I have visited in Africa.

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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?

By far the biggest issue is food sanitation - people here seem to suffer from stomach maladies more than in any country I have ever visited. Altitude is also an issue, and some people have respiratory problems from pollution. There is no malaria in Addis. There are limited medical facilities available in Addis - most expats travel to Kenya or South Africa for all but the most routine medical issues.

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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?

Unhealthy. Vehicle exhaust is not regulated, and the roads are crowded with older vehicles. In many parts of Addis, fires and construction are also issues. Outside of Addis, the air quality is much better.

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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?

Addis has a long rainy season from June-September, and a shorter rainy season around February-April. During those times, it is often cloudy every day, with rain throughout the day. The tourist slogan, "thirteen months of sunshine," is rubbish - it is much rainier here than I expected. Outside of the rainy seasons (about half the year), it is generally clear and dry. Daytime highs are generally in the 70s, with lows in the 50s at night. Most homes have neither heating nor air conditioning. Addis is at high altitude (7,500 feet), which causes some people minor health problems.

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Schools & Children:

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

I have no personal experience. Many English-speaking expat children attend the International Community School.

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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?

Most families with small children hire a nanny or housekeeper with baby-sitting duties. Household staff are readily available and affordable.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

Enormous.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fairly good. There are lots of work-related difficulties, whether you work in health or education or business or government. But Ethiopians are hospitable people, and Addis is a fairly easy place to live.

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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?

Just about anything you want. There are plenty of restaurants and nightspots, everything from hole-in-the-wall to modern and opulent. Many people entertain in their homes as well. Ethiopians and expats from many countries mingle in many areas.

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

Yes to all of the above. Addis is good city for families, with school functions, sports and music lessons available, and weekend travel. Many families have a membership at a hotel pool or health club, although the rain can limit time spent outdoors. Addis has plenty of restaurants and nightspots to entertain singles and couples, and there is a vibrant nightlife drawing in both Ethiopians and expats.

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

Ethiopia is extremely conservative, and sexuality is not openly discussed. However, discrimination isn't a huge issue, and at least in Addis a "live and let live" attitude prevails.

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

There is great religious tolerance. Ethnic tensions (among Ethiopian ethnicities) definitely exist, but are often below-the-radar in professional and social life in Addis.

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

Trips to the Lower Omo Valley, Lalibela, Gonder, and the Rift Valley lakes have all been wonderful. The local cuisine is a big plus, too.

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

Many people try to leave town on the weekends, and there are quite a few day and overnight weekend trips. The closer locations are good for hiking, bird-watching, etc. Good domestic air service makes some of the further afield tourist sites accessible on the weekends as well. There are sports clubs, spas, restaurants, shops/markets, and nightlife. One movie theater plays first-run English movies. There really is a great deal of variety in all of the above.

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

Artwork, Ethiopian crosses, silver, coffee.

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

Ethiopia has a fascinating history and culture. Travel opportunities in the north (mainly historic sites and churchs) and south (mainly national parks and the Rift Valley lakes) abound, and are entirely unique to Ethiopia. The food is delicious - some of the best on the continent. You can save plenty of money living in Ethiopia, but it's easy to blow it on regional travel.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

ideas that Addis will be hot and sunny year-round, or that Ethiopia will be like anywhere else you have visited!

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3. But don't forget your:

patience, openness, rain coat, sunscreen, and Pepto-Bismol!

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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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Addis Ababa, Ethiopia 03/03/08

Background:

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

I've also lived in Loei, Thailand; Bogota, Colombia; Ciudad Juarez, Mexico; Inchon, South Korea; and Sidamo, Ethiopia.

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2. How long have you lived here?

9 months.

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

I work for the U.S. Embassy as a Foreign Service Officer.

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

Washington DC to Addis flies via Amsterdam, Rome, or Frankfurt. It takes a full day to get here.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Embassy housing is very nice and tends to have well-tended gardens and plenty of space.

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

Though expensive, you can get most groceries and household supplies in Addis. I haven't been able to find 13-gallon trash bags or good sponges. Bring plenty of good cleaning supplies since they're hard to find here.

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

An SUV instead of a Sedan. I'd also ship plenty of warm clothes--layers are good. Long sleeve shirts to shed in favor of t-shirts as the day heats up. The quality of toys and kids' stuff is pretty low, so I'd recommend bringing gifts from the West.

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

There are plenty of decent restaurants but no fast food. There's Thai, Chinese, Indian, Ethiopian, Korean, Tex-Mex, Georgian, and others.

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Daily Life:

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

You can use the Ethiopian postal service. It's pretty good about sending things out, but not so good about getting packages to the recipients in Ethiopia. Don't send any packages from the U.S. to Ethiopia unless you use DHL or FedEx or UPS.

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

Super cheap and available. I have 3 domestic helpers.

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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?

There is one ATM in the Sheraton Hotel. That is all. I don't know about credit cards; don't count on being able to use them anywhere.

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

Yes! There's a wonderful Anglican church called St Matthews. There's an International Evangelical Church and there's a Catholic Church. There may be more.

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

Yes, there are a few English language newspapers available. You can also get a satellite TV service. I don't know what it costs.

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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?

Knowing some Amharic is helpful. The more you learn, the easier it will be to get by. However, many foreigners who live here don't speak it and they manage.

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

It would be pretty rough since the roads and sidewalks are a mess.

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Transportation:

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

American style-- right.

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

They are not safe but very affordable. They have no seat belts.

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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?

If you want to drive around the city and never leave it, bring a sedan. If you want to leave the city at all, you'd better bring a Sport Utility Vehicle. Toyotas are the most popular here although Nissans, Suzukis, Fords, and others are here as well.

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Phone & Internet:

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

No.

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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?

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

Have your family call you. It's easier and cheaper. My family calls me on Skype.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are plenty of NGOs.

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

At the Embassy, it's professional. Suits Monday-Thursday and business casual on Fridays.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate to unhealthy depending on the day.

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

Not bad.

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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?

The quality of medical care is improving but it's still nowhere near U.S. standards. The Embassy provides pretty good healthcare but it's limited to mission personnel only.

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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 rainy season (June-August) is quite chilly and wet. It feels like you're on Noah's Ark, and then the weather clears and it's absolutely lovely and dry for many months (September to May).

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Schools & Children:

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

My older child goes to International Community School, which uses an American curriculum.

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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?

I use a nanny. But there is a preschool at the Embassy for kids who are potty-trained.

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Expat Life:

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

I'd say it's pretty large. There are plenty of Europeans, Americans, Africans, Asians, and even a few Latinos.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fair to good. It depends on who you're talking to and which season it is. The rainy season is rough, and many people leave for its duration. But the rest of the year, the climate is dreamy. There is lots of construction going on and new restaurants are popping up. There's also a new movie theatre, so morale is improving, I think.

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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?

As the mother of a school-age kid and a toddler, I'd say there's plenty to keep you entertained. I can't speak for singles and childless couples. I've heard that the nightlife gets old after a while.

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

Yes, yes, and yes.

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

Not really. Ethiopians insist that there is no homosexuality in Africa and they believe that it's perverse.

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

Ethiopians are pretty tolerant of all religions and there's much diversity here. Also, they aren't prejudiced against whites. As for gender prejudice, it's a male-dominated society. But women are allowed to work, drive, go to school, etc.

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

Travel in county is interesting. Addis Ababa is unlike the rest of the country, so to experience the exotic, you need only head out of town. Flying about on Ethiopian Airlines is pretty cheap if you're a resident of Ethiopia.

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

Silver and gold religious jewelry, beads, leather goods, hand-made drums, paintings on goat skin and cowhide, Ethiopian spices...

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9. Can you save money?

Yes!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. Yes!

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

Addiction to high-speed internet access. It's super slow here.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hats, sunscreen, running shoes, long-sleeved shirts, bird guide, binoculars, hiking boots, sense of adventure.

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

Sweetness in the Belly

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

Sweetness in the Belly

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Endurance (VHS only)

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Ethiopians are very kind and welcoming. The poverty is shocking at first, but you get used to it. If you like to do volunteer work, the opportunities are endless. Children are pretty happy here. It's a good post for families.

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