Lilongwe, Malawi Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Lilongwe, Malawi

Lilongwe, Malawi 09/17/18

Background:

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

I've previously lived in multiple countries.

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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. Shortest flights are about 24 hours: IAD to Addis Ababa and then Addis to Lilongwe. Alternatively, some folks fly through Jo'burg.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Just over two years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is very large and nearly all sit on large plots of land with strong perimeter walls and an assigned guard. They have typical sub-Saharan issues with ants and other pests but the housing is overall really nice.

The diplomatic residences are well-consolidated into three adjacent neighborhoods. A substantial number of the INGOs and Gov of Malawi folks live in these neighborhoods as well. Commutes are about ten minutes.

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

Almost anything is available in Lilongwe if you're willing to look and drive to multiple stores. The issue in Malawi is more about when it is available. As a landlocked country entirely dependent on the importation of goods, there is a "feast or famine" reality to popular consumer goods here. You just never know if something is ever going to be available again. Consequently, there is a decent amount of bulk purchasing and hoarding when something is suddenly back in stock.

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

I wish I had shipped more US cleaning supplies.

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

There are a handful of restaurants in the neighborhoods and surrounding areas, usually built into residences, that everyone seems to frequent. The quality varies from not bad to shockingly good. Take out isn't really an option and the only dependable fast food in town in the KFC down by the Crossroads Hotel.

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

Ants...lots of ants. You just learn to live with them. I keep all my open food in airtight tupperware to keep the little guys out of the kitchen.

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Daily Life:

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

Malawi Post is not adequate. However, I am fortunate enough to use the embassy for mail services.

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

Help is cheap and, for the most part, eager to work; gardeners might get paid US$80-$100 per month. A good housekeeper might get paid US$120 and a good Nanny might make US$150-$200. However, you get what you pay for: the villagers that fill most of these positions do not seem highly educated and finding one with both experience around middle-class items (for example, knowing NOT to plug your 110v TV directly into the 240v wall socket after moving it to clean) and with the common sense to figure out the things he or she hasn't seen before can be very difficult.

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

One or two local gyms catering to the expat community (2Fit and Latitude 13), but they are both expensive. The embassy maintains a small but adequate gym with free weights.

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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?

Malawi is a cash-based economy. Major stores and hotels will usually take credit cards but its not uncommon to find that the power outages or a power surge has rendered the card reader non-functional. Because credit cards remain the exception and not the norm, the typical issues related to credit card fraud and credit card theft haven't cropped up in Malawi yet.

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

All major Christian denominations are represented (I think) and most services has a distinct evangelica/charismatic African flair to them. I'm not sure about synagogues and there are some mosques in the area as well.

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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 with just English here but a little Chichewa goes a long way!

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

Yes. Some accommodations have been made in the city for disabled access, but not consistently. This would be a very tough city for someone who is in a wheelchair.

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Transportation:

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

Local taxis (private minibuses crammed with up to 36 people and driven by drivers that seem to have no regard for the rules of the road or the mechanical condition of their vehicle) are not permitted. Hiring a private driver is possible, but you should ensure the driver is experienced (obtaining a driver's license here is a matter of paying the well-established bribe) and has a reliable vehicle.

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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?

Nearly everyone buys a small SUV with decent ground clearance. Roads are in poor condition in much of the city and surrounding areas. During the rainy season, many of the dirt roads out of town can become a quagmire. Toyota and Nissan dominate the market and have the most parts available.

Carjacking isn't a significant risk in Malawi, but muggings while you are stopped in traffic are a concern. Young men come out of the bushes or the tree line with panga knives (12-18" stamped-steel machetes) and rob you of whatever they can reach. Sometimes they block the roads at night with rocks and other debris to get you to stop. Keep your doors locked and yours windows up. Make sure the A/C works in whatever car you buy.

Don't bring anything you're not willing to see banged up and scratched. It's not a matter of it...it's a matter of when.

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Phone & Internet:

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

High-speed internet is not consistently available and very expensive. Many folks buy data packages that allow for downloading at 4G cell phone speeds, fast enough for most streaming services. Other services provide for unlimited nights and weekends and a small daytime data cap per month but they're operating at 3G cell phone speeds. Again, adequate for Skype but weak on streaming...and downloading a movie from iTunes feels like an exercise in multi-day Sisyphean patience.

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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?

Cheap and readily available. Bring an unlocked phone with you and just swamp in the SIM from a local provider. Two networks currently compete for 99% of the business in Malawi: TNM and Airtel.

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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 one or two good vets plus one really mean lady here that everyone seems to complain about. Malawi is fairly pet-friendly once you leap the hurdles of importing your pet. Definitely bring pet food or have a way of dependably obtaining it. Most Malawians feed their animals kitchen scraps (or make a dedicated meal from scratch). Dogs are popular in the population. Cats, a little less so.

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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 of NGO work is available here. No idea about salaries, though.

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

Formal dress is occasionally required for high-level meetings and evening events.Regular work clothes at the embassy tend to be business casual - think khakis, a collared shirt, and a tie. Or khakis and a polo if you don't have any meetings/engagements. I keep a suit and a blazer on a hook on my door for emergencies.

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Health & Safety:

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

Malawi is critical for crime, but low across the spectrum for everything else. The RSO is fond of saying that Malawi is a country where the issue isn't a particular threat to the expat community but rather the lack of capacity to respond by the Government to any particular stress to the system. The police are mostly static with very few cars. They are flummoxed by any issue beyond basic investigating and note taking. There are minimal ambulances in the country and no functional 911. There is a no highway patrol. The fire department is always eager to play but they are minimally trained volunteers with poorly functional equipment and they may or may not have sold all of their fuel and/or water at the time that you call them to fight a fire.

Consequently, while the local services are filled with people eager to try to do their jobs, the dependability and capability of these services is weak. Many supplemental folks (like local clinics) attempt to fill the breach with mixed success. Ultimately, Malawi is a country where you are the number one person responsible for your own safety and security. The safety net of modern society just doesn't seem to be here.

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

Malaria, take your prophylaxis or other appropriate cautions. Also, HIV remains prevalent and cholera is always a concern. Folks going to the lake also need to be mindful of the parasite that is endemic in the lake.

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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?

I think the air is fine. Dusty in the dry season but otherwise fine. Lilongwe doesn't suffer the same pollution issues that other sub-Saharan capitals do...at least, not yet.

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

Bring an Epi-Pen if needed.

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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'm aware of. However, it seems to me, from casual observation, that the availability and access to mental health professionals might be a bit hit or miss 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?

Mild year 'round. Southern hemisphere so invert the seasons. In the dry winter, it can drop to low 40s (F) at night and climb into the low 70s during the day. In the wet summer, it might drop to the low 60s at night and climb to the high 80s during the day. Anything outside of those swings is abnormal.

The rains are December to May and usually involve afternoon downpours.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most embassy kids go to either Bishop McKenzie International School (BMIS) or the African Bible College Christian Academy (ABCCA). Both schools are fine for primary, but I can't speak to the high school curriculum. BMIS is an IB school now and has an old but comprehensive campus. It's been around for awhile.

ABCCA is newer and has a nice campus. The education seems strong but there is also a significant level of American Southern Baptist indoctrination mixed into the education. Just be aware.

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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?

Pre-schools are available. Talk to the CLO when doing your research. They're pretty good and pretty affordable.

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

Yes, the schools all run robust after school programs for the kids. Swimming is big here.

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Expat Life:

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

A few thousand in Malawi; mostly concentrated in Lilongwe and Blantyre and primarily focused in three areas: HIV/Malaria/Medical, Food Stability/ Agriculture, and Good Governance/ Anti-Corruption. Morale is overall pretty good. Everyone seems to know everyone else (or someone who knows someone).

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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?

Malawi is a make your own fun post. Definitely a great chance to develop your hobbies. Lots of stuff to do outdoors: hiking, biking, and scuba at the lake. Not a lot of restaurants/night clubs (but there are a few) and no movie theaters. People host parties at their residences a lot.

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

Great for families with small children. Fine for couples. Difficult for single people: the dating pool is somewhat limited.

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

It's not actively hostile to LGBT, but this is not a country where you can be truly out. This is also not a country where LGBT activism seems to be well-tolerated. The culture is conservative and the social institutions remains somewhat closed and homophobic. Consequently, the LGBT population, particularly in the expat community, tends to fly under the radar for the most part.

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

Ignorance is global and stereotypes are commonly bandied about in Lilongwe.

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

Malawi is a beautiful country filled with a warm and hospitable people. Go to the mountains at least once. Go to the lake at least once. Do at least one safari if you can afford it.

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

Dedza is renowned for its pottery. Beyond that, it's typical touristy stuff here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The power grid here is the worst I've ever seen. Power outages are daily and the power surges can fry equipment regularly. Bring good quality surge protectors (and plan on replacing them at least once) and I even recommend little commercial UPS units just to cover the power gap from when the city goes dark and your generator comes online. That can make a huge difference in quality of life.

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

Absolutely. My kids love it here.

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

Winter clothes and expensive electronics.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and bug spray. Surge protectors. American junk food.

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

Frankly, everyone says to read "The Boy who Harnessed the Wind" but I think you're better served by reading the online papers before you come. Read The Nation and read Malawi Times. Particularly the opinion pages, which is the best snapshot of life at the moment that I've seen.

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Lilongwe, Malawi 07/21/17

Background:

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

This is our 4th tour. We have also lived in South America, Southeast Asia and Washington, DC.

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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?

Home is in the midwestern U.S. Usually we fly from Lilongwe to Joburg to Atlanta to the midwest.

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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 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?

We live in a single level home. Most homes are one story and have anywhere from 3-5 bedrooms. All have giant, lush yards. Most expats live in areas 10, 12 and 43, which are all a 5-10 minute drive from each other. Our commute to the Embassy is excellent - only 10 minutes each way. There are other parts of town that get more congested during commute times and lunch, but there aren't an excessive number of cars here. The bigger challenge is all of the obstacles on the side of the road. Bikes hauling all matter of things, people walking at night with no reflective gear, goats darting out into the street. You have to keep your wits about you at all time. And I try to drive after dark as little as possible because there are very few street lights.

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

Basic meat and produce are very reasonably priced and of good quality. Dairy products and other imported goods can be quite expensive. And compared to the US, there are far less processed foods (which can be a good thing). We have pouch, so we're able to ship in a few things to fill the gap.

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

Some of the biggies that can't be found on the local market include baking supplies, coconut/almond milk, black beans, refried beans, pumpkin, salsa, and taco seasoning.

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

There are about 10-15 restaurants among which the expat crowd rotates. It is near impossible to go out to eat and not see someone you know (can be both a good and bad thing). There are several excellent cafe options that are only open in the day. My faves include Lark, Brunch and Ama Khofi. Persian, Indian, Chinese and Italian food can also all be found here.

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

During rainy season, ants are everywhere. There are also frequent gecko visitors in the house, but you get used to them after awhile. I haven't seen any snakes or big spiders in the house, and for that I am grateful. There are a lot fewer mosquitoes than I was expecting. It's very pleasant being out at night.

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Daily Life:

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

We have diplomatic pouch with the US government.

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

Help is plentiful and ends up costing about $120 a month. Everyone has a gardener and a housekeeper. Some will also get a nanny and a cook. Often a nanny or cook will also do housekeeping. Most people employ 2-3 individuals.

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

There are no national gym chains here. The US Embassy has a gym and there are classes offered in people's homes.

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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. Always best to have cash on you. Most grocery stores take them, but often their card readers don't work. Most restaurants take them now. If you want to book a safari or something through a travel operator and want to use a card, they'll usually charge you 3.5%. I get my cash from the Embassy, so I'm not sure about the safety of ATMs. I do know that the denominations they'll give out are pretty small, so you end up having to do many transactions.

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

There are several options for various denominations.

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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 to none. Classes/tutors are available and affordable, although most don't use them.

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

Not a good place for someone with physical disabilities. There are limited medical resources, no sidewalks and often the roads are crumbling at the edges or full of potholes.

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Transportation:

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

We are advised not to take the local mini buses. Some take taxis, but they usually have a relationship with one specific taxi driver and call them when they need rides.

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

Definitely a 4x4 vehicle if you plan to travel around the country. Bring an extra set of tires too. You want high clearance. The roads are not well maintained.

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Phone & Internet:

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

High speed internet is available, but not super reliable. We had really bad luck with Skyband our first 6 months. We switched to TNM and had an antennae installed on our roof and our speed has gone up about 30%. Definitely would recommend going the TNM route.

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

Most people bring an unlocked phone and then get a SIM card with prepaid data and airtime plans. I use Airtel and spend about $10 a month on my phone bill. Most people text. WhatsApp is big too.

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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 - there are good vet services in town. The vet will even come to your house. We don't have a pet, so I don't know much else about getting pets into the country. Given the large yards, it can be a great place for dogs. Many also keep chickens, rabbits, guinea fowl, etc.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

This is a great place for spouse employment. For Americans, there is a bilateral work agreement, so we're free to work on the local economy. Many mission members have great jobs at local ngos or health care organizations. There are also about 20 jobs for spouses in the Embassy. Most people seem quite happy with their work here (except for the hiring freeze that has been going on in 2017). I cannot comment on local salaries, but I think you can find a reasonably paying job here.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I haven't pursued this much yet, but I know they are available. There is a lot of need in Malawi and many great organizations out there trying to do something about it.

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

Dress is more casual. Most locals wear a type of brightly-colored fabric called chitenge (chi-ten-jay). Formal dress is rare except for a few events a year.

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Health & Safety:

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

Most people have 24 hour guards for their property. Due to the extreme poverty, there are a lot of crimes of desperation such a burglaries, robberies and purse snatching. Overall I feel quite safe here though. I go out for long walks by myself almost every day.

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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 VERY limited here. Emergency care is practically non-existent. The Embassy routinely medevacs critical cases to Joburg. The Embassy has an excellent health unit, so we use that for most things. There is also a good dentist and radiologist in town. CMED is good for labs and xrays.

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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?

Overall, the air quality is excellent here. There is one time of year where people like to burn grasses, etc, so the air deteriorates then. It's fairly minimal though. The air quality is a big plus here. I've been sick way less here than at our other more-polluted posts.

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

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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?

The climate is hands down the best thing about Malawi. Highs between 65 and 85 year round, lows ranging from 40-65 F. The sun shines every day. Even rainy season wasn't that bad. It would pour for an hour and then the sun would come out.

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Schools & Children:

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

Most people go to Bishop Mackenzie or African Bible College Christian School. Parents seem happy with both for K-8 although many send their kids to boarding school for high school, as numbers drop dramatically in those grades.

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

Special need accommodations can be done for minor issues. This is not a good place to bring a child who needs a lot of help.

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

The Learning Center is excellent and quite popular. It's a mix of Malawian and expat children. Cost is around $1500 a year and kids go from 7:30 to 12. Lilli's and Carmen's are also popular with the expat crowd and are around the same price as Learning Center. BMIS and ABC also offer preschool but it is significantly more expensive.

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

Yes, but mostly for swimming, soccer and ballet.

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Expat Life:

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

There are probably a couple thousand expats in Lilongwe given the large number of missionaries, NGOs and embassies. Life is comfortable here, so morale is generally good. It helps to get to a first world country every once in awhile though. Most make frequent trips to South Africa.

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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?

This place is all about BBQs, board games and house parties. It's a "make your own fun" kind of place, as there are only 1 or 2 attractions in town. There's a walking group (Walkie Talkies) that walk together every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. There are also game nights at restaurants. It's pretty chill overall. Great place for young families who want affordable help and don't care much about the nightlife.

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

Fabulous for families with kids under 10. Options start getting limited for middle and high schoolers. Seems okay for singles and couples. Nightlife is minimal, so you need to be okay with that. Most socializing takes place at people's homes.

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

Inexpensive safaris. Great friendships. Enjoying the amazing weather year round. The kind Malawian people.

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

Travelling can be frustrating in Malawi. Lodges are pretty expensive for what you get. Also, with the exception of the main highway (the M1), many roads are in terrible condition. Most trips anywhere in the country are at least a 4 hour drive, which makes it hard to do quick weekend trips. You can get to the lake in 2 hours though (in Salima). The country's topography is quite diverse though and it's very beautiful.

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

You can get clothes made inexpensively here. There is also some good carvings and furniture.

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

AMAZING weather. Cheap household help. Kind, friendly locals. Lots of work options. Large, lush yards with beautiful birds.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How truly small it is. Some days I hear more birds than cars! It feels more like a village or town than a big city. There isn't even really a downtown area. I miss movie theaters too.

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

Yes, it's been a fascinating experience. I think two to three years is plenty though, as you start running out of things to do and see.

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

Winter coat. Left-hand drive car.

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4. But don't forget your:

Rain boots.

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

The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind by William Kamkwamba.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

This is a relatively easy Africa post. A great first Africa post for those who haven't been to the continent before.

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Lilongwe, Malawi 10/16/16

Background:

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

This was our second post - we were in N'djamena, Chad before.

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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?

Florida is "home" and it takes approx 22 hours flight time and an overnight in Joburg. The 3 most common routes as of now from the U.S. are Atlanta to Johannesburg on Delta and then Joburg to Lilongwe (Malawian Airlines), sometimes with a stop in Blantyre; Dulles to Addis Abba to Lilongwe (Ethiopian); and JFK to Joburg to Lilongwe (United/South African). The Atlanta to Joburg flight is the 2nd longest flight at 16hr 45min!



Flying almost anywhere from here is expensive (~US$500). In addition to Joburg and Addis, you can also get to Nairobi and Dar es Salaam.



The airport in LLW is easy and about a 20 min drive from most housing.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A little over 2 years.

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

USG.

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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 amazing here. Most houses have large yards with beautiful gardens, patios, and screened porches. The houses are generally large with 3-5 bedrooms. Some houses have pools and most houses have staff quarters. All houses have barbed wire, a guard station, a generator and water tanks. Currently we are experiencing significant water shortages and power cuts so the generator is key.



Lilongwe is divided into areas and all USG housing (and most other expat housing) are in 3 areas close to the Embassy and city center. The commute takes about 5-10 minutes to work.

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

There are several decent grocery stores here - Old Chipiku, New Chipiku, Old Shoprite, New Shoprite, Foodworths, Bowers, Carni-Wors, Food Lovers and Spar. (If you know South African Spar and Foodlovers, please reset your expectations.) You can generally get most items you would need but it may require visiting several of the stores. If you see something you want, you buy it because it may not be there the next time! There have been occasional shortages of skim milk and unsalted butter.



There are monthly farmers markets and a CSA like veggie basket you can get biweekly. Many expats have large vegetable gardens and fruit trees.



This is a consumables post and although you can buy cleaning products here, if there is something you like, it may be better to ship it.

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

Malawi is a consumables post but it depends on your style. Eventually you can get most anything you want or need here but the question is will it be available at the time and price you want. A lot of people ship olive oil, red wine vinegar, salsa, spaghetti sauces and cleaning products. Best to ship liquids, cans, and glass....

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

There are a few good restaurants here but leave behind your expectations for a hopping dining scene. The Four Seasons complex is lovely with a beautiful plant nursery, Buchanan Steak house, Kathmandu restaurant, and Ama Kofi Lunch spot. There are 2 -3 good Indian restaurants, 2 good Italian restaurants, and a few others. Food delivery is rare but most places will do take out if you ask. A lot of people employ cooks and some of our best meals have been at friends' houses.

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

Ants! and mosquitoes.... You can buy Doom and local insect sprays but during rainy season, ants are everywhere!

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Daily Life:

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

Through the Embassy but we have had things shipped to us via DHL without issues.
There are rumors of us being a DPO post in earlier 2017 :)

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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 great; housekeepers, cooks, gardeners, nannies, drivers are all available. Most houses have staff quarters and but not all people have their staff live on property. Prices vary depending on full time or part time and how many roles the staff play, how big your houses is, and how many children you have. For 2 people in a medium size house with a full time housekeeper is approx US$150-180/month and the same for a gardener. It is also often expected to provide additional money for lunch food, a uniform 2x/year, and possibility a 13th month/holiday bonus. Some staff like their salary to be pinned to the dollar since the kwacha fluctuates a lot and it's currently very low.

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

Gym at the embassy, a local gym run by expats (not cheap but not too expensive and high quality!), yoga classes, a walking group, and a few sports leagues. There are a few pools at the hotels where you can pay to swim/ play tennis/squash. Malawi is a mountain bike haven. There is a mountain biking group which rides every week called the FOBs, and a Lady FOBs group which takes a bit more relaxed pace. Also just 3 km from town is Kumbali Village which has a 5K, 8K, 11K, &21K trails for running, biking and horseback riding (and they offer a great breakfast and is a popular Sunday morning place.)



At the Lake you can kayak, swim, snorkel, dive and paddle board. Mount Mulanje is a great place to hike and camp.

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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?

Malawi is a cash society. You can rarely use CC and even if they say you can, often the machine doesn't work. There are ATMs but I believe the max withdrawal is 40,000mkw or US$80.

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

There are English services available for the Catholic church and maybe for others. The CLO office has a list.

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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?

Chichewa, Chiyao, & Chigoni are the 3 local languages and Chichewa is the most common. It is not necessary for daily living, but greatly appreciated by Malawians if you can get the greetings and common phrases down. There are several tutors.

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

Yes, many potholes, almost no sidewalks, and nothing is even!

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Transportation:

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

There are buses for long distance travel; minibuses, tuktuk , taxis, and bike taxis for getting around in town. It is really helpful to have a car or a taxi driver you trust.

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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 Prados are the most common car and helpful if you plan on doing some exploring. In town, there are lots of small cars (Corollas, Versa, etc) During transition season, there are often lots of cars for sale, otherwise people import from Japan. Malawi is a right hand drive country.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is a challenge in Malawi but getting better. Some USG houses come with internet of varying speed, but most people purchase internet. There are two main providers-Skyband and MTN and both are relatively expensive. Skyband offers a nightrider package for 10G that is unlimited from 7pm-7am and free on weekends for about $65 a month; you can usually Skype on this and rarely stream. TV downloads can take several hours. MTN just arrived and took over a former network but upgraded to 4G and you can see the difference. Its a pay as you go system with scratch cards- 10G for 23,000MKW (~$40). If you are streaming those 10G go quickly.

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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 work for USG you are provided a work phone but often people bring their own unlocked smart phones for personal use. Its easy to get an Airtel or MTN sim card and you can buy credit scratch cards on most corners in town. You can also get data bundles for the 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 a few vets here. One is an expat who most pet owners go to and the other is the Lilongwe SPA. People often adopt cats/dogs from here. Grocery stores sell Purina cat/dog food at a price. Malawians in general aren't big fans of dogs. House staff and guards may take awhile to get used to the animal and not be afraid.

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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 is a mix of opportunities for spouses/partners. Many choose to work locally either within the USG system or there are several NGOs here. There are some partners who telecommute but find it challenging with the slower internet speeds.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many opportunities: schools, orphanages, women groups.

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

Business if interacting with the Ministries to business casual for office. There are a few formal events where nicer clothes are required but not mandatory.

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Health & Safety:

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

Overall Malawi is very safe. The biggest personal security concern is driving and accidents. During the lean season, there are some home invasions but USG houses have 24/7 guards, barb wire, and alarm systems. Of course, one should always be aware of their surroundings and not flash a lot of wealth or cash.

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

The two major health issues are malaria and schistosomiasis (Bilharzia disease). It is recommended to be on malaria prophylaxis year round and take preventative measures (nets, spray, etc).



Lake Malawi is a beautiful and enticing lake. There are areas with higher concentrations of schisto and they are best to avoid. That being said many people will swim and snorkel! There is a test for schisto and treatment but best to talk to your healthcare provider.



There are a few local clinics that are used by expats (Partners In Hope & African Bible College Clinic) which have western-trained providers. The clinics have limited capacity in terms of diagnostic tools and laboratory. The Embassy also has a medical provider and two great expatriate nurses who have lived in Malawi for years. There is a new dentist in town who can do cleanings but major procedures are still medically evacuated.

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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?

As someone with allergies and asthma - I love this place! Yes, you will still have some allergies and burning season is a little rough, but overall the air is great.

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

I would recommend bringing your allergy meds with you although I think you can purchase some at local pharmacies. There are beautiful yellow trees that seem to make everyones allergies go nuts.



Peanuts are a common part of the diet here. There have been expat kids at the schools who have peanut allergies and been fine.

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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)?

Although Malawi is known as a sleepy little post, its quite busy and real meaningful change is difficult. There is need to manage work/life balance, your expectations, and not get too stressed.

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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?

The weather is beautiful. September-December is hot and dry. Temperatures can reach to the mid to low 90's F and hotter down at the lake. (Lilongwe and Blantyre are at a higher elevation and are slightly cooler than the lake.)



December-March/April is rainy season which is warm or hot and humid. In the last few years, the rains have been late and inadequate. We are currently having a severe water shortage and worry about floods if intense rains come.



May-August is cold season where temps are in the low 80s F during the day and can drop to the high 40s F at night, and even colder if in the mountains. Bring rain coat, fleece jacket and hat and your bathing suit!

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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 2 schools which most expat (and well-to-do Malawian) children attend: African Bible College (ABC) and Bishop Mackenzie International School (BMIS). BMIS has an IB program and several after-school sports. We don't have kids but most parents seem fairly happy with BMIS. There are also lots of preschools.

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

Best to contact the schools directly, but I believe special needs accommodations are limited, if at all.

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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 many preschools and a few which are frequented by expat kids. Also many families have full-time nannies.

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

Through the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is large! Due to the numerous Embassys and NGOs here, there are expats from many countries. I still meet new people who have been here as long or longer than we have (and we are social!) There are two main groups of expats: the short-timers who are here for 6 months to 2-3 years and the expat residents who have made Malawi home. Morale is good.

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

This is a great family post! Couples too. It's not the best place for singles but not the worst either.

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

There has been a lot of controversy on LGBT rights recently and it's not super friendly.

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

No obvious ethnic or religious prejudices. For gender equality, there is forward movement on improving rights for the girl child.

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

So many - the lake, Liwonde National Park, Satemwa Tea Estates, Mt. Mulanje, Zomba Mountain, Nyika Plateau, Luwawa forest lodge, Ntchisi forest lodge, Lilongwe Golf club, Lake of Stars Music Festival, side trip to South Luwanga National Park in Zambia, Kuti Game reserve, Nkohma mountain.

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

You can find lots of the traditional African handicraft and fabric gifts but what is special to Malawi is Dedza Pottery and the wood carvings from Mua Mission. Mua Mission is home to the largest collection of Gule Wamkulu masks and a unique museum on the 3 tribes of Malawi. Their gallery of carvings are unique and beautiful.

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

Easy city, friendly people, great weather.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Lower expectations for seafood. With Lake Malawi being so over-fished, freshwater seafood is dwindling.

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

Yes, a great post...a WONDERFUL family post.

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

Expectations. Managing your expectations will be the key to a great stay!

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience, bikes, hiking boots and swim suits!!

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Move here! It's a hidden gem!

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Lilongwe, Malawi 08/02/15

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 other large modern cities with kids and in third world countries without kids.

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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?

Home base is New York. We typically fly through JNB, so a 2.5 hour flight from Lilongwe to JNB and then 16 hours direct to New York. It's also easy to go through Nairobi and Europe or Addis and Europe, so there are options! But it's a long multi-step trip.

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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.)?

We are in Lilongwe with my husband who is at the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

In Lilongwe most expats live in single family homes either on their own compound (houses all have walled compounds for security) or a compound shared with other families. Commutes are not long; my husband's commute is about ten minutes.

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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 expensive and so are cleaning and household supplies. There are also some issues with availability (egg shortages, chicken shortages, milk shortages). Things seem to be getting better in terms of availability and options, but people still tend to hoard a little when they see something like frozen berries or a new cheese or Coke Light even.

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

Outdoor toys, trampoline, wading pool, bikes.

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

There are a range of good restaurants and more seem to be opening lately. They can be expensive. There's good Indian and Korean food as well as some Chinese.

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

Ants can be an issue and mosquitoes can carry malaria. Most people we know take prophylactic medication as protection from malaria and sleep under mosquito nets.

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Daily Life:

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

Very available and inexpensive.

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

Yes there's a gym in Lilongwe but we have not used it. There's also a Hash house running group and biking groups as well as volleyball, golf, tennis, ultimate frisbee, swimming...

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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?

Lilingwe is a cash based place. There are lots of ATMs which generally have a withdrawal limit of 40,000 Kwacha.

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

Catholic and Protestant

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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?

None

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Transportation:

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

There are mini buses, bus service between bigger cities and, in Lilongwe, tuk-tuks. We drove everywhere though.

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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?

The Toyota Prado Landcrusier is everywhere and for good reason as it's kind of a dependable tank of a vehicle and good on the potholed roads. Left hand drive.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Available but somewhat unreliable. It's smart to do the research as to which company to go with and which is currently the most reliable and fastest. We have had a lot of issues with Internet.

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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?

Unknown as to quarantine although this is a heaven for dogs with huge gardens.

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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

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Tons

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Health & Safety:

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

Malawi is a poor country so security concerns come from the discrepancy between most expats and Malawians. We felt very safe though.

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

The quality of available medical care is very low and inconsistent. For anything serious, you will need to leave Malawi. The main health concern for us was 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?

Excellent

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

There always seems to be something beautiful in bloom which might bother some with allergies. Food allergies might be tricky to deal with, although there are kids in the community with peanut allergies who are fine and then each oil is accommodating.

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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?

It seems like there are three main seasons: rainy season from the end of November to March when it rains a bit most days but dries up (often heavy rains), the cooler season from May to August when the days are sunny and cooler and the nights get very cold, and the hot dry season from August to November when it gets hotter and drier.

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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 three main international schools; Bishop Mackenzie International School which is an accredited IB school, ABC which is the school associated with the African Bible College and follows the American curriculum with a religious slant, and Acacia which follow the British curriculum. We only have experience with Bishop Mackenzie and it was been very positive with great teachers.

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

There seem to be some accommodations for kids with special needs but not much and not exceptional, although this might be slowly changing.

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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 but not numerous. They are not very expensive, but there's certainly a bit of a range.

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

The most structured sports teams I know of are swim teams with scheduled practices and coaches and uniforms, otherwise, there are opportunities to play sports at school. Soccer is popular and Bishop Mackenzie has a drop-off Saturday soccer 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?

Fairly large expat community with what we have found to be great morale with a sense of humor for the frustrations of Lilongwe.

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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?

People get together for fun: pot luck, beer brewing, bike trip or grilling. There are a few places just outside of town that offer. Change of pace and heading up to the Lake for the weekend is common.

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

Lilongwe is a great city for families who are happy to make their own fun at group barbecue, swimming, camping or Saturday afternoon soccer/volleyball pick up. We don't have experience as singles but it seems like there are things to do.

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

I don't know except that as a country Malawi isn't accepting of gay or lesbian people.

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

We loved some of the secluded beaches up North along the Lake and the proximity to amazing safari experiences. We found the Lilongwe community to be a real highlight with friendly, unpretentious people doing interesting things.

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

The weather is beautiful and sunny all year, even in rainy season you get plenty of blue sky days. It's fun to spend time at Lake Malawi, easy to go on safari and hike Mt Mulanje. Camping, biking and other outdoor activities are common. Malawians are friendly and positive, and the country has a slow, laid back vibe.

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7. Can you save money?

If you don't travel or go on safari you can, but you'll want to travel and go on safari.

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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. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and ant traps.

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Lilongwe, Malawi 09/17/13

Background:

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

Fourth 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?

Long travel times back to the U.S. via Johannesburg, Nairobi, or Addis Ababa are to be expected. We prefer the Johannesburg to Atlanta flight as it is overnight each way which makes it slightly more manageable with children.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Four years--since 2010.

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

Diplomat with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

All houses in the housing pool were built around the same time--late 1970s/early 1980s. Huge yards for some houses but all have medium size yards with vegetable garden space. The yards and relative similarity of the housing--single story brick with three bedrooms and two bathrooms--make Lilongwe pleasant to live in.

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

Twice as expensive as in the U.S....sometimes three times as much.

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

Good car tires as they are three times as expensive as in the U.S. It would have to be in your HHE or UAB as the DPO will charge you bulk fees.

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

There are about 10-15 good restaurants - most of them Indian. Bombay Palace at the Game Shopping Center is the best. A few Chinese--Noble China is the best--and a few western style places too. The best for lunch are Ulendo's Lark Cafe in Area 10 and Four Season's Ama Kofe...hands down.

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

Less than I expected. Mosquitos of course--and malaria is a real concern. Termites fly with the rains and make for quite a sight. Ants can come and go around the house.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO is a huge plus. You can stay connected to American groceries via Amazon prime/subscribe and save.

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

Very affordable--between US$125-$200 per month. Do not expect proactive staff. Treasure and encourage anyone who works for you who demonstrates proactiveness as being passive is the norm.

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

At the Embassy.

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

Leave the credit card at home. ATMs work for getting cash out.

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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 is great--especially for sports--and some Embassy houses have AFN.

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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?

English is the national language.

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

No sidewalks and lots of stairs would make this place hard.

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Transportation:

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

Public transport is not as common as other countries in the region. Everyone is walking!

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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?

Import a used vehicle from Japan--I recommend the Prado as parts and maintenance are easy and it will get you around South Luangwa too. Driving is dangerous here and a good car will also protect you from accidents.

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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?

Getting better every month. We finally realized that the MTL wimax is the best so far. About US$75 a month...much less than the US$200 it used to cost for Burco and others.

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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?

Very good Airtel coverage and the data package will give you internet almost anywhere in the country.

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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)?

Yes--nice vets and this place it literally dog heaven.

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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?

For those who seek it out there are opportunities with all the NGOs and implementing partners of the massive amount of foreign assistance that goes on.

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

Formal--Malawians like to dress conservatively and look smart.

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Health & Safety:

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

Worse in Blantyre than Lilongwe. Getting worse in Lilongwe but Areas 10, 12 and 43--where our housing is clustered--are still relatively safe. Lots of people walking and jogging at all hours.

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

Malaria is a major concern. Bilharzia from swimming in the lake but we just take prozy every six months and have been in every nice beach swimming in Lake Malawi from the far north to the south and have not tested positive for it. Excellent med unit at the Embassy--any serious issues will require being evacuated 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?

Perfect...except in the burning season...which can last a while.

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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?

Perfect. Better than where I grew up in San Diego. Now--how often do you hear that?

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Schools & Children:

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

BMIS and ABC.

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

BMIS is attentive to your child's development and carves out time to focus on their needs but has limited additional resources. Sandi is good for occupational therapy.

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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?

Plenty--two or three options in areas 10, 12 and 43 but Rainbow is the preferred school for the longtimers. Acacia is popular too but Rainbow--although on the other side of town--has much better prices and is full of so much more character.

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

Yes--lots of sports at BMIS--especially swimming and soccer.

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Expat Life:

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

Diplomats and foreign NGOs almost equal to tobacco families--I would put it at 1,000-2,000 for Lilongwe. You feel like you know everyone but then realize that you keep meeting new people here and there as the crowds are pretty insular.

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2. Morale among expats:

Great--so long as you get out and meet new people.

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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?

It is what you make of it. The weather and outdoor spaces make hosting parties or events at your home easy and fun.

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

A dream post for those with small children. The weather and large yards make for unforgettable family time outside and the friendly atmosphere in Lilongwe is a pleasant backdrop.

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

Like much of Africa there is a lot formal, legal prohibition of homosexuality but it is otherwise more or a don't ask, don't tell situation.

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

Other than just being the mzungu--like most other parts of East and Southern Africa--you will not notice racial tension. The inter-tribal dynamics are more placid than elsewhere in the region too.

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

Laying on the shore of Lake Malawi feeling like I am back home on the beach in California.

Getting to know Lilongwe's growing communities of artists, expats, and Rotarians. It has been a real pleasure.

Traveling to South Luangwa--as many times as possible!

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

Four Seasons for lunch or brunch, Kumbali for brunch, BBQs at friend's houses, swimming at the Tamarind Club, tennis at the Golf Club or your friend's court...it is what you make of it. Night life is pretty much Cameleon's, the Living Room, or Club Zanzi for dancing...not much but getting better.

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

Some nice wood carving and furniture.

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

The friendly, easy going attitude of Malawians as well as the adventure travel opportunties. The lake is the go-to get away--only 1 hour and 15 minutes from our house. Trips to Malawi's "best national park"--a common cliche used for South Luangwa National Park in Zambia--are world class and unforgettable. Travel to Zomba, Cape MacClear, Ntchisi, Chinteche, Dzalanyma, ant the Nyika Plateau make this place unique. Travel times are long tough so plan to take extra time.

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11. Can you save money?

Harder than I expected it to be but possible. If you travel to expensive safari outfits then it will be hard but if you camp and do it on your own then it helps a lot.

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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:

Impatience as everything in Malawi comes in time.

Expectations that you will have choices as to what to do for entertainment--going to Kumbali for Sunday brunch or the Tamarind Club to swim will be your normal quandry.

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3. But don't forget your:

Creativity and sense of adventure.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Nice nature documentary from "mutant planet" on Lake Malawi's unique cichlid speciation.

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

Laurens van der Post' Venture into the Interior.

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Lilongwe, Malawi 09/26/12

Background:

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

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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?

You can go VIA Europe, or on a long direct flight from SA to Atlanta. Wherever you're headed in the States, it's always about two days' travel time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

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

(The contributor is affiliated with the U.S. Government and has lived in Lilongwe for 21 months, a first expat experience.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Very large houses with very large yards. We have a trampoline and swing set for the kids, and a big yard to run around in, and a nice garden in the back. It's only about 10-15 minutes to get to the embassy and Nico House (where USAID and CDC are located).

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

Groceries and household supplies are really hit-and-miss here. Sometimes you find them, sometimes you don't. Most things, except for fresh local produce, are a lot more expensive here. I do a lot of shopping for staples online, and then get vegetables from the market.

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

I'm so glad we shipped a trampoline, since the yards are so big, and the kids love it. I'm also really glad that we shipped a projector, so we have our own movie theater at home. I would have shipped more liquids for household cleaning (my housekeeper goes through cleaning fluids a lot quicker than I ever did) as well as any favorite foods. We love Mexican food, so I would have sent more salsa and canned peppers and tomatillos, etc.

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

A few South African chains are available. I've honestly not tried the fast food, it doesn't look good to me. Nothing is really fast here anyway. There are a few good restaurants, although service is always a bit slow. Everything here is pretty expensive.

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

Mosquitoes are a big issue, with anti-malarials recommended year-round. There are a lot of ants all around the houses, and depending on the time of year there can be a lot of grasshoppers and termites. Some people have problems with big roaches in their houses, but not many.

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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 the pouch. No liquids and certain size and weight restrictions apply, but it is a real life-saver for my family.

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

Very available and very cheap. We have a nanny, a housekeeper, and a gardener. The nanny and gardener share the staff quarters on the property, so the nanny is around to babysit when we want to go out, and the gardener can water at the odd times when water is available. We pay each less than $100 a month.

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

There is a gym facility at the embassy, and there is Nico House. You can join the Tamarind Club at the British High Commission, and there are a few private gyms in the residential areas.

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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?

This is a cash economy, but we don't really trust the ATMs here, and hardly anyone takes credit cards. If a store does take them, the employee won't know how to process the request, and it will take a lot longer for your transaction.

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

There are many Christian churches here, and I think that many do have English services. Most people go to the African Bible College. I know there is a small Muslim population, but I don't really know of any synagogues.

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

Most papers are English, and most of the TV is through South Africa. It's pretty expensive, and we don' t actually subscribe, so I don't know.

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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?

English is the official language, though Chichewa is the dominant language, and many people's English skills are very limited. I've known a few expats who have learned some Chichewa, but it is not necessary.

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

It would be extremely difficult. There are just not the proper facilities for any of that. Lots of bad sidewalks. If there are sidewalks, there certainly will be no ramps. Not many elevators either.

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Transportation:

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

RSO suggests not to take public transportation. Most of the minibuses are falling apart, and many get in accidents. Some people take the nice buses from one part of the country to the other, but not often.

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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?

I think that it's nice to have a big SUV (we have a Landrover) for anytime you travel out of the city---and even if you go into certain areas within Lilongwe. We also have a small sedan to take back and forth to work since fuel is so expensive. But it seems pretty important to have an SUV. The roads are severely potholed and the weather is really hard on your car, so I wouldn't recommend a nice car. The traffic is also a bit crazy. Toyota is the preferred brand because there are many here that parts are easy to come by. We've had to order our Landrover parts from the States. Not as easy. It's also right-hand drive, so we bought our cars here. Some still drive American-style cars here, but with all of the bicycles and pedestrians and even carts drawn by donkeys in the roads, I prefer to be in the middle of the road for better visibility.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is available from a few companies, though service is spotty and not fast at all. I think that most people pay about $250 a month for their 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?

Everyone has a cell phone here. They are cheap pay-as-you-go phones. Zain and TNM are the two carriers. Some people recommend that you have a SIM card for each one since service usually goes out with one or the other. I've just had Zain and it's been fine for me.

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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?

Not to my knowledge. Lots of my friends have pets, but I don't have any myself.

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

There are a few good vets in town, but I'm pretty sure no kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No, not unless you can get work with a development partner. Some jobs through the schools, but not many and the pay is fairly low.

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

Conservative in both places.

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Health & Safety:

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

Because it's such a poor country, you always have to be careful about where you go and what you do. It's a cash economy, and things are expensive, so you carry a lot of cash around with you, and should protect it. I've heard of robberies, etc, but thankfully haven't had any problems myself.

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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?

Lots of health concerns. Malaria is always an issue, and we get tested for TB once a year. Hospitals are terrible, so pretty much anything serious or beyond routine results in a medevac to South Africa. Lots of people seem to have many allergy-related issues here as well.

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

The air quality is pretty good except that people are always burning something or another, and that can really bother me. There is always some flowering tree in bloom, which, while very pretty, means allergies are often an issue.

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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 dry season is from April to November (give or take) when the weather is colder, but still nice and temperate (think 70s in the day, cooler in the morning and at night). The rainy season is from November until April, when it rains for a little bit each day, there is flooding on the roads, but everything is nice and green. It never gets too hot. October is the hottest month, before the rains come. You are really looking at 70s-80s pretty much year-round in the day time.

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Schools & Children:

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

BMIS is the most popular among the families. I sent my oldest daughter there for a year and she liked it. But when my second daughter was starting reception and my agency wasn't paying, I switched to ABC, the Christian school, which offered us a lower tuition. They have a beautiful school and we've had really good teachers. It is a very Christian-based curriculum though, so I know that puts a lot of people off.

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

I know that there are not many accommodations for kids with special needs. It is dependent upon who is currently in country at the schools and whether they can provide support.

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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 a few different preschools around. Rainbow is said to be good, but it's on the other side of town from most embassy houses. In our area is a new preschool called Kids Corner, which is where I send my son. The tuition is good for here, and he seems happy enough. Nannies are very inexpensive, and there are a lot of baby groups for nannies to take the kids to.

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

Through the schools. They have a lot of swimming and soccer. There is a local who teaches tennis to most of the kids.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty big. Because it's so poor and there are so many health issues, there are a lot of development partners here, so it's a big and pretty tightly-knit community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Generally really high. There are a lot of really friendly people here who genuinely like each other and are happy. There are a lot of things that can get you down about Malawi, because it's such a poor country, the houses are big but not without their problems, and it can be really frustrating to pay a lot of money for low quality food, and sometimes not even be able to find basics (like eggs). That being said, it's lovely weather, there is a lot to do, and this is a really great community to be part of, so those things usually outweigh the bad. However, while we have been here there have been severe fuel shortages which have resulted in very long fuel lines and people paying drivers to stand in line all day. This has resulted in very low morale. The embassy has its own fuel pumps, so we were not as affected, but the Embassy even had to close the fuel pumps several times as it could not get fuel either.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Lots of people make their own entertainment. There are many friendly people who will invite you to their homes for parties, game nights, etc.

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

I really think it depends on your point of view. I know happy people from each category, although I think it's more of a family post. If you like to spend time at home, with friends, and exploring the country, then you'll like it. There are no movie theaters, just a few clubs and bars, but really next to no night life here. You make your own entertainment.

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

It is a highly conservative Christian area, and homosexuality is against the law - - -sort of a don't ask don't tell system. Among the expats it's not an issue. We had a gay couple who lived next to us who seemed happy enough here. But again they were a family. For singles I think it would be pretty hard.

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

Not really. They're warm and friendly people. It is a male-dominated society, and there are gender issues, but they don't affect the expats as much.

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

We have loved snorkeling and kayaking in Lake Malawi, going on game drives in Liwonde and South Luangwa (in Zambia), staying at the cottage in Zomba, and enjoying our big house with a big yard, and the friends we've made.

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

Lake Malawi is beautiful. There are a wide variety of fish if you go to the right places to snorkel, even some scuba diving, boating, and just relaxing on the beach. Gorgeous sunsets and sunrises. Beautiful mountains, lots of birds and flowers and some pretty good game viewing in Liwonde. I haven't been to Nyika which is also supposed to be good for viewing. We've also gone to South Luangwa twice so we could see more big game (leopards, lions, buffalo, etc.). It's a long bumpy road, but worth the trip. There are many beaches and forest lodges. Lots of options if you can travel a few hours or so.

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

Wood carvings and chitenje (fabrics). There are other fun local crafts, too, but I wouldn't call most of them high quality.

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

Malawian people are warm and friendly, there are a lot of great places to go on the lake, the weather is wonderful, it's pretty close to some really nice game viewing, and it has a nice, slow atmosphere for an African capital city.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes. Things can be really expensive here, but if you camp instead of staying at all-inclusive lodges, and don't always go out to eat, you can save a lot here.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, though it can be very taxing for long periods of time. You really have to get out and recharge.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience, sunscreen, bug spray, flexibility, and things you need to make your own fun at home.

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

Malawi travel guides, both the Bradt guide and the Lonely Planet guide.

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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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Lilongwe, Malawi 09/17/09

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 Guangzhou as well

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

With layovers it usually ends up being about 28 hours to the East Coast of the US. It's about 14 hours to a major European city.

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

US Government (State Department) transfer.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We had a large 3-bedroom house with a HUGE yard. We were about 5 minutes from my husband's job and 15 minutes (across town) from mine.

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

Depends on your diet. For an American there are many foods available, but not consistently. Supplies for Mexican food were very expensive or impossible to find. I actually did a lot of online grocery ordering.

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

Mexican food items, gifts (especially for children's birthdays), laundry detergent, chocolate chips and baking supplies, wine, paper plates and plastic silverware, napkins, snacks for the kids, games for outdoors, things that you really like and would hesitate to do without, as you probably won't find them---or you will and they will be VERY expensive.

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

There are some South African fast food chains (Steers, Pizza Inn). There are a few good restaurants - italian, international, indian - they are a bit pricey and the wait for food can be long.

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

Mosquitoes, and some houses have problems with ants.

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Daily Life:

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

We were fortunate to have pouch priveleges.

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

Very available and very cheap. We had a full-time housekeeper/nanny for about $70/month and a gardener for about the same amount.

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

The only gym I am aware of, outside of the one for U.S. Embassy employees, is at Crossroads Hotel.

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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 only used cash while we were there. Most stores didn't seem to take credit cards.

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

There are English-language services at many places - non-denominational, lutheran, catholic, baptist.

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

There are English newspapers available, although they have limited international news. There is satellite TV from South Africa. We didn't have DSTV, so I don't know how much it costs.

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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?

I didn't really learn much Chichewa at all. Everyone speaks English, which is also the offical language of Malawi.

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

I would expect it to be very challenging for someone in a wheelchair or someone who is blind.

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Transportation:

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

I wouldn't recommend taking the buses, although some people do. There are only private taxis -- which are a bit expensive but good in a pinch.

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

4WD, needs to be able to handle really bad roads, right-hand drive. We drove a Toyota Hilux Surf (4Runner equivalent) and found it to work very 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?

There is internet, although I wouldn't say it is high speed. We had the highest speed you could get and it was about $200/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?

I used Zain and found it to be fairly good and not too expensive; although service could be inconsistent.

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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?

Ours didn't.

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

Some pet care, limited lab services (basically none), which could make it difficult to diagnose some ailments. Dr. Nkoma was good (and cheap).

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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 limited.

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

Business casual at work, suits for those in government, conservative pants/shorts for the weekends or around town.

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Health & Safety:

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

Good (great actually).

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

This is considered a dangerous post. We had 3 break-in attempts while we were living there, although none was successful. It is not nearly as violent as many other African cities.

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

Malaria is a concern; our whole family was on anti-malaria prophylaxis. Health care is poor, most people ended up going to South Africa for health care.

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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?

Absolutely wonderful! Typically about 75 degrees and blue skies - except during the rainy season, when it can get warmer and much cloudier.

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Schools & Children:

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

ABC - it is run by a church, and tuition is lower. BMIS - both of my kids went to this school and loved it. I also taught there and found the other teachers to be highly qualified, although limited by lack of supplies and technology. I would recommend highly for elementary but not so much for high school, just because of the limited options.

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

At BMIS there are specialists who meet with students to handle reading issues. They can also recommend sources of outside assistance that are available in the area.

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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 a few different preschools around. My youngest son attended Rainbow and loved it.

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

There are sports through the school and the golf club.

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Expat Life:

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

Larger than I thought it would be due to all the aid work that goes on.

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2. Morale among expats:

Fairly good. It's a pretty 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?

Everyone pretty much makes their own entertainment. There are no movie theaters (except one down in Blantyre), bowling alleys, etc. so most people entertain in their home.

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

It is a great post for families, not as wonderful for singles or couples. But there are worse places.

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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?

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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 market, Kumbali village, Zomba Plateau, the tea estates, Lake Malawi, Domwe/Mumbo Island, game drives/boats in Liwonde, etc.

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

Wood crafts, baskets.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, as long as you don't do a whole lot of travel around Africa (very expensive).

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it was such a great place for the kids.

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

Cold weather clothes, 110v appliances, party-on-the-town mentality.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure, party attire, 4WD.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Lilongwe, Malawi 07/27/09

Background:

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

Lesotho, Lusadka, Zambia, Addis Ababa, and Ethiopia.

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2. How long have you lived here?

4 years.

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

I prefer the SAA direct flights from DC or NYC. However, over the past few years, the theft of luggage in JHB is increasing dramatically. We go on annual home leave, and every year one bag disappears -- either on the way to the US or on the way back to Lilongwe. Your other options are either through Nairobi or Addis Ababa.

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

Working for UN.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Lilongwe is small. Even in the ''rush hour'' you are generally only 15-20 minutes from home/work--often just 10 minutes. Single-family homes with very spacious plots generally cost around $1500-2000/month.

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

Malawi is an expensive country, but you can find most of what you need.

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

Seeds, basic personal and cosmetic items

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

Limited restaurants with acceptable menus--not much to really rave about. Very expensive.

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

Lilongwe is full of insects! It seems to be built on a gigantic ant hill. Most of the insects, though -- except the mosquitoes -- are harmless.

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Daily Life:

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

Most people use email, but you will eventually get your package through the post office.

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

Capacity in Malawi is low and it is difficult to find qualified help. The good help that is available will most likely cost between $100-150/month.

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

Many small gyms that have limited amounts of equipment and types. Most people buy the basics for their house.

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

You can find a bank that will accept your ATM card. Credit card use is very limited. You must pay cash for most things.

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

There are many different Christian churches--most offer an English-language service. The time may be early in the morning though!

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

Local newspapers are available. Journalist skills are quite limited. DSTV for access to international news and entertainment is essential.

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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, but it is always appreciated to know a few phrases.

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

Many.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable, but not safe. There are many fatal road accidents.

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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 is good for outside Lilongwe. Car hires are very expensive. In general, the roads -- unless you get off the beaten path -- are quite good, but a four-wheel drive is recommended.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is available. High speed? Well that depends on your perspective. It costs close to $100/month. Globenet is quite good.

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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?

Essential, but the networks are over-subscribed and have frequent blackouts.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

There is a good Zimbabwean vet available.

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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 have good skills that fit into the development machinery, there are often consultant opportunities. Some expat spouses offer special services--music lessons, nursery school, car mechanics, etc.

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

Smart casual. More formal if you interact with the government.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a very healthy environment in terms of pollution. There is very little pollution, which is really marvelous. However, clean water can be a problem. It's best to boil and filter it or buy bottled water.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

This is a really a very safe environment all around. House break ins do happen, but they often seem to be affiliated with household help or security. It is important to take security measures. There are occasional attempts at carjacking.

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

Medical care is quite poor. That is probably the biggest concern for most people living here. Really, there is always hope that nothing bad happens. Malaria and HIV are concerns.

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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?

The weather is wonderful. Sunny and hot most of the year. Summer can sometimes be a bit humid and oprresive. The short winter can sometimes get cold--high 30's low 40's at night. It will usually warm up during the day to a pleasant temperature. The ''cold nights'' really only lasts about 2 months.

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Schools & Children:

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

My children attend BMIS and love it. A dedicated school board and director are making positive changes at the school. The school offers a PYP programme. It is run-down in appearance, but it has good dedicated teachers. The other options are the African Bible College, offering a US-based curriculum (but it had not gotten its international accreditation). There is also a Mount Soche International School.

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

BMIS has a specialist teacher. However, children with learning challenges will probably not get the support required to help them thrive.

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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?

Very expensive for the quality. I have never paid so much for preschool and been so disappointed. ECD is not a developed field in Malawi. Children coming from more advanced nursery school settings are often a bit bored and not very challenged.

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

BMIS has sports for older children. If you look around enough you will find some outside the school -- karate, tennis and golf lessons.

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Expat Life:

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

Quite large.

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2. Morale among expats:

During your first 1-2 years it is good. However, Malawi is surprisingly a rather difficult country to live in on many levels. There are many leftover remains from the Banda years, including jealousy and xenophobia. Capacity is extremely low, and there is sometimes a rather large sense of pride, which prohibits forward movement. Sometime during the third year, a real fatigue sets in, and then morale dips. That means it is time to leave and let a new group have a go at it.

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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?

Mostly at home and social events at the school or at people's houses.

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

Great for families with young children, since most entertainment revolves around the home. Very little constructive activity for tween and teenage children.

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

There is a lot of stigma and discrimination against gay and lesbian people. It is necessary to keep any relationship hidden.

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

Some Malawians can express rather unpleasant feelings towards foreigners. Religions outside christianity, particularly asian religions, are not well understood and are often critiqued.

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

Malawi is a stunningly beautiful country. There are many scenic places along the lake--but not great accommodations or services. Expect to pay a lot and be a bit disappointed in terms of quality for cost. Mount Mulanje and other national parks are also worth seeing. South Luangwa game park across the border in Zambia is a must when you are so close!

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

There are some beautiful wooden carvings--mostly from across the border in Mozambique. Dedza pottery is OK. Not fantastic but OK.

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9. Can you save money?

NO! It is a very expensive country.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not. It really can be a very difficult country in a very hidden frustrating manner. We were shocked, having spent time in neighbouring countries, that Malawi is so under-developed, so proud, and so fond of blaming others for its lack of progress.

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

preconceived notions about what Malawi might be like. Everyone is rather surprised once they get to know the country.

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3. But don't forget your:

patience and an open mind.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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