Windhoek, Namibia Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Windhoek, Namibia

Windhoek, Namibia 01/12/16

Background:

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

Yes

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

Gainesville,Florida. Approx 20hrs of flying.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5yrs

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

My husband and I work 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?

The housing is really nice here. Houses are large and most have swimming pools with tarps and heaters. the houses have good security systems. They also have braais (african bbq). It is hilly and rocky here so many of the yards are covered in rocks (ours has no grass) and the driveways are often steep.

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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 very available at stores such as Checkers, Fruit & Veg, and Spar/Super Spar. The grocery cost is a bit higher because almost everything is imported from South Africa. There are a few familiar brands. Most items can be purchased locally. They do not have a frozen-food section with ready-made meals like we do in the U.S., so most things have to be made from scratch. They have chicken, beef and game. Turkey is only available around Thanksgiving. They have a large German section in many grocery stores, with German meats/sausages and chocolates.

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

Honestly, I have had no problems in ordering from Amazon and having items shipped to post. If it is an item that can not go through the pouch (such as glass or an item with a battery on the outside) then somebody going to and from the U.S. will typically take it from or bring it to post for you.

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

Nothing here is fast. We recently got a KFC, but there are no drive-through restaurants. Food is reasonably priced.

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

The only problem that we have had are ants inside the house. I have noticed this with most of the embassy houses.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic pouch.

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

Domestic help is very affordable, approximately US$12-US$15 a day.

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

There is a very large gym here called Virgin Active. It has several locations. They have a website for more information. A membership is less than your typical U.S. gym, but I would not call it inexpensive.

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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?

All major credit cards are accepted here. When possible it is best to pay in cash, as there have been a couple of instances (not with Americans) of stolen card numbers. This was reported to have happened several times at a restaurant and to have happened at a pharmacy (although the pharmacist was arrested). When using an ATM, you just need to be aware of your surroundings.

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

There are a few churches that are offered in Afrikaans or German only, but there are also a lot of English-speaking churches. The Welcome Packets offered by CLO contain the names of churches that preach in English.

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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 don't need to know the local language. Almost everyone speaks English, as it is the official language. People here speak Afrikaans, German and tribal languages as well as English.

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

Possibly. It is very rocky and hilly. A lot of the embassy houses have very steep driveways and un-level yards. Some of the homes have stairs leading up to the front door.

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Transportation:

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

I don't know of any trains. I don't know of any Americans who use the buses, and I would recommend against doing so. Taxis are not always safe, although they are affordable (about US$2 for a one-way-trip). Most people needing a ride call a service like dial-a-cab or Brandberg Service. These services are safe and reliable.

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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 would definitely recommend a vehicle with off-road capability (4-wheel drive) if you plan to travel at all (or go to lodges or for game drives). Most people have vehicles that are capable of going off road, as Namibia is desert and is largely rocks and sand. For local driving any vehicle would be fine.

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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 4g internet is available. It cost about US$100 a month for unlimited service (although they do throttle it back once you start reaching certain limits).

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

The main cell phone carrier is MTC. You can either get a contract through MTC (if you receive a work phone it will be through contract with MTC) or pick up an MTC/Tango pre-paid chip and pay-as-you-go. You just need to make sure that the cell phone that you bring has been unlocked by your previous cell phone carrier, as they are not allowed to unlock cell phones here.

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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?

Incoming pets do not need to quarantined if coming from the U.S. There are good vets here. There is a vet located directly next to the U.S. Embassy.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are a few people who work outside of the embassy, but most of them do telework. I believe we currently have one AEFM who works on the local economy.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

The embassy has a summer-hire program. There are also several Americans that volunteer at orphanages in Katutura.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Windhoek is rated high for crime. Crimes here are generally petty theft (pick-pocketing and robberies - cell phones are often targeted). We rarely see violent crimes here. Most crimes are crimes of opportunity (such as leaving a purse sitting on a car seat).

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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 good here. We have been impressed. Our dentist and GP are amazing, as is the children's ENT. My daughter had her tonsils removed by a local ENT here, and he did a wonderful job. For major health issues we have had a couple of employees MediVac'd to South Africa.
Children who attend Windhoek International School are not held to the same vaccination standards as most U.S. Children are. Some vaccines that are required for schools in the U.S. are optional for children who attend WIS. There have been several outbreaks at the school - none from mission children - of things that American children are vaccinated for. It is my understanding that the children who got sick had not been vaccinated by choice.

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

Good but dry. Many families get humidifiers upon arrival. Our children had nose bleeds on and off for a few weeks but, after the adjustment period, they were fine.

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

My husband suffers from seasonal allergies. They do have allergy meds here, but they don't come with the decongestant component. A lot of times you have to buy several medications and combine them, as they do not have as many combo meds as we do in the U.S.

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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?

Hot and dry - desert.

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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 of the U.S. Mission children,including our 3, attend Windhoek International School (WIS). The website is www.wis.edu.na They have classes starting at Toddlers (age 2) through high school. They also offer after school care. WIS has the PYP (primary years program), A middle school program, and an IB Diploma program. WIS recently hired a new director, who is making improvements to the school. All three of our children are in pre-primary and we are happy with the education that they are receiving. Children in middle school and above are required to bring their own IPads to school. The school does everything electronically. Teachers have class blogs that explain the weekly schedules. Parents are also told to download the D6 Communicator, which is an App that the school uses to communicate with teachers and students. I have been a member of the PTA at the school for over a year now so I have been involved with the administration and staff. The PTA is very pro-active. We also currently have an AEFM who is a member of the Board of Directors and would like to continue to have a representative like this at the school. One area that the school could improve is in its sports program. The new director is working to bring sports programs and competitions between other schools to WIS. There are some after school activities such as drumming, guitar, karate, cooking, and Lego Club (to name a few). WIS is the only school in Namibia that operates on the Northern Hemisphere Schedule. There is transportation to and from school through the embassy.

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

Every in-coming child must first go through a school assessment. During the assessment it will be determined what grade/level the child will be placed in. There are special needs children that have been placed in grades younger than there age following these assessments. Many of the special needs children have a support person that stays with them and assists them throughout the day. It is the responsibility of the parent to find this person as the school does not provide one. There are not any specific special needs classes. Special needs children attend classes with non-special needs children.

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

Most people have nannys/houskeepers and/or cooks. It is typically the domestic helpers that watch the children. These services are very affordable and generally cost approx US$12-US$15 a day.

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

There are sports programs available for kids, but these are not associated with the school. Windhoek International School is working to change this with the help of the new director. Soccer is available, as are swimming, karate, horse-back riding, dance and gymnastics. With some of these activities children have the option to participate competitively or non-competitively.

Please note that there is a swim club called Dolphin’s Swim Club. This club is reportedly good for older children. However, they are known for holding younger children’s heads under the water for disciplinary purposes (such as for not listening or crying). If you do not approve of these disciplinary techniques then you may wish to reconsider enrolling young children in this swim 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?

the size of the expat community is small. The morale is OK. There are a few issues that effect morale. I will say that customer service in Windhoek is non-existent. This is, in part, due to the fact that a lot of the companies are monopolies. The lack of competition affects customer service. Service is also generally slow in terms of getting services started in your home and ordering at a restaurant.

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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?

Game drives, local bars, CLO activities, Spa days (they have places that offer manicures, pedicures, massages and so forth. Just make sure they are licensed, as they are not required to be licensed in Namibia).

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

This is a great city for families with young children. There are many activities outside of school such as swim clubs, karate, gymnastics, ballet, horse back riding lessons, soccer and music lessons. There are several large play areas that recently opened (Funky Monkey and Joyful Noise). These places have cafes where parents can sit and eat while children play on climbing structures. Joyful Noise is located inside of the Maerua Mall and parents can drop off their children while they shop. There are two malls in Windhoek. Maerua and Grove. The Grove Mall is new. Both malls have movie theaters. I have heard some families with teenagers complain that there is not as much for older children to do in Windhoek as there is for younger children and that there older children are bored at times. For singles and couples there are bars, karaoke Nights, and some events at Warehouse theater and FNCC. These events usually involve music, poetry, comedy, and other performances. CLO functions are generally well attended as Windhoek is small. These events often include painting and jewelry making with local artists, wine tastings, holiday parties, meet and greets and so on. People also like to leave Windhoek on the weekends as there are many lodges with game drives close to Windhoek (many people do day trips).

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

I do not know. I am unaware of anybody who fits in to this category. That being said, in my experience, Namibians are very accepting.

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

I have not noticed any problems with racial, religious or gender prejudices here. Namibians tend to be very accepting, family-oriented people. There is some tribalism. There is a large German influence here, so there is a really good mix of people. I was surprised when I arrived to find a very large blond-hair/blue-eyed population. There are also a lot of inter-racial relationships.

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

It is a beautiful place to live. The houses are large and most have pools with tarps and heaters. Most houses also have lapas and braais (African Bbq). People are very friendly to foreigners. This is a smaller post so people get to know each other well and CLO events are typically well attended by Americans.

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

There are many amazing lodges and game drives close to Windhoek where you can see giraffe, zebra, oryx, wildebeest, rhino, warthogs, springbok and other animals (Goche Ganas, Heija, Okapuka, Naan Ku Se). if you venture out a little further (2.5hrs - 4hrs to Erindi or Etosha) you can see elephants,lions and Kudu as well. If you drive to the coast (about 3.5hrs from Windhoek) to Swakopmund or Walvis Bay then there are camel rides, 4-wheeling over the dunes, the beach, and a large children's play area (SanMilAri)amongst other activities.

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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 a lot of places where you can buy hand-made/locally made crafts. There are also a lot of wood crafts and bead crafts that you can bargain on.

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

It is beautiful. People are friendly. English is the official language. There are lots of amazing animals and game drives. The current exchange rate is highly in our favor with signs of even more improvement. The weather is very dry (although there is a rainy season from Nov-Jan). Windhoek is currently under-going a water crisis. We have been mandated by the City of Windhoek to stop watering laws, washing cars and filling pools.

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10. Can you save money?

The exchange rate is in our favor right now, and it appears that this might continue and even improve.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

There are no 24-hour businesses at all (with the exception of hospitals). The entire town (with the exception of the bars) shuts down early. Most stores are closed by 5/6pm everyday, with the exception of grocery stores, which are open until 6/7pm every day. On Sunday everything closes in the afternoon.
Around the holidays almost everybody leaves Windhoek for the coast or other vacation destinations. The grocery stores and some restaurants are open, but many businesses shut down (including the local government). It is difficult to get a doctor's appointment during this time, as most of the doctors are on leave and most offices are down to 1 doctor. I had to call 7 different doctors' offices before I found one available to see my son (who had a fever of 105F).
The RMO and RMO/P are not at post. They are in South Africa and come by every few months for visits or if there is an issue. There is an embassy nurse at post, but she cannot prescribe medication. Gas cannot be purchased by credit card. Almost every gas station is cash only.

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

Yes! We tried to extend :-) There were at least two other families that were/are here while we were (they both have young children) and they also tried to extend.

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

Warm winter/snow jackets. It does get chilly here in the winter, and I would recommend bringing a jacket or light sweater, but thick, heavy jackets and boots are not needed.

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4. But don't forget your:

sunscreen (although they do sell it locally). They don't sell dryer sheets here, so I frequently order those from the U.S. as well.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

I didn't see any.

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

I didn't read any.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Namibians are BIG red-meat eaters. People say that "vegetarian" for a Namibian means chicken and fish. It may be hard for a vegetarian to find items on the menu that don't contain meat. Renting vendors is relatively inexpensive here, which is great for children's parties and PTA & CLO activities. I have rented a bounce house (about U.S. $50 for half a day), cotton candy/snow cone/or popcorn machine with the accessories and operator (about U.S. $50 a day), a carousel/large battery-operated train that seats 5 children at at time (about U.S. 65 a day)..coin operated cars, bubble machines, chocolate fountains and such. All are very inexpensive compared to most U.S. prices. There are also face painters available for hire (although these are a bit more expensive).
Remember: they drive on the opposite side of the road here, and that takes a bit of getting used to.

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Windhoek, Namibia 06/14/15

Background:

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

No. Mostly Asia over seven years.

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

Washington - about eight hour flight to Frankfurt and eight hour flight to Washington from there.

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3. How long have you lived here?

July 2013 for two years.

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

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Almost all houses come with garage, pool, braai, maid's quarters and yard, but not necessarily grass. The commute is 10-15 minutes. Traffic is minimal.

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

You can pretty much get most things in Windhoek, sometimes at a price. Baking supplies are amply available. Meat is cheap. Fresh fruits and vegetables selections can be slim in the winter. I usually spend about US$75 on groceries per week, when the exchange rate was N$10:1.

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

Pretty much everything you want is available, though maybe not be stocked regularly or without a bit of looking around. I would bring any ingredients you would need for cooking anything non-Western/ethnic foods. Mexican/Asian ingredients rare and expensive.

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

KFC is the only American chain here and a limited number of South African chains exist. Reasonable prices. City lacks non-Western food options; a few exist but none are very good.

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

We have an ant problem inside the house and I have learned to live it.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the pouch but it takes three weeks.

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

Reliable and good domestic help is relative. Part-time help is very reasonable.

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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?

We prefer using cash but have used credit card and ATMs without an issue.

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

None. English is an official language.

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Transportation:

1. 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?

Purchasing cars from Japan is better value; that being said cars tend to hold its value when in country. SUV is recommended for out of town road trips, however, when in town a compact car is fine.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, 4G Internet at about US$100 per month.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Business at work and conservative/casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

There have been issues among the community but I have not experienced any in our family. Use street smarts and keep valuables out of sight when parking. Lock up and follow rules.

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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?

Quality of medical care is fine.

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

Good.

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

Weather is dry, but very good with 300+ days of sunshine a year.

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Schools & Children:

1. 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, but limited. Good quality daycare options are rare. We opted for full-time nanny as day care and preschool options usually finish at 1pm. That being said, my child attended a preschool for last six months and loves it. Cost is miminal, but it still ends at 1pm.

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Expat Life:

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

Expat community is small, morale generally good.

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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?

Braais, get out of town, pool parties, get together with friends.

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

It's a great city for families with younger children.

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

There are racial and gender prejudices but does not apply to expats.

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

Etosha in the dry season is a sight to be seen. Sossusveli was great. Zambezi a treasure. Regional trips to South Africa have been fabulous. At night, even in the city, the stars are amazing. Walking with a Cheetah.

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

Etosha, Waterberg, Sossusvlei, walk with a cheetah, star gazing, camping, game drives.

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

Slow pace of life, access to game drives, weather is dry but mild, Namibians love kids - so it's pretty family-friendly everywhere you go.

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8. Can you save money?

Yes, there isn't much to spend money on except trips or online.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Be prepared to do some road trips. Most destinations are at least a 4-hour drive from Windhoek. Meat is a big part of local diet, particularly red meat.

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

Yes.

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

Expectations of modern conveniences (24-hour grocery stores, take out food options, frozen prepared meals) and fast-paced life.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses, sunscreen, patience, and your smile.

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Windhoek, Namibia 05/13/13

Background:

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

We've previously lived in Vancouver, Canada and Baku, Azerbaijan, but I grew up military and also spent time in Germany and Korea as a child.

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

We traveled from DC through Frankfurt, then Accra. The entire trip took about two days. Be prepared to check and recheck your luggage---Air Namibia doesn't have any agreements with other airlines.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We've been here almost a year.

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

U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The commute to the embassy will take 5-10 minutes, tops, depending on what part of town your house is located in (the embassy housing is scattered all over), but you will need a car to get you there, and hiring a driver isn't really done here. All of the houses here have their own pools (it gets into the 100s in the summer, so you'll use them, but they're all fenced off for safety). And while the bedrooms tend to be on the small side, there's always something interesting about the house that everyone else will envy---be it the size of the pool or the shadiness of the braii (barbecue) area or the set-up of the kitchen.

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

Grocery shopping can get ridiculous here. You have to hit two stores (at least) to get good produce, and then you get meat at another place and canned staples at still another. We're spending an average of $150 a week on groceries, not counting the Amazon and Netgrocer supplements, and only certain members of the embassy are eligible now for VAT refunds. Pharmaceuticals are completely overpriced here as well. You can find household supplies, but the sponges aren't exactly sturdy, and the dish soap doesn't clean as well as Dawn. Fairly typical stuff like that.

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

LIQUIDS: contact solution, dish soap, kids' shampoo, spray-on sunscreen---which can't be mailed at all. Also Mexican food. Things that aren't flavored (finding potato-chip flavored potato chips here is a major challenge: everything here is either sweet chili or peri-peri flavored, it seems). Bring some gifts for children; the toys here are very expensive and of dubious quality.

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

The only American fast food is KFC, and calling it fast is a bit of a stretch. It can take 20 minutes to get your stuff. There are some South African chains: Nando's, Steers, Spur, and Wimpy's, that can serve up chips and burgers or chicken. In general, the food here is very meat-centric (the braii is a national pastime, or near enough): grilled things covered in sauce. It's unusual for an entree to cost more than $20US, and there are some decent places to eat, but the restaurant scene here is fairly volatile with places opening and closing monthly.

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

The millipedes and grasshoppers are the size of a grown man's hand, and there are scorpions around, but mosquitoes aren't really a problem in this part of Africa. Ants also get everywhere in the houses (the doors don't go all the way to the ground, and insulation isn't something that is used here). I'd pack more plastic for pantry items if I could do it over again.

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Daily Life:

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

Windhoek is a pouch-only post, and we get mail once a week. Pouch regulations are very strict about weight, length, and height, as well as the amount of liquids you can send through. They will absolutely turn your package around if you have 16.9 oz of liquid instead of only 16. When it takes three weeks to get something through the pouch to begin with, that gets frustrating fast.

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

There's a relatively finite pool of domestic help that all of the expats seem to pull from. You can get a nanny or a housekeeper, but finding someone who does both really well doesn't seem to exist. We have a housekeeper who comes twice a week, and we her pay roughly $200US a month, plus two meals while she's here. Also a gardener who gets $20 Namibian an hour (about $2US), and a pool guy who gets $10US a visit.

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

There are a few at the mall, but we haven't joined them.

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

We do most of our transactions using cash. Credit card skimming isn't unheard of, and the grocery stores' credit card systems crash with enough regularity to make it not worth the trouble. ATMs are all guarded by private security firms. (EVERYTHING here is guarded by private security firms.) So if you use common sense, I think they're fine.

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

Most religions are available here: Catholic, Mormon, Jewish, Muslim, and various Christian denominations. There might only be one church of that variety, though. The Catholic church offers three Masses a weekend in English and one in German. And one of the English Masses becomes Portuguese on the last Sunday of the month.

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

There are English-language Namibian newspapers (although the news inside is of varying quality), and many of the embassy houses are already wired for AFN if you have your own box. There's also local cable available, but we have AFN and don't know how much DSTV 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?

Namibia is an English-language country, so most people speak English as one of their several languages. But Afrikaans is what you'll hear most often on the streets. We only speak English and get around fine.

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

The sidewalks range from cobblestone to non-existent, and the pedestrian crossings (when they exist) aren't timed for actual humans to be able to make it from one side of the road to the other. I've seen folks with wheelchairs around, but it's not going to be a super-easy ride.

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Transportation:

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

Not so much. The buses only go to and from the outer settlements of Windhoek, and the cab drivers are, like everywhere, out of their minds. Embassy folks are discouraged from riding in local taxis. There's no internal public transportation for the city.

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

Bring something with high clearance if you're wanting to get out of the city. We have a sedan right now, and it's pretty tough going off of the main highways, which you have to do to get anywhere really interesting. You need a right-hand-drive car, and you really need two if you don't want to either play shuttle driver to the embassy twice a day or get stuck in the house. Windhoek isn't really walkable, and the embassy houses aren't close enough together that you can walk from one to another. There are normally some cars available through the embassy, as people leave and don't need a right-hand-drive at their next assignment. We ordered ours through Japan. Make sure to order waaaaaaaaaay in advance of arrival, though, or you'll be stuck for months.

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Phone & Internet:

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

The internet provider here charges you for the bandwidth they wish they were giving you rather than what's actually coming into your home. But it's enough for Skyping back to the States (even if you'll be a little pixelated at times) and downloading shows and movies (if you're patient).

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

We brought ours from the States and got local SIM cards and have been just fine--the embassy issues phones to employees.

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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?

Home quarantine once the pets arrive, but getting pets here at all is a giant PITA. Go through a pet shipper.

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

I haven't heard of anyone using the kennels for their pets; we tend to do rotating petsitting among ourselves. But there's a vet right next to the embassy that people seem very happy with.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are the usual spots open in the embassy for spouses, and sometimes the other embassies open their positions to expats. But the local economy pays in local money, which isn't exactly a ton. Everyone I know who wanted a job has found one.

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

Embassy dress is pretty standard for an embassy: dress shirts, ties, dresses. Out in public it's more casual: jeans are acceptable even at expensive restaurants, but I wouldn't go out in short shorts or a miniskirt.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty thefts (and not-so-petty thefts) are a big problem here---the gap between the haves and have-nots in Namibia is stark. U.S. Embassy homes are equipped with guards, alarms, electric fences, and metal bars on all of the windows and doors---and if you set them all, you won't have any problems. If you don't... well, there have been break-ins at embassy residences where people weren't so security conscious. Most of those are those of opportunity, so don't leave anything valuable or shiny in your cars.

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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 RMO and RMO-P are based out of Pretoria, but in the year we've been here we've only had one visit from the RMO, and that was with about two days' notice. The local NP hooks us up with local doctors who are all South African trained (Namibia's medical school will graduate its first doctors this year). Specialists are few and far between: there are two ob/gyns in the city, and about the same number of pediatricians. But the air quality is good, the tap water is drinkable, and---other than dry skin---there have not really been any health concerns for us.

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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?

Namibia is one of the darkest places on the planet. You will never see stars like you do here---they're absolutely incredible. Bring a telescope or head out to a few of the lodges near Windhoek that have their own giant telescopes set up to really enjoy the view.

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

The weather pattern is dry-and-hot, dry-and-REALLY-hot, about two afternoons of rain, and dry-and-coolish. The embassy provides humidifiers for the bedrooms, but ours have done nothing but leak, even after having them all replaced twice. We just stopped asking. Pack a ton of hand and body lotion---you'll go through it all here.

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Schools & Children:

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

There seems to be a general "eh-ness" about the international schools, with many parents trying several different places during their tours. Namibian children, even in the expensive private schools, aren't taught how to read until they are seven, which leads to some heated discussions among the expat preschool set. Parents choose between Windhoek International School (which is not at all preferred for high school level), DHPS (a German school that teaches in English and German), St. Paul's, and St. George's. The best I've heard any school described as is "fine."

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

I haven't really seen anything that would make me believe that special-needs kids would be all that accommodated here, I'm sad to say.

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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 only really three preschools that the expats go to, and they all have enormous waiting lists. If you are coming, mention to your sponsors that you want preschool as quickly as possible. We've been going to Little Penguins, which is considered the premiere preschool in Windhoek. It's Montessori-based, but our daughter, who started preschool in the US, has started regressing on her letter recognition because it's not really reinforced in school. We've started supplementing at home. Other parents have found other Montessori-based preschools or the Waldorf-curriculum preschool, although that one is taught in German. Waldorf is the only one that is amenable to the kids not being there five days a week.

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

A lot are available through the schools---my daughter is taking swimming, but there's also soccer, karate, gymnastics, ballet, and horseback riding that I've heard of.

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Expat Life:

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

It's pretty small. There aren't a lot of other embassies here, but there are other expats (especially Germans) who have moved here for the climate. There are also expats involved in the mining industry. If you join the local international women's club, you'll meet a lot of them.

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2. Morale among expats:

The embassy itself is experiencing some bad tour timing, a massive case of tour fatigue. A good three quarters of the embassy is transferring this summer. You're in Africa, and even if it's not "real Africa" (as you will hear again and again and *again*), there are challenges in terms of when things are done, getting them done correctly, and finding things you are looking for.

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

There's one movie theater that plays about five movies at a time--normally at least one's in Afrikaans--but they do get American movies in a timely fashion. We had Iron Man 3 (legitimately) the week after it opened in the US. "Sundowners" are a popular pasttime here: sitting outside at a few of the wine bars with a view and watching the sunset with a glass of wine or a gin and tonic (alcohol is a fairly major component of life in Namibia). The government tries to curb excess by banning sales of alcohol in stores from 2pm on Saturday until Monday morning. There are some clubs, but they are populated by the local high school students as well as the 20-something crowd, which some people find kind of awkward. Entertaining tends to be fairly individually-driven: a braii or a movie night at someone's house, or it's going to be a really quiet weekend. Windhoek tends to roll up the sidewalks around 9pm, and Sundays are dead.

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

I'd say this is a very good post for families, especially families with younger kids (because of the less-optimal school situation for teenagers). There's not really a lot to do socially if you're not plugged in either at the schools or through the international clubs.

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

South Africa has legalized gay marriage, and Namibia tries to be a lot like South Africa. But I haven't really seen a lot of gay or lesbian couples out in public here.

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

This is a post-Apartheid country that is still going through some growing pains. Windhoek's citizens, other than the day laborers who all take buses back to the settlements at the end of the day, are mostly white, and African-American expats have had some problems with shopkeeper rudeness.

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

We've gone down to the amazing sand dunes in Sossusvlei, home of the oldest desert on earth (or as our preschool daughter thought, the biggest sandbox in the world) and have gone on numerous game drives with our little ones. Namibia is really good about letting the smaller kids be a part of the game drives---we've had no problems bringing our five year old and our not-quite-two year old with us everywhere. Because they're so small, they also aren't charged for food and lodging at the lodges around the country, making travel much more affordable for us.

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

Namibia is safari country without the tourist mark-ups of South Africa or Kenya. You can see elephants, cheetahs, rhinos, giraffes, lions...my daughter calls it "living in the zoo." If you get out of Windhoek, it's an entirely different country: empty, quiet, and absolutely breathtaking.

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

It's not really the *things* here that are interesting (you can get baskets, ostrich eggs, giant wooden giraffes, etc., just like you can in the rest of Africa). We're spending our money on game drives and lodge fees and getting pictures of cheetahs, lions, and giraffes. Namibia's real draw is the experience of seeing everything.

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

You're literally minutes from animals you normally only see in the zoo---an animal reserve where you can watch them feed lions is located between Windhoek and the airport. The weather is almost always sunny and dry (mostly "really" dry), and it gets down to freezing during the winter nights in July and August. So if you're transferring during the normal summer season, pack accordingly. It gets back up to the lows 70s in the heat of the day. The city is also relatively quiet for a capital because there are not a lot of people in Namibia in general. Getting out of town is pretty easy (especially if you have a car equipped for it. 4WD isn't required, but an SUV with high clearance will make your trips on the mostly-dirt roads a lot less stressful. And there are plenty of fun places to visit in a weekend.

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11. Can you save money?

Well, yes, but you're going to see anything.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably.

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

snow boots and any pre-conceived notions of Africa!

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen, body lotion, camera equipment, pool toys, telescopes, and water bottles!

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Windhoek, Namibia 01/01/13

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?

Travel from Washington, DC to Windhoek via Johannesburg takes about 18 hours. If you miss the Johannesburg connection, you may have to spend the night. Windhoek is about a 2 hour flight from Johannesburg.

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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 a U.S. diplomat who has lived in Windhoek for a year and a half, with multiple expat experiences.)

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses are large and most have a pool. Commute time averages 15 to 20 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 seem to be getting more expensive. We shop weekly (family of 4) and spend about $150 each week (USD). You can find most things but may have to go to more than one store. Most items are South African, and you can find German items. Sometimes you can find American products - usually at the SuperSpar.

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

American pancake syrup, shampoo (don't like the German/South African brands), children's shampoo/body wash for sensitive skin, Cheerios, laundry detergent (sensitive skin).

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

Most South African chains can be found here - Steers, Ocean Basket, Spur, Wimpy's and Kentucky Fried Chicken. There are also a number of "nice" restaurants - Stellenbosch, Am Weinberg, O Portuga. Cost varies but you will rarely pay more than $20 USD for an entree. We find eating out to be quite reasonable compared to elsewhere.

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

Plenty of bugs and they're supersized! Crickets/grasshoppers are extra large as are moths. There are plenty of ants, spiders and other bugs. It is Africa after all.

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Daily Life:

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

We receive mail through the Embassy. We've also used DHL to have stuff shipped in - expensive but it works.

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

Available, but don't expect too much. Motivation is often lacking. Cost is not cheap, I feel like I'm paying too much for what we receive.

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

Yes, there's a Virgin Active gym.

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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 haven't had any problems, although friends have reported credit card fraud after using them outside Windhoek.

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

Yes. Most denominations from what I've heard. The Catholic Archdiocese is in the city with a catherdral that has mass in English and Portuguese.

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

Yes to both. English newspapers are available and you can sign up for directTV (out of South Africa). Cost is about $600 USD per year.

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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?

Most people speak English. We haven't had much trouble but Afrikaans or one of the primary tribal languages would probably be helpful. German won't get you very far.

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

Not many sidewalks and while some places are handicap accessible, many are not.

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Transportation:

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

We don't use local transportation. I think some taxis are okay. The train is slow (lots of stops) and I wouldn't recommend buses.

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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?

Right-hand drive and the vehicle must be newer than 5 years old. We prefer SUVs for travel outside Windhoek, but you can survive with a sedan.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, although it's really high speed in Namibia and loses strength when linking outside the country. Cost is $120 USD for 2megs.

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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 cell phones work fine and there are a couple of service providers. Costs seem reasonable and you can get a pay-as-you-go plan.

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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 sure.

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

Vets are available. Kennels also, although I'm not sure about conditions.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Many expats work on the local economy.

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

Pretty casual. A bit more polished at work (sports coat and maybe tie for men/dress or skirt/slacks and blouse for women).

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is pretty high, especially robberies.

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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 exists and most are trained in South Africa. Specialists are a bit harder to find - especially pediatrics. General care is good. Dental is also good. It's harder to get medical care during Christmas break when everyone seems to vacate the capital.

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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?

Fabulous! Windhoek is considered high altitude so air is a bit thinner.

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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?

Mostly dry. There is a rainy season but it is not constant. Usually it rains hard then dries up quickly. Summer is hot (in the 40s C./100s F.) and winter gets down to freezing overnight. Keep in mind Windhoek is south of the equator so seasons are opposite from northern hemisphere.

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Schools & Children:

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

Windhoek International School is the only "international" school. That said, I'm not sure how international it really is. They're in a period of transition (growing) which has had it's challenges. My children seem to enjoy it and are learning. I think it will be better once this transition phase is over - maybe in a few years.

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

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

Multiple options available - German, English-speaking and Afrikaans.

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

Yes, although generally not through Windhoek International School.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly large both corporate and diplomatic. Lots of Europeans and Chinese.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good. We have a small community and are spread out with both our offices and residences. There are community events, but if you want to socialize more you need to set things up.

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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?

Braais are a national pasttime and with a pool at home, pool parties are popular. There are also wine bars and clubs. It seems to be hard to get hooked into the local social scene but with some perseverance it can be done.

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

I think it's best for families and couples. There doesn't seem to be a lot to do for singles, unless you're adventurous and like to travel on your own.

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

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

The Apartheid era left it's mark and there is still racial prejudice. Most people seem to work well together but you can see a racial divide when you're out and about, especially when you head to the coast.

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

Safaris, rock carvings, climbing dunes. The landscape changes from area to area and never fails to impress. The city is quiet/peaceful which is nice. Traffic is minimal, making getting around relatively easy.

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

There are swim clubs, malls, a movie theather, and plenty of other activities. We enjoy spending time at our pool and having friends over for a braai (bbq).

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

Gemstones! Did I mention they mine diamonds in Namibia?

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

Windhoek and Namibia in general has the cleanest air with beautiful blue skies during the day and clear skies at night. It's one of the best places from which to observe the stars.

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11. Can you save money?

If you don't do anything, sure. But there's so much to do, I'm not sure it's possible!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

For vacation, sure. Not to live.

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

Left-hand drive vehicle!

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunglasses and sunscreen!

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

You must have a car to get around town. With children, it helps if one parent doesn't work, otherwise, there won't be much social life for your kids.

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Windhoek, Namibia 07/17/12

Background:

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

I previously lived in in Budapest, Stockholm, Wiesbaden, and Maastricht.

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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?

Oregon....WHK to Frankfurt, then direct to Portland (overnight in Frankfurt). Travel takes more than 24 hrs. Alternatively, short hop to Jo'burg, SA, and then via London or long direct to NY (17 hr flight!).

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year so far...

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

Foreign Service.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

No commute times to speak of - nothing is more than 15 minutes away in all of Windhoek. Houses in the housing pool are nice, with yards (not much grass- mostly rocks and plants). Most homes have excellent braai (BBQ)and pool areas. Some houses are quite large and others quite small. They are spaced all around Windhoek but mostly in the expat neighborhood. The housing committee will determine which house you live in -- and many folks can move directly in when they arrive.

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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 a bit more expensive than in Europe and a lot more expensive than in the typical U.S. city. Diplomats are eligible for 15% VAT relief on most things, and that helps. Most of the non-Namibian items are from Europe, but more and more you see U.S. brands - but they come at a price (i.e. $10 for a small box of Shredded Wheat) and $5 for a can of refried beans).

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

Salsa, peanut butter, tortilla chips, and tubs of frosting! Scoopable kitty litter, cold cereal and U.S. candy.

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

KFC is the only U.S. based chain, but Nandos, FishAways, Steers are also available. Prices are a bit more than the U.S.

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

Not really any..... Up north there are mosquitoes at sometimes during the year and you can easily get medication if you are traveling there during rainy season. Some folks have ant issues, but we haven't.

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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 access to the diplomatic pouch - the only downside is not being able to ship/buy any electronic items with lithium batteries. Electronics here are easily 2-4 times as expensive as in the U.S. and twice as expensive as in South Africa. The ouch usually takes 2-4 weeks to arrive and many folks purchase staples and U.S. snack foods via Amazon.

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

Inexpensive and varies. We pay our gardener about $20-25 a day for his services, and we provide him with two meals while he is here. Our domestic worker is paid around $175 a month for two days a week, with taxi fees. We also provide her with two meals a day on the days she works. Many families with small children have live-in help, and most houses have maids quarters built into them. (Ours is quite small, but many are spacious).

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

Yes, high speed Virgin gym is available for about $40/month. For this price we get our teenagers included in the package. Pool, etc.

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

They are safe for the most part, and most have security guards stationed near them. Be mindful of typical schemes and don't use at night by yourself.

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

Not sure if all denominations are represented, but most of them are (Anglican, Lutheran, Muslim, etc.), and most of these would be in English. Some German Lutheran, too.

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

AFN military T.V. provided to many homes, DSTV cable available for monthly cost.

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

English is the official language of Namibia and most people in Windhoek know at least some English. Outside the bigger cities, you won't find that as much. German, Afrikaans, and local languages are all spoken. Most Namibians speak several languages.

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

Many. There are not really sidewalks except forin the main tourist/shopping areas downtown. Also, lights are not timed for pedestrians - so you really have to hurry getting across the streets. Cars and taxis rule here, and taxis drive like crazy people.

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Transportation:

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

Embassy folks are highly discouraged from using local taxis as they are unsafe and driven by reckless drivers. There is no bus service, save for the ones that bring day laborers from the Katutura Township to Windhoek and back again. You can use dial-a-cab or prearranged drivers.

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

We purchased a low milage 4WD from Japan and had it shipped. (It took forever to get here...apparently many ships skip this port since it's pretty small!) We should be able to sell it for what we paid. Cars here are about 2-3 times more expensive than in the U.S. We also bought a 10-year old used car here (and saved the 15% VAT in the process). When we came, you weren't allowed to import any car older than 3 years, but that law may be changing. Embassy folks are not allowed to drive outside the city at night (animals, gravel roads, safety, etc.), but working only half days at the embassy on Fridays allows you to get pretty far away by nightfall for weekend trips.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Yes, 4G network is new to Windhoek and we have it. We average about 20mb/second and pay about $125 each month (well worth the price with two teenagers and a gadget-happy family).

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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?

MTC is pay as you go. Embassy staff are issued contract cell phones, but family members use pay as you go. Much cheaper than in the U.S. or Europe.

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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, just need a lot of paperwork and coordination with the embassy ahead of time.

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

Pet care quality is good. Science Diet and other vet brands of pet food are available, but twice as expensive as in the U.S.

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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?

Family members can work legally here, but salaries aren't that much and there seem to be enough U.S. jobs in the mission to keep family members satisfied.

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

Suit and tie for men at the Embassy, and business attire for women. In public anything goes and folks are very casual and dress pretty safari-like.

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Health & Safety:

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

Petty crime is quite high, thus the need for security alarms and high walls and wiring. Most of the crime is property only, and not violent. Being cautious is key.

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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?

Dryness, but humidifiers are given to families. Medical care is pretty good, but some things require medical evacuation to South Africa or London. We've been happy with our care here - which has included stays in the local private hospital and E.R. Much better and quicker service than anywhere else in the world!

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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?

Great. No pollution except for some field fires in the winter. No humidity in the winter and this is tough on some folks (dry skin, upper respiratory illness, etc.).

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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?

Warm/hot most of the year. Winter is about 75 during the day but gets below freezing at night. Rainy season is Dec-Mar, but still hot. Perfect weather!!!! The sun shines every day.

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Schools & Children:

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

Windhoek International School is where our high school students attend. This school has PYP/IGCSE/IB programs and is the best for foregin students (Northern hemisphere calendar, int'l curriculum, etc.). It's small and doesn't have a lot of resources, but students do well here on the external exams. English instruction is not great, but that's because most students are not native English speakers. This is a borderline international school; many local students attend and the outlook can be very Namibian, at least among older students. The younger grades are more international. Other private schools are available, but not as academic (key if your student intends to attend U.S. or European universities). They run on different school calendars.

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

Not sure. Many schools here are limited and small scale, so I wouldn't think that they would have too many resources for special needs. Most of them do not have any gifted programs, either.

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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?

Available - Waldorf, Montessori, etc. schools, though I haven't had first-hand experience with them.

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

Limited in the schools, but there are club sports available. My daughter plays ice hockey and was able to join an inline hockey team here (almost all are German-Namibians). There are track, netball, field hockey, soccer, etc. The International school offers limited after-school club sports in more traditional U.S. sports such as baseball/softball and basketball.

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Expat Life:

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

Small. Many Peace Corps volunteers, but they are spread out over all of Namibia and not in Windhoek. There is an active international women's association made up of expats from all over the world, but primarily Europe.

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2. Morale among expats:

Mostly high, but most expats aren't legally allowed to work here, so they are a bit frustrated. Morale at the embassy ebbs and flows -- typical of a smaller post.

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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?

Not a whole lot going on, but if you really try, you can find cultural activities - albeit on a smaller scale than elsewhere. There is one theater that tends to get the worst U.S. movies ever - week after week.

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

Yes, great for families - but mostly for younger children. Not a lot for teens to do in Windhoek and they are limited in mobility and freedom due to transportation and safety issues. Clubbing and drinking are popular past times for teens, even young ones.

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

There is a Mr. Gay Namibia contest, but most of the gay/lesbian scene is underground and I haven't seen many local couples out and about. That being said, it's a very tolerant city and culture and I don't think folks would have any problems.

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

There are residual issues from the Apartheid-era and if you're here for a while, you'll see some bad behavior on the part of some local Afrikaaners towards black or "colored" (mixed race) Namibians. Women and men are treated pretty equal....many of the entrepreneurs are female.

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

Traveling and seeing birds and large game. Love the scenery and open spaces. Flying over the Skeleton Coast was awesome. Proximity to South Africa, inexpensive flights there. Swakopmund on the coast is nice, most folks go there for the summer holidays (i.e. Christmas/New Years). Much cooler than inland!

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

See wildlife (nat'l park 20 minutes away, $3 to see giraffes, zebras, etc.), learn about tribal culture (San, desert, etc.), and enjoy the sun. Namibia is a big country and you have to drive quite a ways to get to see things... Take pictures of all the above!

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

Travel! There are some batiks, wood crafts, wire art, etc., here but pretty generic. Baskets, too.

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

Fantastic scenery for photographers. Great animal parks and lodges. Wide open spaces, sun every day. Unlimited volunteer opportunities.

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11. Can you save money?

Possibly. It depends on your travel budget and whether or not you stay at high-end lodges, or camp! If you buy import-only groceries, you'll spend a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

My husband and I would definitely, if we didn't have teenagers. Given the school and social situation, we are not sure we'd have come had we known what it was like.

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

snow board and gear -- although it's a short flight to snow in South Africa! Also, your high speed life --.things are slower here "African Time".

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3. But don't forget your:

patience. Even though Namibia (Windhoek, in particular) is "Africa lite." You are still not in Europe when living here.

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

Just Google Namibian videos and you'll get the travel shows which give you a good idea of what to expect.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Gods Must Be Crazy (1980)! Just for the scenery....

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6. Do you have any other comments?

We love it here, but it's been hard on our teens socially and academically.... Great volunteer opportunities for the whole family and locals are very appreciative of your efforts.

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