Niamey, Niger Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Niamey, Niger

Niamey, Niger 07/30/19

Background:

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

Nope, not my first rodeo. I've lived in Istanbul, Turkey; Dakar, Senegal; Beijing, China; and, now, Niamey, Niger.

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

New York, New York (so nice, they named it twice!). Eight hours to CDG Paris and five hours to NIM Niamey.

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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.)?

Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is large (five bedroom suites), postage stamp yard, but with a pool. Mango, lime, papaya, and banana trees in yard.

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

Lots of shopping to do in different places. Cannot find everything in one place all the time. Decent choice of wine and cheese from France, fruits and vegetables are seasonal.

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

Liquids.

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

There are one or two good restaurants although I am not a restaurant-goer. Good places, some reasonable, some overpriced, all slow on the uptake regarding service.

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

Termites!! Not wood termites, although if they get hungry enough, they will eat your house.

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy pouch. Local = nightmare.

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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 plentiful and cheap. Most people have a gardener who takes care of the pool and washes the car every day during the week. House maid and cook, if you want. Also, if you have children, nannies are available.

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

Not sure about outside the Embassy, but the Embassy has a tiny gym, not open to the public.

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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?

No, this is a cash economy. Find a reputable bank ATM and you should be fine. Embassy offers cashier services to Embassy employees.

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

Yes, but don't know where.

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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?

One local language is French. My French is crappy, but I survived. So can you. Not sure about tutors.

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

Yes, difficult if not impossible, although you do see people with disabilities riding around in their wheelchairs.

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Transportation:

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

No, no, no, and no.

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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?

High-clearance vehicle as there are limited paved roads and the rainy season brings deep puddles (think Atlantic meets Pacific with Indian Ocean in the middle).

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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. DSTv is about US$200 a month, Canal+ about 44CFA per month. Not long to install.

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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 use an Embassy-provided 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?

Yes, Dr. Baare is amazing but limited in what she can do. Any big problems with the animals and you will need to medevac them.

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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?

Jobs are opening up for spouses. No telecommuting as far as I know. Both full and part-time positions are available.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many, I am sure. Orphanages, women's shelters, etc.

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

Casual Business. Formal attire for the Marine Ball.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, malaria is prevalent, tummy issues. Meds need to be taken to combat getting malaria.

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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?

Any serious medical issue will require medevac.

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

Air quality is fair to middling depending on the time of year.

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

Not the place to have environmental/food allergies.

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

Morale, but no winter blues.

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

Extremely hot and dry or hot and humid. The temperature can be as low as 65 and as high as 115 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Expat Life:

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

Don't know of many outside the Embassy. Morale is half and half. Personally, I liked my time in Niamey.

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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?

Restaurants, neighborly visits, school visits, etc.

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

Good for couples. Not much for singles to do.

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

Sure. A few employees are gay and lesbian and had no problem here that I know of.

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

No.

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

None that I know. Yes, there is gender equality.

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

Seeing the wild giraffes, hippos, buying leather items, buying art, dunes, camels, etc.

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

Having clothing custom made for cheap, with African fabric!!

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

Can be a shopping post. Almost lost my shirt buying stuff.

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

Not sure if there are any advantages. Easy access to camel milk? Not sure.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it is quite charming in its own way.

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

Winter coat, good shoes.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hobbies! You will be making your own entertainment.

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

None that I can think of.

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Niamey, Niger 10/29/17

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?

Midwest. It's about 14 hours total, including a layover in Paris. Sometimes Air France will surprise you with a stopover in Lome, Togo to pick up more passengers. This won't be listed on your tickets, so you're looking at a few more hours of travel time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

We lived there for 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?

We had a large house with a swimming pool, a 3-minute drive to the U.S. embassy. All of the houses are large, but the construction and finishes will look outdated. I recommend bringing shelving for storage in your kitchen and bathrooms.

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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 compared to the US. The majority of items are imported. Prepare yourself and kids for UHT milk and yogurt. Excellent butter is always available, imported from France. The beef is surprisingly lean and good.

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

More liquids. Unscented laundry detergent, dish soap (house staff love to overuse cleaning supplies), hair conditioner, chocolate chips, pasta sauce, soups, more Mexican ingredients like salsa, beans, hot sauce, tortillas, taco shells. The CLO has a comprehensive list of things that are not available on the local economy.

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

We found some decent restaurants, but I know a few have closed since we left. Turkish, Lebanese, Chinese, French, Italian, Indian. We ordered takeout pizzas a lot. There is no fast food available.

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

Termites, geckos, lizards.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch only.

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

Lots of household help available. We employed a part time gardener, full time nanny, and part time housekeeper. You will need a housekeeper to clean the dust. You simply cannot do it on your own.

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

Very small embassy gym and a very small gym at the American school. There were fitness classes organized by EFMs.

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

We never used our credit cards here. There is one ATM at the embassy that is safe to use. Be prepared to bring a lot of checks and withdraw money from the embassy cashier.

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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?

Basic French is helpful. Plenty of tutors are available and affordable.

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

We were not permitted to use local transportation.

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

4x4 amd high clearance, which are helpful on the unpaved dirt roads, especially during rainy season. Toyota or other Japanese manufacturer. I would not advise on bringing a luxury car or an American car, as parts can be hard to find and the locals will not know how to fix them.

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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?

All internet is slow speed through a wifi dongle or box. Slower than I remember dial-up. Unless you pay for the very expensive satellite internet, which some neighbors did by partnering up and splitting the cost.

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

Bring an unlocked GSM phone. Sim cards are cheap and easy to purchase. You can top up data/voice at any corner store, or any guy on the street by buying a scratch-off card.

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Pets:

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

There are vets that make house calls. No quarantine. Your pet will need a stamped APHIS certificate and microchip to get through Paris. Schedule your titer test well in advance of departing post. It will need to be air-mailed to Paris.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

The majority worked at the embassy. There were a few with NGO positions. Telecommuting would be impossible based on the slow internet service.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Plenty of volunteer opportunities

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

Business casual. The heat is sweltering, but women should cover their shoulders and knees. Formal dress is only needed for the Marine ball. I wouldn't recommend bringing designer clothing, or anything too nice. The weather and dust can be hard on your clothes and especially your shoes.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, follow RSO guidance. Carry a radio with you at all times, cell phone service is unreliable.

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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 real threat, so take your meds. Most people run into stomach issues the first few weeks at post; be prepared to throw all modesty out the window when you have to submit a sample to the health unit. Amoebic dysentery is real. You will be medically evacuated for anything serious.

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

Air quality is moderate. It's very dusty. Garbage is burned there, usually at night, and the smoke/smell will permeate into your house. I wish I would have brought more candles and an air purifier.

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

It's dusty!

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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?

Extremely hot.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an American school and a French school.

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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?

Creches are available, but most people I knew with small children had nannies.

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Expat Life:

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

Low morale.

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

Entertaining at home, or going out to dinner. There's an American Women's club.

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

Being single, I think it would be hard to find someone to date outside of work. For couples and families, there really isn't much to do.

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

Giraffe trip. Drinking beers and eating brochettes on Cap Banga (an island in the Niger river). Check out the beer garden at least once. Drink touareg tea.

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

Not really. There are no shopping malls. There is some interesting local artwork though.

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

You will save a lot of money.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Regional travel is extremely limited. Flights out of the country are very expensive.

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

No.

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

Winter coats and Netflix subscription.

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4. But don't forget your:

Massive DVD and book collections, sunscreen, and bug spray.

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Niamey, Niger 10/18/17

Background:

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

Hyderabad, Lima, and Bogota.

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

California, USA. The trip takes around 18 hours through Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1.5 years.

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

U.S. government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Large house with yard and pool. Commutes to the U.S. embassy are less than 5 minutes by car, and it is possible to walk or bike, although the roads are dirt. Homes are not well constructed, and have frequent issues with termites.

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

Local groceries are cheap, although the selection is not fabulous. Imported goods are outrageous, but lots of options are available.

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

Salsa, more ingredients for Mexican food.

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

There are several decent French restaurants and other options. Cap Banga is a nice place to spend an evening.

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

Mosquitos, termites, and geckos are all normal in your housing.

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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 was surprisingly fast, assuming that Air France was flying.

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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 - most people have a housekeeper and gardener.

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

There is a small gym at the American Rec Center by the American school. It was not expensive. There is an annual softball tournament and horseback riding is available.

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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?

One or two of the hotels take them. ATMs are almost non-existent, and don't always work. Leave your plastic at home.

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

There are lots of missionaries, and basic Christian services were available in English. The Mormons have a small group that meets in a home.

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

French is a must.

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

Yes - no roads, no sidewalks.

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Transportation:

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

The U.S. embassy did not permit use of any of the above. Having seen them build the train tracks, if it ever starts running, I'd avoid using it.

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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?

4-wheel drive with high clearance. Almost no roads are paved, and those that are have major pot holes.

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Phone & Internet:

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

No. You can get ridiculously expensive satellite internet, or get a little box from Airtel. Don't expect to stream anything. Turning your phone into a hotspot was also a popular option.

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

There are two options - Airtel and Orange. Neither works 100 percent of the time.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Some work at the American school or embassy, but most stayed at home or volunteered. There is no possibility to telecommute as the internet is terrible.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There were some opportunities with a local orphanage and some of the mission groups.

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

Business casual. Formal dress only at the Marine ball

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Health & Safety:

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

Lots! No traveling outside the city without permission and a caravan. Some petty theft, lots of terrorism concerns.

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

Malaria is a huge issue, as is meningitis. Medical care does not exist outside the U.S. embassy and a few charitable groups - expect any remotely major issue to require evacuation.

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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?

Burning trash and sandstorms can be hard on people with respiratory issues.

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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)?

Depression is common.

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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, hot, hot and dry with a short rainy season.

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Schools & Children:

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

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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?

Everyone we knew used a nanny.

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

Some through the rec center. Swimming and softball were popular

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Expat Life:

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

Not large, mostly missionaries in country for years. Overall, morale is good, but the deteriorating security situation has them nervous.

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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?

American Women's Club, the American Rec Center.

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

Not a lot to do - definitely better for families.

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

As elsewhere in West Africa, LGBT is not really accepted, but unlike in other countries, it isn't against the law. Diplomats did not appear to have issues.

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

It's a majority Muslim country. Most of the Christian churches were burned while we were there, but this was seen as unusual. Few ethnic prejudices internally, definite issues with gender equality.

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

Hippos, giraffes, Cap Banga. Golfing on the sand golf course is an interesting experience.

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

Go see the hippos and giraffes.

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

Not really. Some leather goods, all ridiculously expensive for what you get.

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

Not much to do, so we saved money. The beef is shockingly good and cheap.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Winter clothes and expectations of Western living.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and insect repellent.

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Niamey, Niger 08/02/15

Background:

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

This was our first 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?

We are typically assigned at Stateside military bases. Our arrival was a flight from Washington Dulles and connecting through Paris for a final 6 hour flight to Niamey. Free wine on the plane so no worries while traveling...

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3. How long have you lived here?

Our family of four lived there recently.

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

It was an accompanied military assignment to the 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?

Our housing was arranged by the embassy and the grand master extraordinaire of housing took good care of us for a very comfortable quality of life. Utility bills are high and power is hit or miss hour to hour and forget streaming video online or downloading anything. Commuting does not take time yet learning the "right of way" in traffic is based on who is bravest to cross the intersection first. Most expats tend to live in the south of Niamey just north of the river.

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

Cow's milk like many countries is not available unless unpasteurized milk by a local farmer. Most shipped foods and cleaning products are from France, Spain, Lebanon, Egypt and Israel. If you see it and like it and it won't spoil for quite some time time, buy several; inventory of stores is not often replenished so the choices vary depending upon whatever was shipped at the time. Once I went to four stores to find butter... Refrigerated foods can be questionable if the coolers were actually running cold enough to keep it at a safe temperature; warm cheddar bad... Stores often have to decide whether to run A/C in the store or run the refrigerator/freezer at low safe temp, sketchy electricity throughout the city.

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

A treadmill, more transformers for U.S. appliances or more European wired/plug appliances, contact solution as it is not sold, a big comfy recliner, quality nail polish, pepperoni (any shelf stable meat like packaged bacon or ham), framed photos family and friends (but you can get those made, take a memory card to Photo Guidee and buy local leather wrapped frames), large hats to protect from sun, and more things to donate to local children like toys and crafts.

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

NO fast food unless you consider "street meat" to be BK. Random people will grill on the side of the road and one place offers nems to go like a meaty spring roll. Namaste Indian restaurant is very good and packages to-go orders very well. You used to have to bring your own cookie sheet to Le Pelier for a carryout pizza but now they have boxes. Most eating is a long 2 hour process from ordering to eating with the chance of intestinal explosions after, so run that risk or cook at home.

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

In some ways insects are few given that there are many kinds of lizards that eat them. I don't think I ever saw bees or wasps but there are definitely mosquitoes which bring lovely free gifts such as dengue fever and malaria.

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Daily Life:

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

Most expats must use DHL for mail but do not count on the postmaster telling you that you have a package. Sometimes you have to notice the box of the man's shoulder and point out that is your name on that box and that is your mail, DIY postal service! To receive mail, use a small box instead of an envelope so it isn't easily lost.

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

Most domestic help rotate from having worked from one missionary or diplomatic family to another. Experience and trust will be indicative of salary. Someone who does grocery shopping (locals get better prices), and cooks and cleans would make US$150-200/mo part time.

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

Bring your own equipment or use plastic crates of soft drink bottles to lift weights. Running as a group is advisable for safety yet also a threat to your life when run over by a teen pushing a wheelbarrow of bananas or the heat smacking you in the face.

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

It is a cash only country; cards only used at hotels for rooms; bring them so you have something besides Chuck E Cheese looking Nigerien coins when you travel out of the country. There are a few ATMs around town but they are not working with all banks; usually someone must have a local bank and its associated card for an ATM/debit card to work.

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

NEWS Niamey Evening Worship Service is offered at Sahel Academy across the river.

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

French is necessary for shopping, setting up internet, buying phone cards and travel. Local languages like Zarma and Hausa can be fun to pick up a few phrases but not needed for daily living.

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

Wheelchair use would not be possible in most places. There are unpaved streets, even the paved sidewalks are covered with sand and difficult to navigate, and many doors to restaurants and stores open outward and are at the top of a stair or two. Many homes have bedrooms on the second floor. I don't think I ever saw an elevator except for at a hotel.

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Transportation:

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

A train.... Ha ha, to where?? My French tutor prior to moving there taught me about catching a train and buying tickets at the train station and I tried to explain Ce n'est necessaire! If you want to share your taxi with a lady and her goat, go ahead. Taxis do not pick up one person and take you to your destination. The driver will pick up other passengers along the way until the non A/C cab with windows down and sand flying in has a full taxi AND you will be dropped off where it is convenient on his route so basically a block from where you were headed. The taxi ride will just be a couple of dollars regardless of how long you were in the cab.

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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?

You will need a vehicle with high clearance because the unpaved roads are like driving on the surface of the moon! White and black cars show their dirt and a light interior will get ruined by the reddish sand that is everywhere. Clean it often and bring extra air filters (*cough*), belts and fuel filters as the supply on hand is limited. There are many mechanics who can fix vehicles but it's not a dealership where they offer you free WiFi and a coffee; it's a drop off situation. Just like any other country, keep your doors locked once in the vehicle if you want to stay in the vehicle. Carjacking is reported as frequent and desperate people wanting your car of value will not consider your safety to get what they want.

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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?

I don't remember the cost but its high cost isn't nearly as frustrating as the intermittent availability of it actually working or the in-person requirement to pay (no online billing and payments even though they're an internet company!). High speed internet, bah ha ha!! LOW bandwidth so when you wake up because the neighbor's goat or rooster is making noise, do your emails to friends in the middle of the night when the internet is in low usage throughout the city.

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

You will need a cell phone to always text someone where you are and where you are going next in order to be safe. You can also use it to call a restaurant or store which is reportedly open during their posted hours yet call because maybe they decided to open late or close early on a whim. Buy a local SIM card for a dollar and buy scratch off cards to load time which are used for talk and text and data; there are no plans to buy (take that Verizon!)

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Pets:

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

There are vets and they will do home visits, again pay in cash. A friend watching your pet while you are away is a better idea than a kennel (which I never heard of there). There is no quarantine but your pet will freak out when it sees a camel for the first time (and every time!)

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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?

Teaching is a possibility and volunteer work is plentiful. Career continuity likely won't be had for spouses who came along and likely no one would move to Niamey without first having a job (otherwise, what are you doing there??).

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Schools and clinics receive volunteer help. Network with the company/agency that brought you to Niamey and branch out from there.

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

Women's knees are like breasts, seriously, it's more offensive than a low cut shirt (also not a good idea) so dress modestly in clean ironed clothes. Nigeriens may have just three shirts but they will all be clean and ironed to be an example of the family from which you came. Women and teen girls do not ever wear shorts in public and even men look weird in public in shorts because no one locally is doing it. Cotton shirts show sweat easily so bring patterned and stretchy material for women's shirts

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Health & Safety:

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

Security conditions change as regional threats arise. Vigilance and a secure home and vehicle are what is necessary to be aware of your surroundings. Petty theft crimes are common at night, but like most cities, such areas should be avoided at night. If you don't want to get jacked, don't go somewhere you shouldn't be!

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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?

You can get an x-ray if you break your arm, but only if the technician is there (maybe he had to go to another clinic, just wait, take a Tylenol, he'll be back in 2 hours) and the equipment and electricity are working. There are pharmacies with the medication you would need for pain or antibiotic but they aren't as strong as what you're used to. Malaria is a real threat.

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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?

*cough* *sniff* Lots of that in the winter but not for typical winter weather; you can get pneumonia living just south of the Sahara surprisingly. Once the rainy season (July-Oct) ends, the loose sand on the unpaved roads is similar to what a coal miner breathes so fine particles will enter your lungs and you can't avoid it. There are sandstorms throughout the year yet most typical in the spring (hot season) and they are cool to video but not cool to dust the house for the subsequent three days later.

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

Bring Claritin, Benadryl, Zyrtec, Sudafed, and an EpiPen! You never know what you will need and when. if you have known food allergies and use a pen, maybe eat at home because peanuts are everywhere (even sold in old liquor bottles!) so cross contamination from peanuts will happen in cookware in the restaurant's kitchen.

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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?

"Summer" is in the spring, at its hottest from Feb-Jun. After that it's rainy season, not like Seattle, more like hovering clouds of humidity that linger and threaten to rain but rarely do, but when it does rain, it's a torrential rain and the hard sand can't absorb it quickly so flooding can happen quickly and standing water is gone within two or three days. Businesses and homes near the water's edge have been by a previous unprecedented flood but that's the risk of living by the water and catching Mali's weather as it makes it way down the Niger River through Niamey.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our children attended a English-speaking private Christian school administrated by missionaries; it was the largest school and a great experience until it flooded, so our children switched to the international school and both schools were a great experience each offering life skills and strong academics. The Christian school has since reopened.

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

The private school operated by the Government of France may offer such accommodations but I do not know. The Christian school had a program for learning disabilities and accommodations for assignments/testing.

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

There are several reputable French-speaking options and the international schools offers an English-speaking program. Thankfully I did not have small children while living there because it was already quite hot and toddlers are naturally whiny and already complain about everything. I'm kidding...

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

Softball teams are formed for semi-annual tournaments where any age can participate age 12 and up. Other than that, your child will be the kid returning home and gets in the way while at bat when his teammate steals from third because he doesn't know not to block the base line. You aren't driving your kids to a bunch of practices/games when they should be doing homework so that's beneficial for the family. Bring your own basketball hoop or play at the rec center; there is a pool there to do laps so start your own swim team. Most activities are led by the person happening to live there at the time. There are aerobics classes at a local hotel.

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Expat Life:

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

Morale will be what you make of it, if you hate where you live then you will hate it; if you see it as an adventure of the day, then find one amazing atypical thing that happens and enjoy that memory. Lots of people from various countries that enjoy to hang out and host new friends or be hosted. It's like any place you move to, if you want friends, go make some.

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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?

Entertain yourself! You have to get creative in a capital city that does not have a movie theater, ice cream shop, coffee shop, bowling, batting cage all the things you don't normally care about but suddenly will miss! You can hike to the top of Three Sisters for a view of the city, you can drive to the dunes (really 1 or 2 sand mounds but that's the dunes) for amazing photography opportunities, go 2.5 hours south to EcoLodge and Parc W, and get brave and try restaurants not judging by the exterior - get out there and explore but always with someone.

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

Families with teenagers would struggle as teens cannot drive until age 18 and there aren't entertainment options that a teen is used to. Giving birth is not something I would want to experience there (most women return home for deliver) and I was glad not have a small infant who may need care not readily available. Couples would have each other to lean on for acclimation yet singles always find other fun people that share their interests. Isolating oneself would not be advisable as it already felt like living on an island, kind of quarantined, trapped in the capital without regional travel of any interest or safety, so having friendships or family is very important.

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

There are no laws against homosexuality unlike other African countries. Although you will see men walking down the street and holding hands, it is a cultural extension of friendship (like a high five that never ended) and not indicative of a partner relationship. It's a fine line, not illegal yet also not publicly obvious or discussed in this conservative Muslim country.

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

Men are the head of the household and even unmarried adult Nigerien women must seek counsel from adult male members of the family. Most Nigeriens are Muslim, other Africans in town who are Christian were most often from other countries like Ghana or Togo; there are many Christians from various countries throughout the southern region across Niger; yet it is a small sample within this large Islamic country.

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

Nigeriens are very welcoming to Americans. Despite this year's protest against Christians and the multiple churches and pastors' homes being burned, it was a reaction not related to activity in Niamey. We rode camels and learned the pain of an hour of thigh clenching to stay on, took boat rides to see hippos and returned with all of our limbs, and saw wild roaming giraffes and didn't get stepped on (giraffes think dogs are amazing so take a leashed tame dog along that won't bark or chase the giraffes and watch their LONG necks reach down to stare at your pooch!)

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

There are several dinosaur bones on exhibit in an open air display. Chatting with artisans about their handiwork of jewelry or leather or pottery brings more interest to any item you may buy once you have a nice conversation or story to go with it. Le Patio has steak that is somehow juicy compared to the beef sold in stores, and La Table Vivanda locks the door once you enter to keep you safe and you can enjoy your creme brulee without wondering if terrorists will burst in before finishing the last bite.

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

Leather goods and silver and painted pottery. Wadata for set prices in A/C store yet higher prices than elsewhere.

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

It was a non-deployable assignment, so we were very family-centered being together. One's net worth does increase with having few opportunities for typical Western expenditures (gas for road trips or long commute, no drive-thru, no department stores with plentiful inventory, no clothing stores for typical clothes/shoes/jewelry). It was a chance to live "less is more" and surprisingly do it well while saving money for other things. You will lose weight not getting Sonic shakes anymore. I didn't miss being stuck in traffic (except for occasional goat or cow!) or having to scrape a frozen windshield or shovel snow.

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10. Can you save money?

if you don't spend it.... again not many places to shop, so your net worth does increase. Living expenses are high for rent and utilities so your Starbucks budget will go toward that.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I wish I knew more about its political climate and government. Most Nigeriens are not happy with the country's administration (sound familiar) and knowing more before arriving would have helped with my acclimation and conversations with Nigeriens.

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

Hmm, nice try, it was a great experience but I don't think I'll be reliving it. Our stay was just long enough. The instability and terrorist threat are greater since we were there but everywhere seems to be going nuts these days.

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

uptight sense of entitlement at home. This is not a place for the weary or those without an adventurous spirit. You are not special because you are American; you are equal to every other person and a condescending attitude will get you nowhere and a waiter who doesn't help you and a missed opportunity to meet someone who will leave you with a lifetime memory of a brief yet genuine friendship. Just be normal and not pretentious. Nigeriens are gracious and come from simple means yet appreciate all they have so don't be the whiny American saying "It's so hot" - they know.... If a Nigerien does not smile when you say Bonjour Ca Va? then something is wrong with you...

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4. But don't forget your:

contacts and solution, extra shoes so you sometimes have non-sand-stained ones on hand, more seasonal decorations for holidays and seasons (it's the same season but I wanted more fall and winter decorations to put around the house, and snowmen are confusing to Nigeriens, funny conversation!), downloaded music and updates to all devices, winter coat and shoes for when you fly out during a cold month at home or trip to Europe, a carry-on bag with your World Health Organization yellow card that shows you had the yellow fever shot, all medication including over the counter (stock up on Immodium and powdered Gatorade, you'll thank me later...)

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Sahara with Matthew McCoughnehey.... JK.....

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

Read anything you can, even a Google images search, Bradt has a good book on Niger.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Give more to the experience than you take. Stay healthy and safe and smile often.

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Niamey, Niger 07/07/13

Background:

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

3rd 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?

US- one full day of transit with a transfer in Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is fine here, and commute time is not bad as long as you miss the rush hour. Due to an influx in aid workers and diplomats, the housing prices in town have gone up -- though this can vary depending on what type of housing you need.

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

Expect nothing, but you will find there are some good options -- though nothing is certain. Sometimes the only fruit available are apples and mangoes or bananas. Some decent cheeses are imported from France. Other things are also imported, so it is generally marked up in price, and the heat often takes its toll on the goods. Get a good cook and have them shop, cook and clean for you. Go to grocery stores for fun on the weekends just to see what you can find.

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

Any comfort foods or things you enjoy. Lightweight active wear. Lots of cheap dress clothes, if you are going to work professionally, because your clothes will be ruined by the end of your time here.

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

Food is not fast here. There are a few decent restaurants, though you end up paying about the same price per meal as in a decent restaurant in the US. You can eat dirt cheap if you like local food. I'm adventurous, but a couple times was enough.

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

Mosquitoes during the rainy season. Bring your malaria meds because you'll be far away from a hospital that's up to standards.

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Daily Life:

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

DHL is really the only way to go unless you work in an embassy.

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

Tons available, though finding good help can be challenging. Try to get an employee from someone who is leaving or already gone. The cost depends on what you have them do and how long they work (of course), but a full-time maid/cook can cost between $200-300 a month, and a gardener/poolman/driver can cost between $100-250. Again, this really depends on the quality of the person you get. You can find a part-time maid willing to work 20 hours a week for $100 a mo, but they will likely not have any experience and may cost you more in the long run (ruined clothes, other problems).

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

Yes, but they are nothing like what you are probably used to in a developed nation.

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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?

CASH. Only cash. There are only 2-3 ATMs in the city. Everyone uses cash, nobody uses credit or debit cards.

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

There is a Sunday evening church service called Niamey English Worship Service. Find a missionary -- there are lots of them in town -- and they will likely know when and where they are meeting.

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

Not really.

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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?

French is very useful. Very few people speak English. No need for Zarma if you're just doing normal work/life in Niamey.

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

It is not a good place for a person with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis seem to be safe and are cheap, though they will try to gouge you if they know you're a foreigner.

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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?

4x4: You will actually put it to use here, and then you will feel silly that you (like so many people in the United States) own a 4x4, when we actually drive on paved roads. If you are on a tight budget, buy a little itty-bitty car and just accept the fact that you'll get stuck. But in no time there will be a crowd of locals around you trying to help you get unstuck in exchange for a little money.

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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 is a very relative term. Internet is getting better here, but don't think you'll be streaming anything during your time in Niger.

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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?

SIM cards here are cheaper than anyplace I've lived- 50 cents to a dollar will buy you a new one, and you can recharge them easily. If you want to play it safe, go to the actual store (Orange, Airtel and Moov are the main providers) and register your number so it won't get shut off -- which may happen if you buy your SIM card on the street.

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Pets:

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

There are some vets, but no kennels. Nigerians would only ever use dogs as guard dogs. They consider them to be unclean animals that they'd never let into their homes.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not unless you've always felt called to sell kleenex and phone cards at one of the city's stoplights. However, the schools are always looking for volunteers and are willing to pay top dollar (read: you'll be volunteering, or at best making $10 an hour).

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

Pretty casual in public. Anyone who tells you that only prostitutes wear pants here probably works for one of the more conservative mission organizations, and you need not heed their advice. However, the women in Niger are starting to use head coverings more often, a practice that was non-existent 20 years ago. So no short skirts, ladies. Otherwise, if you are working in an embassy, dress is business-casual to business, depending on your position.

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Health & Safety:

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

Terrorists and on-edge government security forces are both concerns. Niger borders Mali, Libya, and Nigeria, and there are terrorist elements in both -- some of which have conducted attacks within Niger.

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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?

Best health care is from the missionary doctors. If anything major happens, you'll need to be on the first plane out.

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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, except when there are sandstorms.

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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?

Remember the advantage of how it never gets cold? Do you like getting home from work and putting shorts on every single day? Do you hate snow and love blue sky? Do you like dripping with sweat within twenty seconds of leaving your house? Then Niger is the place for you. There are two seasons: the dry and wet, and while there is a "cold" season, the temperatures then still get into the 90s.

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Schools & Children:

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

There is a french school, a missionary school and an international school. The international school is extremely expensive, and the quality of teachers doesn't seem to be at the same level as it is at the other schools in terms of the amount of experience held by teachers.

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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?

Available.

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

There is a soccer game on every corner, every day, all day.

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Expat Life:

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

Sizable. Between the Americans and the French, there are quite a few -- or maybe it just seems that way since all are mostly confined to Niamey.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty amazing, considering all they are facing (sandstorms, intense heat, rolling blackouts, living in the least-developed country in the world, with no cheap flights or opportunities for travel/vacations). People make the best of it by meeting up for a meal at the American Rec center (on site at the American School) or at one of the restaurants. There used to be a hash run, but now no public invites have been given after the security situation worsened. It's almost like expats realize that if they let their morale go into the crapper, then it will really suck, so everyone stays pretty positive and tries to have a good time!

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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?

Go clubbing, just to say you did.

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

Good for anyone who likes staying home and doesn't care to travel much.

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

Not terrible, not great.

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

Nigerians are generally very welcoming to all.

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

The people are very kind and friendly. There is not a lot of traffic. There are amazing sights to see (nature, cultural festivals) but with the new security situation, most expats are confined to the city of Niamey. There are some great restaurants in Niamey -- Indian, Italian, and French are some of the most popular.

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

Sand dunes. The last herd of wild giraffes in West Africa. Parc W, a national park just a couple of hours from Niamey. There are a couple of good restaurants. Drive to Burkina Faso (8 hours). Fly to Agadez to see an interesting city in the North. See camel racing in Niamey -- and traditional wrestling as well.

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

Tuareg jewelry and leather goods, furniture -- sweet african stuff that you design and they build.

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

People are very kind, it never gets cold, the country is teaming with a unique culture and can truly be like stepping back in time -- as it is ranked last by the UN's Human Development Index. Driving through the town during the dry season is more like off-roading, and driving during the rainy season is more like fjording a series of small rivers. But his is all actually a lot of fun if you have the right attitude!

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11. Can you save money?

Don't go out to eat, and don't take vacations anywhere, and don't do any therapy shopping on Amazon. There isn't really anywhere else to spend your money, so it has to stay in your bank account!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

There are other places that aren't as rough to live in but are considered similar or worse. If you're looking to rough it and have a unique experience, go to one of those. If you don't have a choice, then make the best of it, and you'll find yourself surrounded by people who are in a similar position. I would still come here, especially if the duration was just for 6 months or less. Any longer and you'll likely get cabin fever.

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

Winter coat and your desire to travel around this amazing country and experience its different cultures. Chances are you'll be quarantined in Niamey for the duration of your stay -- unless you have a work trip. Nearly every missionary who was out in the bush or in northern Niger has either returned to Niamey or left the country. Short day trips to see the giraffes, or weekend trips down to Parc W, are the exception to this.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen. Aloe Vera. And positive attitude!

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Fair Game- Niger has a brief cameo of a faucet that spews nasty looking sludge. It's actually a pretty accurate portrayal.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

The glass can be half full here. But remember: in this heat, the water in a half-full glass will quickly evaporate.

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Five stars on Amazon! Don't miss Talesmag's first book of essays, on cross-cultural food experiences from Mexico to Mongolia (plus recipes!)

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