Abuja, Nigeria Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Abuja, Nigeria

Abuja, Nigeria 09/01/19

Background:

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

We've also lived in England.

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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?

Alexandria, VA. Best case scenario, it's a 16 hour trip with one stop in either London, Paris or Frankfurt. Travel from Abuja generally sucks. Even trips within Africa take forever and include one, two, or three stops, since there are few direct connections.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year down, two more years to go.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing on our compound is as good and modern as it can probably get in Abuja. The spacious, well appointed concrete houses have small back yards (some fully enclosed for dogs and/or toddlers). There is also a small playground, a tiny dog park (which is mostly used by the children as playground 2.0), a pool and a club house with a well-equipped gym. A giant wall with concertina wire and 24/7 security make it a safe place to live and a wonderful place for children to play outside (think America back in the '80s when it was safe for children to play in the streets with the neighbors' kids).

The commute to the embassy depends on the time of the day and weather conditions. Between 20 minutes on a good day and 90 minutes on a bad (rainy) day.

Traffic in general is nuts here. Road markings and traffic regulations seem optional.

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

There are plenty of European brands available, so even if you might not be able to get the brands you're used to, you will be able to get something similar. There are a handful of good grocery stores within the city and even a few "malls" with fast food places such as Domino's pizza or KFC.

Any dry goods you can't find or like here, can be shipped through pouch, so don't worry about putting too much dry goods in your consumables, focus on liquids, as pouch shipment of liquids is quite restricted. As a general rule, everything that's not local is expensive (think a kilo of apples for 9 USD, Philadelphia cream cheese 8 USD, and so on). Fruit is seasonal, but plentiful, lettuce is usually quite questionable and looks somewhat pitiful. The large grocery stores have decent fruit & veggies departments, but the local farmer's market beats them all. Send your driver or your housekeeper if you don't want to pay expat "surcharge".

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

I shipped way too much. Since pouch allows for dry goods to be shipped, I wouldn't put much of those in our consumables. I do recommend putting in cleaning supplies, e.g., scrubbin' bubbles (I have yet to find anything that comes close here), liquid laundry detergent, etc. We did ship dog food since options here are rather questionable, but you can still get everything through pouch (canned as well as dried).

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

We have Indian, Ehtiopian, Lebanese, Italian, Thai/Japanese (even sushi!), and plenty more here. You want burgers, pizza or fried chicken? You got it. We even have a Cold Stone here.
Delivery depends on where your compound is. We don't get much delivered here, because we're kind of far out.

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

We get ants by the doors every once in a while. Sometimes a little lizard slips into the house. And every six months we had the area around the house fumigated to get rid of cockroaches. Mosquitoes are well under control on our compound. Every once in a while, a random snake somehow finds its way into a back yard. Kids are warned to run the other way and let an adult know immediately.

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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 diplomatic pouch. It's quite random. Sometimes it takes 10 days to get mail from Dulles, sometimes it takes 6 weeks. I was told Christmas time is the worst, but in summer, delivery times go up as well. Mail is picked up at the mail room at the embassy. The staff is always nice and helpful.

You can send flat mail (Christmas cards last Christmas took about six weeks to get to the US, eight weeks to Europe) and mail up to the size of a video cassette. Anything bigger requires "pony express" or shipment via DHL; however, "returns" of ordered items ARE possible, even if they are larger.

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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 are plenty of candidates for housekeepers, stewards, nannies, drivers etc. It's all a matter of your expectations and needs. It took us some trial and error to find a person who matches our expectations. Most houses have staff quarters, and local staff appreciate that.

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

We have a well-equipped gym and a small pool on our compound. They are free. Transcorp Hilton has a gym and classes, but there are some classes on some compounds as well and personal trainers don't cost much either.

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

This is the fraud capital of the world, so think twice (or more) before you use any card anywhere. Cash rules. There is a bank teller at the embassy and an ATM as well, but it is not recommended to use other ATMs.

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

There are plenty of English-speaking churches here (English is the official language here!). My husband wanted to go to the Christmas service at the Vatican embassy, but I was honestly shocked by the lack of security and did not feel comfortable there.

Chabad of Nigeria is within the 6-mile-zone around the embassy. The Rebbe and his wife are wonderful.

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

None. Almost everybody speaks English. Some French is helpful, too, but not required.

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

Depends on the degree of disabilities and the medical care required.

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Transportation:

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

Use of any local public transport, taxis, or Uber is strongly discouraged. Local staff from our compound got mugged in a taxi on the way to work recently. Use carpool or hire a driver who was vetted by the embassy. The CLO or the social sponsor are good POCs for that.

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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?

Don't bring any cars that are low to the ground. Despite this being the capital, there are some areas with dirt roads and giant potholes. Think SUV and you're good. Traffic is crazy here and people drive like there's no tomorrow, so you want to sit high and have a lot of metal around you to avoid panic attacks.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is fast enough to stream Netflix, Hulu, etc. Some compounds have "Legend" pre-installed, so it doesn't take long to have it available. We worked with our social sponsor to have it available upon arrival and it worked. A second provider is recommended as backup if you do home office (hello EFMs!) or have impatient children...Legend and Spectranet can both be paid for at the commissary (unless you want to get a bank account here, you pay cash every month)

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

Home-country plans don't make sense here unless you want to pay outrageous roaming fees. Local providers are fine and offer mobile internet as well. You can get sim-cards and top up your plan at the commissary.

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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?

Blueblood vets is a good veterinary practice. Instead of kennel services, housekeepers usually watch your pets when you travel. Pets do not need to be quarantined.

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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 EFM jobs at the embassy, some EFMs work at the schools, and some telecommute or freelance.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are volunteer opportunities. Contact the CLO for information.

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

Nigerians like to dress up for occasions. At the Embassy, I have seen business attire and business casual, outside the embassy everything goes.
Formal dress depends on what events you attend. We have a Marine Ball and there might be other events or celebrations, so it's good to bring at least something a little more formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

We are required to stay within the 6-mile-zone around the embassy (which is pretty much the ring road around the city) for our own safety. Any trips outside that zone should be discussed with RSO. Walking around outside the compounds (where possible) is not recommended, as there is a lot of crime here. Drive wherever you need to go, and park on guarded parking lots whenever possible. Stay alert and don't get too comfortable. When you visit malls or restaurants, make sure you know how to get out quickly. Don't go alone, if you can avoid it and keep your mobile phone charged and Post 1 on speed dial. Do the weekly radio checks, so you know how to handle the radio in case of emergency. Teach your children, too.

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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 medical staff at the Embassy is great. If they send you to a local place for X-rays, CTs, or other exams, trust your gut. I left one facility once because I didn't feel comfortable after I saw a male nurse leave the bathroom with surgical gloves on and handling equipment after that. Keep your eyes open, and leave if you don't feel comfortable. A good place for above mentioned exams is the Turkish hospital (Nizamiye Hospital). It is modern, clean, and the staff is diligent and seems well-trained.

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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 can be decent on one day, and utterly gross on another (think burning tyre/dog poo smell in the air). During rainy season the air is humid but clean(-er). Dry season is taxing for anybody with lung issues. Make sure you have a humidifier in your bedroom(s)

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

Harmattan is not a good time for people with Asthma or lung issues. For food allergies it's the same as everywhere: make sure you know what you eat. If you have any kind of intolerance, shopping options are limited. When in doubt, stock up in your consumables and place regular orders so you don't run out.

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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)?

The limited range of movement can be seriously frustrating. Use school vacations and R&R to get out as much as you can.

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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?

We have everything from hot and dry to wet and mild. Bring hot summer clothes (and SUNSCREEN) and rain gear.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several international schools, each comes with its own quirks. Our son attends CTL, which I wholeheartedly recommend. The classes are small (up to eight children), the teachers are young and motivated and the zest for life is palpable. You can feel that the teachers love their job. Special needs are welcome and well accommodated there.

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

I can only speak for CTL, but the accommodations are excellent. The teachers work with each child (special needs or not) if there are issues that need to be addressed. We even got a special needs teacher from our son's school to work with him over the summer (we paid for it, but it was well worth it!)

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

Yes to pre-schools. Instead of day care, most people hire nannies, who are not expensive. We don't have one, but the ladies I've seen tending to the children on our compounds are sweet and loving nannies. Our school welcomes children from 7:30 am and offers afternoon clubs. I don't think there is after school care as such, but you can always ask.

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

Schools offer sports clubs, there are swimming coaches who visit our compound, and there are some martial arts classes on the largest compound.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is fairly large. Lots of embassies from all over the world, a large German construction company with its own compound and Chinese companies as well. Morale depends on whom you ask, to be honest.

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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?

It's much like everywhere else. Going out to restaurants and bars, events at the embassies, etc.

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

It's always what you make of it. The only group I wouldn't recommend bringing here are teenagers. It's a very restrictive environment (as you can't really go out by yourself at night), so they might not enjoy it here.

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

The Muslim population is large, I would at least be careful with PDA.

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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?

Nigerians are generally friendly and welcoming people, but it's not easy to make friends outside our community. Wheeling and dealing is a big thing here, so always be mindful of that.

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

Gender equality doesn't exist. In the city, you have modern young women who work modern jobs - but on the other hand, even within the city, you have women who live and work like it's the dark ages.
I'm not going to get into the religious situation, as the issues are well-known.

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

No trips within the country for security reasons.The highlight is the hills coming to life at the beginning of rainy season. Within days, the entire city turns lush and green.

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

Since you have the 6-mile-zone, there are no hidden gems. There is a zoo that might be interesting for kids, a cinema, some malls, some decent restaurants. Look out for Jazz nights at Chi Thai Revolution; the last one was pretty amazing, but that's it.

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

Definitely if you are into African art and handicrafts. "Mama Africa" is a great market for those items, and I "befriended" a vendor there who has been hunting for some interesting "antiques" from other provinces for me. Hilton also has a small market, which has interesting artworks I haven't seen at Mama Africa.
Masks, furniture, fabrics, and bronze statues/items are interesting things to buy.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That people are driving like there's no tomorrow. Some people tend to take the entire arm if you offer them a hand (not that that's an uncommon thing elsewhere, but I've experienced a lot of it here)

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

I'm torn. It's a good experience, but if ever offered to come back, I don't think I would do another tour here.

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

Expectations, and you might be positively surprised.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen and awareness of your surroundings.

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

No, but talk to people who are currently there or were there.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Good luck. Hang in there. TALK to people. VENT, if you feel the need, DON'T keep it bottled up, and TRAVEL whenever you can to catch a break.

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Abuja, Nigeria 02/26/19

Background:

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

No. We've worked in many countries, perhaps 36 in our career. Most of those we've work in for two to eight weeks at a time, which is completely different than 'living' somewhere. We have lived in Tokyo, Japan; Berlin, Germany; The Hague, The Netherlands: Mexico City, Mexico: Amman, Jordan; Riyadh, Saudi Arabia; and Abuja.

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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 fly in here from Washington, DC or Chicago. The flights almost always go through Frankfurt, which is a great airport and easy to use. We used to have to fly to Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, then come on with a smaller flight. Now we don't, thank heaven, as the Addis airport leaves something to be desired. Some flights also come straight from Paris or Istanbul.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Four years.

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

Diplomatic mission, but as a contractor. We are very familiar with the embassy housing, but live in different accomodations.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

I'm only familiar with one compound. The apartments have been upgraded and while the entryway can cause your heart to sink at its gloom and general air of cement desolation, the actual units themselves are roomy and comfortable enough. The up side to the neighborhood is that it is attached to the American school so kids can just walk through a gate to school. Large central play areas and pools and clubhouse. Covered parking for some units and a very secure, gated enclosure, make this a safe place to live.

That said, as contractors we don't have to live there and I'm quite happy about that, although I do envy their kitchens. The one in our accommodations is small and lacks counter space. Having done this for a long time, I can say that the above neighborhood the least desirable housing I've ever seen. On the up note, for Nigeria, I'm sure it's pretty great!

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

Almost everything is available here if you shop Grand Square. There is another grocery across from the Sheridan hotel (I would not stay there) in a shopping center type place. It's cleaner and brighter than Grand Square, but has fewer choices. Grand Square is sort of like a dark, slightly squalid Target and has a little of everything. For Nigeria, it's as good as it seems to get.

The commissary is very limited and small. Don't count on it.

It is possible to buy really nice fruits like papaya and avocado just along the road.

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

We ship, via Amazon and get the dried goods like mac n cheese, etc. You can buy lactose free milk at Grand Square, but so far I've seen nothing about 'gluten-free'. So if you have dietary restrictions...bring it with you.

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

I think there is a Domino's but we've never used it. 355 Steakhouse is very good. Waki has good Indian. BluCabana has nice meals. The Fraser Hotel has the best evening buffet in town and is worth every penny. Transcorp HIlton has some good choices with Zuma Grill, Buka, and a poolside bar. Sheraton Hotel has a mediocre Italian place that won't give you food poisoning and also I decent bar for drinks and snacks at night.

If you're new, you WILL get sick. It is only a matter of 'when'. That said, it's usually only because the bacteria is 'different' not because it's 'bad'.

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

Malaria medicine is a must. Some lizards and such always want to hang around. Not a problem for us. Oh, sometimes ants can be a real pain in the neck.

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Daily Life:

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

They have to go Pony Express (if you will). There is no post at the Embassy for outgoing mail. Packages may come in, thank heaven, but things going out must be hand carried to the U.S. and mailed.

We have had things shipped in to the country outside the Embassy mail system, but it is a costly and dicey process. DHL and Fed Ex, supposedly deliver here. We've had best luck with DHL. Which I'm sure must also ship out, but there just isn't much that you'd want to ship back unless you were a newbie and overly excited by ugly statues.

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

It is easy and cheap to get household help. If you want to get staff in, there are always people leaving who have help that they'd like to get resettled with a job.

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

Don't now much about that. We use the one at the Hilton as we can also then swim, or play tennis and have dinner. There is one stable for horse riding that I'm aware of and has a German trainer. Very odd set up, with a variety of equally odd horses.

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

This seems to be the fraud capital of the world. Stay safe and if you're with the Embassy, use the ATM there. If not, we recommend the ATM in the Transcorp Hilton side hall with shops towards the pastry shop. The bills there are the only ones we've found in Abuja that come out seeming new. The rest are horrible looking and smell off. Think possibly laundered, or not...toilet paper. Credit cards are taken most places, but be cautious. We've been here four years and have had three new cards issued due to fraud and WE ARE careful!

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

There is an Angelican church. We found attending too stressful due to bizarre parking behaviors and simply watch a broadcast Sunday mass.

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

None. English is everywhere. No one bothers to learn Falani or it's derivitives. It's useless anywhere else. French might help here, as many of the other Embassies here have French speakers in them.

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

Maybe. It's chaos and though the major hotels have facilities for the handicapped, the outer world does not. I'm not sure about neighborhoods or the American School.

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Transportation:

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

No. Get a car only from one of the major hotels if you have to hire a vehicle. The Embassy may have suggestions for other types of transport.

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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?

One you don't mind getting filthy, dented or like too much. It's best to have something that sits up high so that you can see what's happening around you. The rules of the road or only sometimes followed and it is frequent to have people simply turn from the far lane and cut you off. We have an enormous SUV Toyota with a 'cow pusher' on the front and trust me, we USE the cow pusher. Not on cows either. Though sometimes there are cows in the road! ;D

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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?

We use only wifi, so I'm not a good person to ask that question. We turn off our US phones and that's that. Think of Nigeria as an extended stay retreat ! That helps!

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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?

Just get a phone in the country. Carriers from outside the country don't even register the signal.

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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?

Pets are allowed and I believe there is a decent vet. Again, have to ask at the Embassy. We elect to leave ours at home with his sitter while we're here. I miss him terribly, but I love him too much to have him here. To me, it is NOT an animal friendly country. I've seen one cat in four years. Why? Couldn't tell you. In Saudi there were thousands. I suspect...

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I write, so I'm always working here from home. There are quite a number of listings available for professionals if you search the overseas job databases. Whether you would actually want to be out and about doing them? Not for me. I find that my personal space and personal safety antennae tend to freak out here. That's saying something as I drove on the Libre alone all over Mexico, I never let the mutawwi get me down or stop my exploring the souks in Saudi, and I've explored all over Jordan alone. So the fact that this place unnerves me, well you decide.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Don't know, but I would think they need the help.

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

I find westerners tend to dress poorly here. The Embassy is fairly dressed up, but in public its less so. Africans always look as good as they possibly can when they're in public. I think expats sort of 'give up' as it's very hot and very dirty and dressing up just seems like too much work. I dress completely differently here than I ever do at home in the States. Here, my entire wardrobe consists of dresses. I have three pairs of shoes. An orthopedic sandal that I wear for everyday and pool, a flat dress sandal with beads that I wear out to dinner, and a pair of gym shoes for exercise or if we have to go somewhere that walking a distance will be required.

The dresses I buy at Goodwill or Walmart and simply leave in the wardrobe when we go home. I tell the maid to take them as I never want to see them again come home leave time. I have a $3 watch I wear, and here it looks like a Movado. I have a clutch of $1.99 sale earrings that I wear and then also give away. With all that said, I always look as nice or better than most of my counterparts. It's not a place to bring nice clothing.

My husband wears Dockers, a white dress shirt, jacket and tie to work at the Embassy. Most men wear suits, but Friday is casual day for jeans. The women are well dressed, but at a lesser level then DC. Again, just remember the dust, sweat and rain if you have to go of the office to work at all.

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Health & Safety:

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

RSO askes most people to stay within the ring road around Abuja. At night if you have to go to the airport, we take hired security officers if the Embassy can't provide them. It's the presidential elections here now and the voting has come with mortar shells and a death count. This is not a 1st or 2nd world country in my opinion, no matter what they would like you to believe. The people are poor, desperate and used to a system that is not run efficiently. People used to think Mexico was unsafe. Give me that any day. Be smart, and don't park in an out of the way place. Don't stay out after dark without a group. Lock your doors when you get in the car and keep them that way, especially at intersections.

I've seen old Africa hands, (women) who think these are all ridiculous assertions. So you'll have to read the travel advisory and make up your own minds. To me, this is far far more uncomfortable of a place than any other we've served in. Lagos is a different story, I understand. As a port it's more happening and has more shopping, dining etc. Abuja is not Lagos, in my opinion. Though Lagos is famous for it's robberies and muggings, so again... use caution.

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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. Food poisioning. 'Buj belly'. That's about it. Med unit has most things covered. If you're not with the Embassy, I think outside health care would be dicey. The hospital looks like a place you would go to die. Try the med unit at the Hilton. Anything serious is med evaced. If you're not Embassy, make sure you have the necessary health emergency service coverage.

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

Bad if you are allergies or have asthma. Wet season cuts down on the dust, but ups the allergies.

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

You're screwed. Sorry. I've got asthma, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, etc. I eat fruit and meat. That's it. That's all there is. Like I said, they have lactose-free milk at Grand Square, but that's all we've found. Nothing gluten-free. For dessert I have fruit. For breakfast I have eggs or potatoes and fruit. Ditto lunch. Though they do have different meats here, chicken, goat, beef...odd tasting, fresh fish usually. and some lamb.

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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)?

We've stayed this long at this post because of the sun. I do not suffer from SAD here like I did in northern Europe, (The Netherlands is always gloomy). Mexico, Jordan, Saudi where all great for that. Germany and The Netherlands I had to have a 'happy light' and use St. John's Wort.

As a trained psychologist, I would say that this post is not for the whining, faint of heart type. If you have kids and need household help, this would be a better post. Safe access to the school, large area to run around and play, close access to other wives and mothers, etc.

On the other hand, if you've got a shopaholic wife or one who isn't content to stay home...this might be a very stressful situation for them. Also for people who are less than aggressive if they have to drive. To succeed on the road here you must be patient, but assertive and if you suffer from 'road rage' in D.C., don't assume because the traffic is less, that the frustration will also be less.

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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?

Overall climate has two seasons, hot, but a bit cooler and wet, then hot and dry. Dry season is hot, clear, but dusty. I love that season. When it starts raining, the humidity and heat, tend to sap my energy. HOWEVER, if you have never seen a thunderstorm in Nigeria, you have never seen the most brilliant lightening, the most rolling thunder. It is an absolute show!!! When you hear the Toto song, "I've seen the rains down in Arica," line, this is what they're talking about. Spectacular! And, also, not for those afraid of storms.

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Schools & Children:

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

I only know of the American School. It's fine, I believe. We don't have kids.

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

Clueless, Sorry.

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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?

No idea. Again sorry.

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

The housing puts everyone with kids together and they have lots of activities for them. There are swimming and tennis lesson at the Hilton. One Horse stable with a German lady that teaches riding.

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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 seems fairly large to me. Though I've heard others describe it as 'small'. All depends on your perspective I guess. To me, living in housing away from the Embassy, all my neighbors are other expats. Each week there are French, Dutch, Germans, Spaniards, some South Africans. Lots of people come here to work. There is a definite pecking order in society though. I notice it more probably as a white woman, than many who will live in Embassy enclaves.

While Nigerians are a lovely people and very friendly. YOU MUST REMEMBER, though that it really seems to be all about the money here, and what it can do.

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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?

There are always the people in your housing area or you can meet people at the social areas like the pool bar at the Sheraton. Dining or bars at the Hilton. Buffet night at the Fraser Hotel. The Hilton has a casino and there are usually expats there too. Though I"ve only been once for a walkthrough. Haven't heard of any clubs.

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

It is what you make of it, as are all posts. I'd say best for families, as housing is focused on providing activities for the kids and families are all together.

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

I'd say no. Very conservative and 50% uMslim.

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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?

It's easy to make friends, just remember, it might seem like someone wants something. Nigerians are very friendly gregarious people. So enjoy their good banter and good natures. Your warmth and conversation alone are huge gifts.

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

Yes! OMG! Women here are treated unfairly at best, in my opinion. Their lives seem to be a misery of hard work and harder family lives.

Ethnic minorities and political parties vie for power with violence. It seems as though Boko Haram runs things in the North and bandits rule the seas outside Lagos. I've heard of robberies on the highway from here to Lagos.

It is a 50% Christian, 50% muslim country and frankly, that seems to the least acrimonious difference. Politics and the constant fight for money, and power seem to fuel most of the unrest.

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

As an experienced State person, I've seen it all. At the pool at the Hilton I often hear British Air stewards lamenting the town. On other hand, we've been here foue years and have been grateful for every minute of it. Sun! That's the thing. Right now the Midwest, where we're now located is at -27 degrees Celsius. I walked through the art market this morning at a balmy +22 degrees Celsius. I hate cold and I hate gloom. So Nigeria, is good for both. Warm and sunny.

Nigeria has some nice things. Housing is ok, Help is cheap. Sun is plentiful. Fruits are excellent and if you want to escape a demanding family back home...this is the place to do it. No one visits.

You can visit Zambia and do a safari and see Victoria Falls. Or Kenya where you can safari and then go to the beach in Mombassa. That's closest. South Africa, while further, has whale watching, wine tours and beach. To the North you can see Morroco and Egypt. Go West and you can get a nice holiday on the beaches of a reasonably civilized Senegal. It's all here, but not that easy to get to. Flights are a bit of a hassle and usually pricey. Though the airport here is ok.

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

You can take a day trip out to one of the lakes and hike, but that's about it. Hidden gems...bar at the Sheraton and Hilton. Buffet at Fraser. Nike Arts Center. Cafe at BluCabana. That's about it. I just don't think Nigeria is a 'hidden gem' sort of place.

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

No. Not really. I've collected art from all over the world and while there are arts, etc. It is very specifically Falani and you have to like that sort of thing.

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

Sun.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Expect a lot of down time, peace and quiet and a home life. You won't go out that much. Ship anything for special dietary needs. Leave most of your 'good clothes' at home. Don't expect to have the 'Africa' experience here. It's not safari or savanna country. Or not, at least, that you can get to safely.

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

Yes. We've enjoyed the sun, the ability to save money, and the quiet time together. If you don't want those things or need them. Don't come.

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

Heavy coats, boots, long underwear. Your notions of 'romantic' Africa. Your 'food snob' attitudes.

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4. But don't forget your:

SPRAY SUNSCREEN. Patience, fortitude, bathing suit and sunscreen. Spray sunscreen... ship that, can't find it here.

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

I'm not sure there is a way to prepare for Nigeria.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

The work for the professionals is interesting. The kids don't seem to mind as they're all running around screaming and having a blast at the pool. I think the wives have the hardest time. It's just doesn't seem to be a great place for women. You'll need to be pretty family-centered to be happy here.

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Abuja, Nigeria 04/19/18

Background:

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

Second posting, my first was in Europe.

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

From the US you can fly via Frankfurt or Paris. Lufthansa is probably more preferred by most. Flight time from IAD is about 9 hours to FRA then another 6 down to Abuja. You can fly to/from Abuja from Accra, Paris, Frankfurt, Lagos, London, Dubai, and Addis.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About one year.

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

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

US MGT section is working hard on getting housing improved. Route 66 is the largest compound and it is great for kids that go to AISA (right next door). Harvard is being renovated right now and they just brought on a new compound called Aspen (20 units). It is quite nice, but further away from the benefits of the city etc. Route 66 are apartments for singles / no kids and townhouses families. Aspen are all single family (all with kids), Harvard are duplexes. There are others spread around the city that are single family to apartments, but not as large of compounds.

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

There are plenty of fruits and veggies at the local markets. The large grocery chain is Shop Rite; it is fine for staple offerings. There is a nice boutique grocery called Dunes. Prices are definitely higher except for fruits and veggies at the market. There is a German/Nigerian butcher that delivers meat and poultry products to the compounds. The chicken here is fine, the quality of the meat isn't that great.

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

More liquids! If you like a variety of beers and wines, bring them with you. Shelf stable and/or non-liquids you can ship via the pouch (USG). Other products in liquids like pickles, olives, etc. should be brought with you. Hard liquor is easy to get and surprisingly affordable.

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

If you live in Maitama then you can order from many restaurants via an app. Route 66 and Aspen are out of luck on that. Dominos, KFC, Johnny Rockets, and Cold Stone are here. There are a handful of quality specialty restaurants that are good.

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

Not really.

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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?

Quality help is definitely available, and every transfer season you will see recommendations from people leaving via the CLO. Nearly everyone has at least one household helper. Many have 2 to 3. Drivers are great if you don't like the stress of dealing with local traffic customs. Stewards / chefs are great to have meals / homes cleaned when you get home. Nannies are common even if the spouse doesn't work. Great people that are use to working with expats / Americans.

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

Most compounds have gyms, there is a small gym at the Embassy. There are some private ones on the economy as well.

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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?

Definitely a no-no to use credit/atm here. You can cash a check at the embassy.

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

Heard there are a couple, but no personal experience.

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

None, it is an English-speaking country.

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

Very tough time.

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Transportation:

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

This is a self-drive post, but recently the RSO approved a couple taxi services to use. You will have to set them up a day or so prior though.

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

Something high clearance, also something you wouldn't mind getting some small scratches etc.

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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 really depends on your compound. Most compounds have been wired for fiber via Legend. Legend is marketed as 8mb download but typically is about 5mb or so. It often goes down though. Other companies like MTN and Spectranet are available via a 4G router. MTN offers a 10mb plan and works well in the city center. If you want to stream etc, make sure you have a solid VPN before arriving to post.

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

The embassy will provide employees with phones. Most people either use MTN or 9mobile. All are cheap and reliable. Many people use What's App.

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Pets:

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

There are a couple good vets. I haven't heard any complaints. Definitely check with the CLO on most recent import regulations. Some people have had no trouble while others have had their pets shipped back due to not having the proper paperwork.

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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?

Prety much only EFM jobs at the embassy, though a few people do telework.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a couple local charity organizations.

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

Similar to DC.

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Health & Safety:

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

I'm not sure why they took the danger pay away from this post. We can only drive in a 5 mile radius, many security restrictions. No outside travel outside of the 5 miles.

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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?

Anything serious you are medavaced to London. The health unit is good, but local facilities are lacking.

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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?

Harmatten seasonal allergies exist. Nothing too serious. Air quality can be impacted by what the locals are burning on that particular day.

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

None I'm aware of.

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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)?

Isolation is tough. You have fly out of here for any break. Some EFMs that don't work I believe have it tough.

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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?

Hot, hot, and more hot. Leave your cold weather gear in storage.

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Schools & Children:

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

AISA is pretty much the only option if you want a decent-sized school. It is good for the lower grades, as you move to middle and high school there are more problems. The higher grades are dominated by local rich kids and there have been some bullying problems etc. The new head of school is trying hard to make an impact.

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

None that I'm aware of.

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

I believe most people just use AISA pre-school or Nannies at home.

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

ASIA has many after-school activities.

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Expat Life:

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

Decent size. This is a make your own fun post. The compounds have their activities and I believe most have the mentality of let's stick it out together. However, many people extend because they like the place that much.

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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?

I believe most people will find their circle of friends from the Embassy. There isn't much socializing with locals that I have seen.

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

Probably not a great place to meet other singles besides at work.

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

I don't believe LGBT public display of affection would go over well with the locals.

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

Nigeria is Boko Haram territory, so outside of the city, yes. Inside Abuja it is fine.

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

The circle of friends from the embassy community.

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

Wish you could check out something, but due to security there really isn't anything we can do. However, there are some movie theaters, bowling alley. go-carts, and paintball.

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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 people go to the market and get some African items to only find out they were made in China.

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

You can definitely save money if you don't go crazy on your R&Rs.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

The lack of travel opportunities, and even though there is no hazard pay, how dangerous it is.

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

Maybe if I was under the influence of something.

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

Cold weather gear, your appetite to explore the city you live in.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bathing suits and consumable liquids.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

There seems to be a lot of first tour and last tour folks here. The location isn't great, but the embassy community is fabulous. I imagine we will stay in touch with many of the friends we have made here.

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Abuja, Nigeria 04/11/17

Background:

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

This is my first tour at an embassy.

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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?

8 hours from D.C. to either Frankfurt or Paris, then another 6 hours to Abuja (about 18 hours total including layovers).

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year down, one year to go.

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

U.S. embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing consists of gated compounds, ranging from small apartments to large townhouses. Route 66 is the largest compound, and is directly next to AISA, the international school. Commute times to the embassy vary, though generally it takes 20-40 minutes door to door. Housing quality, including facilities/maintenance, is generally average to poor, and is a big morale issue for post.

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

Many things are available locally, if you shop at the right place and time. Meats, cheeses, and imported items can get very pricey.

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

Laundry detergent, peanut butter, sauces, oils, beverages (including alcohol), Mexican ingredients, baking ingredients, and all liquid items you use regularly should be shipped in your consumables.

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

Domino's, Cold Stone, and KFC are the fast food options. There are also a handful of decent restaurants: Italian, Chinese, French, Lebanese.

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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 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?

Household help is fairly inexpensive but definitely require a great deal of instruction, training, and expectation management.

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

The employee association has a separate gym membership, which includes decent (but limited) gyms at the embassy, Route 66, and a few of the housing compounds. I'm not aware of any commercial gyms.

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

This is a cash-only post!

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

There is an informal worship service that several members of the mission attend.

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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?

Most everyone speaks English, though the local dialects can take time to get used to.

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

Yes, though given that most people spend the majority of their time either at home or at work, it might be doable.

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Transportation:

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

This is a self-drive or motorpool-only post.

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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?

Roads are generally paved and in decent repair, so a sedan is doable, but a mid-sized SUV is best. Most people drive Toyota Highlanders or similar. It takes several months to ship a car and receive the appropriate clearances, so purchasing locally from an outgoing diplomat is best.

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Phone & Internet:

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

There are several high-speed internet options. Fiber optic is now available on most housing compounds, and there are several wireless options as well.

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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 phone and use a local SIM. Costs are very reasonable.

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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?

Housing compounds are very pet-friendly, and there is a local veterinarian that embassy personnel use. Most people either bring dogs and cats, or adopt them after they arrive. No quarantine that I'm aware of.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Most spousal employment is through the embassy, though it's unclear what will happen with the hiring freeze. A few spouses work as teachers at the international schools. Jobs on the local economy are limited/non-existent.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are many opportunities to teach English to adults and children, and there are several NGOs.

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

Business/business casual at the embassy, depending on your portfolio. Shorts, short skirts/dresses should be avoided in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

This a high-threat post, that, unfortunately, just lost danger pay. U.S. direct hires cannot travel outside the ring road without several layers of approval and an RSO escort. Though the city generally feels safe, the threat from terrorism is real.

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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, dengue, and bacterial/parasitic infections are common, and anti-malarial medicine is mandatory. The med unit can handle basic care, and will medically evacuate you to South Africa or the U.K. for more serious issues.

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

Harmattan season lasts from January-April, with dusts and winds from the Sahara turning the sky light brown. Many people suffer from mild respiratory conditions during this time of year.

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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?

Rainy season lasts generally from May - October. Expect strong storms about one hour each day. The dry season (Harmattan) lasts from January- April.

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Schools & Children:

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

AISA is the international school, which tends to be a fair/good option for younger kids. Most high schoolers attend boarding school in Europe or the U.S.

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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?

There are several day care and pre-K options, ranging from $200-$500 per month.

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Expat Life:

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

The expat community is mid-sized, with approximately 500 people attached to various diplomatic missions. There are also NGO and development workers. Morale seems fairly low, mainly due to housing, travel restrictions, and a lack of things to do.

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

This is a decent post for families and for couples (so long as both spouses can work). This is a tough post for singles, given the inability to travel and lack of things to do.

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

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

Pre-K and young kids can play freely on the compounds

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No, but this was a directed assignment.

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

Winter clothes, high expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, summer clothes, consumable shipments, and patience.

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Abuja, Nigeria 06/06/16

Background:

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

I am a 20-year veteran with the State Department, and my experiences include Freetown, Monrovia, Sanaa, Nouakchott, Sarajevo, Khartoum, and Dhaka.

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

I am currently in Abuja. It takes about 20 hours from Washington DC, through Frankfurt before landing in Abuja. As of this writing, some connections are taking longer due to the need to stop in Ghana or Cameroon for refueling. Flight time from DC to Frankfurt is about 8 and 1/2 hours; Frankfurt to Abuja takes about 5 and 1/2 hours. The layover in Frankfurt is about 3 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two and a half years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing for most expatriates can be comfortable, but in Abuja it is costly. Abuja's traffic is light compared to that in Lagos, with 20- to 30-minute commutes at times. Be aware that Nigerian drivers are apt to drive opposite to normal traffic patterns and on sidewalks. Living inside the ring road is expensive, so some housing is located in Jabi Lake, outside the city proper. Even there, commutes are reasonable.

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

Prices are increasing because the naira is losing value and the price controls on gas have been lifted, thus increasing transport costs. And the government is out of money, meaning that fewer items are likely to be imported. Still, by African standards, when compared with Cotonou or Addis, there is a wide selection of items here. And special items, like Chinese spices or English cream or American cheeses, are available.

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

Antifreeze is not available. Spare parts such as oil filters are not available or could be counterfeit. Food items are largely available, with some diplomatic missions having deliveries of locally produced meat from Fellak's (a Jos-based butcher), fresh strawberries, fresh tofu, fresh vegetables, and flowers. Cheeses such as Swiss, Brie, Blue, and Romano are available.

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

There are many restaurants in Abuja, but their quality is variable and really not that good. However, some expats like them --- partially, I think, for the variety. The best are: Wakkis (an Indian place), Johnny Rocket's, and a brick oven pizza restaurant (that one is hard to find--as they have no sign!) Take-out food is available at KFC and Domino's, and they offer delivery service for a small fee.

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

Nothing unusual, but there are insects here. In the Spring there is a bug that, when squashed, emits an acid that can burn your skin. Don't squash a bug on your skin. Flick it off.

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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 U.S. diplomatic pouch and outgoing personnel to carry mail out. Postal facilities simply don't exist here.

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

Labor is inexpensive, but the quality varies. We pay 40,000 naira for a full-time person, which (at 200 to $1 U.S.) is 200 dollars for the month. This is just for a housekeeper/dog walker.

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

There are gyms and workout areas, and they are reasonable. But the quality varies.

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

I would not use a credit card here. They have ATMs, and many people use them, but there is a limit on daily disbursements. Note that the machines are cell-phone linked and may lose cell signals on a regular basis.

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

Yes, but you have to shop around. The ARK is popular with ex-pats.

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

Not much, but as with any foreign country, knowing the local language -- even just courtesies -- is a plus.

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

Yes. Many public places and government buildings simply are not compliant.

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Transportation:

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

First, be aware that the RSO does not permit official USG employees to use public transport. Second, there is a real issue with the driving -- none of the vehicles have seat belts, and traffic accidents are very frequent. So, while it is affordable (200 naira for one US Dollar) to go from one zone to another, the cost and risk are both high. And by the way, your hired domestic will say it costs five dollars to travel to your housing, but that is the "foreigner price, which is higher than what the locals pay.

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

Bring an SUV or something with a high clearance. While there are decent roads here in Abuja, there are times when you will need high clearance or have to go over a curb.

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Phone & Internet:

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

There is internet. The price we have for our cell phone data plan is $50 U.S. for 22GB. This is a recent reduction from 90 USD for 20GB. I expect some plans will still be at the old prices, so shop around.

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

Local is the way to go, but they require a passport and a photo and fingerprints. This is to prevent money laundering, or so they say.

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Pets:

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

Yes, there is a vet with western training. Ask around.

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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 spouses have U.S. Embassy jobs or contract work with NGOs such as the World Bank. It can be intermittent or part-time. Telecommuting can involve issues because internet access is sometimes sporadic, but it is getting better. The Management section at the Embassy doesn't advertise openings and solicit Eligible Family Members (EFM)s, as other management sections do in other embassies, so the wait-time for an Embassy job can be as long as 6 months.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many. Some teach English to Hausa speakers at a nearby school, and some volunteer at the Employee Association. There are many un-met needs that a volunteer can perform.

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

Business attire or native dress. Formal for the Marine Ball. Nigerians tend to be more formal and rank- or class-oriented then they let on. Fashionable clothing marks one as a person of status and rank. Americans tend to discount this, as our status and rank is derived from our work and what we do, and so we tend to dress comfortably.

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Health & Safety:

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

Travel outside of the ring road is not permitted. During holiday seasons, such as Christmas and Ramadan, be more aware of petty crimes and more aggressive pursuit from persons in uniform asking for some form of payment. Some expats have been stopped and shaken down by police, perhaps expecting a payment. Of course this is not the norm, but there are at least five expats I can point to who have experienced this kind of treatment.

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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. Embassy health care is good and responsive.

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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 during Harmattan (February to April) the fine dust can aggravate your breathing problems if you already have issues.

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

There are the usual snakes and insects.

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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)?

There is plenty of sunshine, so remember that Doxycycline increases sensitivity to sunlight. Also, there is some possibility of frustration from the poor driving.

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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?

Oddly, the winter months (around December) have no clouds and can be quite hot, but summer has clouds, and so it is cool.

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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 large expat community, so schools are abundant.

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

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

Yes.

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

Yes.

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Expat Life:

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

There are many expats, but in Abuja most seem to stay in their own communities. However, if you get out among the English-speaking Nigerian expat community, such as the international choral group, bike group, Hash Hound Harriers, or Tennis people, you can find Abuja to be quite nice.

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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?

There is an Abuja Horse Club in Jabi Lake which has monthly dinners, and the Abuja Dashers have thrice-weekly meetings for workouts around town. Ultimate Frisbee can be found at one of the international construction life camps. The Christmas Bazaar is sponsored by the German Construction company Berger, and the US Embassy has weekly volleyball and occasional softball games with other embassies often attending.

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

That depends on your own situation, but its possible to get out and meet people.

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

Hard to say.

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

Outwardly, there are no issues.

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

Getting out of the city of Abuja. For example, the West African Softball Championships (last held in Dakar) would be ideal to travel to. But try to get out into the country--- the YANKARI game reserve would be my first choice, security permitting. I haven't been there yet, but want to se it.

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

I am planning a trip to the top of AZO rock.

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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 shops at the Hilton and Sheraton Hotels, and people buy Nigerian furniture from a number of vendors. The tailoring is mostly bad and not recommended, but if you do find one, please share him or her. I have been here two years and have not yet found a tailor. There is local rum, and there are many locally-made beverages which are worth a try.

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

Remember, this is Africa, so it's a bit easier to get to those spots you want see in Europe. I guess I'm reaching a bit.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Car maintenance is an issue, and mechanics are poorly trained. Bring your own anti-freeze and oil filters, and learn to change them yourself. You can buy a car here, but there is no one to check it out, as sometimes you can get a car that has had no maintenance.



The US Embassy is putting in place an impossibly expensive program for using embassy vehicles for "other than official use," charging $1.25 per kilometer. So if you don't have a car you have to pay $20 to go to and from the Embassy (unless you take the daily shuttle which is $2 each way). So EFMs who need to take kids to the medical unit will need to pay a lot (that rate is per person). Because using taxis is not permitted, anyone who needs to get to the embassy is stuck.

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

Yes. For the most part, the city has most items available, it is easy to get around, and people understand English. There are movie theaters at the local "malls."

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

You can get most items here: odd things like toothpicks and ethnic spices, Miracle Whip, peanut butter, even fresh meats are available.

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4. But don't forget your:

The electricity is poor and not reliable. Bring a UPS and your own voltage regulators. The embassy gives you two regulators and two transformers.
Bring golf clubs if you have them. There is an 18-hole golf course here which is passable.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

Always travel with your sense of humor.

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Abuja, Nigeria 08/21/15

Background:

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

No; I have also lived in the Azores and Seoul.

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

Washington, DC. Fly Lufthansa/United out of Dulles to Frankfurt, then it is direct from there to Abuja. Total flight time is about 15 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

US Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is manageable, but not great. There are several compounds (of varying quality) in the USG housing pool. GSO works hard to improve the housing situation, but the landlord's market (where they sometimes double the rent just because their ego demands it) makes this an uphill battle. Most of the USG compounds have swimming pools, some have tennis courts, and a couple have gyms. One compound has a nice clubhouse operated by the employee association with food and draft beer. Construction quality is very poor: often, a structure is built, then they break the walls to install plumbing and electrical as an afterthought. The city's power infrastructure is also very poor, but USG housing (fortunately) has backup generators in place. You quickly grow numb to the multiple short power outages every day. That said, I've heard that new developers are coming into town trying to build US-spec housing, so there is hope.

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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 generally find good quality fresh produce at reasonable prices at the farmers' market or through a couple of vendors that come to the USG housing compounds. Some grocery items at stores are reasonably priced, some are astronomical. You won't usually find US brands, but other brands (often South African) will usually suffice. Choices of cheese and beer are seriously lacking.

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

Beer. You can order tortilla chips through some online vendors. I wish I could ship cheese. You should find UPS and power transformers that work on very dirty power and bring them in your shipment.

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

There are a few KFCs and a couple of decent frozen yogurt and gelato places, and their prices seem OK. There is a Johnny Rockets - you pay $50 for what you would pay $12 in the US, but every once in a while, it's worth it. I've heard that a Domino's and a Cold Stone just opened in Abuja. If they are anything like the ones in Lagos, they are probably US quality with similar prices. Lebanese food is good in Abuja, probably because there is a large Lebanese community. Indian food is also pretty good. There are a few Chinese restaurants (ranging from passable to good), one good Ethiopian restaurant, one Thai restaurant (hit & miss on different menu items), and a couple of Italian restaurants (also hit & miss). There is a place called Beer Barn that has a surprising variety of imported beer.

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

Nigeria has malaria, so mosquitoes in the evening are a particular concern. There is a cerebral malaria strain here that is particularly dangerous. A few years ago, an American officer died from it (from what I understand, this person seemed to do all of the wrong things, leading to this worst case scenario). Although many non-Americans don't take the anti-malaria prophylaxis, Americans with the Mission are strongly advised to take it. There are three different kinds: doxycycline (1 daily capsule taken with food), Mefloquine (1 weekly capsule - some people have reported very vivid nightmares as a side effect), and Malarone (1 daily capsule - more expensive, but generally considered as the best of the 3). We never had any issues with malaria.

We very rarely saw dead cockroaches in our apartment. I'm guessing that a combination of all the geckos running around and the pesticide on our compound kept insects at bay.

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Daily Life:

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

Via pouch, although the embassy is in the process of standing up a DPO.

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

Available, cheap, and of varying quality. We were satisfied just to have someone who didn't steal from us, but some people are very happy with their stewards.

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

There is a gym at the US Embassy and also at a couple of the USG housing compounds.

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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?

Um, did I mention this was Nigeria? Cash your checks at the embassy.

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

There are lots of churches (Roman Catholic and Protestant) and a couple of mosques. I have heard that there is a Mormon church somewhere.

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

English is fine, though Nigerian English requires some adjustment.

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

I think it depends on the disability. I have seen a couple of people who are wheelchair-bound get around OK, but my general impression is that this would be a very tough place for someone with a significant physical disability.

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Transportation:

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

USG personnel aren't allowed to use them due to safety and security concerns.

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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?

Honestly, just about any type of car is OK. Most of the roads are pretty good, but the ones that aren't are pretty awful. Small SUVs are preferred. Parts that aren't Toyota or Honda are very hard to come by. Bring spare tires - they are very expensive to ship later.

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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?

Maybe? Internet quality was one of the biggest complaints amongst USG personnel at post - varying quality, data caps, speed. That said, there was a new vendor just as I was leaving who was offering unlimited data via fiber optic links, so this could be a game changer.

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

Bring an unlocked smartphone and use Etisalat - reasonable pricing, reception, and service.

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Pets:

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

No quarantine required. There is a decent vet that most of the embassy staff used who made house calls - very reasonably priced.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

It depends. There is a bilateral work agreement in place, and I have seen several expats get work either with one of the USG agencies or with an NGO. Spouses who didn't work tended to be the most miserable.

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

Generally pretty conservative. If you had to deal with people outside of the embassy: coat and tie; internal: slacks and dress shirt.

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Health & Safety:

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

Abuja is a designated high-threat post, with travel essentially restricted to within the Ring Road (which circles the city, of course). Even with the occasional Boko Haram explosion in or near the city, we never really felt unsafe.

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

Lots! (see malaria earlier). Basic medical care is available through the Health Unit and Abuja Clinic. Anything they can't handle means a MEDEVAC to London or Johannesburg.

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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?

During the dry season, the Harmattan weather phenomenon brings sand dust through the city, leaving a film of dust on everything. It's generally very manageable, although there are occasionally dust storms that flare up, and I have heard of some people doing strenuous exercise outside during Harmattan and coughing up small blood droplets.

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

I don't think I noticed any significant allergy issues. If you have a food allergy, you have to be really careful when dining out, as you never know what's actually in the food you ordered.

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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?

There are two seasons: the rainy season, which is humid (obviously) with temperatures in the 80s/90s and some amazing thunderstorms (they are fun to watch from indoors), and the dry season, with temperatures in the 90s/100s (see Harmattan previously mentioned). It's pool weather year-round.

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Schools & Children:

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

I've generally heard that primary school is decent, secondary school not so much but improving. Some families are happy with the American International School, some send their kids to boarding school elsewhere.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty good size. Overall, I noticed that the morale of the expat community seemed to improve dramatically during my two years. I think this is a combination of improving quality of life options in Abuja and the arrival of a lot of good people. Within the embassy, the Ambassador and DCM were top-notch, while most of the rest of the staff were enthusiastic and capable. The quality of the people is what I will miss most.

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

This mostly centered around parties at other people's compounds: pool parties, barbecues, etc. There was one American who hosted amazing karaoke parties. The great group of people led to a lot of fun parties.

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

I could see a case being made for each category. The expat scene is very single/couple-dominated, generally hosting parties at their compounds. Families seem to have fun by scheduling activities with each other at their compounds. The options for things to do out in town have not been great, but the options seem to be improving.

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

Nigeria has some of the world's most draconian anti-gay laws. That said, I have known several gay/lesbian expats, and I have not heard of any incidents against them.

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

Interestingly, as a white male, I have been very conscious of getting lots of privileged attention around town. I have also observed some of my African American female colleagues being flat-out ignored. Also, Nigeria is almost evenly split between Christians and Muslims, but my general impression is that they usually get along without any issues, in spite of the Boko Haram madness in the north.

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

The expat community was very tight-knit and fun. The quality of the work was terrific. Our R&R trips out of the country were awesome (you should really take advantage of the cost-construct option, as you can make some surprisingly amazing vacations).

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

Hmm... still thinking...

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

A little bit of local art. The best values can be found at the Sheraton Crafts Village.

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

Successfully completing an assignment in Nigeria will instill the confidence that you can handle almost anything. The work is very important and gets a lot of attention back in Washington --- do well, and people will notice. There is very little worth spending your money on, so we saved up a lot of money. If you are Foreign Service, you get three R&Rs, which people have used for some pretty spectacular vacations. There is almost no tourism industry of note in Nigeria, but that didn't stop someone from buying one of those big, red CitySightSeeing tour buses (really?).

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10. Can you save money?

Yes - we saved TONS.

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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'd known how physically draining an assignment here would be. I wish I'd known that, despite its challenges, Nigeria would be very rewarding professionally and very manageable from a quality of life perspective. It's not a garden spot, but there are worse places.

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

We're glad we had the experience, but once was enough.

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

High expectations, diva attitude, winter clothes, dreams of visiting the Nigerian countryside, dreams of having anyone come visit you.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, resilience, sunscreen, board games, puzzles, movie collection... sense of humor, resilience...

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Abuja, Nigeria 06/25/15

Background:

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

No, fourth and last post. DRC, Peru, Uruguay.

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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?

Southwest of the States. 24+ hours, through London, then Stateside hops to home base.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year and 3 months

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

Trailing spouse

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

This is the African post that kills the myth about how good housing is in Africa. Prior to our arrival, 10 housing compounds (3-10 houses each or apartments) were closed for a lot of reasons. Security, rental cost, issues with landlords, repair costs, condition of housing, location. A mega compound has been built on the outskirts of Abuja. 66 housing units; 32 3 bd/2 bath (and WC) apartments (they say, but it more like 2 bd with a study) in two large block buildings and 34 4/5 bd and 3/4 bath townhouses. Known as RT. 66. This idea and housing is a work in process. It took a few years longer than planned to finish (and finish is a loose and relative term), several cost over-runs, communication break-downs between the Mission and OBO and contractors. We are the first generation of RT. 66 occupants and the units look like they have been lived in for years. There is always something that needs to be repaired, replaced, fixed. When it rains, the bathroom windows in the apartments leak, there have been several major water leaks in the units, caused because of poor workmanship. This is the first housing we have had, that did not have any kind of storage or covered parking. Our study is more of a storage room. The 2nd bedroom is that in name only, as it is also used for storage. We have had the bed removed to make more room. Besides, Abuja is not the place where you will get visitors. There is a "pantry" off the kitchen area. But, at first there was no shelving. Mission has now supplied wire racks for the panty. I have bought a few units for my own needs.

RT. 66 is located next door the American International School in Abuja and several kids attend. (See comments below.) RT.66 is also next door to the Mission warehouse. There is a tennis court, basketball court, 2 dog runs (that get little to no use, as the dog owners use the common areas to walk their dogs and allow them to get outside for a few minutes before going back inside for several hours.) This is a popular compound for people with dogs, as there is more outside room than the other places. There is a workout room and a cafe that is open on the weekends. Cafe and workout rooms are managed by the Employee Association. There are two pools in the compound, one normal sized lap pool and the other is a smaller version at the other end of the compound. A lot of folks from the other compounds who don't have a pool, come here to swim.

Power supply in Abuja is poor on its best day. Several times during the day and night, the compound loses city power and the compound has to turn on the generators. Then city power is back and generators are cut off. If the power is out for any length of time, there is no water in the units. After the power changes from city to generator and back, you will have to go around and re-set anything that is not plugged This is a constant routine. You will need surge protectors and a few UPS units.

Commute times can be several minutes to 30 minutes plus. Depending on time of day and traffic.The only thing I can speak to, is that there are varied reports about AISA. Running the range from poor to ok. In the summer months, a lot of the parents take the kids out of Abuja, as there really is not a lot for them to do. Several folks have discussed sending their older kids to boarding schools in Europe or America

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

There are two KFC places and a Johnny Rockets. As is every thing here, they are costly. US$12 for a milkshake at Rockets. There are several good places to eat but are expensive compared to what you would find in the States. Trip Advisor is a good source of information.

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

This is a consumables post. Ship all your favorites. Shopping can be done here but things are pricey and they make not have the brand you prefer.

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

Malaria country? Some small ants in the housing looking for food or water. Seasonal bee and wasps in some places.

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Daily Life:

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

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?

Very available and very reasonable. Most if not all Mission folks have at least one part time domestic help. Others may have 3 or 4.

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

RT. 66 has a small gym open to Association members. I believe some of the other compounds have equipment. I don't believe any one uses a gym outside of an Embassy building. No idea of costs.

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

All of the majors.

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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?

English is official language. Knowing some of the local language is always good.

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

Even mission housing and offices are not ADA compliant. Bomb blast doors are heavy and difficult to open. At our last visit, the automatic door opener was not working. There are few sidewalks (which serve more as a place to park than walk), no concern for someone with special needs. None of the public transportation has any. Even some of the nicest paces in the city would be difficult to get around in.

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Transportation:

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

There is a public bus system, but is not approved for Mission employees. There are both licensed and private (read pirate) taxis. None of which are ok'd for use by Mission personnel. Legal taxi cabs are painted green or blue and yellow. The pirates are any color. A way to make a little money is to pick up someone in a private car and give them a lift, in exchange for some money. As is the case in most countries, the taxi drivers are a major reason for the bad traffic. Most of them are not licensed, have little or no driver training, come in from the villages and rent a taxi for the day to make some money. If you have driven before in a Third World country, this is nothing new. But, if it is your first time, good luck and be careful.

Driving here is one step away from a full contact sport. Nigerians drive very aggressively and think they have lost "face" if they allow another car to merge into traffic. Drivers will drive bumper to bumper to prevent someone from entering the traffic lane from a side road. There is a mind set, that the driver has, that they are the only ones on the road and it is all about them. There is little to no respect for any kind of traffic law, law enforcement, common sense or courtesy. The higher in status a driver thinks s/he is, the worse his driving is. Because Abuja is the Federal capital city, there are lot of convoys of high ranking military and elected officals who believe they have right of way everywhere and all the time.

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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?

This is dependent on your needs and what your plans are. You can do most everything with a small SUV or sedan. Something you wouldn't mind getting a bump or two. There are a few vehicles for sale in the DIP crowd, or you can buy locally. 4WD is not necessary unless you are planning to travel the back roads in the country, and you can only do that with RSO permission and a police escort with armored van.

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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? No, not here. But, there is internet access provider by several start-ups. Cost? 17500 nigra a month(US$88). Quality depends on location and does vary among the providers.

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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?

Mission issues phone to the employee. EFM will have to find their own. Like the internet, there are several providers that have a "pay as you go" plan. There vendors everywhere to buy the pre-paid cards

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Pets:

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

No quarantine needed. Quality care is not available, some supplies can be found. Because of the compound living, it would be nice if all dogs had some kind of training before arrival.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes, this is Nigeria, a developing third country in need of any help it can get. And they do like free help.

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

Business wear in the work place and casual in the public eye. Nigerians like to dress up in the native wear.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very much so! FACT training is required for both employee and EFM prior to arrival. There is a heavy military and police presence. Abuja is the capital city of Nigeria. Boko Haram is a major security issue in the northeast of the country. There are killings done by the herdsman over grazing/farming issues, religion, crimes, etc. Most of it is not directed at Americans, but there have been kidnappings of business men (usually European), oil industry people, missionary folks. There are and always will be crimes of opportunity; pick-pocket, strong arm, smash and grab, etc. There was a police chase yesterday near the Embassy, police firing shots at armed robbers. We rarely go out at night (driving is bad enough in the daylight), we go to known and approved locations, travel in groups, don't flash cameras, money or jewelry.

Because this concern, we are very limited on where we can go or where we wish to go.

Nigeria (Security threat level - 5): On 24 June 2015, armed assailants in speedboats attacked a construction site in the Ogbia local area of Bayelsa state in southern Nigeria, killing two police officers and kidnapping two Lebanese nationals. Bayelsa state police officials stated that a large-scale manhunt was launched to rescue the workers. Three expatriate workers were kidnapped from the same area in November 2014. Kidnappings are common in the Niger Delta region, and foreign workers are frequently targeted, as the perpetrators believe that such hostages can bring larger ransoms.

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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?

Plenty! Don't drink the water; wash everything before you prepare food; be aware of public urination and defecation (every body of water seems like an open sewer); there is never ending smoke from burning trash piles; trash and garbage everywhere; and there's heavy dust in the air during Harmattan season. This is a malaria post. There have been a few cases of Mission employees getting malaria, even if they are taking the preventive meds. There is always the danger of Ebola. The embassy has a Med Unit, but anything that requires any real attention will be sent to London. There are clinics here, but are advised to avoid, unless it is an emergency.

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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?

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

The nasty air year round and the dust during Harmattan.

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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 hotter. Lots of rain in the season and very dry and dusty the rest of the year. Everyone gets a dry cough during the dusty season

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Schools & Children:

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

Some people have their kids signed up for swimming, gym, horse backing riding, tennis, etc. There is one full sized, private (memberships are available) 18 hole golf course and one 18 pitch and putt. A second 18 course has opened outside of our safe travel zone. So, it is not ok'd by RSO to go there unless you go in an Embassy vehicle and police escort.

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Expat Life:

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

Good sized. Morale depends on so many things but overall, it is not the best I have seen. A lot of people feel that the upper management people don't seem to care about them. People are just doing there time before the next posting.

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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?

Dinner with friends, leaving Abuja for R&R, BBQ in the compounds, play golf.

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

No different than for familes.

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

Can't speak to this subject. I do know that there are LGBT employees here, but it is kept quiet. Nigeria is a very religious country. About 50/50 Christian and Muslim.

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

Read the news. Boko Haram is a major security issue in the northeast of the country. There are killings done by the herdsman over grazing/farming issues, religion, crimes, etc. There are kidnappings for ransom of foreigners. There are still deep seated tribal prejudices among themselves.

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

Leaving on R&R or long weekends, have met some good people.

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

Nope. Everything worth seeing will be done in the first six months of being here. Then the newness wears off and you will be counting the days to the next chance you can leave Abuja for somewhere else.

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

Local art and crafts.

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

None

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10. Can you save money?

Yes/no. If you spend it all on travel getting out of Abuja at every chance or spending it all on comfort shopping on the internet. If you are two income, no kids, then yes. Most people will not lose money here, but they might not leave with much more.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How poor the housing was going to be, the driving, the limits on our movements.

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

Not in this life time. This has not been my favorite posting; I am glad to be finished and put it all behind me.

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

Expections of customer service, of things working or getting finished, reasonable driving, expectations of anything you might have heard about Africa.

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4. But don't forget your:

Thick skin, patience, thoughts about wandering the city or country to explore. And more patience.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This is a post where people coming in needs to do so with their eyes wide open.

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Abuja, Nigeria 11/04/14

Background:

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

First was Liberia, several other African posts, and Bangladesh.

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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?

It's about 30 hours to get back to SE USA. Air France and Lufthansa service this area. The connections can have long layovers but are usually reasonably efficient.

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3. How long have you lived here?

14 months.

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

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?

When we came, we lived in decent apartment housing which was closed about 5 months into our tour. Then we were moved to a compound called 66 which has 66 units. We have had constant mold, torn out walls several times because of bad pipes, air-con poorly installed so all leak at one time or another. Cheap inadequate lighting. I can't say anything good about our "brand new housing." This is the worst housing we have had in Africa (actually anywhere). I would not reccomend this post to anyone if they have to live in 66. Some of the other places seem better but we're stuck in 66 and since there are 66 aprtments, it's hard to know if you will get this. Lots of kids around so its good for families and there are 2 pools and a small canteen open with limited food on weekends.

It's about 20 minutes to work.

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

Everything is expensive, higher than any other African city I've been to.

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

All house-hold cleaning products, the bleach is about 1/10th the strength of our home bought ones. All the cleaning products are weak so I would send more in consumables. There is a good consumable allowance. More paper products since they are expensive here.

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

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

Lots of insects in our housing. It's us against the ants. Constant invasion in the kitchen (and we are clean) but lots of entrances for them since none of doors close right to the floor.

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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?

Reasonable. There are quarters on the 66 compound for them but they are very small, dirty and hot. I was unable to hire the person i wanted because they would not live there.

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

Yes, small gym at 66. Some local gyms but don't know the price.

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

Not a good idea in Nigeria, the home of fraud.

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

Lots of denominations, Catholic, Protestant.


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

None, it's always nice but peole here generally speak some English. Most Nigerians speak at least 3 or more languages.

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

Yes, no sidewalks, bad entrance ways, no ramps. It would be beyond difficult.

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Transportation:

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

No, not allowed to use public transport.

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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?

Should be high carriage, the roads are bad especilly by 66 apartments. Don't bring anything you would mind getting dinged. Driving is so bad, most people have some sort of scrapes on their vehicles.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is not terribly expensive but speed and availability vary according to where you live. Not bad at 66, costs about US$60 month for average use.

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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?

Embassy supplies one to those who work there but spouses need their own. Service varies according to where you live.

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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?

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Lots with various churches, NGOs.

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

Business casual. In public, modesty is usual the way to go.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a danger post so we can only travel outside the city with escorts. Boko Haram is active so the security is always a big issue.

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

There is a medical unit at the Embassy but nothing outside for treatment. Most folks who get really sick, get medevaced, either to South Africa or London.

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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?

Not too bad. During hot season it gets very dusty so folks with allergies might have a bad time.

If you live at 66, be prepared for mold problems which can affect your health.

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

Very dusty during hot season. Very moldy at some housing.

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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?

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Schools & Children:

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

Don't have kids but there is an American School right next door with an adjoining door to our compound at 66.

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Large community includes CDC, USAID, DOS, Walter Reed and growing all the time. Morale varies but in general, I think many folks don't like it here.

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

Just entertaining in the community, BBQs, dinners, lots of kids parties.

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

There's nothing to recommend in Abuja. Hard to drive anywhere, traffic is horrendous. lots of people don't even drive though they have cars. Picture a car going the wrong way on a around-about. Or down the up ramp on the express roads. Common occurence here.

Restaurants are worse than mediocre and very expensive: US12$ for a milk shake which DOES taste good but....

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

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

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

Enjoy my job at Embassy.

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

NO.

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

Nothing.

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

There are no advantages to living here except for saving money (danger pay, hardship etc.).

The weather is OK, very hot in winter, very wet and medium temperatures during the rainy season.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, nothing to buy here. We travel when we can which is pricey but worth it.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

If i had known about the apartment at 66, I would not have come, it is that dismal.

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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:

Good clothes, winterclothes, fancy car.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, hobby supplies, books if you still read paper. We can order almost everything on the web. Takes a while, but we have gotten some food, clothing, reading materials.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

Any travel books on Nigeria and read up on 419 scams.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

I'm sorry we came here because of the living conditions. I am usually rather upbeat but this city depresses me.

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Abuja, Nigeria 08/21/14

Background:

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

4th and final posting after Kinshasa, Lima, and Montevideo.

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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?

Southwestern U.S. Flights through Paris or Frankfurt and through various U.S. airports. We always figure on at least 24 hours travel if all things go well.

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3. How long have you lived here?

A disclaimer first - I usually do a post report prior to leaving post, but am submitting this one after 4 months of living here. From what I have seen and learned, I don't expect many things to change by the time we leave. If they change enough to warrant a new report, I will submit one on departure.

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

Trailing spouse of Embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Everything is on a compound. Because of several issues (security, access, landlord issues) 10 compounds have been closed and a new compound, named Route 66 with 66 units on compound - 3 bed apartment, 4-5 bed townhouses - has been opened. Some of the existing units are quite nice, considering they are not of the best construction or location. New compound - Route 66 is located next door to the American International School, has stand-alone servants quarters, basketball and tennis courts, weight room, two swimming pools (one large and one small), a cafe open on weekends for pizza, burger, drinks. But, Route 66 is a work in progress, lots of minor and some major issues need to be addressed and fixed. General thought is that at the end of the lease, all the problems will be fixed and the landlord will have a great place to rent out. Commute times vary from 5 minutes to 20 minutes when there is traffic. No one walks.

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

Yes and pricey. Pretty much anything you want can be found here. There are several stores in the city. But, you will pay for it. This is the reason for the allowances given to the Mission employees.

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

Would have doubled the amount of stuff we shipped as our consumable allowance.

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

No fast foods. A Johnny Rockets has opened up and is getting some business. But, it is very expensive. But, everything is expensive compared to the States.

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

Ants, termites, skeeters.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch and it is slow and restrictive.

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

Readily and afforded. Many people will share domestic help. But, as always - check out the help, ask around, get references.

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

Yes, but don't know what the costs would be.

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

Don't! This is Nigeria, home of the 419 scams.

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

Yes. Nigeria is English speaking. The Holy See has weekly services.

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

Nigeria is an English speaking country. But, there are several local languages and knowing some of them will help.

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

Yes they would. For all the claims of Abuja being a modern city, it is not. It would be a difficult place to get around. It can be done, but not with ease.

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Transportation:

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

Nope - don't!

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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 all your own parts, a car you don't mind getting beat up, something to handle the crap roads here. A 4WD is not necessary, but something with clearance and the ability to take a beating is nice. Traffic is awful, drivers are among the worst I have seen. Be prepared for some very aggressive driving! No respect for traffic laws, no common sense, no effective police presence(other than to collect a bribe), accidents are common-place, roads in terrible condition. When it rains - WATCH OUT! Every car that doesn't have working windshield wipers will pull under an overpass to wait out the storm. Or just to the side of the road. In doing so, the number of them there will stop or really hinder the flow of traffic.

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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 and costly. Several providers and not one of them is any better than the other. Ask around and see what works best for your living area.

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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?

Buy a cheap unlocked phone and buy a local SIM card. Most folks have two phones, one each with a different carrier. So when one serve is out, you have another one to use. Employees will get a phone and a radio issued by Mission.

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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?

Don't know really. Usually the only people I see with pets are the expats, and not many of them. Bear in mind, that there is not a lot of open space where pets are accepted. Housing compounds have very little or no yards. You may very well be living in an apartment.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

As in any third world location, there are several NGO that will happily take your time, money and efforts. Some people work in the local church, local school to teach English.

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

Business professional at work and respectful in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

See above - this is a high threat post. All USG housing are located in a compound with 24/7 security, panic rooms, alarm systems, local Police outside the gates, rapid response forces, roving patrols. Anyone who can afford it, lives in a secure compound or area. This ought to be a clue - if the Chief of Police has a SWAT team sitting outside his gate 24/7, with armored vehicles - that ought to tell you something. Anyone of importance, either ego-driven or status, travels in convey with armed security.

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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?

Ebola, malaria, etc. Medical care is available at the Embassy.

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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?

Fair - lots of locals burning something, a lot of vehicles in poor condition spewing smoke - etc. When there is a wind or storm, the air gets moved around. Have been warned by many about the dry time of the year and the dust problems. See reports that have bee already posted.

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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 to hot /rainy and hot/dry.

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Schools & Children:

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

American International School is one I am aware and have heard mixed reviews.

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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?

Same as above. There seems to be quite a few of them. Can't speak to cost.

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

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Expat Life:

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

Quite large. If they are not here as part of the diplomatic community, they are here for the oil business. Moral varies - depends on the person and the situation. Most are here because it is a good opportunity for something. Money, job, career etc. Some are counting the days until the next trip for vacation somewhere else. Or counting the days until they leave for 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?

Entering at home, BBQ, dinners out. One golf course in the city and it gets a lot of use.

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

All. Everyone has their niche. Singles can have quite the night life, if they choose. Families tend to get together often.

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

Nigeria is a country of 50% Muslim and 50% Christian. I know several gay/lesbian expats, but they are very discreet about it.

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

Yes, Read up on Boko Haram. Even amongst themselves, there is a big divide between the 'have's' and the 'have-not's'. There is a lot of tribal/feudal prejudices.

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

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

Abuja is not a tourism location, there really anything here worth going out of the way for. If you live here, you will try out the local stuff. But, to travel here for it - not likely.

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

There are some local stuff - carvings, local artists for paintings.

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

None. Abuja is a new city, built to be the capital city of Nigeria. The process started some time ago and will be years before it is complete. You can't travel outside the city without Embassy RSO permission and you will travel in convoy with local Police in the vehicle. Nigeria is a high threat post, anyone posted here has to attend the FACT thru FSI. Given the current situation with Boko Haram and ebola, there are several State Department issued travel warning. On top of that, there are not a lot of places to go for any reason. Some people will fly to Lagos for a weekend, just to see something different. Travel is expensive, not a lot of local art/crafts - so you can save money. If you don't spend it all on comfort shopping online.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes, not much else to do. Unless you travel a lot.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Nothing really, being our second African posting - we were pretty prepared for it.

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

No. But, this will be the last posting and for all it, it will be a good career end posting for the Employee. Lots of people here because they were directed to (first posting), want to get the 'goody' points for the next bid, some are addicted to the danger pay, or living a life supported by a house full of help.

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

Most of your winter stuff, ideas of this being "Out of Africa", desire to travel the countryside or wander the city streets exploring.

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4. But don't forget your:

Driving skills, ability to not go postal, tons of patience.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

As said earlier, I will re-visit this when departing post and make edits.

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Abuja, Nigeria 05/01/14

Background:

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

Yes.

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

From the U.S. get a direct flight to Frankfurt, Paris or London, then fly 5.5 hours to Abuja. Do not fly to Lagos - you must change airports to catch a domestic flight to Abuja and this has all sorts of safety and timing issues.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2 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?

For NGO staff: apartments on the local market are not up to U.S. standards and very expensive. Be sure you see it before sign a lease.

For USG employees: housing is very expensive here so it's more modest than you might expect elsewhere in Africa. All housing is on compounds. No private yards. Limited amenities. Commutes vary with traffic but most are 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?

Very high. Bring everything you can. Fresh fruits and veggies are available and delicious but not inexpensive. Easy to spend US$50 a week on them for a single adult who wants to eat healthy. Local chickens are small but tasty. Beef is very tough and needs a lot of marinating. Pork varies. American bacon can't be found.

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

I brought a lot and am happy I did. I discovered I need more candles do to power outages than I ever thought I would need and thought I could get baking flour locally which turns out not to be reliable.

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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. The Nigerian shwarma and suya stands are good and cheap. If you like BBQ fish you can find a lot of that. There are a few good Indian and Lebanese restaurants in town and one place that serves an American or British style brunch (sometimes they even have coffee!)

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

Nothing unusual. Put your dry consumables in plastic or the freezer.

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Daily Life:

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

USG employees use diplomatic pouch exclusively.

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

Very inexpensive and easy to find someone who has worked for other expats and is pretty reliable. Many families with kids employ a driver (so they can get by with one car), a steward (cooks, cleans, shops), and a nanny. For US$300 a month or less, a single or couple without kids can have all their cooking, cleaning, shopping, and dog walking done 5 days a week.

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

A few expensive gyms that aren't really up to U.S. standards. Some tiny workout rooms in some USG provided housing. There are organized HASH and DASH running groups which I don't personally think are safe (too many expats very obviously in the same place every week at the same time). All USG housing has community pools so if you like to swim you can do lots of that. One USG compound is large enough to run but it's more like running on a track than a trail.

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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?

Do not do it. All cash society. Last thing you want is a Nigerian fraudster in your bank accounts.

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

Yes but in my opinion not in a safe enough situation to participate.

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

None. English speaking country. Nice to learn greetings in a few local languages but all ethnic groups come through Abuja so it's hard to know which ones to use.

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

Not sure but it might be better than you expect. Given that no expats walk or take public transit and that drivers are inexpensive, and that most expats spend all their time at work or in provided housing, it might not be a big issue. With the right household staff, you really don't have to go anywhere other than your home and work, and perhaps to a few restaurants now and then.

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Transportation:

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

Not safe. USG employees and families prohibited from using.

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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 as many parts and oil as you can. That stuff is marked way up here. Bring tires - you can always sell them before you go if you don't need them. Any other sort of car will do, but the higher clearance you have the easier things will be as there are some unpaved roads. That said, lots of people getting by here with older sedans and other small cars. Be smart. Do not bring a convertible.

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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?

Not available. Best option I've found is spending about US$50/month on a MIFI that creates a wireless hotspot in my apartment on 2G or 3G.

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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 phone or buy one here cheaply. Local sim cards and recharges are easy and not expensive.

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Pets:

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

No quarantine. No quality care. Lots of pet sitting within the expat community.

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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?

At Embassies. Some family members work at embassies from other countries (Brits at the American Embassy, etc). I don't know anyone with a local job outside an embassy except for people who provide services like hair and nails from their homes.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

This is tough. There are so many local needs and so few organized efforts to help. The expat community is currently trying to develop more but it's hard to say if any of that would be available when you arrive.

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

Suits are work. Dressy casual in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. See regular travel warnings from embassies.

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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?

Very little local quality care. Embassies provide for their own and USG medevacs to London for anything but the most routine case.

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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?

There is a 3-4 month Harmattan season when there is a lot of dust in the air. Borderline unhealthy, I'd say, but aside from some sinus infections, I don't know of anyone having a lot of trouble with it. The rest of the year the air is great - no air pollution problems at this point although people are frequently burning trash and cars here aren't exactly up to emissions standards.

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

The rainy season :May through mid September - it rains 2-3 hours a day. The Harmattan: roughly January to March but it varies - see above. The Dry season: everything else. Temperatures all year between 90 and 110F.

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't have kids but I hear okay things about AISA for elementary kids and I know there is a smaller international school that is often used, also a French school. Keep in mind that there are very few expat kids here so most classes even at expensive private schools are more than 90% Nigerian students; expat kids can feel a little out of place I'm told. No good high school option at this point.

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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?

Don't have kids, but there seem to be a lot of happy parents of little kids who love their nannies and preschools. Both are quite affordable.

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

Not that I'm aware.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty big. Morale is hard to assess but I'd say relatively good. People know what they're in for and come ready to work.

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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?

Potlucks.

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

The happiest people here seem to be couples with very young kids. Overall, anyone who has an optimistic personality and is able and willing to "make their own fun" at home or with neighbors will do fine here. We are very isolated - it's hard to engage with the local community for many reasons (cultural and logistical) and it's very expensive to leave the city (US$350 to fly to Lagos, US$550 to fly to Ghana, US$1100 to fly to Europe and those are basically your options). No road trips out of the city do to security concerns. There's not much to do.

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

This city has a big double standard. If you are black, you are assumed to be Nigerian and being openly gay or lesbian may well get you beaten or killed. If you are anything else, you will be assumed an expat, and then as long as you avoid public displays of affection, you should be okay. I know a number of openly gay or lesbian members of the American expat community who are doing fine here but they have to be discrete outside USG housing/embassies.

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

Yes. Probably hardest for African-Americans who are regularly assumed to be Nigerian and treated as such until they make it clear they are expats (which can sometimes be hard to convince people).

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

The work here is very, very interesting, no matter what your assignment is. The best expat stories come from Nigeria!

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

Expats make their own fun - lots of pool side BBQ potlucks and such. There are a number of good but expensive restaurants. Very little else to do. Even difficult to find volunteer opportunities.

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

You can get a lot of cheap Nigerian art - not of it super high quality - but there are one or two places selling expensive high quality stuff. You can buy very cheap West African fabric (in 6 yard packs) which is good for making quilts.

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

Easy place to save money (unless you spend it all traveling out), weather is remarkably good - generally in the 90s and low 100s F all year and not terribly humid even in the rainy season. All expats come here for the challenges of the work. Whether you're working for an NGO or for an Embassy, the work here is fast and furious. Lots of interesting challenges, lots of international stakeholders.

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10. Can you save money?

By not traveling out, yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How expensive it would be to travel out and how nearly impossible it is to get to anywhere else in Africa.

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

Sure. It's an adventure.

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

High expectations for just about anything except challenging work.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor, curiosity, patience and all the consumables you can pack.

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

Any writings by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Life here is slow and monotonous but not actually too unpleasant.

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Abuja, Nigeria 05/03/13

Background:

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

No. I have also lived in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico and San Jose, Costa Rica.

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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?

Northeastern US - 20ish hours. If you only want one layover, you can fly through Paris, London, or Frankfurt (London has one fight daily, Paris and Frankfurt are overnight). If you want 2+ layovers, you can fly through Lagos.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year so far.

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

Government - diplomacy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

This depends greatly on where you work. Housing in Abuja proper is extremely expensive (think Manhattan or London prices, aka $3,000 / month rent for a tiny / shabby apartment). The majority of my Nigerian colleagues commute from outside the city, from 60 minutes to 3 hours depending on traffic. That being said, if your housing is provided by a diplomatic mission, it tends to be large, cool, with plenty of storage, and on a guarded compound. As long as you're not driving at peak times, nothing in the city is more than 15-30 minutes away from anything else. Most expats live in Maitama, Wuse, or Asokoro.

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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 get most things, but they are very expensive. Even non-imported items, like fresh fruits and veggies, are much more expensive in Abuja than in the rest of the country. Apples US$1.50 each, a box of cereal $8-$10, decent-quality bathroom tissue $3 per roll, etc. You can get many British, South African, and Lebanese brands, fewer US. Meat is generally lower in quality than at home. Many expats use a farm-to-table approach. Fresh milk is not common, but it's findable. There are five kinds of beer here, only one of which is not a lager (it's a sweet variety of Guinness). One small store sometimes has Budweiser imported, but they charge US$200 per case (not joking).

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

Brown ales and porters, beef jerky, olive oil, high-quality trash bags, paper goods, laundry soap, etc. You can mail order any non liquids through the diplomatic pouch

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

No US-brand fast food (no, not even McDonald's). Local equivalents are not bad, but are mostly chicken oriented. You can get pizza at many restaurants. Other restaurants are expensive, but have not-bad quality most of the time. Chinese/vaguely Asian (5 different places) tends to be the lowest quality, Lebanese the best (3 options). There two good Indian places. One Italian and one French that are very good (these are the extremely expensive places, think $100 per person easy, with wine). There is one place offering traditional Nigerian stews and dishes that expats tend to go to, but we most enjoy exploring the many roast fish/roast chicken/beef-on-a-stick/beer joints. You eat on plastic tables outdoors, and it's lovely. It can be very spicy, so be prepared.

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

Pretty much everything, although bugs tend not to get as big as in other places I've lived. They have the worst type of malaria here, and several expats who think they don't need the antimalarials have died from it. Ants that get into your house are the small ones, though, not the huge red stinging ones, so that's good.

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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 (there has been some talk of getting an APO).

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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, cheap enough.

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

Yes, but expensive. Three independent gyms, plus one at the Hilton.

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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 entirely a cash economy. The only safe place to do either is at the Hilton, and even then, I wouldn't. Most diplomats cash checks at work and avoid the problem altogether.

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

Yes, many.

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

Yes. Direct TV is about US$150 per month.

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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?

None. But at the same time, you will have serious communication issues. English is almost no one's true first language. Learning just a little Igbo, Yoruba, Pigeon, or Hausa (Pigeon and Hausa are most widely spoken here) will make running errands, getting your car fixed, getting your food at the restaurant, etc. much faster and more entertaining.

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

Elevators are almost always broken (and many people don't use them anyway because power outages are so frequent, and can be quite long). Side walks (where they do exist) seem to be in better repair than I imagined they would be. No public transportation is wheelchair accessible.

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Transportation:

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

No and yes, respectively. Some expats use taxis and are fine, though. There really aren't other options, it is a driving-only 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?

You would really be okay with anything in Abuja. Roads are wide and relatively well maintained. Something with higher clearance would be good for the innumerable speed bumps---and to see what's coming at you. Having a big car doesn't hurt when you're muscling through a crazy intersection, but it's not critical. However, really bright headlights, a loud horn, and good windscreen wipers are very critical. There are few street lights or traffic signals (power or bulbs are usually out) - the horn substitutes for both. The horn also seems to be an alternative to breaking or using a turn signal. Whatever you drive, be mentally prepared for 5-10 major dings and scratches, and not just on the bumper. However, resale value is very high.

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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. Some people have more luck than others, but there is no high-speed internet. What you do get is not absurdly expensive, but is it also not reliable. See phone section.

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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?

Anything you can put a SIM card into will work. The vast majority of people get a SIM and load it with prepaid minutes. You can do data like that, too. There is 3G. I hesitate to recommend a particular provider because they all go down for hours or even days at the time on a regular basis, or only get decent reception in certain parts of the city. Most Nigerians carry 2-3 phones.

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Pets:

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

No.

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

I think there is one vet, no kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Yes, if you work overtime trying to find/secure them. Some teaching, contracting for development agencies (GIZ, DFID, USAID, etc etc). A work permit for non-diplomats costs $1000 per year.

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

Generally conservative at work, a bit more flexible in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. And no. The terrorism thing is scary - it just kind of lurks there at the back of your mind all the time. You find yourself thinking "I hope if I get kidnapped they want a ransom and not a YouTube video of my death." In my one year so far, we've had a small explosion outside one of the few pub-style bars, a similar explosion outside a popular grocery store, and a major prison break. There was also the bombing of the UN headquarters in 2011 and bombings at two newspapers' office buildings in early 2012. Some diplomats might be put under curfew , and police checkpoints will increase, but other than that it doesn't impact your daily life. It's mostly just an ever-present fear that you feel somewhat irrational about having. Crime incidents like the following are a much more serious issue in terms of how you live your life here: home invasions, emphatic bribe demands at checkpoints (especially bad if you don't have diplomatic plates), taxi scams (someone pops out of the trunk through the back seats and holds you up at gunpoint), and muggings. Muggings are usually violent; the two I know about involved a stabbing and clubbing with a metal pipe. See notes on transportation below, as well.

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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?

Yes, and the quality of medical care is very, very low.

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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?

Pretty bad during the dry/dusty season (Nov-March); medium levels of pollution during other times of year, mostly from extremely old cars and trucks with no emission controls. You can't really run outside regularly without developing a nasty cough.

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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 to hot all the time (between 80-105F), with varying levels of humidity From May-September it rains at least once per day, usually right at sunset and again late at night - it cools it down a bit, but remains very humid. November-December is dry, dusty, and it actually gets down to 70 at night sometimes (you will see parkas, woolen hats, gloves, etc.). Jan-March is HOT and dry. October and April are right in between these extremes, and somewhat glorious, with big puffy white clouds, not too hot, but little rain.

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Schools & Children:

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

I am not in a position to comment directly, but there are lots of expat families with children, and from what I've heard there is a choice among a decent variety of schools, both in number and quality. There is an American School, a French School, and an International School, and likely a few others.

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

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

I think most people use nannies, who (I've heard) are relatively less expensive than in many other countries.

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

Don't know, but probably through the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Medium to large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Medium - depends on the day really. Most people are here to do interesting and meaningful work, so that helps.

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

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

Hmmm. I don't want to say "It's equally bad for everyone," but I am not sure how else to be honest here. Let's just say that once you find your niche within the diplomatic and local communities, it can actually be really great socially. You also have to be able to be nice to everyone, because, although there are lots of expats, Abuja is a small city, and you will run into the same people everywhere. You also need to be able to entertain yourself, since going out gets expensive and repetitive (people entertain at home quite a lot). Finally, know when to stop spending time with people who are overly negative, since they can really poison everyone else's experience. It can be fun if you make it fun!

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

This country is incredibly anti-LGBT; but at the same time, Abuja as a city seems to practice "don't ask, don't tell." It is difficult to maintain any kind of normal, open lifestyle outside the diplomatic/expat community.

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

Yes. But generally it is not directed against expats (well...gender prejudice unfortunately transcends most boundaries).

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

Having a more active social life than I've ever had at home, a good sense of camaraderie with other expats and coworkers, getting out of the city limits for the Hash, eating roasted fish at outdoor restaurants, BBQs in friends' back parklots (yards/grass/green is sparse in the city) spending time at home playing my sadly-neglected musical instruments. The sheer joy and excitement that comes over people's faces when you try to speak a bit of one of the local languages - it's the best payoff per minute of language learning time I've ever experienced.

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

There are 2 movie theaters, one very good golf course, 1.5 malls, 5-ish grocery stores, two main open-air markets, and two tourist craft markets. There is a pottery making "village" about 45 minutes outside the city, and a waterfall a bit farther than that. The Hash organizes biweekly hikes which are well attended, and there is a mountain biking club. Finding a group to volunteer with helps keep things in perspective.

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

Wooden furniture carved to order, large paintings, bronze statues.

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

Weather is hot but not bad. The diplomatic and expat-NGO worker community is lively and relatively large. Even though activities don't vary too much, there are social events every weekend night and some week nights as well. Making friends outside the expat community is a bit trickier, possibly because the wealthy/political crowd in Abuja is not so exited about hanging out with ex-pats. If your employer/embassy/mission lets you travel outside the city (some do/most do not), you can explore some interseting cities/cultural sites within a few hours drive of Abuja - but kidnappings of expats are on the rise, so take serious precautions. Food and air travel are very expensive, so saving money is not really an option - Lagos is the cheapest flight (still usually over $400), but doing a long weekend there is fun because, compared to Abuja, Lagos feels like New York City!

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you entertain at home and fly out of Abuja airport as infrequently as possible (tickets to Ghana are $500, all other countries $900+).

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Words of Wisdom:

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

On the fence, leaning to "no".

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

winter clothes, fancy car, and your negative attitude. (If you bring it, it will consume you.)

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3. But don't forget your:

Workout clothes, sense of humor, patience, and boardgames.

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Abuja, Nigeria 06/03/09

Background:

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

No. Several places in Europe and Asia (This was my fifth expat experience).

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2. How long have you lived here?

Two years- 2007-2009

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

From the US, just over 14 hours of flying time, but with layover time in Amsterdam the travel time is more like 20 hours. Going through Amsterdam on KLM was my preferred route, but many people also used Lufthansa (via Frankfurt) or British Airways (via London).

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

Diplomat- US Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

US Embassy housing is located mostly in Maitama and Wuse II. Commute times are generally very short; under 10 minutes. My experience with the housing was good, but, as with many posts, where you are assigned is a crapshoot. Many US Government families want to live in the Harvard compound, which is well set up for those with children. Other compounds are generally nice- spacious houses with pools, and in a couple of cases, tennis courts.

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

Expensive and limited. Grocery stores are very small in Abuja.

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

I shipped plenty of food and I am glad that I did, as I used a good portion of it.

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

There is cheap, convenient, and good Middle Eastern fast food available. Chicken places are also in abundance, although quality can vary. Pizza is also readily available. There are also some sit-down restaurants that are OK, but they are expensive for what you get. It's easy to spend $50-$100 per person for a meal out. Some of the better restaurants are: Obudu Grill, Chow's (Italian), and Chase's.

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

Mosquitoes are a concern, particularly because malaria is an issue here.

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Daily Life:

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

The 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?

Expensive and unreliable, particularly in comparison to other parts of the world.

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

There are several places, three of which are B-Natural (also a spa), the Hilton, and the Protea Asokoro hotel. I know that the Hilton is about $1,000 per year (there is a discount for US Embassy staff). None of the options is particularly cheap, and these facilities do not generally measure up to facilities available at many other posts.

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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?

Do not use them under any circumstances.

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

There are plenty of evangelical christian services; Pentecostal and Roman Catholic are available, amongst others. There are also plenty of Mosques. With that said, I'm not certain how comfortable some expats would be attending these services. Many are very long and drawn out.

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

Magazines and newspapers available in the local press are of poor quality. Articles are often not well-written and lack credibility. DSTV and Hi-TV are available. DSTV is about $60 per month and offers a decent range of international channels and programming. Hi-TV is more limited, but it is popular because it has exclusive broadcasting rights for English Premier League football matches.

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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?

None, but if you want to get to know and understand more of the country, study of one of the local languages, particularly Hausa or Yoruba.

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

Significant difficulties. There are few elevators (and lots of electrical outages) or other types of accommodations for the handicapped.

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Transportation:

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

Not safe. RSO prohibits embassy staff from using these local transport options.

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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?

Because the roads within the Federal Capital Territory are good, a sedan is just fine for driving in the city. If you think you want to drive outside of Abuja, a 4WD is a better bet. Bring lots of spare parts with you.

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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 wouldn't call it high speed. Very expensive ($50 per month and up) and very slow. Some were able to use Skype and Vonage consistently. I was not able to use either one for most of my tour. The internet speed at my residence was just too slow.

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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 had a phone assigned by the embassy; no experience using the local prepaid SIM cards.

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No.

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

More formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy during the dry (harmattan) season, due to dust and burning of brush and/or trash, but otherwise not bad.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

A significant number of immunizations are needed to stay healthy, although most are not administered on an annual basis.

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

Significant. The situation was deteriorating when I departed post. More robberies, carjackings, etc. seemed to be taking place. US Government staff must take an armored vehicle with police escort to the airport.

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

The medical unit at the embassy is very good. Amongst the usual accoutrement of medical issues in the developing world, malaria is the big concern in Abuja.

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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?

There is a wet season and a dry season. The dry season gets very hot (40 degrees Celsius during the day) and the wet season tends to be cooler (but also more humid).Nights are often considerably cooler, although this was not the case this past year.

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Schools & Children:

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

N/A, although I did not get good feedback from others about the K-12 education options in Abuja.

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

I heard of others with special-needs kids who seemed to have issues.

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Not huge. I'd guess 500 or less.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very low.

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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 are limited social activities; therefore you will do a lot of entertaining at home and at friends' homes, augmented by limited restaurant dining.

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

It's not really a great city for almost anyone. Generally speaking, I'd say that families with children probably cope the best, while couples and particularly singles struggle more. There's not a lot to do here and the pressures at work are enormous. Regardless, those that have worked in West Africa before (and have an affinity for it) and/or have family ties to the region also tend to do significantly better than those who do not.

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

Homosexuality is illegal. The country is split 50/50 Muslim and Christian; most of the Christians are strong evangelicals; as a result, there is very little tolerance of gay and lesbian lifestlyes, particularly in comparison with large parts of Asia and Latin America. Some examples of homophobia that I came across were shocking; again, maybe not by African standards or those of certain middle eastern countries but definitely in comparison to many other parts of the world.

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

Lots of issues, particularly amongst Nigerians. Expatriates don't feel these as much. The two exceptions are gender and age issues. In my experience, Nigerians (both male and female) don't give female expatriate staff (particularly those under age 50) the same respect as their (younger) male counterparts. While this is a statement that certainly holds true in many developing countries, the gender and age bias that I experienced in Nigeria was unlike anyplace else I have ever lived or worked. Women under 50 without previous West Africa experience should take heed of this warning.

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

Not many. If you are lucky enough to cultivate a nice group of friends, you will probably entertain yourselves at each other's homes and at the limited number of restaurants in town. It's fair to say that the type of recreation and travel opportunities available at most posts are not available in Abuja. There is no American Club, although one is sorely needed there. The one notable exception is golf; there is a decent golf course in Abuja that keeps many people occupied. But its not particularly cheap, and for junior officers on low salaries, the cost of membership may be prohibitive.

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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 is some old Nigerian furniture that is worth purchasing, but you have to be "in the know" in regards to what the real antiques are. A lot of African knickknacks for sale are actually imported from other countries.

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9. Can you save money?

That depends greatly on how you live. Its a very expensive place, but if you don't eat out, entertain very often, or travel much, it is possible to save some money. Families seem to have a more difficult time saving money.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely not. Having to deal with difficult people day in and out, and with little to see or do in one's spare time, high prices, a difficult working environment, isolation, extreme gender bias, and a limited ability to get out and travel make it hard to justify ever going back.

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

Expectations of good customer service; also your assumptions that this will be the positive personally enriching overseas experience that you hoped it will be.

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3. But don't forget your:

Coping mechanisms, positive attitude, your consumables shipment, a calendar to count the days to the end of your tour, and lots of patience.

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

Things Fall Apart

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

Things Fall Apart

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This was the most difficult overseas posting I've ever had. It's hard to put into words the difficulties involved in being posted to Abuja. Before I departed for my assignment there, I thought that perhaps many people had overexaggerated the challenges, but I found out the hard way that this post has a bad reputation for a reason. One thing I can say is that Nigerians can come off being very aggressive. Working with, dealing with, and driving with Nigerians becomes a very wearing experience over time. Abuja is also very isolated; there are only four direct international flights in and out of Abuja (Addis, London, Frankfurt, and Amsterdam), making travel time-consuming and expensive. Investigate very carefully before agreeing to come to Abuja. This is a place where it is very easy to become frustrated and depressed.

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Abuja, Nigeria 03/07/09

Background:

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

Seventh overseas posting.

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2. How long have you lived here?

We have been here since August, 2008.

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

Overnight flight from U.S. to Amsterdam or Frankfurt .7 or 8 hours from there.

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

Spouse of an U.S. Embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We live on a lovely compound with a pool. For the most part I think embassy employees are satisfied. There are a few units they need to get rid of because they have continuous maintinances issues. Our house is probably one of the furthest from the Embassy and the school, and the commute it 15-20 minutes in the morning and 20-30 minutes at rush-hour in the afternoon.

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

Extremely expensive. And the COLA has just been reduced. Go figure.

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

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

Limited. Very expensive.

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

The lack of mosquitos in Abuja was also a surprise for us. We have not used repellent yet. But malaria is a big problem so you do have to take anti-malaria medication.

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Daily Life:

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

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

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

Expensive hotel gyms.

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

Don't.

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

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? 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?

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

Every imaginable difficulty.

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Transportation:

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

Not available or safe.

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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?

Rugged vehicle, especially if you plan to travel out of Abuja. Don't bring a car that you don't want to get scratched, because it will.

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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?

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

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Pets:

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

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

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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?

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Some people have upper respetory problems during the dry season.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

I walk for an hour every morning and don't feel unsafe. Driving is the biggest safety issue, as the drivers here are crazy. The roads within Abuja are generally good, although it gets dangerous when the power goes out and the traffic lights don't work.

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

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

The weather was a pleasant surprise for us. We eat all our meals outside.

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Schools & Children:

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

We have teenagers at the American International School. The opportunity to put our kids in an International School is one of our main reasons for taking this assignment. The school and teachers have gone above and beyond in helping our kids succeed here. It is a very small high school. This year will produce the first graduating class of 4.There are appoxamatley 65 high school students total this year. Since they can not offer an abundance of choices, students are allowed to take classes outside their normal year group so they get to know students from other glades. Several AP classes are offered and they are in the processes of starting the IB program. Students were given the opportunity to travel to Ghana with the Model United Nations for the conference, Habitat for Humanity project, and cultural studies. We are satisfied having our children in this school and look forward to it growing and becoming even better.

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

I know that the International School has just this week hired a full time special ed teacher. The high school teachers meet with children during lunch, study hall and they each stay at least several afternoons a week to give extra assistance to students. But this is a small school with limited resourse. Anyone looking for extended special ed services should speak directly with the principles before bringing a student here.

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

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

Limited. But the International school has after school sports programs. This year there is soccor (year round), basketball and track & field.

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

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

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

I think it is good for families because the limited entertainment choices makes it possible to spend lots of time together. On the other hand, everything is very expensive expecially food and travel.

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

I would not have a clue.

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

Not for expats.

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

This is a problem. This is not what I would call a fun place but it is an experience. House and pool parties are popular. The Hilton has cultural events every so often. The Abuja Carnival is a great cultural experience.

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

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9. Can you save money?

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. Although there are challenges and at time frustrations, Abuja can be a good family posting. And after living here and experiencing this country, we will be able to more fully count our blessings once we return to the U.S.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Abuja, Nigeria 09/12/08

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. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Go through Amsterdam, because KLM and the Embassy have an agreement that gives Embassy employees upgrades to Business Class if it's not already full at the time you reserve your ticket through the travel department at the Embassy.

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

I work for the 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?

Traffic is not a problem in Abuja compared to other capital cities, so the commute time will be less than 15 minutes regardless of where you live. The housing compounds are varied and spread througout the city, and most are apartments and townhomes. I’ve heard complaints about a few compounds. Apparently, Seattle has very little space for parking and no pool. The other complaint is with Katsina Ala (spelling?) and Ancestor’s Court.

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

Groceries stores here are not supermarkets. They’re about the size of a Walgreen’s, and the items inside are mostly imported from the Middle East and Europe. There are a few ShopRite items from the U.S. inside a few of the stores. Chicken is not as tender as in the states, and the beef is not dry aged so it’s very tough and chewy unless you marinate it for a very long time. Pork is hard to find, because this country has a lot of Muslims. I would recommend you bring a cooler of meat on the plane to help supplement what you think you’ll miss or for special occasions.

A commissary is supposed to open up soon with meat and liquids, but at the time of this post, it’s not open yet. I don’t think the produce is nearly up to the quality as in the states, and there’s definitely not as much variety. Many vegetables are picked before they’re fully ripe, and they have lots of bruises and/or other blemishes on them. Unless you’re willing to spend US$15 for a small portion of grapes or plums or US$2.50 for one pear, your fruits will consist mostly of pineapple, bananas, passion fruit, and mangos. The prices of goods are absolutely outrageous. People are in absolute shock when they first get here, yet the State Department decided to lower our COLA. I can assure you that prices have NOT gone done over the year I’ve been here – they have only gone up. For what you pay for almost anything here, you could get the absolute best quality of that same product in the United States, yet the quality of what you get here is average at best. Also, don’t be surprised if you buy something that is already expired or will be expired soon. If you find something you need or want, make sure and buy it because when they run out, they may never have it again. Also make sure you bring plenty of baking supplies, because those are hard to find here. The basic white flour Nigerian’s use has some type of starchy additive to it, and most people have a hard time baking with it. Be sure to bring flour with you, order it through the pouch, or buy some in your consumables.

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

I would pack exercise machines, because a gym membership at the Hilton for a couple with the Embassy discount is US$1,250.00 per year. I would have brought a cooler with pork products and steak on the plane instead of having to wait for my first R&R to enjoy good meat.

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

The two most frequented restaurants in town are Wakki's (Indian) and the German Life Camp. The Germans have a fairly large presence here because they’re doing a lot of construction for Abuja. The Germans all live inside a life camp, and they allow other expats to come and eat at their restaurant. The restaurant itself is beautiful…outdoors with a huge wooden shelter covering it. Pork is very hard to find here, and the quality of what you find is not up to American standards, but the restaurant at the German Life Camp has pork brought in from Germany along with sausage, good steak, etc. The portions are huge at an affordable price, and it’s arguably the best food in the city. It’s a redeeming place for a lot of people here and a nice “getaway” after a rough day. They even have one German beer on tap. Wakki's is an authentic Indian restaurant owned by Indian ex-pat’s. The food is good, and the scenery is fantastic. The restaurant building actually looks like it was built to be a restaurant, unlike most restaurants here that are inside houses that were turned into restaurants later. There are a few other restaurants, but as a whole, the food is just so-so for what you pay, and you will pay dearly. It’s unbelievable how expensive restaurants are here – especially when you take into consideration the quality of the food for the price.

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Daily Life:

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

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

It's cheap, but I don't trust the domestic help here from all the stories I've heard. As one example, one domestic kept breaking kitchenware by stacking fine china and crystal glasses on top of each other in the sink - even after being told not to.

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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?

DON'T!

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

All services are in English, to the best of my knowledge. I know there's a Nigerian Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic church. There's also an expat church that meets at one of the American compounds on Sunday mornings.

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

Everyone has AFN, and I would recommend watching AFN News or going on-line to keep up-to-date. Some people buy DSTV, which has BBC and CNN World News. Reading Nigerian newspapers will be more for a good laugh.

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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?

Their official language is English, so you'll be fine, although it can still be very difficult to understand them, as some of their phrases make no sense, and their accents can be very thick at times.

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

I think America is one of the only countries where someone with physical disabilities can live somewhere comfortably. Nigeria, like most other countries, don't go out of their way to accomodate those with disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

They may be affordable, but they are absolutely not allowed by RSO and are considered a dangerous mode of transport. A few expats from other Embassies have been robbed after taking a taxi.

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

Yes. Nigerians are known to drive on whichever road is most convenient for them - including sidewalks, but the legal side is the right side.

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

The roads inside Abuja are paved and wide, so any type of car will work. To have an edge over the crazy driver's who do whatever they want, an SUV would be helpful. It will also help to have an SUV if you want to travel outside of Abuja without using motor pool, as not all roads are paved once you leave the city.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet is available and very expensive, and it's not fast. It will run you close to US$100 a month, depending on who you use. It's also not reliable and will be out for short or long periods of time without notice.

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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 reception quality is not very good, and the service is occassionally down no matter which provider you use. There's also no voicemail on cell phones here.

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

Vonage or skype.

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Pets:

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

The kennels here are not a happy place for your beloved pet. Think twice about bringing a pet here, or plan to take them home with you at R&R if you can't find someone who is willing to dog/catsit.

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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 on the local economy, but some work at NGO's around town.

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

From my impression, it's semi-casual. A lot of people wear jeans on Friday.

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Health & Safety:

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

Good.

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

Abuja is much safer than cities like Lagos and Port Harcourt. I still wouldn't recommend walking around at night, but I've never felt unsafe.

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

Local medical care is not good, but our nurse practitioner is fantastic and has gone out of her way to help my family during a visit.

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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?

1/2 the year = rainy and slightly humid - 1/2 the year = dry with low humidity and no rain.

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

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2. Morale among expats:

Overall, I think it's really low. I really dislike it here, and the only saving grace about Nigeria are the other Americans I met and developed friendships with. My morale was high when hanging out with friends.

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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?

Parties at the Marine House, CLO sponsored activities, but most have people over for dinner or go out to eat for entertainment. There is a movie theater that shows fairly current movies, but there's a rumor that it closed down. There's also a bowling alley that's supposed to be decent.

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

I don't think this is a good city for almost anyone. You have to be a really, really easy-going person to put up with this place. Even people that were in the peace corps have been absolutely miserable here.

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

As far as I know, but I'm not a lesbian.

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

I notice a lot of racial tension from Nigerians to Nigerians. I get a lot of attention for being white, and I strongly believe it’s racisim even if it's not in a violent form. I'm constantly called

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

In my opinion, there aren't many Nigerian interesting or fun things to do...certainly not enough to keep you occupied during the length of your tour. I would say go to Wuse Market - it's probably not considered fun by most, but I think everyone would agree that it's definitely interesting. I would also recommend traveling to Yankari National Park for a safari. Don't expect to see the number of animals you would in South Africa, but it's still worth the trip to see wild elephants in their natural habitat. I did it during my year here along with a few other outside-of-Abuja trips, and it's the only trip I found worthwhile and would do again. The 6 - 8 hour drive with no nice bathrooms and crazy drivers was quite painful, but once you're there, it's pretty fun as long as you can put up with a horrible, incompetent staff that could care less if you have a working air conditioner and burned out light bulbs.

The safari guides, however, were wonderful. They took some questionable paths with our safari vehicles and the maintenance and quality of the roads can be called into question, but they were very knowledgable about the animals and terrain. Seeing elephants and hippos in their natural habitat made all the frustrations worth it. Again, Abuja and Nigeria in general is BORING, so people entertain themselves by having people over for dinner or by going out to eat. Bring board games, movies, etc. to keep you entertained. There's no historical places like the great wall, eiffel tour, sistene chapel, etc. to tour here. You'll be creating your own fun.

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

Haha that's funny. Unique, LOCAL items? How about unique items that are brought in from other African countries?

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9. Can you save money?

You can, but it may be harder than you think it will be.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely not. I just hope my time here will have some career rewards on down the road. I think there are generally 4 types of people who come here:1. those on their first overseas assignment who couldn't get anywhere else 2. those who choose Abuja in hopes it will help them get that big promotion or advance their career 3. civil service people who are filling positions that foreign service people won't 4. tandem couples

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

Hopes that this will be a better place than it sounds and hopes that the local food will be good...it's not.

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3. But don't forget your:

Positive reminders that this place should help your career, board games, playing cards, movies, TV shows on DVD, books you've been meaning to read.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Only come here if you think this will help your career. If you come here thinking you'll like it, I think you'll be gravely disappointed.

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Abuja, Nigeria 08/23/08

Background:

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

No -- lots of other places.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

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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 for embassy folks is in compounds -- either houses (duplex or free standing) or small apartment buildings. Non-Embassy who have to find your own -- it is a landlord's market. Super expensive, with landlords who just want the money -- make sure ALL repairs, changes, etc are done BEFORE you hand over the cash. Commute time is great -- 10-15 minutes for just about everyone. Abuja is NOT a big city.

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

Availability is getting better. There are several grocery stores expats use (just remember -- they're good by African standards, not Western). The cost?Yikes. Anywhere from 2-10x the price of stuff in the U.S. And the State Department thinks that cutting the COLA is a good place to save money -- since we've been here the dollar has lost about 5% on the naira, and Nigerian inflation is at 14% -- but they just cut our COLA by 12%. Makes Abuja very expensive.

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

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

Almost no fast food -- there is a Portuguese chicken chain that's OK. And a Nigerian fried chicken franchise, with 2 restaurants, I think. Decent restaurants? Not really -- they are generally very iffy and very expensive.

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Daily Life:

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

Send it with a friend? I wouldn't use the Nigerian postal service for anything -- in fact, I don't know if it even really exists and functions.

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

Plentiful, cheap, but honesty is an issue.

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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?

This is Nigeria. No sane, wise person uses either.

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

There is one small expat fellowship that began last year and is growing. There are churches everywhere, but few that most Westerners would find feasible (by Western standards Nigerian church services are usually long, chaotic affairs!). Maybe fun to visit but unlikely as a viable choice for an American family. There are some mosques, but I think many Western Muslims would find them a little bit as the churches are. Non-Muslims are not welcome in the mosques here.

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

Lots of English newspapers, all Nigerian. DSTV is available, but extremely expensive.

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

None -- Nigeria has 250 or so languages, but English will see you through in most places.

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

There are basically no accommodations for disabled people.

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Transportation:

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

There are no buses or trains, but taxis abound -- most of them some guy who happens to have wheels and a motor. Embassy personnel are forbidden from using them, but I know a lot of private Westerners who do use them.

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

Right side.

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

For Abuja (as hardly anyone can/wants to travel outside of Abuja) just about any sedan or SUV will do. DEFINTELY need an SUV for outside the city. If you're lucky enough to have access to mail service, use the internet to find parts. The search for good service here always continues...

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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 wouldn't say high-speed internet is available in Abuja. There are internet services, which are costly ($200-$300 per month, usually with a large initial fee). And service is usually poor. The electricity goes out 2-20 times most days; if you're in Embassy housing there is a back-up generator, but it cancels the internet session most of the time. Even submitting this review required saving it onto a Word doc, then restarting the internet and cutting and pasting my answers back in.

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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?

They are fairly cheap, and plentiful. Service is terrible -- it's almost impossible to complete a call and be able to have a conversation -- so EVERYONE sends text messages here. I've even used them for initial contacts to high government officials, which would be unthinkable elsewhere.

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

IVG for Embassy, mediocre Vonage for others.

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Pets:

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

None.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No.

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

In the Embassy, suits for most men, skirts/pantsuits for most women. In public -- I'd say NO SHORTS unless you're going just to an expat grocery store. Nigerians are fairly conservative dressers, and they dress in local costume most of the time.

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Health & Safety:

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

Good -- Abuja has no industry, and not very many cars.

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

Nigeria can have terrible crime, but Abuja is a lot better. You can't be careless, and you should be careful at night, but you'll likely be OK. Travel outside of the Ring Road that surrounds the city should be done judiciously.

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

Lots of health concerns. Anything from the usual stomach trouble you find anywhere in the Third World to malaria, bizarre infections, mango flies (the ones that burrow into your skin -- a nurse I know said she pulls them out of people all the time, but I haven't known any embassy folks to get them; Embassy pets have). A word on malaria -- most expats take prophylaxis. I don't, and neither do a lot of people. Expats do get malaria, but Abuja really isn't that mosquito-y and to me the side effects of the medicine weren't worth it. There are no dentists. Pretty much anything more serious than a sore throat needs to be treated somewhere else.

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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?

A long rainy season in which it rains most days for part of the day, and a long dry season in which it will not rain a drop.

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Schools & Children:

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

American School is middle of the road, compared to other American international schools we've seen. Getting better. The British School (the Regent School) has problems, we're told. And there are French, German, and Turkish schools, but I really don't know about them.

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

Limited.

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

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Expat Life:

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

Small -- less than 500, I'd guess.

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2. Morale among expats:

Low to moderate. In coming to Abuja, there is a fair amount of pain and no real gain. It is possible to be content here, despite some of the things I've said (that's just reality in Nigeria) -- you just have to drop your expectations to nearly zero.

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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?

Pretty much mostly in homes. And there is a movie theater that opened up last year – it’s nice, and movies are fairly current. Any international travel is expensive from Abuja, and inconvenient.

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

Better for families & couples -- there is NOTHING to do, but at least you'll have each other. Singles get pretty bored (but then again so do couples & families).

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

As good for them as anyone.

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

Nothing that expats would run into. Amongst Nigerians themselves, there can be tremendous trouble.

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

Almost none. Along with the totally outrageous cost of living, this is Abuja's worst aspect (Lagos is way better, but they have the crime).Pretty much any fun you have, you'll make yourself. There is a Hash, and a few super-expensive and very mediocre restaurants. Travel outside of Abuja is potentially dangerous (crime, terrible roads, intermittent fuel stations, and horrific driving) and pointless (what would you go to see? There are no tourist sites, no tourist infrastructure, and generally horrible infrastructure).Roads are neither lighted nor marked.

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

Almost none. Abuja is nearly devoid of the charming crafts you find in other parts of Africa (there is a craft market or two).

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9. Can you save money?

Yes! This is a good thing. Despite the prices, anything you don't spend on food you can save, as there is nothing to do.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

A qualified yes. The work in the Embassy is super interesting -- for all its negative points, Nigeria is an incredibly complex, important country. The people can be very friendly and warm.

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

Expectations of fun.

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3. But don't forget your:

Self-reliance and resilience.

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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 know of! Abuja is a new city, with little/no culture, history. There is some good Nigerian fiction and non-fiction, though.

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

None that I know of! Abuja is a new city, with little/no culture, history. There is some good Nigerian fiction and non-fiction, though.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

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Abuja, Nigeria 07/22/08

Background:

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

First-time expat.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

Travel time is roughly 24 hours hours depending on layovers. You can travel through London, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt.

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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 U.S. housing pool consists of several gated and guarded compounds throughout the city. Most are either flats or townhomes, but some are houses. Most have a pool and two have tennis courts as well. Most of them are poorly built with shoddy workmanship and low grade materials. From what I hear, Nigeria has some of the smallest housing in Africa and many expats are rather disappointed in both the quality and size.

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

Most people end up ordering a lot of prepackaged and household goods from Netgrocer or Amazon. You can get some fresh produce here for a price as well as your meat and dairy needs, but again, at a price. Everything here is expensive.

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

Root beer and vanilla extract. You can't ship liquids or glass through the pouch, but most things are easy to get.

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

There are no Western chains here, however the fast food of choice here are the shawarmas, which are fantastic. There is also a Southern Fried Chicken that is kind of a knock off of a KFC.Beyond that, there are some wonderful restaraunts here with a variety of cuisines; Lebanese, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Continental, and Italian to name a few.

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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 a pouch where you can send flat mail out and receive packages and flat mail in.

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

Plentiful and relatively cheap. Almost everyone here at post has at least one domestic working for them.

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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?

Don't.

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

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

There is DSTV available for around US$100 a month, the embassy provides free AFN as well.

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

None, though it may take you a while to get use to the accent.

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

A lot, there are few ramps with in the city and it can be dangerous to rely on what elevators there are in public places due to the poor power situation. Sidewalks are in disrepair and are often used more for driving and parking than for walking.

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Transportation:

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

The RSO strictly prohibits the use of local transportation.

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

Technically the right, like the U.S., but really anything goes, including the sidewalks.

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

Within the city a car is fine, though you may prefer to have a large vehicle just to feel safer on the roads with the idiot drivers. Toyotas, Mercedes, and BMWs seem to be the favorite choices here. Beware that if you ship a vehicle here it could be upwards of 6 months before you actually see it, though buying locally isn't much of a better gamble as the price of vehicles is remarkably high here.

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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? Ha! Internet is available, but you will be paying out the nose for a crappy connection.

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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?

Get one. MTN is the major carrier here.

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

Vonage or Skype if you can get a decent enough internet connection, otherwise, calling cards and the embassy IVG line.

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Pets:

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

Business at work, casual is fine in public, but you still want to dress modestly.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy, between the harmattan, the burning of trash and vegetation, and the older cars and buses with high emissions, it can be difficult for those with respiratory problems. Even some who come here without problems develop them.

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

Moderate. Most crimes are still of an opportunistic nature and while I've heard about theft and car jackings, I haven't seen the American community specifically targeted. As another poster noted, the driving here is the real day-to-day security concern and it's getting increasingly worse with every passing month as more Nigerians move into Abuja.

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

Malaria and poor sanitation are the big concerns. Wash your vegetables in Milton wash or bleach, don't drink the water, and take your malaria prophylaxis and for the most part you'll be fine. Nearly everyone deals with some stomach problems at one point or another so have some tums or pepto bismal on hand. The medical unit in the embassy is adequate for minor things, but anything major gets you medevac'd to London or South Africa.

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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?

Hot, dry and dusty from about October/November through March/April and hot, humid, and rainy for the rest of the year.

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Schools & Children:

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

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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?

From what I've seen with the other families, most with small children have a nanny.

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Expat Life:

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

There are roughly 200 Americans, add to that the Germans, Canadians, Brits, etc and you have a rather large expat community.

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2. Morale among expats:

Very low. Nigerians are a really difficult and unpleasant people to live with. Dealing with rude, pushy, arrogant, abrasive people day in and day out is frustrating, exhausting, and emotionally draining.

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

Mostly in home entertaining.

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

This is absolutely a family-oriented post and most singles and couples without children can feel a little lost and/or left out. There is no real social scene to speak of and unless you want to get involved in all the kiddie oriented activities, you may find yourself without a whole lot to do on the weekends.

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

As was mentioned, homosexuality is illegal in Nigeria. You will see men holding hands or walking with their arms around each other, but it is a cultural thing, not a sexual one.

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

There is a lot of tension between the tribal groups.

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

Unfortunately, not a whole lot. This is a post where you have to make your own fun. We use to have a movie theatre, but I have heard rumors that that has recently been closed down. There is a bowling alley ...

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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 is nothing really unique to Nigeria, it's all mostly Africrap, however, there are some nice masks and pottery available.

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9. Can you save money?

That really depends on how frugal you are. I have been able to, however I don't have many outgoing expenses. If you want to travel and get out of the country and go out to eat several times a week, it will be difficult to save much.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

No.

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

Winter clothes and expectations for common courtesy and customer service.

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3. But don't forget your:

Swimsuit, good humor, and patience.

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

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

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

While I would not choose to do this tour again, I do not regret my time here. It has been an eye opening and worthwhile experience, just not one I would like to repeat.

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