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

Personal Experiences from Lagos, Nigeria

Lagos, Nigeria 06/24/19

Background:

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

Yes, this was our first expatriate experience.

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

We're from the New York area. A direct JFK-Lagos flight started not long into our time in Lagos, which was great for us; the flight itself is about ten hours. There's also an Atlanta flight that's a bit longer. The particular difficulty with flying into/out of Lagos is that even if, like us, you are lucky to not need any connecting flights in the US, the potential for traffic stretching what can be a 15 minute drive into a 4 hour one and the insanity of the airport means that you need to leave for your flight about six-eight hours before it's scheduled to take off. This also discourages the concept of quick weekend trips. Flying back into Lagos is better, though baggage claim can take a long time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years (2017-2019).

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

My spouse worked at the US Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

During the time we were there, members of the Consulate community lived in one of four housing compounds. Most folks live in either Regents (high rise, the newest, predominantly singles and couples) or Cameron (mostly families, described very well by other respondents). Some live in the Bells (fairly random mix, only townhouses but no pool/gym) and Glover (down the street from Regents and similarly populated). All are on Ikoyi and have basically identical commute times of about 20-25 minutes door to door.

From what I observed, Bells and Glover have the fewest water/mold-related maintenance issues. It seems like the housing pool switches every few years, possibly because of the very low construction standards. However, construction issues aside, generally very nice. Each of the current units has its own strengths and drawbacks.

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

This really depends on how you shop, cook, and use your consumables allowance. For those who don't want to or have the time to think about it and are comfortable primarily shopping at the expat-oriented groceries (like La Pointe and Delis) purchasing imported everything, it's very easy to quickly spend hundreds of dollars a week; dairy, meat, and produce will quickly add up in cost. For others, who have the time and willingness to design meals around whatever they can get from Amazon, their consumables, and more local markets (particularly the produce market under Falomo Bridge), it can be very affordable, maybe about $45/week for two people? The latter model is a lot more workable in a two-adult household with only one person working, though, both because it's time intensive to shop at 3-4 places and because traffic really can be that bad.

Though it was a pain, I really loved the mini-relationships I established with my preferred fruit and vegetable vendors at Falomo and the baker at XO Boutique Bakery. I supplemented with meat and Lebanese deli items from Delis and surprisingly affordable romaine and broccoli at the GQ (not reliably available unless you figure out exactly when it's stocked; when I left, that was Fridays around noon.)

I also purchased a very nice cooler that fit into one of my pieces of luggage and filled it up with cheese/frozen items (berries, veggie burgers, Trader Joes dumplings) every time we were coming back into Lagos, which was both a big money saver and made cooking a lot more fun.

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

We shipped wine and beer, condiments/oils/vinegars, candles, Trader Joes goodies, bulk flour, dish/laundry detergent, and basic pantry items like nuts and grains. I don't think there was really anything I thought I shouldn't have shipped over, except for maybe the copious quantities of bugspray and sunscreen that went essentially unused.

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

Jumia is the main food delivery service, though a fair number of "start up" restaurants (and businesses in general) conduct delivery business entirely via Instagram and WhatsApp (no storefront.) Our mainstays were Viceroy's for Indian, Casper & Gambini's Asian chicken salad, Bottles for TexMex, and Thai Thai.

Our in-person favorites were the Executive Spot for suya and beers, the Backyard, Salma's, Nok, Pizzeriah, and Craft Gourmet. Art Cafe is pretty good for coffee/ambiance.

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

So many giant roaches. Just get used to killing them.

There's also the potential for lots of tiny tiny ants: essentially harmless, but happy to swarm onto any morsel of food you leave out (to say nothing of a full plate of cookies.) Being very tidy can help minimize their presence.

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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. We only sent mail via folks heading back to the US.

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

We paid our nanny the equivalent of $300 USD/month for not-quite-fulltime and our steward $75/month for cleaning once a week. I think many people pay their nannies a bit more.

We did not employ a driver during our time at post, though we were in the minority. It's pretty easy to borrow someone else's for occasional driving in less ideal situations (to Balogun/Lekki markets, out to dinner, etc.) Drivers make less than nannies and stewards.

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

All the compounds except for Bells have small gyms. There is also a gym at the GQ, and a good number of private gyms for those interested. I'd guess they're at least as expensive as nice US gyms, but don't know that for sure.

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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?

While officially we were told not to use credit cards at all, I eventually decided to designate one for Lagos-only use at restaurants and hotels frequented by expats, and never had any issue. Most businesses in Lagos don't have a machine that can process international cards, though, so if you don't want to carry around giant wads of Naira (and you don't, no one does), it would make sense to open a local bank account in order to get a debit card. We did not do this but I wish we had--it also would have made ordering food/services in general much easier. I would not use an ATM card unless you had literally no other option. This did happen to me once, though, and it was fine.

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

Very much so, even within USG housing. It's hard to imagine a more difficult built environment.

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Transportation:

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

Affordable but not allowed.

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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 a sedan or anything you care about. We purchased (and then later resold) a RAV4 from someone departing post, which worked well for us. It's pretty crucial to have something with high clearance since rainy season can turn the roads into rivers (seriously) in minutes.

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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, though the fastest option (IPNX) has frequent outages and poor customer service. We were lucky enough to have our social sponsor set our internet up on our behalf before we arrived. Those who were not so lucky, or who moved into Regents before it was wired, used wifi pucks until theirs was set up.

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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?

Google Fi is great, particularly if you have a dual-SIM phone. Get a local phone number quickly. It's cheap and will make your life much more simple. I used 9-Mobile and topped off data via purchase at the GQ.

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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?

Many people bring their pets, so it can be done. We did not bring our dog, since we had a family member willing to take care of her during our tour, and while that made me sad I don't regret the decision. There is really no green space (really) in Lagos.

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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 work at the Consulate; some telecommute. I don't know of anyone who worked on the local economy during my time at post, though that's not to say it couldn't be done.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes, definitely. The overwhelming majority of people will leave Lagos without experiencing anything scary, though, since the Consulate community isn't a particular target. That said, I don't think it's accurate to say that the same situational awareness you'd employ in large US cities will keep you as comparatively safe in Lagos. During my time in Lagos, there were two instances of armed robbery of Consulate community members in cars, neither of which took place in a situation that would read as even remotely dangerous in New York or DC, and both of which took place within one-tenth of a mile of a stationed police presence. Unfortunately, I think you just have to hope you're part of the lucky majority.

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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's relatively decent medical care for routine issues, including many specialists.

That said, I left post a strong believer in the necessity to be one's own personal health advocate, even at the expense of conflict with the (very nice, but flawed) Med Unit. For example, I was pregnant while in Lagos. Med requested that I redo a blood typing test so they could double check what they had on file. I complied with this, but later realized that the results of the second test provided by their partner lab were inaccurate. That the lab returned an inaccurate result is less concerning to me than that I figured this out myself, months later, and that Med did not. I was lucky (for many reasons) that I did not need a blood transfusion during my pregnancy/while in Lagos, as this simple clerical error could have cost me and/or my child our lives. Be your own advocate!

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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 is very difficult for many, though it didn't particularly bother me. The heat and humidity do not help matters.

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

The physical space most Consulate community members inhabit is very limited, due to both logistical and security restrictions. It's also a city that requires a lot of assertive behavior, particularly when driving (both as a driver and, particularly, in interactions with traffic cops looking for bribes and people begging and selling things.) These things wear on pretty much everyone. To the extent financially possible, making a point to periodically leave Lagos and have amazing travel experiences in other countries can make the monotony and difficulty of life in Lagos much more bearable.

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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?

Broadly, it's hot and humid the whole year. Within that, there are seasonal shifts. Harmattan runs from (roughly) December to March, and is dry, overcast, beige, and very unpleasant. There's a month or two after Harmattan ends and before rainy season begins where it's just very very hot and sunny. Rainy season lasts through most of the spring and summer, and is well named. The fall is the nicest time of year in Lagos--some rain, but not so much that it's cloudy all the time, a good breeze, and less extreme temperatures than the period between Harmattan and rainy season.

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Expat Life:

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

We very much enjoyed spending time at the Yacht Club, which is positioned on land that somehow always feels ten degrees cooler than the rest of the city. My wife enjoyed the opportunity to spend time with people outside of the Consulate community.

Beyond the Yacht Club, the overwhelming majority of our socializing took place in apartments or the communal pool areas. Lots of games, dinner parties, and cocktail hours.

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

I don't think it's inherently good or bad for any of those groups. I do think being single and someone who didn't enjoy going to bars/clubs would be very difficult, as would any financial situation that made it difficult to leave the country and travel when possible.

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

Our experience as a relatively femme presenting same-sex couple was, on the whole, positive. Many many Nigerians who interacted with us as a couple believed we were sisters (even after we had a child), and we generally did not dissuade them from that misperception. With a few notable exceptions, local staff and those who did get it were surprisingly inclusive and kind, or kept their mouths shut. Our experience with young, wealthy Nigerians was uniformly positive.

That said, there is no way we didn't benefit from some level of deference to all the privilege we carried with us as white Americans associated with the Consulate, and I have no idea what it would be like to be single, less gender normative, trans, male, and/or so on.

Lagos is giant, and there are definitely existing communities folks could cautiously find and tap into.

The primary place the Consulate directs pregnant people towards (George's) for checkups is also a very affordable fertility clinic.

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

Unfortunately, there were no CLO trips out of Lagos offered while we were at post. It is possible to drive to Benin, with RSO support, where there are beach resorts--hire a driver to get you to the border.
There is tons of fabulous travel to be had outside of the country, particularly within Africa. We had a series of ridiculously amazing experiences that we would never have been able to logistically or financially manage if not posted to Lagos.

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

Getting clothes made can be very fun, as are the local markets. I wish we'd signed up for/ever gone on any of the trips planned by the Nigerian Field Society, which include a tour of Makoko.

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

Many people have furniture made. Almost everyone has clothing made. There are tons of things to buy, if that's your thing and you're willing to do a little investigative work to find them. Instagram is a great resource for finding small businesses making everything from shoes to ultra modern chairs.

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

It's fascinating. The ability to travel elsewhere, the warm Consulate community, and how affordable it is to live like the very wealthy.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Doing it again would be a stretch, and there are definitely many many nicer places to spend a few years of your life. That said, it was fascinating, we made great friends, and we got to do all sorts of amazing travel we would never have otherwise done, so I'm glad we went. I think Lagos is likely best as a first post, before you have much to compare it to.

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

Half of a Yellow Sun and Americanah more than any others. There is a huge wealth of excellent modern Nigerian literature to explore.

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Lagos, Nigeria 08/02/18

Background:

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

No, have also lived across Latin America and the Middle East.

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

DC. It runs about 13 hours with a transfer typically through Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We lived in a notoriously bad apartment building, but the consulate has since relocated all of the residents. Housing is a decent size and locations aren't bad on the weekends, but attempting to move around in the city during the week can be a gridlocked nightmare.

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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 a few expat supermarkets that offer most everything we could want, albeit at a lower quality and much higher price.

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

There is a decent variety of restaurants and most of them offer delivery. Food can be pricey.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch, no significant issues.

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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 cheap and there tends to be a pool of folks who stay on with consulate families. We had some trouble with a driver and had to fire him for joyriding in our car; very surprising to us, considering that we felt we paid him a good wage, and his housing depended on continued employment.

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

Gyms and workout facilities are a rarity in the city, but many of the housing compounds offer some kind of facilities.

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

Cash is king in Lagos, and with the largest bill being the functional equivalent of $2.50 you will become skilled at quickly counting from a large wad of cash. Use of credit cards is possible, but fraud is rampant and I would not recommend this even at a seemingly trustworthy businesses.

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

None. Almost everyone speaks English to some extent, and there are so many local languages that only learning one would have limited advantage (although Yoruba and Igbo are by far the big two in Lagos).

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

Yes.

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Transportation:

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

No.

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

High ground clearance is a necessity because all of the streets flood when it rains. Road quality is also severely lacking and could become impassable for some sedans.

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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 high speed internet is not high speed at all. You will become very familiar with Netflix's loading screen.

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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?

Veterinary care is difficult to come by, there are a few options but when they are on vacation you are completely on your own. There was no quarantine period. Also, it seems many people are terrified of even the smallest of dogs.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

The consulate offered a number of employment opportunities for spouses.

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

Casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

There is a significant amount of crime in many parts of the city, but most of the areas where expats live and mingle are fairly safe. The same rules apply that would in any major city.

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

The climate is hot and humid, or hot and rainy. The weather cools after a rain and for a brief few weeks can be beautiful. Then the harmattan sets in and a haze of Sahara dust blots out the sun for a few months.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a small expat community and you can easily know the majority of folks. Morale is ok at best, largely dependent on how often you are able to get out of the country to decompress.

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

Young singles have a lot of opportunities to head out to clubs, the city is decent for couples and families as well, although there are few options on the local economy to entertain young children.

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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:

Need to complete tasks efficiently or in a timely manner.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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Lagos, Nigeria 03/19/18

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?

USA- about 14 hours flight time, but much longer when you factor in connection times, and how early you have to leave for the airport because of traffic. Usually about 24 hours door-to-door.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

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?

It's nice. Almost all USG employees (singles and couples with 1 or no kids) live in Regents Tower, a brand new complex with huge, open-plan apartments and a tennis court, or in Cameron, which is mostly higher-ranking employees and families with several kids. A few others (mostly singles) live in Glover, which is the only compound that includes non-Americans. All housing complexes have pools and gyms.

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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 find almost everything you need, but you might have to go to several stores to find it and you probably won't find the brands that you're used to (or you will pay a serious premium). Meat is expensive. Chicken is fairly affordable, but beef is either of dubious quality or very expensive, e.g., $30/steak. Dairy is very expensive. Local produce is generally available and affordable, but imported produce gets very expensive very quickly: $15 for a head of cauliflower, $12 for asparagus, $10 for broccoli. You do have to bleach your produce.

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

I think I was grossly misled about what it was like here. I was essentially told to ship half of Trader Joe's with me, but most things are available here, they're just a bit more expensive and/or harder to find. I'm happy with what I shipped: quality peanut butter, jam, canned black beans, good olive oil, good wine, and enough shampoo/conditioner. All other dry goods you can order online.

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

Lagos has a couple really good restaurants and a lot of mediocre ones. Nok does West African fusion and was just written up in the NYTimes. RSVP is also nice. Pizze-riah is good for brick oven pizza, and others seem to like Orchid House (Thai), Thai-Thai (Thai... obviously), Jade Palace (Chinese), Izanagi (Japanese), the Syrian Club, Craft Gourmet, Lagoon, Sherlaton (Indian), and Casa Lydia (Nigerian and "continental"). "Fast food" options are Domino's and Johnny Rockets. The GQ also has a decent menu and they deliver (plus, you can put your orders on your account, so no cash necessary). Jumia is an online ordering platform that usually takes 60-90 minutes to deliver. Including wine/cocktails, a decent meal at a nice place can run from $40-$70/person.

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

Not really. I've had a few roaches, but that's about it.

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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. Flat mail takes about 2-3 weeks to arrive at Post, and about 6-8 weeks to reach its destination in the U.S. People traveling to the U.S. usually offer to take flat mail back in their suitcases and mail it for you from there.

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

Very affordable and very good. It seems that most Americans pay their household staff about 2x-3x what Nigerians pay, but it's worth it. Most people employ stewards at least part-time, and many use drivers part-time as well. Going rate is about $3/hr. Childcare costs a bit more.

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

Each compound has a small gym with free weights and a couple of machines, and the GQ has a decent gym as well which is free with membership. The membership fees run about $100/adult or $250/families with children. Some people do CrossFit and yoga at the GQ or at studios in town.

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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?

Ha! No.

In all seriousness, you can use your cards at a couple high-end places (most nice hotels, a few nice restaurants, Deli's Supermarket), but a) the exchange rate is much worse b) most places only accept Nigerian credit cards, not international credit cards c) even if they do accept international cards, the card readers are often broken. Get used to carrying around stacks of naira.

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

I assume services for most Christian denominations, but sure about others.

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

English is the national language, but the accent can take a while to get used to. Phone conversations can be very, very trying. Understanding Pidgin helps a lot, and Nigerians LOVE when you greet them in their other languages (primarily Yoruba and Igbo).

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

Yes. Sidewalks have enormous gaps and steep inclines and declines, potholes are horrendous, and most buildings are not wheelchair accessible.

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Transportation:

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

Consulate staff are not allowed to take them. This is a self-drive and Motorpool only post. There is a limited area in which we are allowed to drive without prior RSO approval. Also, we take a boat to/from work.

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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 with higher clearance is better for the rainy season, but people seem to get by with sedans as well. Japanese brands seem to be the most popular. New car parts are difficult to come by even for popular brands and should be shipped in your HHE if possible. I don't think I'd want an American car here for those reasons. You will probably get into at least a couple of fender benders. There have not been many cars for sale within the diplomatic community for the last few months, but that may change when people PCS. A few people recently bought cars on the local market.

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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?

Depending on your compound, yes. Glover and Cameron both have wifi access; Regents is apparently having the network installed right now. You can set it up in a couple of days after arrival or have your social sponsor do it for you. It's about $45/month. It has been known to go out for hours during heavy rainstorms. Regents residents seem to all use internet hotspots.

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

Local provider or Google Voice. There are 4 main networks in Nigeria, and they all frequently go down for minutes to hours at a time. Some locals have different phones with different networks to avoid this problem. The Consulate gives all USG direct hires a phone; most are getting iPhones now.

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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 is at least one good vet that most of the Consulate uses. Animals do not need to be quarantined, but there is a complicated and expensive registration process that you need to do to register them ahead of time.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

It seems that most spouses work at the Consulate or do not work outside the home, maybe a 50/50 split? At least one spouse works at the American school. It might be possible to work for a consulting or oil firm if you have the requisite skill set. There seem to be a fair number of NGOs and charities as well.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Not really sure, but it seems like there are a lot, particularly around women's and children's issues.

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

There is no such thing as too fancy here. Nigerian women frequently wear sequined ball gowns during the day. Office wear ranges from traditional Nigerian attire to typical Western business attire to ski jackets, and hats indoors. Most Americans wear business casual or suits depending on their positions/ranks. There are a few representational events that you should have formal attire for, but women could get away wearing cocktail dresses and men could just wear suits. The only time you might really want to have a ball gown or tux would be Marine Ball, and you could easily get those made here.

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Health & Safety:

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

Sort of? Local staff are much more likely to be affected than American staff. They frequently experience petty theft, carjackings, home invasions, etc., while Americans will probably just be asked for bribes. We are limited to a relatively small section of Lagos, but traffic is so bad that you probably don't want to frequently venture outside of that area anyway.

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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 good MED unit at Post, but anything serious would likely warrant a medevac to South Africa or the UK. People seem to have had good luck with local doctors, many of whom were trained in the UK or the U.S., but I wouldn't want to need serious medical care here.

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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 great. There is a persistent haze of exhaust fumes, diesel, etc., and Harmattan (dust season) lasts for 2-3 months beginning in December. Running and biking outside will leave you smelling like exhaust. That being said, there are also lots of very lovely days with blue skies.

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

Air quality isn't great; asthmatics and people with environmental allergies might want to do a little more research. Nigerian cuisine tends to involve a lot of shellfish. Almost everyone I know has gotten moderate-to-severe food poisoning at least a couple of times.

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

Not that I'm aware of. The work can be draining, but there is a good group of people at Post that makes it a lot better. It also helps to leave every 2-3 months, if only for a weekend.

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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. All the time. Rainy season is approximately May-August, with another less intense rainy season a few months later, and Harmattan is December-February.

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Expat Life:

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

Fairly large. Most seem to work for various diplomatic missions, oil companies, or consulting firms. I think it's generally pretty good - we all know that it can be difficult to live here at times, and some people seem to be counting down the days until they can leave, but most seem to make a pretty good go of it. Lagos has a lot to offer if you know where to look.

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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?

Lots of people entertain at home or go out to local restaurants. The GQ hosts bi-weekly trivia night, usually run by Consular officers, and there are events with other missions as well. The Nigerian Field Society hosts a few trips a year, as does the CLO, and there are a few exercise-related groups that draw a few people. There are also a couple of book clubs and the American Women's Club. A few officers belong to the Yacht Club and the Jet Ski Club. There's also a Cigar Club and a rather expensive country club.

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

Single people - eh. Not really. It can be hard to meet people here when the focus seems to be so singularly on getting visas. Others say that the cultural differences can be difficult to overcome when dating outside the expat scene. Couples and families seem to do better here.

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

Local staff are generally very accepting, but I would not feel comfortable being out in public. Nigeria is extremely religious and traditional.

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

Yes to all three. Re: religious prejudices, it doesn't seem to matter what your religion is as long as you have one.

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

The Yacht Club, the Lekki Conservation Centre, the New Afrika Shrine, the Consulate beach house- opportunities to get outside (both outside the bubble and in nature) are rare and you should take all of them. Affordable gem shopping and tailoring.

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

Bogobiri, Jazz Hole, Freedom Park, Nike Art Gallery, the Conservation Centre, Tarkwa Bay.

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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 could easily have a new wardrobe made here - clothes and jewelry alike. There are artisans who do very nice cloth art.

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

The differential is great, the work is interesting, the current group of officers is pretty solid, the local staff are wonderful, you can learn to sail/play tennis/etc for much less money than you could elsewhere, and you'll learn to drive in crazy traffic. I think it's a lot better here than most people think.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That you need to carve out three hours to do errands, that it's so hard to get out in nature, that traffic is so unpredictable that it might take you 15 minutes to get somewhere one day, and 3 hours to get there another day, and that traveling out of the country would be so difficult (expensive to get most places and very few direct flights within the continent). I also wish I knew how extreme the disparity is between the "haves" and the "have-nots," because it is truly mind-blowing. On a lighter note, the country has more than its fair share of problems, but the people are resilient, funny, and resourceful.

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

Yes. I wouldn't come back for another posting, but I think it's just fine for 2-3 years. Most of the tenured officers extend.

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

Impatience, naïveté, credit cards.

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4. But don't forget your:

Assertiveness, sense of humor, Tums, winter clothes (for when you want a reprieve from Lagos in a cold place).

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

Americanah; Half of a Yellow Sun- Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
This Present Darkness- Frank Peretti
The Wedding Party

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Lagos is fine (and often quite fun). Don't listen to the naysayers.

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Lagos, Nigeria 05/17/16

Background:

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

Asia, Africa, and Central America.

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

Washington, DC. Delta flies nonstop to Atlanta, about 11 hours. United flies into Houston, 13 hours. Arik Air (a local carrier) flies into New York City, 10 hours. Connections to the U.S. are available through London, Frankfurt, and Paris.

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3. How long have you lived here?

About a year.

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

U.S. Consulate.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are three main housing compounds for consulate staff and their families. One building tends to get the families, the other all the single and childless couples. The third is a mix and is the only one which includes non-Consulate residents. All of the complexes have pools, barbecues, and gym facilities. These are kept in reasonable shape. Lagos is one of the few posts in the world where the regular commute includes a boat ride. There are shuttles in the morning that run people to the dock. From there, there's a ferry to the Consulate. A typical commute is about 20 minutes if timed right.

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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 available but everything is expensive. Amazon Pantry will be your friend. Locally-sourced meat such as chicken isn't too bad, but fresh fruits and vegetables are difficult to come by and risky to eat unless thoroughly and properly cleaned. Things like cleaning supplies, pet food, bathroom supplies, and kitchen basics can be found for a price.

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

Good beer and power tools.

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

There isn't a lot of fast food. There's no McDonald's (the closest one is South Africa). Lagos loves its chicken: there's a KFC and Chicken Republic. It also has Dominos, Cold Stone, and Johnny Rockets. Some local pizza joints are good for the money. There's Lagoon, Casa Lydia, and the suya place down the block from one of the complexes. Expect to pay $30 per person unless you find some hidden gems.

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

The usual insect problems given it's a tropical environment. Ants, roaches, and mosquitoes are plentiful. It's important to keep the house clean and to carry some mosquito repellent.

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Daily Life:

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

Packages and mail come through diplomatic pouch. Very small packages and returns can go out. Getting a package is like Christmas.

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

Very affordable. Most people pay around $25 a day for help. This includes a full apartment cleaning, laundry, ironing, and assorted duties. Drivers cost about $300 per month. Nannies are more expensive but are worth it.

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

Every residence compound has a gym. The American General Quarters (GQ) club has a decent one. These are either free as part of the housing allowance or part of the GQ membership fee. There are private gyms but there's no point in doing that.

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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 even think about it. The only safe place is the the GQ.

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

Nearly all religious services are in English.

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

English is the local language, though the accents can be difficult to understand for an American English speaker. Nigerians can't understand us, either.

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

Yes, someone with physical disabilities would have a terrible time in Lagos. The sidewalks are often cratered with very high steps -- often a foot or two above the pavement. There's a construction method where large 2x3 cement blocks serve as rain catches. These are always falling apart and have huge holes between them. The power goes out often which includes the elevators.

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Transportation:

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

Consulate staff are not allowed to use public transportation, including Uber. You are literally risking your life if you do it.

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

Most people have small SUV's like Rav4's and CRV's. The clearance helps especially during rainy season. But there are people with sedans who get by OK. That said, everyone -- everyone -- has gotten into an accident of some sort. Expect to get dinged up. There are local mechanics and shops. Some people have had extensive work done on their cars and seem happy with the results. Check with CLO as to the latest information on what to bring.

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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, Internet access for up to 1 mb/s is about $100 a month. It can run Netflix and music streaming, but it's slow and expensive. On the plus side, Nigeria does not block anything.

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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 Consulate provides family members and non-essential staff with a basic phone with some time loaded onto it. Direct hires can get a smart phone but new management has deemed that a waste.

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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, but pets need to be registered with the ministry. It's a long, convoluted, confusing process, so if you plan to bring a pet, start early or take a risk in sneaking Fido in.

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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. The Consulate has a bilateral work agreement but it's nearly impossible to find something on the local economy. There are some NGOs, oil companies, and consulting firms in Lagos. The Consulate has limited jobs available for family members.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Volunteer opportunities can be found within the Consulate. Orphanages and churches sometimes advertise for help.

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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, but their idea of dressing up isn't always what a Westerner would think. For example, tuxedos are worn out and about going shopping. The short sleeve suit is popular. A typical Nigerian will wear jeans and a soccer jersey. At work, it's business casual. Most of the men wear ties without a jacket and the women wear business attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. It's Nigeria. While Lagos doesn't have the security concerns as the Northeast or even Abuja, it's still stifling. The security apparatus does a good job of keeping us safe, but it often feels too restrictive. Walking around at night isn't advised.

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

Malaria is prevalent. All sorts of shots are required to come here. Visitors need about $500 - $1000 worth of shots. It's easy to get digestive problems. Everyone has had at least one bout of diarrhea. Medical care is questionable at best. Anyone with more than a minor injury will be medically evacuated. The bottom line is: don't need medical care.

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

Air quality is OK but during the Harmattan months (December through March) there's a layer of dust that goes everywhere. It can get very hot and humid.

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

The main seasonal issue is the Harmattan. This is Sahara sand blowing down from the east, covering everything in a layer of dust. Some people wore masks. The people who could leave, left.

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

The climate is Africa-hot. It's always around 80-100F degrees and muggy. There's a rainy season between May and September when it rains just about every night, and often during the day.

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Schools & Children:

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

There's an American school where everyone goes. Some of the direct hire staff have family members teaching there. The facilities are excellent. Sometimes the Consulate arranges sports programs on school grounds. Everyone I know who has a kid there is OK with it.

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

The school is good for special needs kids, but the specifics of that should be discussed with the school staff.

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

Yes, there are preschool and daycare options (called "creches"). Quality varies but it's possible to get into a good one. Nannies are also cheap and plentiful if a parent would rather keep the kid at home.

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

Soccer is by far the most popular sport. The school also hosts baseball, softball, volleyball, and basketball leagues.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a fairly large expatriate community given the oil and diplomatic population. Some people love it here and some people count down the hours. It's important to make friends and do things outside of the apartment.

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

Restaurants and bars can be fun, especially the places on the water. But most entertaining is done in people's apartments or on the compounds. The beach trips organized by the CLO are a great way to spend a weekend. The biggest problem is getting around, whether due to security or traffic.

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

Lagos gets a terrible reputation, some of it deserved. But it's not a bad city for families and couples. Singles might have a tough time with the dating scene. Females will have no problem getting attention and in fact will probably want to stay home most of the time to avoid it. Men with blue passports will have no problem finding women but caution would be advised.

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

No. Homosexuality is illegal here and punishable by fines and jail time. There is an underground scene but overt homosexuality is not practiced.

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

Nigerians are intolerant. Ethnic divides run deep and locals can tell various tribes immediately. It's hard to say there's a prejudice because everyone is equally disliked. It is an extremely religious society (about 50/50 Christian/Muslim). Outright prejudice is rare (such as targeted abuse or attacks), but anyone who isn't Nigerian is "oyinbo" which translates to "white." This includes Chinese, Spanish, and Indian people.

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

The expatriate community knows how difficult it can be living here. Being able to share this experience with those "in the know" is a highlight.

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

Visitors here go on the Lagos tour: Lekki Market, Lekki Conservatory, Yacht Club, Nigerian Field Society, Community Liaison Office (CLO) events, the Shrine, events with the British, trivia night, and sports such as volleyball and basketball. Certain restaurants serve decent food and are affordable. The hidden gems are what you make of it.

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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 much. Some of the art is OK but nothing expressly "Nigerian."

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

There's a little money boost living here as well as an equity boost for those who can take advantage of it. There's some "street cred" back at the home office.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes. With not a lot to do, careful spending can yield pretty good savings. However, you will want to splurge on trips out of the country.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How aggressive a typical Nigerian is. Even when just talking, they sound like they're fighting. Small issues can quickly escalate into a full-fledged riot. Road rage is common, which includes a mob breaking the car window and pulling you out to beat you.

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

No. There are far too many nicer places in the world.

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

Winter clothes, sense of personal space.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure, board games, VPN, and Amazon prime account.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Fela (Netflix).

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

Things Fall Apart, There Was a Country, Americanah.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Lagos is what you make of it. It has a well-deserved reputation as somewhere people don't want to go, but you could do worse.

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Lagos, Nigeria 11/29/15

Background:

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

No. Other places in Africa and Asia.

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

There are direct flights from Atlanta (Delta) and Houston (United), which are 12 and 14 hours respectively. From either hub, you can get anywhere in the States quickly.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Since 2014

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

Government 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?

There are the Bells, townhome style older, government owned properties. Not a high quality spot, but they're quiet. Tarino is a former hotel, which is full of mold and located right on the main road on Ikoyi. It's mainly for singles or couples without kids. Cameron is the nicest, but it's mainly for families with kids. All of them aren't far from the GQ, where embassy folks take a boat to the Consulate. Without the boats, the commute would be 2 hours and there's no where to park. The GQ makes getting to work actually feasible.

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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 here; it just depends on what you want to pay. US$17 for real milk, US$40 for freezer burned ice cream, US$6 for half a pint of strawberries, US$20 for a small filet of mediocre meat. Most people bring empty suitcases to the States on R&R and fill them with frozen food. They'll make it back no problem. Use that consumables shipment to the max!

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

Spare tires, potato chips, more dog food/medicine, cleaning supplies.

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

There's KFC, Dominos, and Coldstone's for American brand fast food. They're not too badly priced, but I don't eat there often. Decent restaurants? Ha. I get sick every time I eat out here. Cooks use the same knife to cut chicken and vegetables. They're blissfully unaware of what cross-contamination means.

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

Malaria is endemic. Everyone takes some kind of prophylaxis. I haven't seen any roaches in housing though.

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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. No liquids larger than 16oz. Its 2-4 weeks (closer to 4) on average.

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

Readily available. US$250 monthly for full time. The quality of help depends on your point of view though.

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

The GQ has a gym as a part of membership there. Cameron and Tarin have small gyms too. I don't know about any on the commercial market.

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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's Nigeria, the land of fraud and scams. Never ever ever use a credit or ATM card here.

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

Churches are everywhere, but I wouldn't know anything specific.

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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 common, though can be tough to understand the accents and they don't always understand ours.

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

Polio (almost) being recently eradicated means there are still some victims of the disease around. They can't get wheelchairs. I've seen people drag themselves with roller skates on their hands while sitting on a wheeled board. Disabled people have it very tough here.

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Transportation:

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

Nope. They're off limits in all circumstances. Local staff get robbed in fake cabs or buses routinely.

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

High clearance. When the rainy seasons come, flooding is everywhere and the roads wash out because the streets are filled in with sand. It's entertaining to watch people pour sand and rocks into holes, only to have that wash away and gouge out a bigger hole when the rain comes. It's typical of the lack of planning 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" is relative. You can get Netflix-streaming internet for US$90 a 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?

MTN, provided they don't get closed down by the government through fines, is everywhere. Cheap cards are everywhere.

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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. You can get the import permit from GSO prior to arrival.

There is no vet care. We met a nice woman who is a vet, but she treats pets because she's a nice person, not because it's her business. Without her though, it would be really tough on our pets.

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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 volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are some groups that help orphans and the environment (ha). When you see how polluted the river and ocean are here, you'll realize how pointless any environmental volunteerism is.

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

Casual. Polo/Slacks, coat and tie are common. I can't describe exactly what women wear but it's professional attire.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is critical here. Kidnappings for ransom of American citizens happen regularly. The local staff are victimized by robbers while stuck in the horrendous traffic they drive to work through. Political violence and terrorism are a concern as well, though protests aren't anti-American and Boko Haram hasn't had the same effect here as in the north or middle belt.

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

Malaria is endemic. There's not a good option for medical here. The embassy had the RMO position moved up to Abuja. A brilliant move since regional travel is centered in Lagos.

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

Poor from pollution, though the breeze from the ocean helps. Harmattan isn't great with the dust though.

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

Dust is bad in Harmattan. Food poisoning is more of a concern.

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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?

Harmattan from January to March (dusty wind, slightly cooler) April-early June (hot) June-October (rainy) November-December (hot and humid). There's really not a great time of year here.

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Schools & Children:

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

There's AISL, but I don't have kids so I couldn't say.

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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?

Relatively large because of the oil industry. Morale varies, though I'll be stunned if I ever meet anyone who actually likes 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?

As I said above, BBQs, hosting people at home. The GQ helps with volleyball and other social events.

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

It's not a good city for anyone really. There's not much to do, so it's mainly BBQs, game nights, hosting each other on the weekends. There's a reason why there are no tourist books about Nigeria.

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

Amongst the expat community, no problem. Nigerians are virulently anti-LGBT. After the Supreme Court decision regarding same sex marriage, the media went nuts with anti-LGBT articles. I'd be afraid to tell any locals here.

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

Ha. Nigerians are some of the most regressive people I've ever met. North vs South, Yoruba vs Ibo vs Hausa, Christian vs Muslim. Prejudice is coin of the realm here. It's really sad actually.

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

Growing closer to my spouse because we have to keep each other entertained. There's nothing to do in Lagos.

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

Literally nothing. The Lekki Conservation Area by Chevron is nice for one visit. Other than that, there's a reason tourism isn't an industry in West Africa.

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

Trinkets and junk that isn't worth anything.

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

Aside from saving money by having absolutely nothing to do, there's nothing good about this city.

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10. Can you save money?

Yup, because there's nothing to do.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How aggressive the culture is here. Kindness is perceived as weakness.

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

Nope. I've been other places on the continent and never seen anything like this place. I can't wait to leave.

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

Ideas that driving can be safe or relaxing. Hopes that people couldn't still have horribly prejudiced outlooks in a modern city. Any winter clothing

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4. But don't forget your:

Patience. This place is more frustrating than any place I've ever been.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0030GJ50C/ref=as _li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0030GJ50C&linkCode=as2&tag=talesmagcom-20&linkId=6AXUV57VOTO6UNGK

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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?

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Lagos, Nigeria 12/01/11

Background:

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

Iraq, China, Haiti, Thailand, and Rwanda.

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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. 22-24 hours. Connecting Flight at Atlanta to Lagos directly. Europe is an alternative.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 Years.

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

U.S Diplomat.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Town Houses, Condos and apartment compounds are common on the islands. Two bridges connect Ikoyi and Victoria Islands, and rush hour traffic can be awful (30-40 minutes to move around the islands). But generally, if you live and work on the islands, your commute is under 30 minutes. Indian and Lebanese grocery stores, restaurants, bakeries and stores are all within 20 minutes. Many expats use the waterways to travel from home to work. It is exotic, convenient, and you avoid the "go slows", vendors, beggars, and crime.

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

Three imported goods stores (Park 'n' Shop, Goodies, Game) carry almost everything one might need -- but for outrageous prices. LaPointe sells a good selection French cheeses. Most brands are European; some US brands are available, but at hugely inflated prices. Veggies tends to be old and small. Fresh vegetables and tropical fruit are better bought at the local market or fruit stand, where one can haggle. Regarding ethnic ingredients, one can get Indian and Mediterranean supplies, but very little Chinese, Japanese, or Latino ingredients.

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

More olive oil and cleaning products (which are very expensive here), like detergents. If you have a baby, stock up on diapers and wipes, as local options are imported, costly, and in small packs.

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

You can get Indian, Thai, pizza, and Lebanese. Delivery is available in certain areas. Also there are new chains of KFC around Victoria-island. These are not of the same quality as the ones back home.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

It's very expensive where expats shop.

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

Mosquitoes are the greatest treat to expats and diplomats; malaria medication is a must. There are also roaches and flies, but not in abundance like the malaria-carrying mosquitoes.

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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. Can only receive.

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

Widely available, though quality of service varies. Cost ranges from US$80-$150 per month. Most embassy housing includes detached live-in space for domestic help. Drivers are also very useful as traffic and road conditions are horrendous.

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

All foreign missions and expat companies had their own 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 even think about it.

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

Abundantly.

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

Yes. Int'l Herald Tribune is available as a subscription (to your door), but is very costly. CNN and other new channels are broadcast over the Armed Forces Network free of charge to embassy housing. The Economist and other current magazines are available on the streets, but are also expensive.

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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. English is the nation's official language, but American accents can throw Nigerians for a loop. But you can learn few words for breaking the ice with the locals, especially the Yorubas that own Lagos.

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

The lack of paved roads, no ramps for wheelchairs; this is not a modern city with accessible and safe amenities.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis are available everywhere, but you have to be careful and study the driver. Trains and buses are available,cheap but off limits to expats and diplomats.

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

SUVs.

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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, but access is difficult during the middle of the weekday since bandwidth is limited and lines get clogged. Cost is high -- $80/month for unlimited access.

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

Bring an unlocked GSM phone and buy charge cards on the street. Black market GSM phones are good (available online), as are phones from Cingular and T-Mobile. If your GSM phone is locked, a Nigerian guy on the corner can unlock it for a fee. Verizon phones are useless, as they are not GSM.

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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)?

Very few.

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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 Embassy dependents who want to work can find jobs in the Consulate. Opportunities vary from CLO, to GQ Manager, to Budget Assistant. The school offers other possibilities, as well. On the actual "local economy," there is very little unless you can hook up with contract positions or volunteer time at NGOs.

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

Nigerians like to dress up. The men like to wear suits, and the women can look very impressive in their native dress. Friday at the consulate is native dress day, when most Nigerians and many Americans wear traditional Nigerian outfits to work. Every time I try dressing up in a Nigerian outfit, my wife says something like, "Oh, is the circus is in town?" So I usually hang it back up in the closet. Some American men wear shirt and tie to work, but others wear casual dress. The climate is warm and humid year round, and it makes sense to wear light cotton clothes whenever possible, which is always for me.

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Health & Safety:

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

Kidnappings is the major threat to foreigners, especially expats with the oil companies. Carjacking comes second. Scams, cyber crimes, fraud, and theft. Many locals are robbed at gunpoint while using local transportation. Expats are often robbed while stuck in traffic, known as "go slows." Armed and often violent home invasions are common in the expat community. 24-hour armed guards, supplemented by locally hired police (MOPOL'S) armed with AK-47s, are a must. Any night travel to the mainland of Lagos is extremely dangerous. Armored vehicles are recommended. Ambulance/Police/Fire services are virtually nonexistent. Mugging is rare, if you keep to the safe part of Lagos to do your walking on Ikoyi and Victoria Islands during daylight. All trips to and from the airport require an armed escort vehicle after dark.

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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. Typhoid. Unsafe drinking water. Medical care is very, very, expensive and not reliable. Do not count on an ambulance: the traffic will delay it with hours.

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

The air is moderate; it could be very humid sometimes. But during the raining season, June-August, the air is crisp and fresh after the rain, which is mostly heavy.

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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?

Dry and wet season. Hot: 28-35 degrees C., very humid.

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Schools & Children:

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

The oil-industry-supported American International School is top rated, with excellent facilities and worldwide recruited teachers. I knew many people who were happy with the school. It is also a center of community events: softball games, swimming competitions, soccer, and other events.

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

None that i know 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?

It's available, but quality varies. But I would not recommend bringing children to this post due to the crime.

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

It's not advisable to bring your 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?

Very large -- not sure of numbers, but considering the oil companies and associated service contractors, plus Embassy communities, Lebanese entrepreneurs, and groups like the U.N., Red Cross, etc. There are lots of expats in and around Lagos.

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2. Morale among expats:

Extremely variable. People either love it or hate it. Those who love it often extend; those who hate it count the days like inmates. Life here is fast-paced and busy, and fun if you are flexible and adaptable. It is also often difficult and frustrating -- even for those with considerable West Africa experience. In my opinion, three years is just about right.

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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?

Restaurants, games, shopping mall and others.

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

Families and couples seemed to do pretty well and kept themselves busy. Singles seemed to have a hard time dating locals. We attended concerts, drove to nearby countries (Ghana, Togo, Benin), went to game parks and beaches, and spent many good times in the local bars, clubs, and filthy drinking stands at Bar Beach, Tarkwa Bay, and Eleko beach. I think it is a great post for couples and singles, with lots of parties, beach trips, book clubs, and tennis lessons. It's all about what you make it.

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

Nigerians generally frown on public display of affection, and a bill was recently passed forbidding Gay/Lesbianism.

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

Nigeria as a whole is a Male dominated society. Nigerians are very prejudiced towards members of other tribes. Some tolerate each-other though. For example, the Yorubas relate quite well with both the Igbos and Hausas. Those are the three major tribes. But the Igbos and Hausas are hostile to each other most of the time.

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

Shopping for local fabrics and making them into elegant styles, like some of the Yoruba tribes attire, with the help of the local tailors of course. Shopping for arts and crafts at the local markets. Local dishes comes in great varieties. Some of the Beaches are worth visiting, but you have to drive a long way out of the city to get a clean and less crowded ones. The nightlife is mostly clubs and some sleazy bars for ladies of the night with the oil rich expats. The diplomatic community usually sticks together and organizes events and dinners at each-others residences. The locals are very friendly towards Westerners, except the Northern tribes, which tend to be suspicious of people, being majorly Muslims. But you should be mindful of your wallet and cellphones if you are taking a stroll on the street. Get used to being stared at and called 'Oyinbo' meaning white person in the Yoruba Language, which Lagosians speaks.

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

House parties, swimming, private dance classes, eg. Salsa or Ballet, tennis, dinner parties, beach trips, road trips to neighboring countries. Outdoor: surfing, yacht club sailing, baseball league, tennis. Social: casual bbq's; visit to beach huts outside of the islands.

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

Baskets, table cloths, small trinkets, and leather items. African beads, too. Wooden and rattan furniture can be made to order. African fabrics. Animal carvings and paintings.

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

Touring to various parts of the country is available, but most of the sites are not well-maintained. They have diverse cultures in Nigeria as a whole and this contributes to many things to see. You can save money, if you only eat out twice a month, because the cost of living for Diplomats and Expats is high.

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11. Can you save money?

You can save money with the bonus/differential pay, unless you travel out of Nigeria a lot. And if you don't go to the import stores, restaurants, or anywhere else often.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it is challenging, but also full of adventures.

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

Winter Clothes, bicycle, and your driving etiquette. People drive aggressively, but they are not as cut-throat as in Manila or Jakarta. They will let you in if you wave. Also leave behind your thoughts of living a normal life in this place.

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3. But don't forget your:

4x4 dark windows vehicle, preferably armored. The roads are terrible and during the rainy season all Victoria Island is a huge lagoon.

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

Half of a Yellow Sun
and Purple Hibiscus: A Novel
by Chimamanda Ngozi Adiche. Lagos State in Pictures by 'Dayo Adedayo.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Nolly-wood Movies.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Every post comes with its own challenges.

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Lagos, Nigeria 09/19/08

Background:

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

Cape Town, Pretoria, New Delhi, also lived in Hong Kong, London.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

U.S. Consulate.

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

About 22-24 hours including transit; best to fly through Europe.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Consulate families with children generally lived on Ikoyi. Singles and those without school-aged children lived on either Ikoyi or Victoria Island (consulate is on the latter). Most housing is 2-storey town-house style, with about 6-8 units per compound. Some were 2-3 bdrm apts -- advantage if you're lucky to get one of the higher floors, disadvantage if the electricity (i.e. elevator) is not working as is often the case. CG, Marines and Non-State agencies have large detached houses. Commute time 45 mins from Ikoyi if you drive; 10 mins if you take the Consulate boat. Nigerian construction can look good externally, but is shoddy beneath the paint. Expect plumbing, electrical and structural problems; GSO works overtime to keep facilities up.

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

3 imported goods stores (Park n Shop, Goodies, Game) carry almost everything one might need but for outrageous prices. LaPointe sells a good selection french cheeses. Brands are European; some US brands available, again hugely inflated. Veg tends to be old and small. Fresh veg & tropical fruit is better bought at the local market or fruit stand, where one can haggle. Re: ethnic ingredients, can get Indian, Mediterranean supplies; very little Chinese, Japanese, Latino ingredients.

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

Extra virgin olive oil; non-electric ice cream maker. Art supplies.

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

No good fast food. There is one decent pizza place on VI. Better restaurants are very expensive (US$200+ range): one each good japanese; Korean, Lebanese, Chinese, Mexican. There is one good bakery/donut shop that also sells ice cream scoops.

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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 can receive/send flat mail; cannot send packages out, only receive packages, subject to pouch restrictions. We also sent and carried letters via travelers.

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

plenty of people needing work, not all reliable. Cooks, housekeeper/steward, houseboy/girl, driver, gardener. Cost is relatively inexpensive (US$100-150 range for full-time, live-in housekeeper). Best to get referral & check references carefully.

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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?

Catholic, protestant (non-demoninational expat church). Good expat bible study groups on both islands. Lots of local churchs on every corner - Redeemed, Baptist; Nigerian churchs can be very large.

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

Consulate can provide AFN, if current MSG gunny agrees. One english language daily paper-- not much good.

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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; can get by with English. Yaruba helps but not necessary.

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

Do not expect any disability-friendly attitude or facilities: no ramps, no handbars, wide-berths, handicap-accommodating cars. I never saw a Nigerian help another person who had an obvious physical need. Consulate building can make adjustments. The environment can be very loud (generators going all the time).

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Right, theoretically. People drive all over the road, wherever there's space.

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

Affordable, yes. Safe or recommended, no. Large buses are not allowed on the islands owing to congestion; only minibuses.

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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?

Nigeria only allows newer model cars to be brought in. Get something with high clearance -- lots of potholes, monster speed bumps, obstacles and floods. I drove both left-hand and right-hand cars there. Traffic is horrendous and not for the faint hearted; parking is a nightmare too. Many have drivers to act as human parking meters.

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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?

Can be done in residences, but expensive; costs $500 set-up plus monthly use. Consulate has 3 terminals for family members to use with high-speed internet access. Family members use these a lot for internet courses and shopping.

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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?

Must have for emergencies and general communication as land-lines are not as common or reliable. Buy an all-band phone when you get here, for all family members old enough to use one. Use pre-paid cards; widely available.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

From phone at consulate. We had Skype at home; quality was inconsistent. Can also use cell phone.

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Pets:

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

Pets are a strange concept to Nigerians. There is one German vet who makes house calls for reasonable rates. She brings her meds from South Africa; is pretty good. No kennels; no animal hospital.

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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. Many volunteer oppurtunities, but hard to find paid work given the high unemployment rate.

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

Business smart casual; suit not required at Consulate most of the time, but needed for official meetings. Women wear dresses, long skirts, covered shoulders; no shorts in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate, depending on where you live. During the harmattan, the dust makes for worse conditions; during rainy season the air is cleaner when it's not raining.

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

Crime and civil unrest is a big problem and the constant vigilance makes for a stressful posting, especially if one has children. There were home invasions within the diplomatic and expat communities and carjackings.

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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?

Medical facilities are poor by western standards, pediatric equipment even worse. No good dentists or orthodontists.

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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 and hotter. Rainy season during May-August.

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Schools & Children:

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

My kids attended grades 4, 6 at the American International School of Lagos (AISL) which has a good academic reputation, high standards, pretty good facilties for Africa. Good international mix and lots of extra-curricular activities. Some kids found the strict methods and standards difficult. One of our children had a good experience while the other was miserable. The former was lucky in friends/teacher matches but the latter was not so lucky. Since there are no parks or playgrounds outside of school and the one consulate-run rec center in Lagos, a large part of a child's positive adjustment depends on his/her getting on well at school. There isn't much for kids to do outside of school. AISL does not offer any special needs or gifted programs; uniform is required. Big downer: while school security is tight, the school is located in a area that had a lot of unrest while we were there (street riots, buring tires, gangs, gunshots).This was majorly stressful for parents and kids alike.

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

None, either gifted/talented or learning disabilities. There are no psychologists, speech therapists, occupational therapists. AISL has a school counselor who can do testing when referring a child back to U.S. school.

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

Yes, but good facilities were limited and there were waiting lists.

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Expat Life:

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

Relatively large (several thousand?) given the presence of many oil companies.

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2. Morale among expats:

Ok for those without kids; more shakey for parents who worry about kids' safety. Consulate itself was quite close and socialized well together. One can make very good friends here as everyone depends on everyone else. If one is not outgoing, one can become very depressed quickly.

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

It is what you make it. We had frequent informal parties, both large and small, to keep morale up. Good pool parties, group visits to beaches; spouses lunches etc. Singles went dancing and bar hopping. Some ventured out to rock concerts in local stadium. Marine Ball is the social event of the year for all expats.

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

OK for singles and couples with a good sense of humour, an appetite for adventure and a good ability to adapt and be flexible. Not good for school-aged kids, although those with healthy toddlers (who didn't go out much) had an OK time.

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

No problem within the consulate & expat community. Manifest affection, whether hetero- or homosexual is generally frowned upon in Nigerian culture.

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

There is palpable tension between Nigerian tribes, and social classes. Status is very important. Nigerian men (particularly Muslim) tend to ignore instructions and requests given by females -- whether said female is an officer or a spouse or a colleague.

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

Outdoors: surfing, yatch club sailing, baseball league, tennis. Social: casual bbq's; visit to beach huts outside of the islands. Travel: Benin. Clubs: active American and International Women's Clubs; bible studies; book and sewing groups; cheap movie night; yoga, salsa dance classes.

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

Baskets; table cloths; small trinkets and leather items; African beads. Wooden and rattan furniture can be made to order. African clothing.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes if you don't go to the import stores, restaurants or anywhere else.

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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:

Fancy clothes, jewelry and high expectations.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sense of humour and adventure; love for the unusual. A small change purse to hold the stinky currency. Reusable sturdy grocery shopping bags.

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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?

I flew to Abuja once a week. Abuja was comparatively less crowded and spacious with less obvious urban decay. It also had less to do, and was more sterile.

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Lagos, Nigeria 05/14/08

Background:

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

I've also lived in Germany and Ireland.

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2. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

I am a Diplomat.

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

There is a new direct flight from Atlanta, 12 hours, everyone is happy! DC, to Germany, Lagos-18 hours.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Homes located throughout Victoria Island, Iokyi Island, can take up to an hour to get to Consulate. It's about a ten mile ride.

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

Household help is very inexpensive, about US$150 a month for full time help. Cost of living here is outrageous. Everything from house cleaners, to the price of cheese is extrememly high and this summer will be higher due to shortages.

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

Soft toilet paper, cleaning products, chocolate chips, baking goods. I would also ensure that all my dryer sheets are not packed with my food because the majority of my food arrived spoiled due to the packers.

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

There are no American/European chains. Indian, thai, pizza, Lebonese restaurants. Delievery is avaliable if you live in certain areas.

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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 that is slow and unpredictable. I order medicine months in advance, just so they arrive. We are all internet shopping addicts! When someone from work is going home, they usually offer to take mail. I've never shipped something from 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?

Abundant, cheap, don't hire a Nigerian. Hire someone from Benin, or Ghana.

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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?

NO. Tell anyone you're coming here and the first thing they say is, oh yeah, my mom/sister/cousin/best friend, all got ripped off by some Nigerian scam. This is the home of the pyramid scheme.

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

There are churches everywhere, I don't know anyone who goes to church due to transporation and the fear of robbery.

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

TV for us is all AFN, which is ok. You can buy a satelite for mostly British shows, sports. No English papers, or magazines. Occasionally, you can find magazines at the grocery stores, but they are about US$20 each.

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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, everyone speaks English.

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

The lack of paved roads, ramps for wheelchairs, not a modern city with accesible and safe ammenties.

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Transportation:

1. Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left?

Left, but in Lagos and in the parts of Nigeria I've visited, chaos reigns. There are motorcycles everywhere, cars in 12 different lanes when there's only 2, complete madness. It's extremely dangerous and like nothing you've ever experienced.

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

No public transportation. Motorcycles are avaliable for rides, but no one I know would DREAM on getting one for the fear of never being seen or heard from again.

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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?

I suggest an SUV, the rainy season can be very hard on cars. Car labor is extremely cheap and decent. Carjackings are quite common. NEVER drive at night on the Lekki.

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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?

Use the internet at work for everything. Nothing is safe at home. The internet is avaliable but is HORRIBLE.

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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 one when you first arrive, MTN, or GLO, the most popular. After I started working, I used that cell for all calls.

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3. What is the best way to make phone calls back home?

From work on the IVG line, or your cell.

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Pets:

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

There is a German vet who comes around, but she is never on time and may show up a week later for an appointment at your home. A friend took her dog to the vet and she did not like it and neither did the dog. I have my two dogs here and everything has been fine.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I think they're some jobs. I have friends who work for American owned companies here.

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

Work is business casual, I tend to dress very casual, sun dresses and sandals. A meeting you would dress up in heels and a suit. Men wear khakis and polos, cargo pants, suits for dresser events. A lot of people have national costumes/dresses made for when they attend national dinners.

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Health & Safety:

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

Unhealthy-Dust, smoke, smog.

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

Lagos has one of the highest crime rates in the world. Home invasions, car jackings, petty theft all issues we deal with daily.

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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?

Threat of malaria, typhoid, I've never been so sick in my life than in the last year here in Nigeria. I was medivac'd due to an issue that they could not resolve here at post. There are two hospital here, but I would not go there for anything. I would not even think about coming here if you have any health issues.

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

It's about 80 degrees all year round. Rainy season starts in April till August. August-March it's the harmatan.

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Schools & Children:

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

Everyone sends their children to the American International School. One friend sent her daughter to the Children's International School and her daughter would just refuse to go, she hated it.

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

I do not know.

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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 would not recommend bringing children to post due to the crime.

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Expat Life:

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

Really big because of all the oil people, I'd say several hundred. Everyone usually stays with the people they work with due to the distance and time it takes to get to peoples homes/events.

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2. Morale among expats:

It's like a roller coaster. One week we're all happy and going to parties, dancing at the clubs, the next week we're all thinking of ways to leave post. Again, Lagos, like everywhere is that you get what you put into the community. I love it here and then some days I want to go home to mama.

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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 some local clubs and restaurants, but again, they can be robbed at any second and sometimes are. I tend to go to house parties, and smaller events where I feel safe with the people I know. There are several balls throughout the year in the different communities, and those are a blast!

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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 a great post for couples and singles, lots of parties, beach trips, book clubs, tennis lessons. It's all about what you make it.

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

Nigerians frown upon open affection, but friends who are gay don't seem to have any issues.

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

Nigerians are very prejudice toward other Nigerians who are not from their tribe. Being a White women in this country is like being in the 1800's. Nigerian men don't want to talk to you directly, no manners, no respect.

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

House parties, swimming, private dance classes, tennis, dinner parties, beach trips, trips to Benin.

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

Africian goods such as paintings, masks, baskets, jewerly.

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9. Can you save money?

I guess, once you pay off the loan you took out to get here. You can if you make an effort, but the local economy is a killer on your wallet.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

If your only picture of Africa is the animals, safaris and lush mountains, then go to Kenya because NONE of that exsists in Nigeria. Negative comments, a bad attitude, the idea that because you are American and things don't work this way at home, LOL! Wake up this is a third world country, with third world problems.

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3. But don't forget your:

Games, liquor, grits, TV, books, Charlie's Soap, all the yummy American food you love.

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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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