Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo

Brazzaville, Republic of the Congo 01/29/20

Background:

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

No.

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

Travel from DC. Connect through Paris with a layover. DC to Paris is is six or seven hours, another seven hours to Brazzaville, and of course there is a layover.

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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.)?

State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Commutes are great. Not sure anyone has more than ten minutes. Having said that, this is not a post to come to for the housing. My house is great but others have more mixed experience, and the electrical work etc is pretty spotty. The current team has done a lot to improve it, and I sense things will only get better, but this is not the dream African post housing.

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

The local produce is not that great. But lots of imported frozen stuff. I have developed expertise at cooking frozen food.

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

Sad to say in this French colony, but you want to import wine. Wine here is expensive and of questionable quality.

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

People go to a number of restaurants. Middle Eastern, pizza, Chinese and surprisingly good Indian. There are few nice places with good food to sit by the river, stare at Kinshasa and eat nice fish, chicken and pizza. There are some gourmet French places, but Paris prices and not Paris quality.

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

Yes. If your yard has a lot of vegetation, and most do, you will find this a hassle when you are outside.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO and pouch. It works.

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

Very reasonable.

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

There is an embassy gym off-compound. Pretty basic. The Marines are generous about sharing their facilities on compound.

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

Credit cards not widely accepted. ATMs are rare.

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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?

French is the language here. Even at diplomatic receptions you should expect to speak French.

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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?

Everybody uses taxis, which is uncommon in Africa. No one has had problems.

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

Roads in the centre ville are fine, though there are pot holes. For driving out of town, you need four wheel drive. Car jacking is unheard of.

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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.

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

Embassy employess get a phone.

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Pets:

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

There are veterinarians of varying quality, but we have a good one. No quarantine.

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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?

Every spouse who has wanted a job during my time here has gotten a job. Some at pretty decent salaries on the local market.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Yes.

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

Formal.

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Health & Safety:

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

Crime is relatively low. People walk to restaurants, friends' houses, etc.

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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?

We all take malaria medication.

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

Good. This is a smaller city without too much traffic. At some times of year, during the dry season, there is a lot of dust.

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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)?

Not that I know of.

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

Hot and wet, hot and dry. I prefer the hot and wet (Sept-May).

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Schools & Children:

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

There is an American school, but there are very mixed reviews. Some use the French school. I would recommend against bringing kids here past age 12.

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Expat Life:

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

People like it here, perhaps because the community is so small, that people pull together.

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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 dinner parties, eating out, walking around town.

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

Good for all.

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

I don't think people get hassled; I have not heard people complain.

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

Yes, but outside the embassy community, French is a must.

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

Less than in most African countries.

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

Trips to the coast and to the beach. Seeing gorillas up north (expensive!) Good friends.

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

Nice handicrafts and low hassle.

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

Low crime. Among the safest African cities I have seen.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Importance of French.

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

Yes.

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

Warm clothing.

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4. But don't forget your:

Spirit of Adventure. Congolese are welcoming.

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