Pretoria, South Africa Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Pretoria, South Africa

Pretoria, South Africa 03/24/19

Background:

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

Second, after Mexico City.

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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?

Delta has a non-stop flight from Atlanta to Joburg (16 hours). South African Airways flies from DC (17 hours).

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years, 2012-2015

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

US embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Pretoria is a small city (400,000) and most of the embassy housing is within 15 minutes of the embassy, in Waterkloof, Menlo Park, or Monument Park. A few houses are further out. Houses are split between stand-alone and compound (3-6 houses sharing a common gate).

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

Groceries are slightly less expensive than in the US. Woolworths is a fantastic SA-run grocery + home chain which is omnipresent, and has a great abundance of high-quality and interesting fresh foods — think of a combo Trader Joe’s + Whole Foods.

We do use pouch mail a lot because US-imported goods (toys, electronics, books) can be expensive. However, nearly everything you want, you can get easily on the local economy here.

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

If you’re looking for great restaurants, go to Cape Town instead. In Pretoria, there is an abundance of mediocre family-friendly Italian chains. There is little-to-no ‘African’ food, except in a few restaurants catering to tourists, and that sold on the street in the downtown / townships. Most of the food at higher-end places is Afrikaner / European continental (lots of red meat, butter, and cream).

There are several pizza joints in Pretoria that will beat anything in the US for creativity (Toni’s; Piza e Vino). There is also a great Indian place (Geet).

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

Minor issues with ants. Very few mosquitoes (the country has nearly eradicated malaria). There are a lot of beautiful insects here — colorful grasshoppers, praying mantises, etc.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch mail takes about 10 days to get here from 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 pay $400 - $700/month for full-time help, which is on the upper end.

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

The Virgin club seems to be popular.

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

I use them all the time and have never had a problem. Some people have been scammed / held up at ATMs. The South African banking system is in many ways much more advanced than the US’s — for instance, it’s very common to send person-to-person instant payments electronically through your cell phone, and they have done this much longer than Venmo or PayPal.

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

No idea. Most people are some variety of Christian.

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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?

Nearly everyone speaks English. I took a course in Zulu, but in the end English is used universally. Afrikaans is still used heavily especially in the rural / agricultural white areas, but it is not a growing language and you would be unlikely to need it.

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

Pretoria is probably better than most cities, although not up to US standards.

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Transportation:

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

The Gautrain is a new (2012) high-speed train between Joburg, Pretoria, and the airport, which is fast, cheap, and safe. It doesn’t have very many stops, but is great if you’re going the right place.

There is also an older Metro rail system, which is cheaper but very slow (2 hours to Johannesburg, vs. 30 minutes on the Gautrain), and expats don't usually use it.

Traditional taxis are rare. In many cases you have to give them 24 hours notice, and even then, they’re liable to not show up. Uber came to Pretoria / Johannesburg in 2015 and was sorely needed.

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

We bought two used cars on the local economy. Toyotas and VWs are everywhere, and can be repaired easily. US imports (like Ford) are substantially more expensive to repair.

In general, cars here cost about 50% more than in the US (both used and new).

Driving is on the left side and it is uncommon import a vehicle from the US.

A 2WD is fine for regular city / highway driving, or for getting to the safari lodges. There is a big culture of 4WD off-roading here, and a 4WD could be used for self-drive safaris.

Driving at night is extremely unsafe, both because of road hazards and crime. Don’t get stranded or you are likely to be held up.

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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?

Reliable and fast DSL for $60/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?

Service is cheap and reliable on any of the major carriers (I use Vodacom). Bring an unlocked phone and buy a SIM card here.

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Pets:

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

There was a lot of paperwork to get our cats here, but they didn’t need quarantining. Vets are good, and similar to US standards and prices.

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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?

As a spouse, I found a job teaching at a major university in Pretoria which was a great opportunity. Several other spouses have gotten jobs in IT. Unemployment is high nationally, but there is still a shortage of skilled workers, so if you are a niche specialist, you might be in luck. Spouses of embassy hires are given work permits here.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There is much need for volunteerism (tutoring, cleanup, etc), although you might have to organize projects yourself. I did a lot of science outreach across the country in rural schools, and if you have the skills and inclination to put programs together, there is a virtually limitless audience. The US Embassy runs a science outreach library in one of the local townships as well (Mamelodi).

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

Many people dress up fashionably but many don’t.

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Health & Safety:

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

Definitely. Most expats live the way that well-off South Africans do: in fortified compounds, surrounded by electric fences, with alarms, gates, and security guards. We have never had a break-in but many people have. A lot of the crime is violent — it’s shootings and carjackings more than pickpocketing. We have seen a few smash-and-grabs and two guns being waved around; several of our neighbors have had break-ins. The embassy houses are very secure (better than the norm) assuming you are prudent and keep doors locked, alarms on, etc.

As a result of all this security, it is rare to see/meet our neighbors casually — most residents don’t walk on the streets and you don’t just bump into them.

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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?

Private hospitals are very good. I would happily have surgery 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?

Very clean air, with blue skies almost daily.

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

Pretoria is probably a good place to be. There are a lot of flowers in the spring.

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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)?

I got cabin fever from being locked up inside our compound a bit too much. I am not aware of anything major.

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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?

Pretoria is ‘pleasant’ — it gets below freezing a few times a year, and can be warm in the summer, but it's never humid. Pretoria itself is at an elevation of about 4500’. There is snow occasionally in the country's high peaks, but not in town.

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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 American International School has two campuses — one north of Joburg (K-12), and one on the east side of Pretoria (K-8). They are good schools -- not the best we have had internationally, but good teachers and solid management and facilities. The student body is mostly expats; compared to other schools here it’s very expensive and not many South Africans can afford it.

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

Private preschools are good and low-cost (few hundred dollars a month).

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

The University of Pretoria offers very intense sports training for kids, and has produced many world-class athletes.

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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 group here (between all the embassies and NGOs). People seem to be pretty happy.

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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?

Due to safety concerns, there is not a big culture of going out at night.

South Africa loves shopping malls, and a lot of people end up there socially, because they’re safe.

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

Good for families. For singles, it's hard to go out at night because of safety concerns.

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

Good I would think.

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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?

People are friendly and I knew many people socially from my work on the local economy.

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

You can’t do anything in South Africa without being very aware of the huge social disparity between black and white. Although apartheid ended 20+ years ago, the effects of this will live on for generations. In broad strokes, most white people (5-10% of the population) are educated and employed, while black schools are often very bad, and the black unemployment rate is extremely high.

While the vast majority of the country is legally open to everyone, in reality the economics are such that in many restaurants and hotels, it is still black employees serving rich white clientele.

Pretoria — the capital of the Afrikaner government — is more segregated than many cities. There are very few black home-owners in the areas where most expats live. Johannesburg is pleasantly more diverse.

There is a growing black middle class, and the university-educated black population is growing. But change takes a long time.

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

Definitely lots of safaris. It is a very outdoors-friendly country.

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

Safaris are really great and we have been on a lot of them. They are not cheap (figure $100-$300/person/night, even at the discounted prices for residents). But it’s an experience like nothing else, and we spent many, many weeks on safari.

While most of the safari parks are 4-6 hours from Pretoria, there are two smaller parks on the Pretoria outskirts where you can see (from your car) free-ranging giraffe, rhino, springbok, impala, eland, ostrich, oryx, blesbok, wildebeest, hippos, hundreds of birds, and more.

Pretoria itself is a little sleepy and we end up going to Johannesburg very frequently, for the restaurants / parks / museums / markets / etc.

Nationwide, SA is a diverse country, with beaches, diving, surfing, mountains, camping, wine tasting, caves, history, animals, rivers, telescopes, soccer, dunes, townships, and on and on. It’s a relatively large country (3x the size of California), so you won’t see it all.

Cape Town is a different world from Pretoria / Johannesburg. It’s the most cosmopolitan and touristy city in southern Africa, and maybe the most beautiful too. It can feel more Euro-glitzy than African. It's beautiful for a getaway, but Johannesburg is much more typical of African cities.

Johannesburg is 30 minutes away, has a lot of neighborhoods, and is a real African city with art, grime, food, industry, food, crime, and everything else in between.

South Africa is also a good jumping-off point for the rest of the region: we took trips to Namibia, Swaziland, and Madagascar, all of which are wildly different from South Africa.

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

Beaded animals and other local crafts. Wine.

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

It’s a beautiful country with a lot of change. There is a ton to see, the country is large, and there are a lot of engaging and diverse people.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I hadn’t appreciated the huge disparity between black and white that still exists — both socially and economically. It is jarring at first, and in the end you put up with it and do your part to make things better.

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

For sure.

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

Skiis.

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4. But don't forget your:

Heater; warm jacket.

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

Bang Bang Club, about journalists covering the transition from apartheid. Tsotsi (set in Joburg, and the Waterkloof suburb in Pretoria where many expats live).

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Pretoria, South Africa 06/01/18

Background:

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

Lahore, Mogadishu, Kuala Lumpur, Nairobi, Merida, Washington DC, and Riga.

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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 - 18 hour direct flight with an hour on the ground in Accra.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Three years.

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

Diplomats.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Nice house with a pool, but the pool can only be used for about 4 months of the year.

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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 it is massively expensive even with the exchange rate.

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

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

Tons of restaurants, malls, and Uber eats (to order in).

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

No.

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Daily Life:

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

There is no DPO so you are stuck with pouch and it seems like it takes ages. No.

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

Live-out mostly. Embassy staff have elevated salaries so expect to pay a very high amount.

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

Virgin Active. From just a gym to a corporate with swimming pool sauna etc., range varies from R400 - R2000.

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

They are, but not for anything online in South Africa. You need a local bank account which you can only open with a letter of residence and two hours at the bank.

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

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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?

Everyone speaks English, but if you have Afrikaner friends do not expect them to do so when you are with them. I gave up going to parties that I was invited to because others would slip into Afrikaans, and I did not feel respected as an English-speaking person.

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

I have no experience but have never noticed ramps or any other disability available actions around the city

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Transportation:

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

No. Only Uber.

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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?

Any car but you need to have "smash and grab" film installed. It seems like there are beggars at every stop light. There are constantly serious accidents. I have driven all over the world and to me, it is the most stressful place I have ever driven.

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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?

They just have Faiba, but it doesn't work properly for us and ADSL seems extremely slow.

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

If you don't have a local bank account and a job you cannot get a plan. However, for pay-as-you-go you still need a contract which means you need a letter of residence and a passport. Vodacom is the main carrier but their website never works for me and the staff do not seem helpful.

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Pets:

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

Yes. No quarantine, but they have to stay around three days at the airport for a vet certificate. You can't use the parks here because there is too much crime so it is not an easy place to walk them.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

I would stay away from any animal related activities, as I would be concerned about fronts for canned hunting.

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

Professional.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is a high crime post. You will have gates and security at your house that seem like Fort Knox. I do not feel safe leaving a door open, even when I am home. I would not walk anywhere 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?

Local doctors are awesome but it will cost you R400 just for the visit. Netcare hospitals are excellent. SA is the evacuation point for the rest of Africa. There is also the embassy health unit.

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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?

Terrible. Unless you are in Durban or Capetown there is bad pollution 100% of the time. I have had sinus problems from the day I arrived. If I drive to Joburg, I can see the pollution in the air.

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

It could be difficult for those who suffer from allergies.

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

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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?

The summer is hot from September to January and then it gets progressively cooler until July when you need coats and boots.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

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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?

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

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

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

Yes! There still seems to be extreme racism in the country and more so in Pretoria. It has made it very hard for us to live here.

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

Trips to the beach in Durban and whale watching in Hermanus. I have not been on safari as I am concerned there are unethical and corrupt practices with regard to wildlife in this country.

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

No.

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

No, not really. It's not like other Africa where there are handicrafts to buy. It is mostly shopping malls with chain stores.

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

None.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Everything. I did not realize the level of paperwork required to get one's car registered, get phone, internet, and much more. I really felt as though we were on our own navigating the bureaucracy. I have also felt that there is still much social inequality, and that was very difficult for me to see and live with. This has been a frustrating and emotionally draining experience for me, and I would not personally recommend it, unless one was to live in Durban or Capetown.

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

No. I was so excited to come here, but my understanding is that several friends and colleagues have left as they were very unhappy.

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

Everything. You can buy anything here.

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4. But don't forget your:

Over-the-counter medications as they are expensive here.

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

No.

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Pretoria, South Africa 01/24/18

Background:

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

No. I have lived in the United Kingdom, India, eastern Europe, and Afghanistan.

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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?

U.S. travel is via London or through Atlanta. The flight is overnight, then an onward flight.

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3. How long have you lived here?

19 months.

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

US embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We love our house. It is a stand-alone with a small splash pool. Housing here is generally spacious and well kept, with gardens and pools, sometimes stand-alone and sometimes in a compound (you can express your preferences to the housing board of course). Most houses have quarters for live-in staff as well. GSO is very responsive to service requests.



Most expats live in Waterkloof, Menlo Park, and Brooklyn, which are all convenient to restaurants and shops and parks. My commute is 10 minutes. Lynnwood and parts further east are closer to the American school, but your commute is 20+ minutes each way to work.

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

It's wonderfully cheap. The cost of our monthly grocery bill is an abiding relief to me as breadwinner. I noticed this when I spent 5 days TDY in Washington, and had constant sticker shock when I bought groceries. Local products are of high quality, particularly SA wines. Produce is fresh and seasonal, meat is delicious and totally unlike the bland stuff in the USA, and there is vibrant foodie scene. You can buy pretty much anything here. Imported U.S. goods are a bit expensive, so we use Target and Amazon for any minor gaps, like brownie mixes or stuff my kids crave.

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

I ship things like boxed foods (cake mixes etc) and Mexican chilis. These are not widely available.

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

I don't know of any cuisine that's missing here. The restaurant scene is good (and even better in Cape Town). There's fast food and pub grub and ethnic cuisine and fine dining. You can eat out a lot because prices are modest. You can get pizza and sushi delivered. It's basically Western Europe.

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Daily Life:

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

I use the pouch and it is fine. As an experiment, I used South African mail to send a few items to the USA. It took 4 weeks. I won't repeat the experiment, as pilfering is understood to be widespread. Note that shipping packages to the USA in the pouch means a very strict size limit (nothing larger than about a videotape-sized box). Don't assume that you can buy tons of souvenirs and ship them in a big box to family and friends.

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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, such as a live-in housekeeper, runs about $300 per month. A gardener's wages are about $20 a week. Babysitters and drivers are also very affordable.

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

There are good gyms -- Virgin Active is the most popular chain, and the Community Center has a free gym space to embassy employees.

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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 are widely accepted and this is safe, although your U.S. bank will continue to block transactions for several months, as SA is on an international watch list for transaction fraud. (Most Foreign Service people are familiar with this irritation.) ATMs are everywhere, though I use the one inside the embassy as it is safer. There is a great deal of ATM crime that I am mindful of every day.

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

Pretty much everything.

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

English is fine. You can learn a bit of Zulu, and then you'll find yourself with someone who speaks one of South Africa's ten other local languages.

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Transportation:

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

I use Gautrain between Pretoria and Joburg and the airport and it's great. But I don't use it at night. Buses, trams, trains and taxis are not a safe option. Some people use Uber regularly, but Uber drivers soemtimes face attacks by meter taxi drivers! There are trains between Pretoria/Joburg and Cape Town if you're looking for adventure. We did this 24 hour journey and it was a great experience.

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

You can't bring a car to post if it's not UK-style, right hand drive. Buy something here. There are many options in the diplomatic community.

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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?

You will discover that the state telecommunications monopoly, Telkom, is your nemesis, as their service is abysmal for installation and any maintenance problems. Urge your sponsors to try to get internet up and running in your residence before you get there. We keep Telkom because the internet bundle is with our land line, and residences are required to have it. We switched to Afrihost for cheaper, better data and lower rates.

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

I use the embassy-provided Blackberry. Smart phones and so forth are everywhere here -- you can set this up on arrival.

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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 significant regs. about pets. I know this only indirectly through friends with dogs. Consult GSO for the full story -- and brace yourself for South African bureaucracy, which is vast and unresponsive.

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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?

Local salaries aren't great unless you work in a corporate environment. Not many spouses do that. Most spouses rely on mission employment, but with the current freeze, they've struggled a bit. It is not a great situation. Self-employed spouses do better, as far as I have seen.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Anything you want. The needs are enormous.

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

Business casual/formal at work (depending on occasion and season). Dress in public is what you'd find in the USA. Formal dress is useful if your work involves representational events in the evening.

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Health & Safety:

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

Personal security concerns are the primary drawback to life here. Violent crime has surged. We live amid bars, barbed wire, guards and alarms and follow the Regional Security Officer's guidance every day. I don't go hiking alone, and I don't hike with a friend unless I know for sure the venue is secure. I never walk in the neighborhood after dark. This factor will be a big thing in your life here. You can manage it, but you can't avoid it.

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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?

No health concerns. No malaria. Medical care is extremely high quality and very affordable.

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

The climate is delightful. But winters (July and August) are genuinely cold especially as houses are not insulated and do not have central heating.

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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 international school with a campus in Pretoria and in Joburg. They are fine, if a bit boring and mission-statement-driven. My own kids preferred to avail themselves of local prep schools, of which there are many choices: Crawford Preparatory, St Mary's, Waterkloof House, and so on.

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

There are many offerings for kids, from ballet and hip hop dance to sports to summer camps a few hours away to riding and ziplining to arts and crafts. It's a big market here.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretoria is a big expat community, but also a big Afrikaans community. I think most diplomats recognize they live in a pretty quiet dormitory compared to Joburg and Cape Town. Morale is decent, because life here is easy and pleasant.

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

Families do well here. I think singles are often bored.

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

Racial tensions in South Africa are persistent and deeply felt. Just read the news. There is also a strong current of xenophobia against foreigners, though most of the targets of this are from other African countries.

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

There are unlimited opportunities for travel in South Africa. You'd better make a list and work on it early, or you'll find yourself running out of time to see everything in country and in the region. We love the game parks and the Indian Ocean coastline drives. And Stellenbosch. And Cape Town ... oh Cape Town.

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

You will have zero problem finding activities and diversions. Anyone with a taste for the outdoors will be thrilled. Foodies should hit the Saturday Hazelwood Market in Pretoria -- a great gathering of cooks and vendors. Bring a bottle of wine and sit under the trees sampling paella, sushi, kebabs, koeksesters, samosas... it's great.

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

Lots of handicrafts here. There is also a twice-yearly market called Kamers which features stuff a bit nicer than the usual street goods. Between Pretoria and Joburg there are several weekend markets that you can easily research online.

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

Comfortable small city with good resources and amenities. Don't confuse it with a real metropolis.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

I did not grasp quite how much a headquarters for Afrikaner culture Pretoria is. This is not how it is in the rest of the country. They still have political demos at the universities and schools about preserving the Afrikaans language.

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

I'm here for the work. The city is just a sunny background.

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

Fur coats and snow boots. It's cold but not that cold. And your expectations of customer service in the local economy, which is often dazzlingly bad.

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4. But don't forget your:

Favorite websites for ordering clothing and shoes. Offerings here, outside of high-end boutiques, leave a lot to be desired.

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

Winston Churchill's account of the Boer War, when he was imprisoned and escaped a Pretoria jail, is great reading!

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Pretoria, South Africa 10/31/14

Background:

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

Yes.

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

Washington DC, about 17 hours with a connection through Atlanta, GA.

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3. How long have you lived here?

4 months.

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

Spouse traveling with USG 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?

Housing here is pretty nice other than you can feel like you are in prison. There are electric fences on top of concrete walls around all housing units and bars on all windows. Doors have 3-6 locks on them and everyone takes a different key. Many of the housing units even have 24/7 guards posted at the main gate entrance. As for location, many are near local stores and the farther out houses are about 30 minutes or less commute time to the Embassy. Some are only 10 minutes away. There is a difference with how houses are constructed here compared to the U.S. They attempt to keep electrical outlets away from water sources so there are usually no outlets in the bathroom and your kitchen sink may be in the attached room called the scullery. All walls are concrete with limited electrical sockets and light switches that may require some trial and error to figure out what turns on and off with that switch.

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

Groceries vary in price with many things cheaper than in the States but then there are other items that are more expensive. As for availability, you can find most things here but there are some items that you will find it cheaper to order online.

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

I would suggest you talk with your sponsor. Share your shopping regularities and allow them the chance to provide with feedback. Many things are here but if like certain items, they may or may not be here and even if they are, they may be a little different than from what you are used to. Due to the mailing system (limited to 16oz of liquid per shipment) - I would recommend that you ship any liquids (liquid = anything that would leak if the container was damaged) that you consider a must. This would include peanut butter, canned vegetables, salad dressings, other sauces or condiments.

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

You can find just about everything imaginable here and the cost is usually cheaper than the States. If you like to eat out often, this place is a good place to live.

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

There are bugs here but none I would consider a problem. There are many flies that are persistent on landing on your head just like in the States. I hear about ants that show up after it rains but have yet to experience that for myself. And malaria is an issue when you travel to lower elevations but there is medication to prevent that problem.

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Daily Life:

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

Get a credit card without foreign transaction fees and use it everywhere. I do not use ATM's since we get all cash from the Embassy - it's safer.

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

Many Christian denominations can be found here.

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

None, English is widely used but not all English is the same. You will find it fun to discover the differences.

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

It would be challenging to live here with physical disabilities but not completely impossible. There are handicap parking spaces, handicap accessibility at most malls and some stores, and even elevators at some places. The issue would require learning where one with limits would have to go to accomplish the things that life requires. As for taking advantage of safaris and other great things to do here, most of them are not yet handicap friendly.

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Transportation:

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

The train is said to be safe and affordable. Buses and taxis are not to be used. In fact, taxis are dangerous and a threat to all who live in this country. Always keep your eye scanning for the crazy taxis - you will hear them coming - honk, honk, honk, all the time.

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

You can only import RHD (right hand drive) vehicles. As for what vehicle to purchase once here - there is no need to have a SUV, the roads are fine for all vehicles. An SUV would be of use for those individuals who are tall because many of the vehicles sold here are not as roomy as in the States.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Internet access is available with varying speeds available (1,2,4,10,20 Mbps). Cost can be considered more expensive since you are required to have a house phone and an adsl line which are provided by TELCOM (Government Owned Monopoly) and than you choose which ISP provider you want to pay for your internet access. In total, it will cost you about US$100 per month for the 4 Mbps which should be fast enough to let you stream online. Of course 10 and 20 Mbps are faster and cost more but are not available at all housing locations.

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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?

Work usually will provides one for the government employee. As for spouses, you can get a prepaid sim card for your phone or get a prepaid phone plan here. It cost less than the States but the plans are different, not all inclusive like in the U.S. Wi-Fi is available here but not the same as in the States - you usually need to pay for the data that you use from a "free" Wi-Fi location. This is accomplished with an add-on to your cell phone plan to cover your data usage over wi-fi.

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Health & Safety:

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

Poverty is very obvious here and with that comes people who will do what they need to survive. There is also a mindset here that if you have "it," you should give to those who don't have "it," therefore you need to be mindful of where you are and what is going on around you. This place is really no different than any major city in the U.S. but I would say that you need to avoid certain areas because the crime rates here are higher than most U.S. cities.

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2. 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 good to very good in my opinion. Someone who is sensitive to dust may have issues but overall I think most will find it more than acceptable here.

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

Seasons are reverse compared to the U.S. It gets cool during the winter evenings/mornings but very nice during the daytime and the summer days are very comfortable without the humidity. The only hot you will feel is from the sun shining on your skin, the sun is stronger due to the elevation. Another plus is there is very little rain (so far) which means there are always outside activities to enjoy. The downside to a lack of rain is the dust in the air. Not so much dust that you can see it in the air, just dust that shows up on the surface of everything, inside and outside of your house.

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Expat Life:

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

Not sure of size because it is spread throughout the city. As for morale, there is not a community feel here since there is much to do. The housing areas are all U.S. personnel but each one kind of does his or her own thing, much like it is in the States. So it is what you make it. The Embassy does offer events and outings to give you a chance to gather and enjoy life together.

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

This place has everything you need to make life happen. Stores do close earlier than in the States so this does require everyone to make adjustments but again I think everyone can make this place a good city to live in.

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

It is obvious that gay/lesbian people live here and there are businesses that cater to that clientele.

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

There are racial issues here.

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

Safaris, of course. There is many places to go to check out the wildlife and country landscape. It can keep you busy for your whole tour.

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

Weather.

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7. Can you save money?

You can always save money regardless of where you live. Saving is a choice. I save because I hope to retire and retirement is not free.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

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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:

Your expectation of timely response. It can takes weeks or months to get paperwork processed with the local government offices.

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4. Do you have any other comments?

I agree with the Post from January 2012 - well written.

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Pretoria, South Africa 06/13/12

Background:

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

4th expat experience. Have lived in the former Soviet Union, Israel, South Asia.

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

4th expat experience. Have lived in the former Soviet Union, Israel, South Asia.

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3. 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. 20 hours via the direct Delta flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta with a connecting flight to Washington, or about 17 hours direct from Johannesburg to IAD on South African Airways (United codeshare).

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4. 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. 20 hours via the direct Delta flight from Johannesburg to Atlanta with a connecting flight to Washington, or about 17 hours direct from Johannesburg to IAD on South African Airways (United codeshare).

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5. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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6. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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

Embassy employee.

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

Embassy employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Housing is great here. Large houses in the suburbs of Pretoria. Most expats live in Brooklyn, Waterkloof, Waterkloof Ridge, or Menlyn Park. Shops are nearby, but due to security concens and the lack of sidewalks it is necessary to drive. The Embassy housing pool has both "stand-alone" houses and compound housing. The stand-alone houses are sometimes bigger and have much bigger yards, many with pools. Compounds consist of gated communities with a guard and anywhere from 4-10 houses. A few gated communities have pools, and yards are small. Houses are huge and almost all have maids' quarters and ample storage space. The commute time is great -- about 10 minutes for us. The longest commute takes about 25-30 min. Traffic is not bad at all here.

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

Housing is great here. Large houses in the suburbs of Pretoria. Most expats live in Brooklyn, Waterkloof, Waterkloof Ridge, or Menlyn Park. Shops are nearby, but due to security concens and the lack of sidewalks it is necessary to drive. The Embassy housing pool has both "stand-alone" houses and compound housing. The stand-alone houses are sometimes bigger and have much bigger yards, many with pools. Compounds consist of gated communities with a guard and anywhere from 4-10 houses. A few gated communities have pools, and yards are small. Houses are huge and almost all have maids' quarters and ample storage space. The commute time is great -- about 10 minutes for us. The longest commute takes about 25-30 min. Traffic is not bad at all here.

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

Nice grocery stores stocked with everything are located in all neighborhoods. Groceries seem to be a bit cheaper than in the US if you buy South African goods. American brands are available and are a bit more expensive, but not outrageous.

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

Nice grocery stores stocked with everything are located in all neighborhoods. Groceries seem to be a bit cheaper than in the US if you buy South African goods. American brands are available and are a bit more expensive, but not outrageous.

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

I would have left some things back in the US as everything is available here.

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

I would have left some things back in the US as everything is available here.

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

Everything -- McDonald's is here and seems to be the same price as the US. Cinnabon is here, and South Africa has there own fast food. There are many choices of restaurants in Pretoria and Jo-burg -- some of which are excellent. Prices are lower than the US. There is a lack of independent restaurants and most are part of large South African chains, but quality is good. It costs about $25 for a casual dinner for 2 including wine or beer.

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

Everything -- McDonald's is here and seems to be the same price as the US. Cinnabon is here, and South Africa has there own fast food. There are many choices of restaurants in Pretoria and Jo-burg -- some of which are excellent. Prices are lower than the US. There is a lack of independent restaurants and most are part of large South African chains, but quality is good. It costs about $25 for a casual dinner for 2 including wine or beer.

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

Organic foods are available everywhere and are much cheaper than in the US. Gluten-free products and diabetic products are freely available.

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

Organic foods are available everywhere and are much cheaper than in the US. Gluten-free products and diabetic products are freely available.

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

There are hardly any issues with insects, other than ants that come after the rains in the summer.

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

There are hardly any issues with insects, other than ants that come after the rains in the summer.

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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. But they say the post works well here.

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

Diplomatic pouch. But they say the post works well here.

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

Expats pay about US$300-$500 dollars/ month for a full-time, live in housekeeper/ nanny.

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

Expats pay about US$300-$500 dollars/ month for a full-time, live in housekeeper/ nanny.

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

Yes. Excellent gyms -- most more spacious than the gyms in metro areas of the US. I pay about $50/month for a gym with a huge selection of cardio equipment, free weights, and 2 pools.

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

Yes. Excellent gyms -- most more spacious than the gyms in metro areas of the US. I pay about $50/month for a gym with a huge selection of cardio equipment, free weights, and 2 pools.

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

ATM machines are everywhere. If they are in malls or in lighted areas they are safe. Be careful about using them at night in dark areas. Credit cards are accepted everywhere and I use a card for all purchases here.

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

ATM machines are everywhere. If they are in malls or in lighted areas they are safe. Be careful about using them at night in dark areas. Credit cards are accepted everywhere and I use a card for all purchases here.

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

Yes -- in many different religions.

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

Yes -- in many different religions.

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

DSTV is available and has 100s of English channels (different packages available). I think I pay about $70/month for the "premium" package 100s of English-language channels and movies.

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

DSTV is available and has 100s of English channels (different packages available). I think I pay about $70/month for the "premium" package 100s of English-language channels and movies.

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

None. English is spoken by all.

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

None. English is spoken by all.

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

I've noticed many public buildings and restaurants have handicap access. All of the malls are accessable.

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

I've noticed many public buildings and restaurants have handicap access. All of the malls are accessable.

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Transportation:

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

Available, but they say they are not too safe. Taxis aren't readily available but there are 1 or 2 companies that you can call. Unfortunately they take 45 min to an hour to come. There is a new high-speed train called the "Gautrain" that connects Pretoria to Jo-burg and the airport. This is safe, inexpensive, and fast.

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

Available, but they say they are not too safe. Taxis aren't readily available but there are 1 or 2 companies that you can call. Unfortunately they take 45 min to an hour to come. There is a new high-speed train called the "Gautrain" that connects Pretoria to Jo-burg and the airport. This is safe, inexpensive, and fast.

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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?

You can't import a vehicle from the US because South Africa is right-hand-drive. Vehicles are very expensive here, both new and used. But it is what it is. Resale value is high and car values don't depreciate much here so you can sell it for close to what you paid for it if you service it regularly.

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

You can't import a vehicle from the US because South Africa is right-hand-drive. Vehicles are very expensive here, both new and used. But it is what it is. Resale value is high and car values don't depreciate much here so you can sell it for close to what you paid for it if you service it regularly.

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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, expensive because Telkom has a monopoly and you need to lease a phoneline for the Internet and pay a monthly fee. This comes to over $70/month for a so-so connection. It's reliable though.

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

Yes, expensive because Telkom has a monopoly and you need to lease a phoneline for the Internet and pay a monthly fee. This comes to over $70/month for a so-so connection. It's reliable though.

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

You need one. They are readily available here.

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

You need one. They are readily available here.

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Pets:

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

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

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

Short sleeves and khakis in the summer, a bit more formal in the winter.

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

Short sleeves and khakis in the summer, a bit more formal in the winter.

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. Things are very nice here and the crime rate has dropped, but there are still break-ins and carjackings. Expats are not targeted, but things happen. This doesn't stop us from going out, but no one stays out too late at night and we all live in fortresses with electric fences and alarm systems.

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

Yes. Things are very nice here and the crime rate has dropped, but there are still break-ins and carjackings. Expats are not targeted, but things happen. This doesn't stop us from going out, but no one stays out too late at night and we all live in fortresses with electric fences and alarm systems.

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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?

Not many. SA has the best health care on the continent, too.

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

Not many. SA has the best health care on the continent, too.

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5. 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?

Very good. There is no pollution in Pretoria, clear almost every day.

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6. 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?

Very good. There is no pollution in Pretoria, clear almost every day.

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

They say South Africa has the best weather in the world. Seasons are opposite those in the US with winter from June-August, Spring in September, summer from October-April, and Autumn in May. Winters are mild with highs of 65-70 F. degrees during the day and lows of 35-45 F. at night. Summers are great -- no humidity, highs of 80 F., and lows of 65-70 at night. It only rains here for a few minutes a day in the summer. Winter is the dry season and we have blue sunny skies every day.

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

They say South Africa has the best weather in the world. Seasons are opposite those in the US with winter from June-August, Spring in September, summer from October-April, and Autumn in May. Winters are mild with highs of 65-70 F. degrees during the day and lows of 35-45 F. at night. Summers are great -- no humidity, highs of 80 F., and lows of 65-70 at night. It only rains here for a few minutes a day in the summer. Winter is the dry season and we have blue sunny skies every day.

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Schools & Children:

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

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

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

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

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5. 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?

Many preschools scattered around town-- close to either home or work. Embassy families put their kids in several different preschools. Most are very good.

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6. 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?

Many preschools scattered around town-- close to either home or work. Embassy families put their kids in several different preschools. Most are very good.

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

Yes, many. Inside and outside of schools. Swimming lessons are also available.

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

Yes, many. Inside and outside of schools. Swimming lessons are also available.

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Expat Life:

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

Large but not cohesive.

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

Large but not cohesive.

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3. Morale among expats:

OK. It's a great place to live, but sometimes the work could be dull and cause morale to be low, depending on what agency you are with and which sector you work in. If you are interested in HIV/AIDs work, its the place to be. If you are interested in other development or political issues, not much going on and this isn't a priority for the US. However, it is a regional hub and if your agency/supervisor is not retired in place. it makes the work fulfilling and morale is better.

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4. Morale among expats:

OK. It's a great place to live, but sometimes the work could be dull and cause morale to be low, depending on what agency you are with and which sector you work in. If you are interested in HIV/AIDs work, its the place to be. If you are interested in other development or political issues, not much going on and this isn't a priority for the US. However, it is a regional hub and if your agency/supervisor is not retired in place. it makes the work fulfilling and morale is better.

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

So much to do -- restaurants, etc.

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

So much to do -- restaurants, etc.

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

Good for families. Probably hard for singles. Although there is a lot to do, everything closes early and there doesn't seem like there is much of a singles scene here.

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

Good for families. Probably hard for singles. Although there is a lot to do, everything closes early and there doesn't seem like there is much of a singles scene here.

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

Probably. There are openly gay South Africans and Americans here.

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

Probably. There are openly gay South Africans and Americans here.

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

Yes. There is a rough history with race issues and the culture is still fragmented.

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

Yes. There is a rough history with race issues and the culture is still fragmented.

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

Safaris, trips to Cape Town, sightseeing in Victoria Falls

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

Safaris, trips to Cape Town, sightseeing in Victoria Falls

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

Safaris, lion park, monkey sanctuary, elephant orphanage, trips to Capetown, wine tours, nice hotels, shopping, hiking, swimming, bird watching.

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

Safaris, lion park, monkey sanctuary, elephant orphanage, trips to Capetown, wine tours, nice hotels, shopping, hiking, swimming, bird watching.

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

Crafts, art, world-class safari lodges.

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

Crafts, art, world-class safari lodges.

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

Endless recreational opportunities. There is so much to do. Domestic and international travel is reasonable due to various low-cost airlines operating out of Johannesburg.

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

Endless recreational opportunities. There is so much to do. Domestic and international travel is reasonable due to various low-cost airlines operating out of Johannesburg.

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21. Can you save money?

Some, but there is so much to do that it is hard.

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22. Can you save money?

Some, but there is so much to do that it is hard.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, although do some research on your job and boss if you work for the USG. This place isn't known for great management.

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

Yes, although do some research on your job and boss if you work for the USG. This place isn't known for great management.

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

consumables and wine. Everything is available here. SA wine is great and affordable.

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

consumables and wine. Everything is available here. SA wine is great and affordable.

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5. But don't forget your:

Fall jackets and sweaters. Although it is mild and not as bad as Washington DC winters, we still have winter and it gets chilly at night.

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6. But don't forget your:

Fall jackets and sweaters. Although it is mild and not as bad as Washington DC winters, we still have winter and it gets chilly at night.

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


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8. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:


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


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10. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:


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11. Do you have any other comments?

Although this is Africa, you can have a real life here, and life is similar to working and living in the Washington, DC area. There is a huge expat presence but there is no real sense of community so you need to make your own friends and find your own circles.

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12. Do you have any other comments?

Although this is Africa, you can have a real life here, and life is similar to working and living in the Washington, DC area. There is a huge expat presence but there is no real sense of community so you need to make your own friends and find your own circles.

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Pretoria, South Africa 12/08/09

Background:

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

2nd expat experience.

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

Maryland, 15 hours through Frankfurt.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year.

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

Associated with the US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Suburban housing mostly for embassy personnel now tending to be compound. Compounds have 3-6 houses, with electric fence and a 24hr guard. The guards really help to deter criminals.

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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 pretty much available with the exception of a few things like Mexican food.

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

Salsa.

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

Lots, from McDonald's and KFC, to Cinnabuns, all a bit cheaper than the US. I wouldn't eat at a fast-food joint though. There is so much good food for $10-20. Lunch-time special: 500g T-bone with fries and beer for $7.50.

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

Some flies, nothing much else.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch is very limited outgoing (VHS tape).

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

Pretty inexpensive, around 100R a day for a non-live-in.

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

Yes, very many, very well equipped, a bit cheaper than in the US.

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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?

Available throughout, security is always a concern.

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

Yes, I think everything is represented.

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

Around $40 for 200 channels via DSTV dish. Good movie channels, almost all in English. People spend lots of time at home. newspapers are in english but the content is sub-par.

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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?

Not much, everybody speaks English.

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

Since everything is a drive away, it would depend on your transport. The big malls have handicap access.

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Transportation:

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

Not safe.

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

Right-hand only nowadays. A small sedan is sufficient for most things. If you really want to go off-road in your own vehicle, Toyota Landcruisers seem to be the best.

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Phone & Internet:

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

Expensive, capped for total download and speed. Around $34/month for a slow 5GBs ADSL.

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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?

Cheap options, prepaid or with a plan.

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Pets:

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

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

Yes, very good, very inexpensive. Pets also help with feeling safer at home.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

There are some opportunities in aid organizations.

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

Semi-formal at work, relaxed in public.

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Health & Safety:

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

Very healthy in general.

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

Always a concern, day-to-day patterns change, people should be alert (on edge) all the time. The security concerns make it a drive-around city, with few places to walk around (the mall, botanical garden, etc.). One can also walk around the safer neighborhoods in early morning and evening. If you are somewhat alert all the time, and observe all the security precautions, you should be fine.

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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?

Health care is very good, very inexpensive. AIDS affects at least 25% of the population, so it's a very big problem. Unprotected sex is out of the question.

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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?

Perfect weather, dry, almost always t-shirt weather. Winters require a sweater.

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Schools & Children:

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

I don't have any experience with the schools but I heard they were pretty adequate.

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

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

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

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Expat Life:

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

Large, lots of diplomatic missions.

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2. Morale among expats:

Medium to low.

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

Lots of braais (barbecues), going out for dinner, movies, mall-related activities, some bars. For good nightlife, people go to Johannesburg or Cape Town for the weekend.

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

Better for families than singles. Much of life happens inside the home or at the mall. There are some clubs, but nothing great. For the good nightlife people go to Johannesburg. A lot more variety there, and people tend to be more friendly. The drive is a pain though, and dangerous at night because of all the drunk drivers.

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

I think there are limited options. Johannesburg offers a lot more options.

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

Yes, lots under the surface. The city is the Afrikaans stronghold of the country so it tends to be more segregated. There aren't many straight-forward examples of racism, but the feeling is always there. Not many interracial couples.

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

Safaris, lots of stunning, unique outdoor destinations, Cape Town, Namibia. Touristic areas are very well managed, relatively inexpensive and really impressive. Most parks are accessible via sedan, 4X4 are also useful. The food is amazing, and still pretty cheap.

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

Lots of trinkets from all over Africa at the Rosebank mall.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Eating in is almost as expensive as eating out.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, it takes a bit to get used to the security situation, but once you're at peace with that and you travel outside Pretoria, it's totally worth it.

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

Heavy coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

A1 steak sauce. Outdoor equipment (though it is cheap to buy here).

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Lethal Weapon 2 :)

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Pretoria can be a bit harder for a single person, but if you get out enough you will find some interesting spots.

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Pretoria, South Africa 08/01/09

Background:

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

This is not my first expat experience. Our family has also lived in Paris as diplomats, and I have lived in France, Ecuador and Mexico before marrying.

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2. How long have you lived here?

July 2007 to present.

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

There are direct flights from several US cities to Johannesburg (the nearest airport). There are also several connecting flights through several European cities.

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

Spouse of State Department employee.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have a lovely old single-family home with a large yard and swimming pool. There are several different neighborhoods where embassy people are housed and they are all nice. The embassy has been trying to bring newcomers into cluster/compound houses for security reasons and will move people in single-family units if they request and there is availability. Architecture is unique here and the older houses have personality. Newer houses have the benefit of modern comforts (heated floors, fancy kitchens,etc), but will have smaller yards and there have been numerous complaints about shoddy building materials. Most commutes are about 15-30 minutes. Pretoria is an easy city to get around in; traffic is never terrible unless you are traveling from Pretoria to Johannesburg or vice versa.

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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 many fruit and vegetable markets around town that I use and find great produce at great prices. Grocery stores are modern and the prices are less than what you'd pay in the States. There are a few 'super' stores that sell a bit of everything (like our WalMarts).

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

Children's toys -the quality is not great here and prices are too high) and shoes (again, problem with quality vs. price).Electronics and books are much more expensive here than in the States.

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

McDonald's and KFC are all around. There are also local fast-food places for pizza, burgers, etc. Many restaurants cater to kids and have indoor/outdoor playgrounds where kids play while parents eat and relax. Pretoria is also coming around with great up-scale restaurants. You can find just about everything and the prices are quite reasonable. We've been very pleased with restaurants here.

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

Insects? I've been wondering where they are hiding. The houses don't have screens and now I know why - you can leave your windows open all day and you won't have any unwanted visitors. That being said, there is a slight increase in flies and bees in the warmest month. Our house also has its share of grasshoppers, but considering the large yard and abundance of fauna surrounding us, the insects are minimal.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the embassy pouch.

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

There is an overabundance of 'unskilled' labor looking for housekeeper/gardener work. Be careful - the South African work ethic is not great and there have been many complaints about attitudes, trust, etc. We have had great luck with our housekeeper (we have a live-in) and not such great luck with gardeners. There is always a list of domestic workers with experience among embassy families circulating in the CLO office.

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

Yes, there are several top-notch gyms. And there are also at least two nature reserves within the city where you can hike or mountain bike any day of the week - and it is safe.

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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?

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

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

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

There are too many local languages to count, but luckily English is one of them and I've yet to meet anyone here that doesn't speak enough of it to at least communicate. Most domestic workers can speak about 4-6 languages; it's pretty impressive actually. I've tried several times to learn one of the many 'black' languages and it's nearly impossible to find classes with enough enrollment. I always thought it would be useful and interesting from a cultural perspective, but not, it's not at all necessary.

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

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Transportation:

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

Not safe.

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

We have a little car for zipping around the city and a larger SUV for those weekend get-aways. Roads here are fantastic and you really don't need an SUV unless you like off-road travel; even so, you could always rent an SUV for that special get-away. This is a great country for road trips, so get something that is comfortable and reliable.

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Phone & Internet:

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

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

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Pets:

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

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

Great vets and kennels. Many, many people have dogs; cats are not as common but they are certainly around. South Africans are proud of their connection with animals and nature, and this not only reflects in their safari and tourism industry, but in their love of pets, too.

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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?

Wages are very low, but there are opportunities. The embassy has a SNAP program here.

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

Fairly casual. Local men commonly wear shorts (very short sometimes!) and sandals. Women tend to put a bit more effort into their looks.

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Health & Safety:

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

We find the air quality good here. Most days are quite clear. People can have seasonal allergy problems, though.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

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

Yes, of course. But I've lived in other places where the security is just as bad or worse and the other quality of life factors can't compare. There are no guarantees anywhere anymore, are there?In South Africa, follow the RSO guidelines, be aware, and don't put yourself out as a target (keep your purse hidden in the car, don't leave your cell phone lying around, etc.).We feel great peace of mind by having dogs at our house.

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

Medical care is outstanding here. I have had better care here in some cases than in the States. We have used several local doctors as well as the emergency room services of our local hospital for weekend pediatric concerns and they are quick, efficient and affordable. Dental and orthodontic work is much cheaper, and this IS the place to come (so they say!) for plastic surgery.

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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?

I doubt there are many places in the world that could beat Pretoria's weather. It's supposed to have the best weather in South Africa and it's certainly the best among anywhere I've ever lived/traveled. Almost year-round sunny days with afternoon temps in the 60s-80s. Summers can get hot, but with low humidity, it doesn't feel so bad. Winter mornings and evenings are chilly but we've rarely needed more than an extra sweater and scarf. The winters are VERY dry and you'll want a good moisturizer and lip balm.

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Schools & Children:

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

I have two kids at the Pretoria branch of the American International School and this has got to be the best school in the world! The atmosphere at the school is warm and nurturing and even though it seems like they are only having fun, the kids are really learning! The teachers and staff know each kid individually and they make every child feel special. You'd have a hard time finding anyone with something negative to say about this school. I'd keep my kids here forever if I could.

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

My elementary school children do have special needs and I know from first-hand experience that they are in a phenomenal place. The school administrators have been very creative and intuitive and worked with me to put together a support system and program that is better than anything I could get in the States. If you have special needs elementary age children, I would highly recommend you look into the Pretoria branch of AISJ; coming here was one of the best choices we made for our children. I do not have any information on special needs accommodations for older children at the main AISJ campus or the other international schools in Pretoria. There are also several schools and resources for more severe special needs. I've found the knowledge and expertise of therapists to be as good as in the States in most cases.

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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 have had my youngest in two of the local preschools here and both have been fantastic. There are many to chose from - you have several 'international' preschools were many of the diplomats send their children, and, because English is the most common spoken language, you also have the option of neighborhood schools. My daughter is in a neighborhood school that is top-notch and it's been a great way for us to feel more connected with South Africans.

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

There is a huge sports culture here - rugby is the main sport (not big in the U.S.), but you can find everything else, too. There are great opportunities for kids and adults to challenge themselves with bike races, 5K runs, open dam swims, etc.

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Expat Life:

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

Large; South Africa is a huge hub for all of Africa for many embassies, so there are lots of diplomats here. Plus, there are many NGOs working on AIDS and other regional issues.

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2. Morale among expats:

It really depends. Our circle of friends are extremely positive and we know we've found a gem of a place to be posted. Others, though, are scared off by threat of crime.

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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?

The main activity are backyard bbq's (called braiis).With young kids, we have lots of social events revolving around birthday parties, swimming invitations, etc. This is also a great place for adults to socialize over a game of golf, tennis, or anything sports-related.

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

Singles may have the hardest time of any group here, particularly single women, because of the security concerns. This has been a paradise for our family with young children - there is so much to do with the kids and the weather makes it easy to be outside all day.

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

I really can't say. I imagine it would be OK in Pretoria, but Johannesburg is definitely more liberal and open-minded.

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

Well, you wouldn't want to consider a posting in South Africa unless you know something about apartheid and South African history in general. It's only been about 15 years since apartheid ended and changing attitudes doesn't happen overnight. There isn't just a black/white issue either - there are issues between white British descendants and white Dutch (Afrikaaner) descendants and there are numerous black tribes that come into conflict with one another. Add to that some recent flare-ups of xenophobia attacks in the townships where South African blacks are attacking black immigrants from neighboring countries, and yes, you definitely have racial and other tensions. But overall, the people are trying to find one 'South African' identity, and the 2010 World Cup is really bringing the nation together.

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

Safaris, diamond mines, archeological sites, mountain biking and hiking, great zoos, beaches...too many things to mention. You can't possibly get bored here. The real problem is narrowing down your choices to do/see everything during your tour.

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

Lots of 'African' crafts - some are from South Africa, others are imported from other African countries.

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9. Can you save money?

If you do, you're missing out. South Africa really knows how to pull off tourism; don't miss out!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely. This will probably always be one of our favorite posts.

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

Heavy winter clothes and your idea that this is hard-core Africa. You will be confused and think you are in Europe half the time. You can chose how much you want to surround yourself in the diplomatic, Westernized lifestyle or how far into the bush or rural life you want to go.

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3. But don't forget your:

Open mind, sense of adventure, sunscreen!

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

The Covenant by James Michener. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay).

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

The Covenant by James Michener. The Power of One (Bryce Courtenay).

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Pretoria has had some difficulty filling positions at post because of some negative comments and opinions. We personally feel this is a fantastic posting. You have the standard of living that is equal to the US or Europe with the benefits of developing country living, such as large housing and domestic help. Plus good weather and English speakers all around.... the plusses have far outweighed the minuses for us.

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Pretoria, South Africa 02/28/09

Background:

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

This is my fourth overseas posting.

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2. How long have you lived here?

3 years, 2006 to 2009.

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

There is now a direct flight from Dulles to Johannesburg at about 15 hours. There is also a direct flight from Atlanta, which is a little longer. Flights to and from Europe take about 10 to 12 hours.

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

Posted with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

The Embassy is moving people onto compounds with 24-hour guards and will probably get rid of most of the stand alone houses in the housing pool. Unfortunately, the compounds often do not have very big yards, play areas for kids or swimming pools. Some of the compounds have newly built homes and tend to have a number of U.S. Embassy families living on the same compound.

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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 that are similar to items for sale in the States, but there are no Cheerios! All kinds of meat (chicken, lamb, beef, pork, ostrich) and especially fruits and veg are available and cheaper than the States. Prices are per kilo, so sometimes people don't realize that they are paying less--for example, US$8 for 2.2 pounds of lamb! Laundry soap is a bit harsh on the clothes. Cleaning products are generally good but bring your own ziploc bags and plastic wrap. There is an adequate supply of shampoos, soaps, toothpaste for sale. Pick N Pay is cheaper than Woolworths, but Woolworths carries a lot of good quality pre-packaged appetizers, pasta salads, and ready made meats and meals that are still cheaper than the States.

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

Laundry soap, good coffee, Mexican foods (salsa, tortilla chips, black beans, etc.) but you can order most of these through Amazon or Netgrocer.

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

Everything fast food is available (McDonald's, KFC, Steers, Nandos, pizza places).The cost is about the same or a little cheaper than the States.

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

Pretoria is free of malaria. Travelers to certain parts of Kwazulu Natal (where Kruger National Park is located) should take anti-malarials.

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Daily Life:

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

The Embassy has a pouch system to get mail. You can send letter sized mail and merchandise received through the pouch for returns. If you must send a box, the South African system will get it there but it will cost you a lot of money and may be pilfered.

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

Day maids go for about 120 Rand a day (US$12) while live-ins go for anywhere between 1500 and 2000 Rand a month (US$150 to 200).The Embassy folks tend to over pay their maids and any maid you consider hiring will always tell you they want over 2000 Rand a month.

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

There is a Virgin Active Gym that is frequented by Embassy folks.

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

I've never had a problem with fraud when using a credit card or an ATM, however, there are loads of ATM scams so use the one at the Embassy or inside a bank.

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

There are people of all religious backgrounds here.

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

There are several newspapers and satellite TV programming is available. Without satellite (about 80 USD per month plus equipment costs and installation), there are only 4 channels available. Keep in mind you need a PAL TV.

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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 spoken everywhere. It is nice to pick up some of the local language though as it is appreciated.

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

There are wheel chair ramps and elevators in most malls and bigger hotels but there are often spotty sidewalks. You do see disabled people in wheelchairs but they likely only go places where they know are facilities. Some hotels have disabled friendly rooms, especially in Cape Town.

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Transportation:

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

The Gautrain is not safe and the local taxis (mini buses) are not safe either. There are very few private taxis in Pretoria and if you call, they may come in an hour or not at all.

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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?

Driving is on the left so importing a left hand drive vehicle is not advisable and can be dangerous. Plus, now you must ship out any imported left hand drive vehicles on leaving. Buying a car here is expensive but there is no way around it. A 4x4 is not essential but it might make your life easier if you want to do self-drive safari or explore the more rugged areas of South Africa. There are major car dealers (Toyota, BMW, Volvo, Land Rover, etc.) and repair shops in Pretoria.

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Phone & Internet:

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

There is ADSL available but the cost is high compared to the U.S. as you pick a plan depending on how many gigs you will use a month. There are constant improvements and new start-ups offering better service than the telephone company but ultimately, the telephone company owns all the ADSL lines in the country and it can take upwards of 20 days to get your service hooked 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?

Everyone has a cell phone here and it is essential for safety. Most employees get their dependents pre-paid cell phones which run anywhere from US$20 on up. Embassy employees are issued cell phones.

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Pets:

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

Yes. There are numerous reports of pets being in quarantine for a month or more and the vet check is extensive. We know some people whose pets were not admitted to the country after arriving.

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

There are vets and kennels here. Some people prefer to ship their own dog food though.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Not really but there is a coordinator for this at the Embassy. The wages are very low compared to the States.

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

Same as a big city in the U.S. Men and women wear suits to work. In non-work settings, it is very casual and similar to dress in the States.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate. During the winter, which is the dry season, there can be a lot of dust. There are a lot of people with allergies here as the flora is totally different from the U.S. and there are flowers and trees everywhere.

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2. What immunizations are required each year?

Typical DOS immunizations.

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

Crime is very real here. There is everything from crimes of opportunity to home invasions that result in murders and rapes. You must always be aware of your surroundings and take precautions on entering and leaving your home or while about town. Homes are equipped with alarm systems linked to local security companies, barred windows, electric fences and safe havens. If you believe you can't function in this type of high crime environment or are especially fearful of becoming a victim of crime, this is not the place for you.

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

The quality of medical care is much better than in the States. I had surgery here and the doctors gave you quality time and are genuinely concerned. The hospitals are good and the staff is also professional. The price tag for anything medical is much cheaper than the States as well.

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

The weather here is great!Winter is typically April through mid-October with the weather being dry and cooler (mid 40's at night is the coldest it ever seems to get with daytime highs in the 60's and 70's). Summer is the wet season with sometimes torrential rains in the afternoons but usually very beautiful blue skies and good, warm weather during the day and even warm at night (daytime highs in the 80's and 90's).

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Schools & Children:

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

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

I know that there are special needs kids in the Embassy community but I cannot comment on the quality of education they receive. There are enough Afrikaaners with special needs kids here that I am sure there are teachers and tutors qualified to teach.

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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 have a pre-schooler in the Rainbow Montessori. The school has two campuses and several teachers and assistants. There are pre-schools in most neighborhoods.

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

There are afterschool programs affiliated with the schools.

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Expat Life:

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

Huge. There are loads of embassies, NGOs, and others associated with business.

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2. Morale among expats:

A lot of people in the Embassy are discouraged by the crime and so some can't wait to leave. Others try to enjoy their time here and take advantage of the travel opportunities and so morale among those people is higher.

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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 ample chances to attend a braai. People go out to restaurants, entertain at home, go to the movies. There are many similarities with life in the States.

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

Pretoria is really quite small with only a handful of good restaurants and some dance clubs/bars for singles or couples. If you are looking for entertainment and good restaurants, go to Johannesburg. South Africa offers a lot of travel opportunities (hiking, camping, safari, city touring) that make up for city life in Pretoria.

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

There are some gay bars in Pretoria and Jo'burg and you often see openly gay people here, both male and female.

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

There can't be a bigger issue than race here. If you live in Pretoria, you will see some nasty treatment on the part of the Afrikaners toward the Africans. In return and probably due to Apartheid, there are a lot of Africans who are suspicious of whites. Cape Town is a much more tolerant place where you will see far more interracial couples.

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

Safaris are a must in South Africa. There are self-drive safari opportunities close to Pretoria. There are markets on the weekends in and around Pretoria and also plenty of malls and movies theaters. There are ample hiking opportunities and a lot of camp grounds. There are zoos and also museums and some art galleries. If you like sports, rugby, cricket and soccer games abound. Braais (BBQs) are a national past time.

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

Springbok carpaccio and ostrich fillet, Ndebele dolls and beadwork, wood or metal giraffes. Males:a two-toned button down shirt you see the Afrikaners wearing or a Madiba shirt.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes and no. If you do not travel, you will save money but you will be a fool for not doing so!

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Definitely!! This two or three years of your life should be an adventure and there's plenty of it in South Africa.

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

initial feelings that South Africa is like the States, this is still Africa!

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3. But don't forget your:

Sun block, camping gear, good digital camera, and good coffee.

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

The Covenant, Michener; Anything by J.M. Coetzee

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

The Covenant, Michener; Anything by J.M. Coetzee

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Blood Diamond, The Power of One, Tsotsi, Sarafina

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7. Do you have any other comments?

There is so much to do here and the country is so diverse that there are endless travel options. The complaints about crime should not overshadow your experience in South Africa.

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Pretoria, South Africa 10/30/08

Background:

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

No. Paris, Rome, Milan, Harare, Nairobi, Johannesburg, Cape Town, Canberra.

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2. How long have you lived here?

2 years.

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

17 hrs direct flight.

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

Employment.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Single houses - USG owned properties in poor condition, leased housing poorly maintained by landlords. Compound housing is small, and often shabby. Do not come for the housing. Those days are gone here.

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

Everything you can imagine is avalaible.

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

Nothing.

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

Endless restaurants in all price ranges.

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Daily Life:

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

Pouch for incoming mail, DHL for outgoing packages.

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

Cleaners and garden help costs about US$15-20/day plus food and transport for a 7 am - 3 pm work day (live out). Do not expect real housekeepers/maids - workers w/ skills are hired in private sector. Plan to teach anyone who works for you exactly what you would like him/her to do.

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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?

Everyone uses credit cards and ATMs constantly.

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

All types of churches, temples, mosques are available.

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

Everywhere. Cable TV is realtively inexpensive.

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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.

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7. 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, no safe at all. It is a car culture.

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

On the left - U.K. style.

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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?

No need for SUV unless you plan to camp. Even Kruger Park has an extensive paved road network.

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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. The scene and prices are changing all the time - upgrading.

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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?

Easy to arrange on your first day in town.

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

Numerous phone schemes, Skype etc.

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Pets:

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

Pet care is top quality.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

No.

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

Like U.S.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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

Yes. Security is a major problem. Crime is random and violent.

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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?

None. Health care is first rate.

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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?

Easy - cool winters, warm summers, mostly blue skies.

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Schools & Children:

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

American Internaqtionl school makes an effort. But it does not cope well with the mix of South African students not in the local system, students from neighboring African countries, diplomatic and NGO children. Special needs students are mixed in with IB students w/o enough support for either group. Drugs/alcohol/sex scene in high school can be rough.

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

They try to with some success. But do not expect a great deal and be prepared to fill in yourself.

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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?

Vast.

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2. Morale among expats:

Poor due to crime and fear of crime.

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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?

Endless opportunities.

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

Good for families though middle school. Rough for high schoolers.

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

Yes. Very very relaxed.

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

Race is always a problem in South Africa, but things improve each year.

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

Travel, art, gardening, music -participating, every sport known to man or woman.

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

Art. Very lively contemprary art scene. Buy quality crafts from serious dealers as there are many many fakes made who knows where at local markets.

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9. Can you save money?

No. Prices are comprable to Washington DC.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes. This is my second tour in South Africa. It will exasperate and delight you - often at the same time.

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

Old ideas about South Africa - it is dynamic and changing quickly.

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3. But don't forget your:

Common sense. It is still Africa. Things happen slower. Social and cultural norms must be respected in a variety of cultural groups.

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

Commando by Denys Reitz on the Boer War, anything by Nadine Gordimer, Andre Brink, Laurens Van der Post, Athol Fugard the list goes on and on.

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

Commando by Denys Reitz on the Boer War, anything by Nadine Gordimer, Andre Brink, Laurens Van der Post, Athol Fugard the list goes on and on.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Blood Diamond, Tsotsi, O Gersalema, Sarafina, A Story like the Wind, Zulu, Biko, Cry the Beloved Country, and numerous music videos - just hit search on Amazon, there's lots to choose from.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Don't miss South Africa if you are the type that likes contradictions and unsolvable puzzles.

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Pretoria, South Africa 09/05/08

Background:

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

No. Caracas, Venezuela; Krakow, Poland.

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2. How long have you lived here?

13 months.

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

State Department uses Delta through Atlanta. It takes about 24 hours including layovers to reach Johannesburg.

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

Work at U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

For the Embassy it is a mixed bag. Trend is to force newcomers into compunds, with little or no regard for family size or housing standards. Most compounds have small living spaces and little or no green spaces. Stand alone houses are of good size, but many of the government owned properties are in disrepair and there is no budget to fix them adequately. In short, it is a crapshoot on your housing, but expect the worst and you won't be disappointed.

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

Groceries are cheaper here. Lamb and beef are excellent and 1/3 the cost of DC.Most all you need are available, though imported good are more expensive. The Monument Park Spar (grocery store) has the best selection of US items in Pretoria.

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

U.S. breakfast cereals, crackers and cookies, kitty litter, maple syrup, pancake mix.

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

KFC and McDonalds are common. Local fast food chains like Nandos and Steers are everywhere. Pretoria has some excellent restaurants, but more are in Johannesburg.

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Daily Life:

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

We can send and receive through the pouch.

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

Pool of domestics that have worked with Embassy folks and have been reviewed by RSO. We pay about US$17/day. Live-in help is different, but I do not know how much they cost. Note that most day domestics work from 8am - 3pm so that they can catch the bus back to their home before dark.

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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?

I use credit cards frequently and never have had a problem. However, cc scams are common. I rarely use ATMs. Again, scams are common.

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

Yes. Most denominations are represented from Mormon to Orthodox Jew.

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

Yes. Same as U.S. Without cable you can receive 4 channels. Cable offers you much more, and costs around US$100/month.

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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, but knowing the basics in Afrikaans, Zulu, and/or tswana is appreciated.

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

Pretoria definitely is not ADA compliant. It would be very difficult to get around as a disabled person. It is worse in the countryside.

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Transportation:

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

Don't know if they are affordable, but expect they are cheap. However, they are not safe. RSO recommends never taking them, except for a few taxi companies that they will recommend.

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

Right.

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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?

It is not possible to bring a left-hand drive car to SA. Unless you already have a right hand drive car, you'll have to buy one 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?

Yes, broadband and ADSL. More expensive than U.S. Most have usage caps, so price depends on how much throughput you use evary 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?

It is a different system than the US. Embassy personnel get an Embassy cell phone, anyway.

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

We use Vonage, so it is a local call to the U.S. Many VOIP options are available.

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Pets:

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

Vets are everywhere and you can always find one that is open 24/7. Kennels are generally good. Most Embassy people use Menlyn Kennels and Cattery.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

Normal U.S. dress code in the Embassy. Pretoria is about as formal as DC.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate. Worse in winter as there are many brush fires and people heat and cook with kerosene or coal. Plus the winter is very dry, which can make it worse.

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

Violent, random, and senseless crime. People are killed over a cell phone here. ATM machines are routinely blown up and cash in transit vehicles are commonly attacked. Thieves frequently are armed with automatic weapons. Security can make a difference, but everyone is a potential victim. It is safer in the small towns and in the countryside. South Africa is the rape capital of the world.

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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?

HIV/AIDS is a risk for the promiscuous. TB is common. Medical care is very good, generally. Dentists and orthodontists are excellent and far less expensive than in the U.S. ERs are also good and inexpensive.

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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?

Winter is cool and dry. Summer is a bit rainy and warm. However, when it is in the high 80s (F) it never feels that hot.

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Schools & Children:

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

Our son goes to the American International School of Johannesburg. He likes the school. We have concerns about the quality of some of the teachers and the administration is a bit questionable. Buses pick up the kids from your front gate and drop them off in the PM.Historically, they have offered a wide selection of after school programs, but they seem to have cut back on them dramatically this year. I am not sure why. It is about 45 minutes to the school. Most of the kids at AISJ live ni Johannesburg, so it is difficult for Pretoria kids to establish friendships with many of teir classmates.

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

Don't know, but there are many Embassy kids with special needs, so they are accomodated in some way.

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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?

Large. Pretoria has many, many embassies.

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2. Morale among expats:

Among the embassy families, morale is not good. The crime situation makes most everyone feel like prisoners in their own houses. You generally don't meet your neighbors because of high walls and gates. The Embassy is a top down organization with the current crew. Heads of sections are treated very well, staff level personnel and FSNs are not. This may change, but the reality for now is to be prepared for some rough going if you come here.

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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 hard to meet South Africans, as mentioned above. Embassy people tend to socialize with each other. We have made a few friends outside of the embassy, but it has been because of our initiative to make it happen.

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

Singles prefer Johannesburg; it has more nightlife. Pretoria is a quiet city with some good restaurants. Family living is made tough because of the security concerns. Kids just can't walk down the street to play with their friends. If they have no activities after school, they are generally stuck at home.

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

There seems to be a reasonable G/L population in South Africa in general.

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

Race is an issue. South Africans tend to self segregate. You rarely see mixed groups in restaurants. Some areas are clearly frequented by whites and others by blacks. Few places have both. No religious prejudice that I've seen.

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

Getting out to the country, wildlife reserves, beaches, golf.

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

African crafts of all kinds.

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9. Can you save money?

Absolutely, unless you spend it traveling.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Probably not. Although we love getting out to the country and away from the city, Embassy life and the attitude toward the staff makes the work week very unpleasant.

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

Heavy winter duds (unless you are skier) and U.S. car. Expectations for service in restaurants and sense of time.

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3. But don't forget your:

Hiking shoes, sunscreen, and sense of adventure.

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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?

South Africa has great potential, if they can overcome crime. The game parks are fabulous and many are close to Pretoria. Trips to Cape Town are affordable and unforgetable.

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Pretoria, South Africa 06/01/08

Background:

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

Harare, Bucharest, Lilongwe.

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2. How long have you lived here?

7 years.

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

8-9 hours from Europe, 15-16 hours from U.S.

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

I am associated with the U.S. Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Both compound houses and stand-alone houses; no apartments. Houses tend to be smaller than one expects for Africa.

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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 here. Local items are cheaper than the U.S. Imported things are expensive.

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

U.S.-type pancake syrup (Mrs. Buttersworth, Log Cabin, etc.).

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

McDonald's, Subway, KFC, pizza joints, Italian, Chinese, Portuguese. No Mexican. Good steak houses.

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Daily Life:

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

We use the pouch.

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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-$300 per month.

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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?

They are both commonly used here but credit card and ATM scams are on the increase.

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

Yes. Catholic, Anglican, Baptist, non-denominational, Islam

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

Yes. Newspapers about the same as U.S. DSTV about US$65-75 per month according to the exchange rate.

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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.

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

Imagine USA in the 1950s.

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Transportation:

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

Most expats don't take them, but I believe the local buses and mini-buses are quite safe and affordable. The Pretoria/Joburg train is very cheap, but not safe.

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

Traffic moves on the left.

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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?

A left hand drive (US type) vehicle cannot be imported. Best to buy local. Cars are expensive. An SUV/4WD is not necessarily needed.

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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, about US$110-150 per month according to package.

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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?

Vodacom is the most popular. You also have others to choose from.

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

Telkom, the local company, charges about 10 cents a minute to call the U.S. during cheap time; about 14 cents per during peak time. Either way you don't break the bank.

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Pets:

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

Very good pet care and plenty of kennels.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Don't know about those not affiliated with the Embassy, but any EFM who wants a job can get one in the Embassy. They are begging for people.

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

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate.

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

Violent crime is a big problem, but for U.S. Embassy families, RSO has installed electric fences; many are moving to compounds; Embassy is using armed patrol guards and 24-hour guards on the compounds. Yes, crime is definitely an issue, but with the right attitude and security stance, you can live a normal, enjoyable life.

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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?

Very good health care here.

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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?

Summers (November-February) are nice with thunderstorms. Winters (June-August) are generally sunny and cool. Other times thunderstorms and warm. Temperature never gets too hot or too cold.

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Schools & Children:

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

North American International School for K-8 and American International School of Johannesburg for K-12. Both schools are unique. NAIS offers low teacher-student ratio and is in Pretoria. AISJ is large but is 40-50 minute drive from Pretoria.

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

Neither school is good 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?

My kids went to a good Montessori school. Other preschools abound.

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Expat Life:

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

Large.

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2. Morale among expats:

Ok, I guess. Worries about crime.

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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?

Plenty.

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

For older kids it can be tough as there is always a lot of coordination involved for play dates etc., otherwise, good for families. Good for singles/couples.

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

There is quite a big GL community.

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

With apartheid in the not so distant past, there are still lingering issues. Also, society tends to be male-centric.

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

Game parks, cycling, hiking, horseback riding, beaches, Gold Reef City (amusement park), Cape Town, lots of touristic things to do.

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

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9. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't spend it all traveling all over the place!

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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:

U.S. model car.

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3. But don't forget your:

BBQ grill.

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

Any SA-centric book by Wilbur Smith.

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

Any SA-centric book by Wilbur Smith.

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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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