Manzini, Swaziland Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Manzini, Swaziland

Manzini, Swaziland 02/25/07

Background:

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

Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, all fairly briefly.

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2. How long have you lived here?

18 years.

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

Accountant in private practice.

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

From anywhere to Johannesburg, then a 4 hour drive or 45 minute flight.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Houses, with large gardens. There are some housing estates.

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

Most household goods are available, although higher priced than South Africa. Meat is cheaper though.

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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?

Only a couple of restaurants in this town, and you wait forever for food at some of them. A number of others a short drive away. A variety of fast food available, and Debonairs pizza delivers.

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Daily Life:

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

Cheap, available, and if you're lucky, well-trained. Many make up for low wages by helping themselves to your groceries.

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

Only a few international atms, but local ones are available. Expect queues at month end. Credit cards widely accepted in the formal sector.

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

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

Local TV, one terrible station. A fairly costly SA sattelite service is availabe with about 51 channels.

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

None. But even a little can help when dealing with cops at roadblocks.

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

The local supermarket has 2 parking spaces for the disabled. Otherwise, too bad.

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Transportation:

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

Left.

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

Most drivers are first-generation so be aware when driving. No trains. Minibus taxis are available, but quality and safety vary.

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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?

Buy one here. Preferably with good clearance. New vehicles are expensive (on a par with SA), but second hand imports are very cheap.

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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?

Available, pay per second, but the choices are slow and slower. ISDN lines available if you're in the right area.

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

One local network. One choice.

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

Skype.

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Pets:

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

Kennels available. Some good vets. Some vets do housecalls, even for operations, which is better than doctors.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

Yes, but you need qualifications the locals don't have to get a work permit. Salaries on a par with South Africa, and in line with cost of living.

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

Some bankers, lawyers and accountants wear suits. Nobody else does. Oherwise casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Great, except sometimes in winter when the sugar cane fields are burning.

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

Most problems are break-ins which are usually inside jobs. Keep your insurance up to date!

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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?

One private clinic group with 3 clinics and paramedic services. A couple of other private clinics. Doctors are ok, but otherwise SA is close.

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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?

Very hot in summer. Need a swimming pool, and aircon is nice. Winter is a cooler version of the same. Nnorth and east and the mountains get 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?

Enjabulweni Primary school in Manzini which has fabulous teachers, up to 22 in a class, and offers plenty of extramural activities. Plus there are inexpensive other classes offered by qualified private tutors - karate/ballet/ gymnastics/ swimming, etc.

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

Discovery Junction has educated special needs preschool kids. Enjabulweni has a separate learning centre.

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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?

Discovery Junction and Stepping Stones preschools are good. Teacher ratio is 15 in a class with a teacher and an assistant.

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Expat Life:

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

Getting smaller every year. But enough to have a social life without seeing everybody at every event.

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2. Morale among expats:

Takes a dip every time anyone leaves. Which has been often recently.

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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?

Sports clubs, lots of home entertaining, 2 entertaining night clubs (one is almost openair and just the best ever), a few social bars, no movie house but occasionally there are movie festivals, or specials shown. There is a local weeekly email entertainment diary which informs about events.

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

Great for families with small kids. Singles are ok if you don't mind socialising within a small group and seeing the same people at every event. Parents of teenagers must ensure that their kids are very well aware of the aids risk.

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

There doesn't seem to be any discrimination against anyone here, although that community is small. Locals are conservative.

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

Having negotiated their independence in 1968, the Swazis had no racism like in Zimbabawe for eg. But there are undercurrents arising over the past couple of years. But generally nice friendly and helpful people.

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

So many things all quickly accessible (within an hours drive at most:White water rafting, mountain biking, caving, horse riding including lessons, golf, fly fishing, paragliding, game reserves, organised natural history hikes, pilots licence, anything in fact. And driving - Mozambique coast 2 hours (or more depending on area), Durban 5 hours, Johannesburg 4 hours, Kruger Park 2 hours.

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

Travel experiences, local glass and candles.

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9. Can you save money?

Of course, but who want's to?We spend it on entertaining and on weekends for fun, culture and shopping to Jhb, Durban or to relax in Mozambique, entertaining, etc, and for holidays when cabin fever catches up.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

For sure.

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

Sense of urgency, or expectation of intiative from the locals. Ballgowns, ski equipment.

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3. But don't forget your:

Sunblock, 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?

It can be very frustrating when civil servants change procedures on a whim or deadlines loom. But its great for outdoor activities, and a wonderful place to bring up small children.

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