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

Personal Experiences from Mbabane, Swaziland

Mbabane, Swaziland 10/06/19

Background:

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

No, we have served in many places in Africa and Asia.

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

USA. The flight is brutal, especially with kids. In addition to the Joberg to US flight, there is a 5 hour drive to Joberg from Mbabane, and usually an overnight stay in one direction. We try to stay and explore this side of the world on vacations, rather than make that trip too often.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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

State Department.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Lovely houses that are bigger than you need. Everyone has a yard.

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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 everything you need. There are multiple grocery store chains and a Woolworth's. People occasionally make the trip to Nelspruit to get things they can't find here, but we never have.

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

This is a non-consumables post, but we use the pouch to get an occasional shipment of tortilla chips, because you can't find good ones here.

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

Not a ton of restaurant options and everything closes early. Most households employ people to do cooking during the week. There are also a few ladies that cook meals and do house delivery: Ethiopian, Vietnamese and Indian food. Get on the WhatsApp groups and Swazi Diary that share info as soon as you arrive so that you know what's going on.

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

Lots of people have problems with ants, but they are tiny and don't bite. I don't mind them.

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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.

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

Almost every house has at least a nanny or cleaner and a gardener. There aren't really drivers for hire here, which is different than almost everywhere else we have served (and makes coordinating school drop-offs and pick ups much more difficult, because the embassy is about 30 minutes away). We pay around 400 USD a month for a live-in nanny, 200 for the gardener. I think we pay higher than most the other families.

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

The old PEPFAR compound has a gym that is pretty good. There are also local gyms that offer classes: pilates, zumba, karate, etc. There are good yoga classes. There are nice sidewalks around Mbabane and the air quality is great, so it's a nice post for running outside, at least during the summer months. There are running groups, constant marathons/5Ks, mountain biking competitions, tough mudders, rock climbing (the best on the continent is 90 minutes away)!

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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?

We use credit cards at restaurants and grocery stores. We haven't had any problems.

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

All of them I think.

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

Most everything is done in English.

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

It would be a better post than most on the continent.

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Transportation:

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

The RSO warns against using taxis, but I've never had any problem. They are oddly expensive though.

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

If you plan to do a lot of adventuring: Kruger, Wild Coast, Mozambique, bring a 4WD. If you plan to stay in the city, a car will be fine. We have one sedan and one SUV.

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Phone & Internet:

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

The internet is not great, but you adapt. Some nights we can stream things, but other nights we cannot. It's the most frustrating when you try to make a facetime call to family in the states and the call keeps dropping.

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

MTN is the regional provider. They are pretty good.

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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 vet services here. They are fine, but not great. Really important thing to note if you are bidding on this post with pets. GETTING YOUR DOG HERE IS A NIGHTMARE. We have brought our dog with us to every post, no problem. To get your dog through South Africa, you must put your dog in quarantine, get hundreds of dollars of tests that aren't available in the US, and get a shipping company to ship to South Africa and another to receive the dog in South Africa. We have always shipped and received our dogs by ourselves, no problem, but a shipper on both ends was non-negotiable. And you cannot fly pets directly into Eswatini. Our dog ended up spending a year in the United States with family before we could get her here. We ended up spending well over 5,000 USD on the whole process. Honestly, I might not have bid on the post if I knew what all this would entail. That said-- some friends shipped their dog in from another country on the continent, and seemed to have an easier time. I suppose you could always try to sneak your dog in through Mozambique and try your luck, but I was told by the embassy it was not allowed.

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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 lots of EFM jobs, including a Pol/Econ EPAP job. If the spouse does health work there are a lot of organizations that may have work options.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

There are a few great organizations that would be happy to have extra help.

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

People dress professionally for work. The only thing you need to dress in formal attire for is the Marine Ball.

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Health & Safety:

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

No, I feel very safe. Everyone is always concerned about the strikes and marches, but they are never as large or dangerous as the newspapers lead you to believe, and they announce where they will march, so you just steer clear.

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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 trauma services in the country. Also, I have never seen a dentist here, and with the high prevalence of HIV, it's just a risk I don't need to take. Mbabane clinic is fine for ear infections, etc.

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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?

Nice and clean, except for the 2 months of the year when they light the entire country on fire.

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

There are lots of green spaces and flowers, so allergies might flare up. I am not aware of any issues with food allergies. Since you do most of your own cooking it's not too hard to avoid certain things.

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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)?

None I can think of, but there aren't really many mental health services either.

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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?

There are seasons! It's actually really cold here sometimes! It never snows, but there is a cold season, a rainy season, a dry season, spring and hot summer. It's lovely, but you certainly don't expect weather like this when you think of Africa.

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Schools & Children:

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

They are fine. Not the best for younger kids,but they suffice. There is a Waterford school for high school aged kids and it is a FANTASTIC school, but the kids have to take a test and be admitted.

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

They try, but often don't succeed. They just don't seem to have the capacity to do much more than the norm.

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

Yes, all available. You pay more than you should for what you get.

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

Yes, soccer, horse back riding, jujitsu, ballet, 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?

It is small, but it is composed of great people. Try to get out of the embassy bubble if you can, there are some lovely friends to be made. The morale is great. We all feel so lucky to live here.

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

If we are in town, our weekends are full. There are always dinners and brunches and birthday parties and activities. We often take group camping trips with multiple families. There are monthly wine tastings and trivia nights. The local animal shelters often have dinners and movies. There is a national historical society that does monthly outdoor excursions. We find ourselves busy all the time!

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

It might be tough because the community is so small, but if your focus is enjoying life, not finding a significant other, you will be fine. And you may even get lucky!

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

Eswatini just had their second Pride parade! They are coming around. I don't think anyone would give you any problems.

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

It not super easy, and a lot of that stems from not speaking Siswati. However, we have a few great local friends that I'm sure we will keep in touch with.

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

Eswatini had the first school that allowed children of all races on the continent. It's a fascinating story. There are still some weird things, just by virtue of being next to South Africa, but generally, everyone gets along well.

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

Oh so many things! We typically take weekend trips once or twice a month. Rock climbing in Waterval Boven, Ballito beaches, Kruger National park, ALL the Swazi national parks (you must go to Mkhaya!), Dullstroom, skiing in Afriski, the yearly Bushfire festivals are AMAZING, spend a weekend with friends in Mbuluzi, get away in Phophonyane, do sundowners and a camping night in Mlilwane (30 minutes away!), the list goes on. There are also some great longer trips that aren't difficult: Mozambique, Mauritius and Reunion, Cape Town.

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

See above. Eat at Edladleni, do the waterfall hike in Malolojta, get involved with the local hiking club- they end up in amazing places.

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

Baskets and glassware. The Piggs Peak craft market has a great selection.

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

It is a small city. Not much pollution. People complain about not having much to do, but you end up with more than enough to keep you occupied. It is very suburban. I would definitely recommend living in Mbabane to Ezulweni, given the choice.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

This was the most difficult post to settle into for me. I felt like more could have been done to make my transition easier. As I mentioned, the embassy is about 30 minutes away from most of the housing. So on the first day in the country, I found myself in suburbia with two kids, no groceries, no car (and encouraged not to take taxis!). I felt very alone for the first few weeks. I couldn't come to my "Hail" at the MSG, because I had no way to get there! It was tough to adjust. Coupled with the stress of shipping the dog it was really tough. Since the housing is spread between Ezulweni and Mbabane, the embassy community is kind of fragmented and it took a while to find "our people." Now that we have been here for a while, we are happier here than probably any other post we've served.

Note: I think there is new RSO taxi guidance, that gives you a list of 4-5 taxis you can choose from, but if they aren't available then you are stuck. While in Mbabane I use the taxis that are recommended to the NGO staff located up here and have never had any problems.

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

1000% yes. We still have another year, but I already tear up when I think about leaving. I'd maybe wait to get a dog until after you arrive.

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

Any preconceived notion of "hardship" Africa.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of adventure and ability to make your own fun!

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

This is perhaps a bit dark, but fascinating: https://medium.com/thebigroundtable/the-killers-of-swaziland-1d128e3119df

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6. Do you have any other comments?

Life is really good here, you should come!

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Mbabane, Swaziland 03/24/15

Background:

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

Yes, my first,.

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

DC. It's along trip to and from Mbabane. There are direct flights from Atlanta and JFK to Jo'burg, and that takes about 16 hours. If those are not your home airports, you need to account for the added layover and flight time to DC or wherever you are going. Also keep in mind that it's a 4-hour drive from Mbabane to the Jo'burg airport. Truthfully, when all said and done, it's 2 solid days of traveling.

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3. How long have you lived here?

2+ years.

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

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 houses here are amazing. All are single family homes, most have large yards, and about 70% have pools. There are many people here who have been to numerous posts all over the world, and they all say this is the best housing pool they've ever seen.

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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 pretty moderately priced. Meat and vegetables tend to be less expensive than in the U.S. But fresh fruit, especially berries, will cost a fortune. If you buy something and love it, buy a lot of it because you may never see it again. There are some decent food stores in Mbabane, but the stores in Ezulwini near the NEC tend to be better and have more variety. There is also a good health food store at the Gables that has a good selection of things you won't find at grocery stores, like Tahini paste and almond butter.

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

Chocolate chips, brown sugar, good vanilla extract, coconut oil.

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

We have KFC and Nando's and a few other places. But I don't know if the food there is any good or what it costs.

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

We haven't experienced any serious insect problems here. Many people do have ant problems, though, no matter how clean they keep their house.

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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. It's pretty reliable, and things get here in 2-3 weeks. You can't ship anything from here that is bigger than a VCR tape, though.

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

It's very easy to find household help, and the cost is about US$200-$250 per month for a full-time helper. Many of the housekeepers have worked for American families for years and take on a new assignment when their current family leaves.

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

There are a couple of local gyms. One is right next door to where the NEC is being built and one is about to open in town at the Mbabane Club. I think they are both about US$50 per month. The US Embassy has a pretty amazing gym, and most of the current equipment will be moving down to the NEC. I do Crossfit, and I'm in the gym 5-6 days a week using the free-weights, pull-up bar, ploy boxes, med balls, etc� but there are circuit machines as well as treadmills, an elliptical, and a recumbent bike. If you like to work out, you'll appreciate the gym at the embassy.

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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?

We primarily use cash here, but we have used our ATM and credit cards without issue. Just don't let anyone take your card away to swipe it out of your sight and you'll be fine.

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

I only know of the English language Catholic service, but I'm sure you can find others here as well.

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

None, but it's nice to be able to greet people in SiSwati.

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

Definitely. There are very few sidewalks, and were there are sidewalks they are usually very crowded. It would be difficult to use them in a wheelchair or with crutches. Also, Mbabane is incredibly hilly, making it pretty difficult just to walk around.

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Transportation:

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

There are "kombis" (taxi buses), but we are advised not to take them. The only people I know who take public transport are the Peace Corps volunteers.

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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?

I would recommend an SUV or a truck, something with decent ground clearance. The roads here are pretty terrible, especially during the rainy season. Pot holes can be huge, and there are random speed bumps everywhere. I would recommend bring or buying something relatively new, since finding decent mechanics here is difficult. A repair that would take two days in the U.S. takes a month here. You can ship some parts through the pouch, and you can get some on the local market in Swaziland and SA, but it wouldn't hurt to ship oil, filters, and other odds and ends you think you might need.

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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 call it "high speed" but it's anything but that. We pay about US$150 per month for 1028kb/s of speed and we barely get one-fourth of that. It's truly the most frustrating thing about living here. The internet will go out for days, and no one will know why or when it's coming back on.

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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?

You only have one choice here: MTN has a monopoly. The US Embassy staff are issued phones, but family members should bring an unlocked phone and buy a SIM card here. Most everyone uses a pay-as-you-go plan, and you can buy air time just about anywhere --- but it can be pretty expensive for the calls and the data. 500MB of data will cost about US$20 and $10 will get you about 30-40 minutes of talk time.

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Pets:

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

No. There is a vet in town but he isn't equipped to handle anything serious. But there are good vets in South Africa.

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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 EFM jobs available at the embassy, and some of the spouses have been able to get work at the many NGOs in town.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

A few of the EFMs volunteer at local orphanages.

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

Front office people wears suits and ties, but mostly everyone else is business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is considered a high-threat post, but, for the most part I feel pretty safe here. As long as you are aware of your surroundings and use common sense, you should be fine. All homes have 24-hour guards, and the local guard force is excellent. Our previous RSO said they were the best guard force he ever worked with.

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

The healthcare in Swaziland is pretty mediocre. There are some good doctors at the clinics, but it really depends on who you see. The healthcare in South Africa is top notch, though.

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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?

It depends on the time of year. Summer is the rainy season, and the air quality is pretty good. During the dry season, the Swazi people burn EVERYTHING! At any given time you will see brush fires on the sides of mountains, in people's yards, and beside the highways. No one in my family has breathing issues, but I do see that people who have asthma or other breathing issues might have problems living here. In addition, we are at 4000 feet above sea level, so that might cause some people problems, too.

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

My allergies haven't bothered me at all here, but some people have problems with itchy eyes and running noses. Almost everything packaged here has dairy in it, so if you have a dairy allergy you should stick to the fresh foods.

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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?

We frequently comment that this can't possibly be Africa. Swaziland must have the most mild African climate of anywhere. The summer (December - March) is warm but rainy. It rarely rains all day, but you can expect some rain just about every day, mostly in the afternoon and evenings. The winter months (May - September) are ridiculously dry.

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Schools & Children:

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

We've had mixed feelings about the schools here. When we first arrived, our children attended the Montessori International Preschool. We were neutral about this school. We did have some issues, like when they renovated and construction workers were carrying huge pieces of wood with rusty nails through swarms of 3-6 year olds. I also didn't really trust the director. She lied to me on a few different occasions about incidents that happened at school. There are several other preschools here, though. Currently many of the little kids go to Evergreen Preschool, and all the parents seem pretty happy.

Our son attended Usutu Forest School for grade 1, and it was truly the most stressful year of my life. His teacher would call me weekly to tell me how he wasn't coloring in the lines and she thought he wasn't keeping up with the class. I would drive out there almost weekly (40 minutes in each direction) so she could compare him to the kids in class doing the best work. She would literally pull out the other kids' work and put it side by side with my son's to show me how behind she thought he was. As a 6 and 7-year-old, he was getting 90 minutes of homework a night. I hired him a tutor who used to work at the school and she worked with him 2 days a week. She was so appalled by the amount of homework, she called the school to complain. Mind you, they have a no homework policy.

The last straws for me were when his teacher called him a misfit while in a meeting with me, and also when another boy pulled a knife on him and threatened to kill him, and the school did nothing, citing "boys being boys." I wish I could say these were isolated incidents, but I have many friends who pulled their children out of Usutu over the last 2 years because of bullying issues, problems with teachers, etc. These children are from all walks of life, Swazi, Scottish, and South African, and they were all experiencing the same issues. Currently my children are attending the Montessori Primary School, and I couldn't be happier. It's a total turn-around from our experience last year. The high school here, Waterford, gets great reviews from parents for the IB program, but some people complain that their children in the lower grades (starting at 7th) are not being challenged and are given work well below their grade level. Many Swazi's with money send their children to boarding school in South Africa.

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

The Montessori Primary School does enroll some children with special needs (cerebral palsy and Down syndrome) and it seems to integrate them well into the school. Usutu does offer a department for OT but my experience was that they were pretty useless.

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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?

As mentioned above, there are several preschools here, but only a few are used by the US Embassy. When we arrived, the Evergreen school was not yet open, but if it had been, I definitely would have sent my children there. There are no daycares, but you can hire a nanny for less than US$250 per month.

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

Most of the schools offer after-school sports programs like cricket, soccer, rounders, netball, and a few others. You can also enroll your kids in Judo, swim lessons, and additional soccer training. One of the parents has her son running track with the man who trains the Swazi track and field Olympians.

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Expat Life:

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

It's a pretty small community, only about 15 State Department direct hires and another 10 with USAID, PEPFAR and Peace Corps, but almost all have spouses and children. Everyone seems to really enjoy each other's company. The CLO runs a lot of events, and people do a lot of entertaining in their homes. This current group of people is a lot of fun, and the local staff are wonderful people, too.

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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?

Most entertaining is done in people's homes, but restaurants here are pretty inexpensive, and people do go out to dinner often in Mbabane and Ezulwini.

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

This is a great post for families and couples. I would also say this is a great post for singles if you can meet the right people. There are many single expats living and working in Mbabane, although none currently work directly for the US Embassy.

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

I'm not sure about this. I do not know any openly gay people at post or in the community.

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

We haven't experienced any tensions, but I am told there are some hangover feelings from the Apartheid era.

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

The U.S Embassy community is amazing. The majority of the people who work for the embassy, USAID, PEPFAr and Peace Corps are lots of fun to be around. Krueger Park is an amazing site, and I enjoyed seeing the beaches, Durban, SA, and Ponto Do'ouro, Mozambique.

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

I could go on and on about this but heres just a few:
Swazi Candles, Ngwenya Glass, Mvubu Falls, go to www.biggameparks.org to see all the local game parks, lots of great places to shop and go to the beach in SA and Mozambique.

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

Candles, glass, tapestries

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

The country is beautiful! If you love being outdoors, you will love it here. There are tons of hiking trails and local game parks. You can get to some pretty great places in South Africa like Krueger Park, Jo'burg, Pretoria and Durban in 2-6 hours.

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely, but you can also spend it traveling all over Southern Africa.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It would have been great to know a little more about the lack of healthcare and how hard it is to get a car fixed, but we've been able to manage.

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

Absolutely!

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

Sweaters and heavy winter clothes. Also your hectic lifestyle and any preconceived notions about living in Africa.

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4. But don't forget your:

Laid back attitude and sense of adventure.

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B0017WI5PW/ref=as_li_qf_sp_asin_il_tl?ie=UTF8&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B0017WI5PW&linkCode=as2&tag=thesunspousunder&linkId=TJUIYLUMFCLAI3HW

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6. Do you have any other comments?

When we were assigned this post I wasn't thrilled about coming to Africa, but it really has been a wonderful place to live.

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Mbabane, Swaziland 02/07/11

Background:

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

No

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

DC, it takes about 2 days to get home and 3 to return. There are direct flights to ATL from Johannesburg (16 hours) or to IAD, but these are very expensive. Stopovers in London are long.

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 1/2 years

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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?

The embassy housing pool is quite nice. All are single-family homes and each has its own special advantage. Our house has an amazing view and a pool, but the yard is steeply sloped, so our son can't run around in the yard. Other families have great yards for their kids to play in, but no pool and/or no view. Some have great outdoor entertaining spaces.

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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 just about anything, but you should buy it when you see it unless it is something like milk or meat, which are always available. Fresh fruit and veggies are not as cheap as I expected, but meats are much cheaper than in the States. If you are vegetarian, be prepared to use internet groceries or pay a lot to get what you need. A cake of tofu (when I can find it) costs about $4. If you are into gardening, you can get the vegetables you want very cheaply by growing them yourself.

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

Vanilla extract and anything liquid you might not get here (which isn't much) or might just like having. Everything else can be ordered.

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

There is KFC, but the local Nando's is much better, in my opinion. There are some cafes in town, serving local fare, chinese, and indian. At these places you can spend as little as $5 for a nice meal. One nice french restaurant. A short drive down to the valley opens up your options to nicer restaurants. With steak, seafood, wine, a dinner for two is $40-$50 at what we consider the best restaurant around.

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

There is a natural food store in the plaza, and there are many Chinese food stores with rice noodles and other asian groceries. Meat-flavored soy products are readily available. Tofu can be found, but I usually make my own when I want it, because soybeans are available.

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

Depends on where you live. Our house has a lot of insects at night, but other people can leave their doors open all night without insects flying in. Ants are a problem for everyone, no matter how clean you keep your house.

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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.

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

It is easy to find help. I pay my nanny/maid about $250/month for 5 days and my gardner $200/month for 4 days. I think that is average for the embassy community.

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

There is a small gym at the embassy. Equipment was recently upgraded and a running trail was built on the compound. I have seen "Curves" advertised.

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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?

We generally use cash, but you can use credit cards. Just have more than one handy because you never know when yours will be declined.

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

Yes, I think just about every denomination is here.

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

Yes, newspapers are less than a dollar, TV is pretty expensive even for the basic package. I think ours is around $100.

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

None, but as always, people like it when you can greet and thank them in Siswati. Also, Siswati is commonly interspersed with English in the newspapers, but you can usually understand the storyline regardless.

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

Lots, sidewalks exist only in the city center, and even then they are poor. Going to the shopping centers would be ok.

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Transportation:

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

I think there is one approved taxi company, but otherwise, no one uses public transport.

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

Something with high clearance is better because the roads can be really awful, especially in the rainy season.

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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, you pay by how fast you want it and how much you think you'll use. Ours is two steps down from the fastest, but still considered business level, and costs almost $100.Some days it just doesn't work and some days you would think you were back in the States it is seamless. You never know what you'll get when you wake 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 one and they seem to be pretty inexpensive.

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Pets:

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

No. But travel is through South Africa, so you must make sure everything is in order or you may have your pet quarantined there.

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

I think so, but we haven't had a need for either yet. Our nanny takes care of our cats when we are gone.

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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 a few EFM jobs at the embassy, and some spouses have found work on the local economy, but you have to do a bit of legwork to get it.

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

Business casual. Swazis dress as well as they can, so even the poor are pretty well dressed. The younger generation follows the current fashion trends.

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Health & Safety:

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

This is considered a high crime post, but I never feel unsafe. I do not walk around at night by myself, but I didn't do that much in the US either. You do have to be alert, though. You hear about breakins and petty thefts quite often.

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

We have a good GP that we see, and I think the other doctors at the private clinic are probably good. You will be medevac'd to South Africa for anything serious, where the medical care is top notch. We had our baby in Pretoria and were extremely happy with the care we received.

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

Good

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

It rains a lot in the summer, so it stays fairly cool. Temperatures in the winter are cooler, but not so much that you can't sit outside and enjoy the beautiful country you are in.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are very good local and international schools here, but I don't have any experience with them.

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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?

Definitely available and something to fit your needs/desires. Nannies are also widely used.

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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?

Small.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. I think there is good information out there about this post, so people who come here actually want to be 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?

Mostly at home, but there are fundraising events all year long, and a few bars/restaurants at which people hang out. The CLO organizes events for both adults and children. A movie theatre just opened.

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

Singles have a harder time here because there is no real nightlife and no dating scene. Families and couples tend to like it if they are into doing things outdoors.

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

Swazis are very religious and most likely would tell you that they are against homosexuality. Most of the couples I know are discrete, i.e., no PDA, and have not been treated poorly.

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

There is some tension between black and white Africans, but nothing near to what you will experience in South Africa. This is a patriarchal society, so men are considered to be superior to women.

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

Game parks, hiking, wine tasting, having our first child

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

Game parks, from small local ones to Kruger just a couple of hours away. Lots of hiking. Seeing bushmen paintings, bird watching. Beach is 3-6 hours away. Explore Southern Africa by car!

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

Candles, linens, baskets, batiks

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

This is such an easy place to live, but you are in Africa, and it is absolutely beautiful here.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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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:

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3. But don't forget your:

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

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

If you are afraid of trying out Africa, come here. You will love it.

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Mbabane, Swaziland 05/03/10

Background:

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

2nd tour with State Department, 3rd expat experience overall, first in Africa.

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

From DC to Mbabane takes 20+ hours. There are some DC, Atlanta, or NY to Johannesburg direct flights that take about 16 hours.

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3. How long have you lived here?

One year.

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

Foreign Service tour.

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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-family homes. The commute during the school year takes about 15 minutes. During school vacation it takes about 10 minutes. Houses have a suburban feel, and they generally have decent yards. A few have pools.

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

Items are brought in from South Africa. I thought I would have to travel to S.A. frequently to round out my grocery list, but I've been able to find most things in Mbabane. Of course, that was before the country decided to stop bringing in soy milk... (that used to be my go-to example of how you could get just about everything. Now I'm learning how to eat cereal dry).

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

Chocolate chips. Baby wipes (expensive here). Camping equipment (you can get it in S.A., though).

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

Swaziland has some nice restaurant offerings that span the range from cheap to moderately expensive. KFC is popular as a fast-food restaurant.

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

Well, you do get ants around, but they are not a huge problem.

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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 - it takes about 2-3 weeks to receive 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?

Great availability. Cost is between 120-320 USD per month.

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

There are some Curves, and the U.S. Embassy has a small gym in one of its satellite offices.

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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?

If you are with the U.S. Embassy, you can cash checks for local currency. ATMs are available at the main tourist hotels in the valley and at some of the shopping centers. I'd exercise caution, but they're probably fine.

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

Yes. Most Christian denominations. A few Mosques.

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

International papers are a bit expensive. People read the two local dailies. South African newspapers are available.

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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?

English is a national language, so you can more than get by with it. Nevertheless, siSwati is still commonly used, and learning some, as always, will bring great dividends.

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

The town and country are not set up for someone with physical disabilities.

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Transportation:

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

Local transportation is affordable, but check with whatever organization you are coming with regarding whether you should be using them. Crime could be an issue.

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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?

I recommend a 4x4 so you can easily drive within game parks and to rural parts of the country (or Mozambique). The roads between most attractions around Mbabane are quite nice, and any car would do.

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Phone & Internet:

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

"High-speed" internet is available, but your speed certainly can vary throughout the day. Still, it's enough to do video skype calls 90% of the time. Cost is between 70 and 250 USD a month, depending on your plan.

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

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Pets:

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

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

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

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

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Health & Safety:

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

This is rated as a critical crime post. While that may be true, it feels much safer than the surrounding countries. I feel quite safe walking around town. At night, though, I wouldn't walk around if I were a women (not looking to be sexist; during the day, everyone walks everywhere, as soon as evening comes, the only people walking around the streets are men. Most people are already home or at restaurants, or at the few clubs, or at the hotels in the valley (two have casinos).

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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?

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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?

Excellent. People do like to burn the fields, so it can occasionally get smokey. But for the most part the air is clean and clear.

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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?

My non-scientific estimates: in Mbabane it averages from 60-95 in summer and 50-80 in winter. There is a rainy season that usually entails some rain during the day, but not all day, every day. I find the climate to be absolutely wonderful.

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Schools & Children:

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

For high-school-age kids, there are some fantastic schools. Elementary schools are fine. Haven't heard many complaints.

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

Not sure. I'd do my research and check with each school.

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

Plenty of preschools around, although they sometimes fill up, so try to get a spot early. You can hire nannies as well.

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

I don't have school-age children, but soccer, golf, ballet, and swimming are all 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?

Small. The only diplomatic missions are Taiwan, Moz., S.A., and U.S. - EU has an office. Development workers are here from a variety of countries. South Africans, some business people, and Peace Corps Volunteers make up the rest.

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2. Morale among expats:

Pretty good. It is a small country with a small-town feel, so people know each other's business. You are living in the country with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the world, and the impact that the loss of life has on the community can take its toll.

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

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

It can be a great tour for families and couples, and okay for singles, depending on what you are looking for. Cosmopolitan it is not.

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

There is a small gay/lesbian community, but Swaziland's is still grappling with homosexuality, and if you were public with your orientation, it would certainly draw (likely negative) attention.

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

Regarding gender and race, there are vast differences in how those characteristics are treated between rural and urban, traditional and progressive, tourism-focused and private Swaziland. I feel quite comfortable as an expat, but this is the first time I've lived someplace where being white is the my predominant characteristic. I don't think Swaziland is exceptional in this, however. For good or ill, Swaziland retains a great deal of traditional society elements, and Swazi women are affected by the "ill" parts. As an expat, or within the "urban" areas, I don't think you feel these effects (although you can read about abuse issues in the newspaper every day), unless you work in an educational, social service, or health care environment where you serve the local community.

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

Mlilwane, Malalotja, and Hlane game reserves, shopping at Ngwenya Glass, Swazi Candles, and Gone Rural; hiking Sibebe rock, enjoying pony rides for my kids at farms, eating at Sommerfields, and regional travel southern Africa.

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

Although in a country this small you begin to run out of new things to do, regional travel is quite accessible.

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

Swazi candles, Tintsaba crafts, woven placemats, Ngwenya glass articles.

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

The weather in Swaziland is fantastic. In the high or middleveld it is similar to Southern California, if you add rain. If you like game reserves, hiking, and really nice crafts, you'll enjoy yourself. It is 4 hours to Pretoria or Johannesburg for all the amenities you can't find in-country, and beaches in Mozambique or South Africa are a 3- to 5-hour drive.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Certainly. The country offers some unique benefits and challenges. I view it as a country feeling its way towards a modern future, trying to figure out which traditional elements it must discard, and which it wants to maintain. Although it is a middle-income country (and you can see that wealth compared to other African countries), 70% live in poverty, and HIV/AIDS is devastating the people. It is an absolute monarchy, and that fact and accompanying traditional system pervades life here.

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

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3. But don't forget your:

outdoor enthusiast attitude.

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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:

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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Mbabane, Swaziland 03/10/08

Background:

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

I've had previous postings in Belize City, Belize and Frankfurt, Germany.

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2. How long have you lived here?

Less than a year.

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

There are direct flights to Johannesburg from Atlanta and DC. From Johannesburg it's only a 20-minute flight to Manzini and then a 20-minute drive to Mbabane. If you go though Europe the trip becomes 24 hours plus.

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

I work for the U.S. 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?

Houses are large and comfortable with large, landscaped yards. Many have fireplaces and a few have pools. Nothing in Mbabane is more than 10 minutes from the various embassy buildings and several houses are in easy walking distance of the offices. The ones that aren't make up for it with stunning views.

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

Everthing is available here, but it is all a little pricey as everything is imported from South Africa.

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

Nothing, really.

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

KFC is the only American fast food but there are a few South African chains here- Nando's, Spur, Steers.

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Daily Life:

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

We have pouch, which has been maddening lately. It takes a couple of weeks to get to Pretoria and then another month to get on to Mbabane. Local mail is expensive and not very reliable.

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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 and inexpensive. We pay our housekeeper outrageously at US$150 a month for full time. Most housekeepers and gardeners get about $100 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?

Credit cards are accepted most places and there are ATMs in many locations. All are relatively safe.

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

Yes- Anglican, Catholic, Methodist, Lutheran and a lot of African Christian hybrid churches. There is also a very small mosque.

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

There are two local papers and one local TV channel. All are in English. AFN direct to sailor is available for the cost of the decoder and dish and we also get DSTV from South Africa.

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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?

People love you if you can greet them in SiSwati, but English is spoken by almost everyone.

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

It would be doable in Mbabane- this city actually has sidewalks and a few elevators- but not very easy. Outside of Mbabane it would be challenging.

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Transportation:

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

Right hand side, like the U.S.

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

No.

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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?

One does need a 4X4 to get into the parks and to a few very rural villages. For everything else, though, any car is fine.

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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?

Swaziland still uses dial-up connections with a maximum speed of 128k. The monthly charge is only about US$50, but you pay per minute on the telephone connection. We've heard lots of rumors, though, that wireless internet is coming in the next few months.

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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?

Prepaid service is easy and cheap. An unlocked GSM phone works with local SIM cards.

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

We use a call back service. The internet is poor here, so services like Vonage and Skype don't work well.

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Pets:

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

There is a good vet and the local humane society offers boarding. We haven't tried it, but previous embassy people used it regularly.

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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 is lots of development work here. I've heard that some people have difficulty finding paying work, but everyone I know who has wanted to work outside of the Embassy has found something.

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

It is pretty conservative. Men wear suits and ties, women often wear skirts. A woman is not allowed to wear pants in the presence of the king.

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Health & Safety:

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

Good. Swaziland has little industy and few cars to pollute the air.

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

Crime is rated as critical and embassy residences have 24-hour guards. There have been a few attempted break-ins since we've been here. That said, though, I feel quite safe in Swaziland, even walking alone (during the day) as a woman. The crime here is mostly opportunistic and in no way compares to that of neighboring South Africa or Mozambique.

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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?

The medical care here is very poor and the hospitals here are collapsing under the weight of HIV/AIDS. High quality medical care is just across the border in South Africa, though.

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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?

Cool, dry winters with possibility of frost. Moderately warm summers with regular rain showers. Mbabane is in the mountains, so even in the summer it doesn't get too 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?

There are no international schools here. There are approved local schools, though, both primary and secondary. The high school offers an IB program but as there are no high school kids at post now I know very little about it. There are two approved elementary schools- Sifundzani and Usutu Forrest School. About half of the embassy kids go to each. Usutu has smaller classes and offers kindergarten, but it is quite a ways out of town. Both primary schools follow the British system and Sifundzani starts at Grade 1. Both offer plenty of extra-curricular activities including computer classes, soccer, tennis, cricket, swimming...The school year is based on the Southern Hemisphere calendar, running January through December and classes are from 7:30 to 12:30.

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

I would guess the schools are ill-equipped to deal with anything other than very minor special needs.

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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?

We love our daughter's preschool! There are two Montessori schools and a third good preschool as well. They start at 18 months and go through age 6.

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Expat Life:

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

It is small, but growing.

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2. Morale among expats:

With the standard few exceptions, morale among expats here is high.

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

Mostly in home stuff- lots of barbeques and dinners. There is a theatre club that we are hoping to re-energize.

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

It's a great place for couples and families. The country is beautiful, the people are warm and friendly and there is tons to do. I think it would be more difficult for singles and teenagers as most of the entertainment is self-made.

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

Swazi society is very traditional and homosexuality is definitely frowned upon. However, I've heard that there is a Swazi Gay and Lesbian society so things may be changing.

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

Swaziland is remarkably without racial prejudices. They've been independent for 40 years and blacks, whites, and Asians have lived peacefully together for generations. There are also few religious problems, perhaps because 98% of the country is Christian/Zionist. As for women- Swazi women were only granted the status of legal adults when the new constitution was implemented in 2006. There are a number of educated, working women in Swaziland, which contrasts dramatically with the fact that they can't access their bank accounts without the husband's permission. Polygamy is still very common and accepted, but things are definitely changing (if ever so slowly).

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

Hiking, biking, mountain climbing, horseback riding, wildlife viewing, ATVs, paragliding, white water rafting, fishing, tennis, craft markets. If you are into outdoor activities, Swaziland is the place to be.

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

Weaving, baskets, bead work, glass, candles.

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9. Can you save money?

Yes. Especially if you don't travel to South Africa every weekend.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

In a heartbeat.

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

Hope of every downloading a podcast.

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3. But don't forget your:

Outdoor furniture. The weather here is beautiful.

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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:

Wah-Wah.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

Swaziland has most of the positives of South Africa, without the crime. The country is stunning and easily accessible. The people are open and friendly. Their complacency in the face of all of Swaziland's challenges can be frustrating, but overall it is a great place to live.

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