Lome, Togo Report of what it's like to live there

Personal Experiences from Lome, Togo

Lome, Togo 03/12/19

Background:

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

No. I've also lived in Thailand, Germany, and Ethiopia.

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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?

It's difficult to travel anywhere in the AF continent in general. A connecting trip anywhere is usually 10 hours or more. To get to Canada, you'll have to fly either Brussels or Air France out of Lome and connect from Paris. Usually over 20 hours of flying by the time you reach home.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Roughly three years.

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

Business.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

There are many single family homes available. Many expats live in the same neighborhood.

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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 grocery stores available but the product may not be the most fresh. If it is fresh you tend to pay for it. There are only a few restaurants available. Everything is mostly outdoors. There are no real cafes here. The economy is poor and tourism is slim. The only expats around here are the diplomatic community, peace corps, students, and the business community.

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

I usually bring a bag of coffee beans with me. There is no variety in the grocery stores so if you prefer certain brands then you're out of luck. Once I run out I sustain on the local brand until I go home again.

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

For food delivery there are only 3 places. The Indian restaurant 7 spices, the Lebanese restaurant le phenecian, the sushi bar Japanese restaurant. There are some mediocre Chinese restaurants, some decent local restaurants, but generally everyone usually serves brochettes and French fries. Learn to love French fries. It is served with everything.

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

There are mosquitoes all the time. Giant wasps swarm to light during monsoon season. Mosquito netting is a necessity. Do not forget the malaria medication. Our housekeeper got malaria twice last year. It can be deadly for foreigners since we are not used to it. Especially true if you are older.

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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 DHL and the local post office is sufficient. I've sent letters and packages to Canada and South Africa with no issues.

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

Household help is cheap here as everyone is looking for a job. It is usually hard to find someone who can cook, clean, nanny, and garden. You normally have to hire one of each. Some people try to be cheap and hire one person for all that but then you have to laugh when they pour too much bleach in the food or kill all the plants. You get what you pay for.

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

There are a few gyms available (no air conditioning) and it is not expensive. You can get a personal trainer pretty cheap here. You can get any coach here very cheap. It is a good place to improve your golf game.

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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 have never used my credit card locally. I carry cash and make any exchanges at the local bank. Although I try not to exchange too much cash at once since robberies are common. The police set up checkpoints throughout the grand Marche a few months ago and when I tried going to the bank, I had to park my motor bike outside the check point and walk a few blocks to the bank. They said this was to deter the shooters on motor bikes but I can easily be pick pocketed walking on the street. It wasn't very well thought out.

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

There are some Catholic Churches with English service but the times are later in the morning and service generally last around 2 hours. For the younger crowds it is a bit difficult to understand what they are saying because the churches have horrible sound systems. Did I mention it can be quite hot during summertime? The community is usually worth the agony.

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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?

You need French. I have no idea how some of the Americans can walk around without knowing any French. To interact with locals, join community events, attend classes, or even something as basic as refilling your phone card, you need to speak French. I speak French and I still have communication problems because of the cultural differences. There are tutors available and prices vary. I heard there are French classes available at the French institute but I do not know anyone who has taken a class.

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

Yes. There are no such things as handicap spaces or ramps. The hospitals here are not equipped to handle any big surgeries. I've seen an ambulance once but considering all the accidents that happen I wonder if they have more than just the one.

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Transportation:

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

None of those are safe. They are affordable if you don't mind sharing a taxi with three strangers and wondering if your driver has a license. I always hire a local driver who rents out his car. He keeps it in good condition and is always available when I need him. These guys are always preferable to any taxi service.

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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?

Only SUVs. Car parts are stolen often here. Everyone I know have had their mirrors stolen. Other cases have wheels, plates, and basically anything that is not bolted down. This is why I don't have a car.

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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 is good here. Installation does not take long but if there is an issue they usually are not responsive. Pretty typical internet service anywhere in the world I've been.

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

Local provider. Data is cheap.

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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 local vets available apparently. I knew of some people with dogs but mostly ex-pats. Animals here are usually kept for meat... If you have a dog or cat, make sure it doesn't wander too far. I have never seen a stray animal.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

It's hard for spouses to find jobs here. Mostly just shopping, spending time with other ex-pats, or finding other hobbies. Local salary scales are very low. It is also very difficult if not impossible for ex-pats to "find" work here. Many people tend to get depressed.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Always available.

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

No. It is much too hot here to be formal anywhere. If you go to an event or a party perhaps business casual but that is the extent. A lot of people have clothes locally made here so if you need something the local tailors can whip something up in a jiffy. Warning though, it also falls apart in a jiffy.

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Health & Safety:

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

Your usual safety concerns going anywhere in west Africa. Watch your wallet. Be wary of strangers. Don't go to events you know nothing about. Be careful of people calling you, "my friend" or "my brother" after just meeting you. That is not a normal custom. Be careful about going out at night. Women need to be extra careful. I understand that rape is a common occurrence here. Keep an eye on your surroundings and try not to go out alone, especially at night.

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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?

Togo tummy is a common occurrence. If you accidentally drink tap water then you'll get it. If you eat food not washed properly you'll get it. Allergies are bad during harmattan. The heat is exhausting if you are outside often. Medical care here is very basic. There are pharmacies here if you need anything. Specialists are a hit or miss. More often miss.

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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?

Moderate. Already mentioned some air related issues above. I need to leave here every few months. It is usually hard to stay longer.

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

This is not the best place for people with sensitivities.

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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)?

There are no malls, no cafe, no recreational activities like the neighboring countries with cities like Accra and Cotonou so ex-pats here tend to travel often to get their fix. It is obvious that some people tend to get depressed if they stay here too long since it tends to be isolating. You normally see this often during the summertime when the weather is too hot for even the few activities there are here.

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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?

Extremely hot and dry or humid and wet.

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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 a few schools I've seen but I can't comment since I do not have children 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?

The expat community is small. I see people at the grocery stores and around town but I prefer to keep to myself. There is a large Lebanese community here and a good amount of the Chinese community.

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

This is better for families. There are not many single people here. Local custom is that Togolese generally do not date expats. I'm sure there are a few exceptions but I do not know of anyone.

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

It is easy and it is not. If you speak French then you can have good conversation. It is not normal for Togolese to invite you to their home or vice versa. Before you even arrive at that stage you need to learn local custom, how to address people, what is proper, what is offensive, and so on. If you do not care to learn about all of that then it would be difficult for you to make friends with locals. Togolese are very friendly and polite people so you won't really encounter an 'uncomfortable' situation but be aware to not put them in an uncomfortable situation.

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

Best trips are to Kpalime but in this region there is a lot to explore. Togo is not a very tourist friendly country and the roads are not the easiest to travel on. If you can communicate then road trips are fantastic.

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

The markets are nice.

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

Not too much. I find better artwork in Accra.

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

Cheap cost of living and it is quiet... when there are no street protests.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

How many protests there would be. Last year there seemed to be a protest every other week. It has tapered off since then but I can imagine how intense it will be around the presidential election. That is the norm in any country on this continent though...

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

Sure. I like coming here because I have a purpose. I have good local friends and I have a solid family network at home.

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

illusions. You need to adapt. Stop comparing this place to every other place you have lived in. It is not the same. Also, it is a bit offensive to the locals. This place has a lot of charm if you allow yourself the experience.

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4. But don't forget your:

Common sense. This isn't a gap year you spend in Europe where you wander around like a hipster and somehow did not get murdered in a hostel.

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5. Do you have any other comments?

This place is what you make of it. It can be great or it can be horrible. Bring some antacid and get ready for the slowest ride of your life.

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Lome, Togo 02/22/19

Background:

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

We've lived in six African countries over the past 20 years.

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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?

Home is Italy. Pretty easy to get to Europe. Air France, Brussels Airlines and TAP all have direct flights. The country is also served by Ethiopian, and Moroccan airlines.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two and a half years.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

We have a house with four bedrooms (all en-suite) with a reasonable garden in Tokoin Cebevito. Commute time is about 10 minutes.

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

Local products such as meat, fruits and vegetables are plentiful and inexpensive. Supermarkets carry imported (largely French) products which are more expensive than at home, but not unreasonable.

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

We typically ship a lot of Italian products: espresso coffee, olive oil, wine, etc.

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

There are a good number of restaurants, but none to write home about.

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

Mosquitoes at times.

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Daily Life:

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

Letters? Do those still exist? Packages are mostly through DPO, although we also use local postal facilities to receive DVDs and books from Amazon UK.

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

Our gardener is paid 30,000 CFA (about $52) a month for three days / week of work. My wife also gets a weekly massage, that costs 5000 CFA.

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

My wife has a personal trainer come to the house. He gets 5000 CFA per hour session.

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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 a credit card regularly at the larger supermarkets, and have never had any problem.

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

Don't know.

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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?

French is required to get around. We have a private tutor come to the house for 10,000 CFA for three lessons / week.

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

No more than any other city we've experienced in Africa. Meaning yes.

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Transportation:

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

Moto taxis are widely available, although I don't consider them safe. Taxis can be had at reasonable rates, say, 2000 - 3000 CFA / trip within town. There are no trains or trams. City buses exist. I don't know the cost, but they don't appear to be very frequent. Peace Corps volunteers use buses to travel up country. Ticket prices are reasonable.

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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?

In town, streets are mostly unpaved, and can have lots of ruts / holes / detours. A vehicle with good ground clearance is recommended. Theft of car parts, particularly recent model vehicles, is common in my opinion.

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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?

This past year internet has improved markedly. We now have fiber optic to our residence at 30 Mbps. Cost is very reasonable: 30,000 CFA (about $52) per month, and the service is more reliable than anything I've experienced elsewhere in Africa to date.

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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?

There are currently two local providers. For use in Lome, either is fine. Lots of people get dual-sim phones, and either have both providers available, or else keep one sim for home country number (e.g., for whatsapp).

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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?

We use a German woman here. She's very good. Animals need not be quarantined upon arrival.

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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?

Mixed bag. There aren't many positions in the local market.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

They're there, but you need to look for them.

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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 dress? You mean like to attend opening night at La Scala? In West Africa, there's pretty much a tailor on every street. Locally available materials are bright and beautiful. You can have all kinds of clothing made to fit, from suits, to boubous, to shirts, dresses...pretty much anything you want, and at reasonable rates.

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Health & Safety:

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

If you don't ride on the back of a moto taxi, you don't have lots to worry about, but do take care to avoid getting malaria.

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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?

Medical care is nowhere like in Europe or North America. That said, we did find a good dentist who takes care of basic needs for Peace Corps volunteers. My wife had a panoramic xray done and I'd not seen that before.

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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?

Being on the ocean, the air quality is pretty good. Except for the harmattan season, when there's lots of dust. If you have any respiratory issues, take care.

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

Afraid I can't answer this one.

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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)?

Nothing particular.

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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?

It's actually not too hot, but often uncomfortable, due to the humidity. You can always go out for a bit, but if you enjoy your air-conditioned home, you'll probably end up spending lots of time indoors.

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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 kids are grown. There are several schools, including the French school (I hear it's ok), Arc en Ciel (has both English and French programs) and what's called the British School. I haven't heard anything particularly good about this latter. There's also an American Overseas school that doesn't seem like it will last much longer.

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

Can't help here.

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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?

There are several preschools, some bilingual.

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

No help 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?

It seems smaller than most places I've lived. Morale is pretty good.

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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?

Our socialization is pretty much limited to the home.

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

Good for anyone with a good attitude.

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

I don't have any information on this, so expect it's kept under the radar.

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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?

Togolese are very friendly, sincere, and love to share in public. Invitations into a Togolese home, however, is unusual, even among themselves.

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

I'm not aware of any problems. The people I've met are very accepting and seem to be non-judgmental.

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

Easy answer: working with Togolese colleagues!

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

This isn't a tourist spot. Spend time with people, and you'll have an experience you won't likely get in most 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?

It's West Africa. Pagne (cloth) is abundant, extremely varied, and wonderful.

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

The people.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Not much.

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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:

Prejudicial ideas.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sense of humor and willingness to laugh - the louder the better.

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

Can't think of any.

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Lome, Togo 09/27/17

Background:

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

Nope. Lived in Washington DC before.

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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?

São Paulo/Brazil. Direct flight 7:30hr flight. I heard they canceled that flight right after we departed though...

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3. How long have you lived here?

10 months.

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

Diplomatic mission.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Our house was great, lots of space, BBQ area, swimming Pool and a lovely garden. The only bad thing was the parking space. Very narrow for our car.
We lived in Cite Millenium but there is Cite Oua ou La Caisse which is where the majority of the expats or other diplomats live. My husband's commute was 10 minutes from home to the embassy.

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

Groceries in general were not as bad as we thought it would be. You can find pretty much everything locally. Vegetables and fruits are awesome and cheese is just incredible. I have never had so much cheese in my life like we had in Togo. There are some things it is better to purchase from the U.S. of course since it will be cheaper. But for a family of two we used to spend about U$120 dollars at the supermarket per week including expensive cheese and meat.

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

We missed frozen stuff like potstickers, hash browns, and sausage... but you can survive

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

There is a VERY limited number of places to go. PERIOD. In two months you already know all of them. It is a very small city and not many options.

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

In housing nope, but after 6 pm you do need the spray against mosquitoes. It is horribly hot and they are everywhere.

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Daily Life:

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

Diplomatic post office (DPO). I used the local post office in La Caise neighborhood once a month to send letters and cards to my friends in Brazil. Cheap and decent. But you do need French or someone that speaks French to help you there. Letters to Brazil took 18 days to arrive, to the US about 9 days and 5 days to London.

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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 had 4 employees (I do miss them!!!)


A maid 3x a week for U$77 dollars every 2 weeks


A pool guy 2x a week for U$46 dollars a month


And two gardeners (one was an apprentice of the other, we didn't pay him, only his boss) 3x a week for U$55 every 2 weeks.



Some embassy people had chefs, baby sitters and more help than us... it is cheap and convenient

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

There is a gym at the U.S. embassy for employees and family members and there are some gyms in town. The only one I visited had no air conditioning at all and there were 20 people exercising and it was more than 100F outside that day... no way

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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?

Nope. This is a money based economy. ATMs are safe only inside the Embassy

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

No idea. I did hang out with the Brazilian missionaries of Togo so I used to go to services in Portuguese.

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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?

A lot. They either speak French or Kabie (their local language). I had classes at the Institute Française du Togo, which is their Alliance Française and also had a private teacher at home. My French got way better with the private tutor. Very cheap classes.

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

Totally. Not ready to receive someone in that condition.

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Transportation:

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

Not safe at all. You do see expats using the moto taxis but they do not have driver's license to ride one. We only used the embassy motor pool and after a while our own car.

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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 took a Toyota 4 Runner. It was very good for the dirt roads and also there is a Toyota dealer and service locally at the main avenue. It was a huge car compared to others but it was the ideal car for the place. I would never take any type of small car or cars not suitable for dirt roads.

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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?

It is but it is a joke. Don't rely on the internet for anything since it is almost always down. They have a cell phone company called Togocell and for U$55 dollars you can have internet on your cell phone. The service is very expensive and inadequate. And every time there are riots against the local government they turn off the internet in the whole country. This is a place to read (A LOT).

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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?

As mentioned above I used a local provider. Their plan doesnt allow to router Apple iPhones with your MacBook... go figure why

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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?

We adopted a cat in Lome and we used a local veterinarian. He spoke decent English. I do know there's a German vet in town that almost all the expats and diplomats go to, but she charged 3x more than ours. We met him in front of our house when he was leaving our neighbors house after caring for his dogs. It was the best deal ever. Our cat is an indoor cat so we didn't have any issues at all with her. But there are some locals who appreciate dog's meat. So be careful if you take your pet there and always keep them inside the house and your garden.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

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

I was a member of household (MOH) there so I didn't work at the embassy. Also the embassy was not hiring due the hiring freeze. I used to freelance as a translator to Brazilian companies (whenever internet permitted of course). I do know some spouses could try a job at the British School or at the Peace Corps. Also the local salary was a joke. For example to work at the embassy as a local they would pay something about U$8k a year for a FS9 position.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

A LOT!!! I volunteered almost every week. At Catholic orphanages, with Brazilian missionaries, with the Brazilian embassy program and also with some locals around my neighborhood. It is rewarding.

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

Take formal dress for the Marine Ball, otherwise you will have to use local fabric to have one custom made. At work is business casual and public places people were very laid back (the expats). Locals are more concerned about dressing nice (their local fabric and materials).

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Health & Safety:

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

Yes. You can't walk on the beach by yourself, if you go somewhere be aware of your surroundings. You will always be a foreigner since it is West Africa and the economic gap is huge between us and the local population. I used to drive by myself everyday and never had a problem. But I do know of spouses who found themselves in the middle of a riot for example. When in doubt, request the motor pool or try to have a driver. Some spouses didn't want to deal with the crazy traffic of 5 people in one motorcycle and have drivers. I loved the freedom of going anywhere I needed by myself.

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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?

Yes, especially malaria. The quality of health care is very poor. You medically evacuate to have babies, if you break a leg, etc. You do not want to get seriously ill in Togo.

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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?

Moderate. During January and February the harmattan season makes people with sinus issues want to die. My husband suffered a lot there with the dust that comes from the desert.

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

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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)?

Lots of expats and diplomatic family members get depressed. It is a very very slow pace of life. You have to be aware that you have to try your best to entertain yourself. Learn crochet, watch DVDs, read books, talk to your family more often. There are no malls, no movie theaters, nothing like that.

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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?

Extremely hot all year long. Severe winds of sand and dust at the beginning of the year, lots of rain in June and July. Leave your winter gear behind and embrace the never-ending summer.

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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 dont have kids but I know there was a British school and a very good French one.

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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?

Big expatriate community. You find all sorts of morale issues going on there, from people who enjoy country to the ones that hate with all their heart but have to deal with it anyway. Stay away from depressed people since they tend to drag you down with them.

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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?

Socializing is usually among the expatriates. I found myself friends in the Brazilian local community and had things to do every weekend.

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

Not at all good for single people. Good for families. I was there alone with my husband and needed to get a pet since he was working a lot and I spent a lot of time alone in the huge house. But we did got closer and stronger as a couple.

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

Nope. It is not accepted by the local society and it is very difficult.

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

There's a reverse racism going on there. For example... if you go to the street market... a bread is 20 cents for a local and it is 2 dollars for you expatriate. After I learned it, my maid was all the time doing the street shopping (even though I loved the marché).

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

We visited Mauritius Island since we were in that part of the world. I improved my French and helped a lot of people. Even though there were some issues there, I miss Togo and I cherish my Togolese friends I made there.

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

There's a Maison Des Esclaves which is the only kind of museum of the country and people go to Kpalime for the waterfall.

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

Not much actually... but you do find handicrafts, artwork and fabric. My family loved their gifts.

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

Saving money and traveling to African countries you would never visit in your life otherwise.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

That it would be better to go as a eligible family member (EFM) than as a MOH. Avoid going if you are not already married. Your life can be very difficult.

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

Yes, but not my husband. He is happy to be out of there.

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

All your winter gear.

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4. But don't forget your:

Bathing suits and sunscreen lotion.

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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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Lome, Togo 08/13/15

Background:

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

This is my second posting, after Tbilisi, Georgia.

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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 Lome to Washington, DC: there are connections through Paris and Brussels.
You can also drive to Accra, Ghana (four hours by road) for more international flights (including a direct to New York).

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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.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Most embassy staff live in a nice gated community five minutes from the Embassy. Houses are large, with walled gardens.

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

Only shelf-stable milk.
Limited, seasonal produce.
Meats and cheeses cost more than in the U.S. but produce costs significantly less for most items.

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

generally pleased with availability of items. Kids' toys on the local market are not great, though--best to ship ahead if you can't order by mail.

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

No fast food at all. Some very nice French restaurants with costs ranging from US$5 to $$$.

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

mosquitoes (though less of a problem that we expected)

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Daily Life:

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

Embassy

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

widely available, with good English, around $1 an hour

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

The Embassy has a gym. Private gyms are advertised around town but I haven't been in one.

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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 almost never used--an entirely cash economy.
Only use ATMs in recommended locations.

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

Some, Catholic and Protestant.

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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?

Having French is almost necessary, though some expats get by only in English.

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

Very difficult! Often no sidewalks and lots of stairs to enter buildings.

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Transportation:

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

No for safety.

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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?

Toyota SUVs are great.

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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?

2Mbps is the best you can get, for around US$175 a month. Expensive and slow!

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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; not sure.

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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?

Some.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Many--anything you want to do, there's a need for that!

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

Less formal than in DC. Local fabrics are fun to wear, with great local tailors available.

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Health & Safety:

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

Do not go on the public beach! (There are frequent muggings!)
There are nice, private beach clubs that are safe.

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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?

Embassy medical care. We went to one private clinic that was ok. In general, it's best to leave Togo if a serious medical situation develops.

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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. (During Harmattan there's a lot of dust, and sometimes people burn trash, but overall the air quality hasn't caused any problems for us.)

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

No special concerns--probably easier here for those with food allergies, as food is very simple here.

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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?

Warm year-round, with rainy and dry seasons

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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 three main choices for expats: the British School, the French School, and Arc-en-Ciel. We've been very pleased with the British School, which is inside our gated community.

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

some accommodations are possible--talk to individual schools

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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

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

Limited ones. There's a big horse club and a golf course.

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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, with overall good morale. People are social and supportive.

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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?

Beach, pool, happy hours, dinners out, dinner parties in homes.

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

Good for families/couples, much harder for singles.

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

If a couple willing to be publicly discreet, sure. If single, no.

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

Women are generally treated as inferiors to men, though as expats we can largely ignore that. (ie, as foreigners the locals treat us differently regardless of gender.)

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

village celebrations, waterfall hikes, beach days, tropical plants, birds

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

Fauna Cultura (the Lome "Zoo") is an interesting place.
Kpalime is a nice city in the rainforest with great waterfall hikes.
There's a place to gather shark teeth fossils.

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

wood carvings, leather sandals, local cloth

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

1. We have a nice, large house with a beautiful garden, both of which are kept clean by friendly locals we pay at affordable rates.
2. We have five-minute commutes.
3. The kids can walk to school, and we can walk to the British Club, a small grocery store, and a pizzeria.
4. The beach clubs are nice.
5. The British School does a good job educating our kids.
6. Our work is interesting, varied, challenging, and rewarding.
7. We are part of a diverse faith community, exposing us to broader perspectives on life in Togo.
8. We are able to directly help people here (both through our work and through personal donations of used clothing, toys, books, etc).

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10. Can you save money?

yes

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Words of Wisdom:

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

It's hard to be surrounded by crushing poverty all the time.

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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:

cold weather gear

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4. But don't forget your:

binoculars, bird book, sense of adventure, French phrasebook, and beach gear.

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

Field Guide to the Birds of Ghana. by Nik Borrow, Ron Demey (Helm Field Guides) and

The Village of Waiting.

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6. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Go to youtube and type in Lome, Togo. View what's there.

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7. Do you have any other comments?

This is a true hardship post. Life here is overwhelmingly, unimaginably difficult for most of its residents. We are in an incredibly privileged position. This is a place where there are rich people and impoverished people, with very few in the middle. I didn't realize how many things and services exist only where there is a large middle class (like shopping malls!) until being here and seeing how much isn't here.

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Lome, Togo 05/29/14

Background:

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

No, too many to mention them all.

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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?

North Carolina. Connecting flights to Atlanta - Paris - Lome. About 16 hours flying time.

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3. How long have you lived here?

10/2011 thru 01/2012 and again 01/2013 thru 06/2013.

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

Government.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

Government furnished. Typical commute time can be extremely difficult at times.

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

Household supplies are expensive as are groceries purchased at local supermarkets.

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

Order goods from Amazon.

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

Yes, cost is moderate to high.

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

The usual malaria carrying type.

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Daily Life:

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

Via 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?

Good, cost is moderate.

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

Yes, don't know the cost.

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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 am a cash-only person, but the embassy has an ATM that is safe to use.

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

Christian services are available.

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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?

French is highly recommended, but you can get by with English

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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?

Embassy employees are advised not to use public transportation.

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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?

Toyota Rav4 or Highlander is 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?

Internet service is improving and the cost is about US$100.00 per 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?

A must-have and not that expensive for a PrePaid service.

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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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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 volunteer opportunities are available locally?

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

Moderate; beware of your surrounding as you would any place in the world.

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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?

None that I know of. Local medical care is quite good.

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

Air quality is moderate. The mopeds create the not-so-good air quality

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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?

There are two rainy seasons. Other than that the climate is warm/hot with higher humidity.

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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 British school is the best. The French school is also considered good as well.

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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?

Foosball and swimming.

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Expat Life:

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

Moderate size and morale is quite good.

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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?

Dinner parties, functions at the British club.

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

Yes, especially with the international community.

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

No

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

None that I have seen.

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

Playing golf with the international community. Dining out and visiting local markets.

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

Become a member of the British club, which has a swimming pool, tennis courts and a good restaurant.

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

Hand carvings, hand carved chairs.

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

There are numerous sites to see outside Lome. Golfing is available. Weather is great most of the year except for rainy season. You can save money here and still enjoy the assignment.

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10. Can you save money?

Yes.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Bring your golf clubs, tennis racket and swimming attire.

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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:

Winter cloths.

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4. But don't forget your:

Your positive outlook on living on Lome.

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Lome, Togo 03/27/11

Background:

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

yes

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

USA, DC to Paris to Lome, or DC to Accra (Ghana) to Lome. There is a new direct flight United airlines from DC to Accra.

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3. How long have you lived here?

more than one year

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

government work

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

most of USG employees live in La Casse and about five people live outside of La Casse

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

expensive! esp. products made in USA , local vegetables are good price here but meat is very expensive.

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

olive oil, food

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

no Mc Donald but they have Al Donald which is risky to eat there, no KFC, no AMerican fastfood here. Expect to wait for a long time for food to come then you will be fine. Cost is expensive to eat in the nice restaurant. There are many good restaurants in Lome such as Greenfield, Sushi bar, Les nuit D'órient, Golden Beach etc. My favorite is Greenfield and Sushi bar.

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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?

most vegetables are organic, but you have to use bleach to clean them before eating, get rid of e-coli! Health Unit at the EMbassy conduct the training to the maids (and us) once or twice a year, to know how to handle food correctly including how to clean the vegetables etc.

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

mosquitoes/malaria - very dangerous - take the pill, consult with medical professional and take malaria pill (prophylaxis) in advance

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Daily Life:

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

DPO - slow as 4 weeks

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

250- 300 USD a month

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

yes, there is a good one in the whole country called "Gym center"near Tokoin hospital

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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?

use one only at a big hotel, like Mercure, Sarakawa or Ibis. Don't use it anywhere else. Using an ATM is ok, but be careful! Don't let anyone see your pin code!

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

yes, many churches, Christain is major religious in Togo.

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

AFN 12 dollars a month through Embassy

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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?

french

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

very difficult

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Transportation:

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

yes, but I don''t use them.

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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?

SUV - rain- flood - very poor road conditions throughout the country

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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?

160 dollars a month, slow and expensive but no choice!

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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?

cell phones are popular here, but don't bring too high tech - some features may not work 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?

yes

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

not sur

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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. but if you are an EFM, there are jobs for you at the US EMbassy. Post management are very supportive of hiring EFMs at post.

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

formal and semi formal -- dress depends on occasion

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Health & Safety:

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

no if you don't go out at night and walk on the beach at night time (daytime also). DOn't wear jewelry and walk int he market, use common sense just like living anywhere else.

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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?

yes, malaria- very dangerous here, diarrhea - almost every US employee have it at least one time in a year, we call it Togobelly, not fun at all.

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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?

kind of hot and dusty, there will be some time that it's cool which is nice.

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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?

warm most of the time and cool in couple months a year.

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Schools & Children:

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

British school is good, American International school is not bad

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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?

yes

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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:

medium 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?

Through US Embassy - marine house, happy hour, movie night

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

good for family and couples - if you are single, it's pretty lonely

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

no - it's illegal here!! so keep it to yourself

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

no

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

Togolese hospitality

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

not much, no (real) museum, no cinema, no shopping mall. Beach is not safe to go, so if you want to go to the beach, try the Coco beach (private) and pay for it. Bring your own entertainment.

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

wood, clothes, dressmaker here is pretty good

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

saving money

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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?

maybe not

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

winter clothes

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3. But don't forget your:

SPF, sense of humor, DVD, UPS for your computer because the power is on and off a lot. I think it's better now but there is no guarantee!

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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?

I do not regret that I come here because the people here are nice and the local employees that I work with are extremely nice and smart. One tour is enough, though. It's a great experience and I am happy I did come here.

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