01 02 03 Africa Expat Wives Club: Emigrating to E Africa, Helpful Advice 04 05 15 16 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 31 32 33

Emigrating to E Africa, Helpful Advice

I don’t know if its ‘blog cheating’, but I wanted to remember some things from moving from London to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania (even though it was 8 years ago). The following list is made in helpful advice/point form to show, with the benefit of hindsight, how I would have done it differently:

1. When you decide to emigrate, don’t combine it with getting married, buying a flat in London and building a kit car (OK it was not me building the car, but it certainly added some stress to the situation when my fiancé decided to finish his Caterham 7 before leaving). ‘To do’ lists comprising; organise visas, get travel vaccinations, pay solicitor’s fees, make flight bookings and hand in notice at work, (spend evenings and weekends building car), can be daunting.

2. Don’t fly economy to East Africa via the Middle East. The 24 hour journey will seem like a horrendous up-y down-y bus ride (especially if the flight coincides with a 24hr sick bug) – there are 10 hour direct flights on other airlines, it’s worth paying the difference.

3. If you are flying, remember to tell the airline that it is your honeymoon in advance, if you arrive late (after your taxi breaking down on M4), there will be no upgrades possible.

4. Don’t move to the coast of East Africa in February. You couldn’t choose a hotter or more humid time of year.

5. Don’t choose eco hotels for your honeymoon. You don’t get air conditioning and staggering to a ‘not en suite’ long drop/loo in a faraway hut is not fun when suffering from dickey tummy. (p.s. Zanzibar can be dirty and smelly, in spite of its reputation of literally being paradise – don’t let the word ‘Zanzibar’ seduce you!).

6. Don’t choose a Muslim hotel, strictly no alcohol allowed.

7. Do save some money before you emigrate (this will become clear later).

8. This one contradicts no. 7. but if possible, don’t work up until days before your wedding, which will now morph into a tearful ‘goodbye’ ceremony. Life is too short, make more time for friends and family.

9. Do go and have a look at the country you are emigrating to first if possible. It helps when doing the packing. Starting a new life in Africa can be tough, especially if you have never stepped foot on the continent before. (I should know).

10. Do expect to loose your identity for quite some time. Learn how to field questions such as; ‘what are you doing here?’ answer: ‘nothing…but my husband is doing something very interesting…’ which leads to my next point:

11. Don’t try to live through your new husband’s experiences vicariously; he won’t want to always talk about work. Huge rows may ensue as you offer much unsolicited free work advice in an attempt to engage brain.

12. Do buy a car for yourself as soon as possible. Don’t fall into the trap, as I did, of walking to the local container shops, then working through Delia Smith’s complete cookery book (ingredients permitting) in sweltering 40 degree heat (100% humidity), for want of something better to do.

13. Do remember that in a largely Muslim country you should normally wear long skirts/trousers and cover your shoulders, notwithstanding the sweat trails that will seep down the backs of your legs. Spagetti strap tops and shorts won’t do.

14. Do sign up for classes to learn the local lingo a.s.a.p (Kiswahili), but don’t bank on finding best friends and kindred spirits among fellow students. This will lead to bitter disappointment.

15. Try to see the huge differences between your new life and the old life back home in an optimistic spirit of adventure. Encounters with cockroaches, geckos, snakes and nasty tummy bugs will be exchanged for escaping a crowded commute, dark winters and perpetual coughs and colds.

16. Don’t yearn for English spring, summer, winter and autumn; try to get into the rhythm hot season, short rains, long rains, cool season. Summoning images of kicking through autumn leaves won’t help you.

I’ve just realised I could go on to 100, so will stop right there….

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