This is the most difficult post that I wrote for my blog, till now. I wanted to give some good reasons to come and live in Dar Es Salaam, but while I was thinking also the bad side of this city came to my mind.
So I decided to put black-on-white everything, the positive and the negative. It's not the first time that I tell about how funny life in Dar Es Salaam can be. But it's the first time that I do outing publicly about the matters that I'm facing so often since almost three years.
It's not so obvious to tell also about the things that I don't like, because I know that many local people are reading this post. Anyway, this is the point of view of a normal European expat - and I think that many "colleagues" of mine will share my point of view.
To be honest, the pros are based on ideas and values that are much more relevant, in a global perspective. The cons come out from all those small things that can ruin the day of a "stranger". Not even a way of criticizing, but much more an attempt of giving a couple of advices and suggestions to other people who are thinking to come and leave here.
I'll also talk about all the basics to settle here, but for now just take note of this: Dar is the place where you have the opportunity to get a good job, better if the job where you actually have experience. You'll get great satisfactions, but (please, note!) also some disappointments. Anyway, just one rule is really worthing - Work hard, play hard!
5 Reasons to relocate in Dar Es Salaam
Enthusiasm for Novelty
People here like everything new. Can be the key idea that will change the future of communication, or just a restaurant serving unusual food. There's a huge need of creativity coming both from "inside" and "outside", the local population is hungry of it. The number of Tanzanians who actually can (or have the will to) travel just to discover the World is quite small, so they are more willing to enjoy novelty in their own Country. Any fresh input that can enrich the life of people will be most welcome, in almost every field.
Good news! There are investors here, from all over the World. And workers from all over the World. You will have the chance to find a workplace where the mix of nationalities is huge... and even if not always easy to manage, I can guarantee that a really international work team can make your job quite interesting, absolutely an unforgettable period of your life. So, refine your CV and go!
Enthusiasm for novelty also means lot of space for new business. If you consider that Dar Es Salaam is traditionally a trade city, then you can easily figure how the push to development makes the environment here: workers from outside and expats getting in and out at any time, new offices opening every month, a number of adventurers and enthusiasts building their fortune day by day - and still a high need of services and infrastructures... the opportunities are quite ready to be taken, and professionals who are truly experienced and passionate in a precise field have a lot of great opportunities.
Rich Social Life
Almost immediately you'll be positively surprised, realizing how fun this city can be. Events and parties of every kind will keep you busy every single weekend, Friday to Sunday! Wherever you decide to spend your evenings, you're almost sure that you'll meet lot of people that you know - colleagues, clients, neighbors, whatever. A couple of hours surfing on local Facebook groups and pages, will give you a panorama of what and who you're going to see.
Cross Cultural Setting
You will have the chance of hanging out with people from many countries - America, Europe, Asia, Africa... and to change the cultural mix of your pals group, until you will feel comfortable almost like in your own country. Plus, the frequent turnover of expats will give you the possibility of extending your social network in all the five continents. Just avoid to limit yourself into your national community, and dare to explore outside!
5 Reasons for not to relocate in Dar Es Salaam
Not a relaxing place
Risk of disappointment number one. Mind that it's not like it looks in the pictures - blue sky, palms, beaches all over, colorful markets and white mosques. When you live here, you feel that sensation very rarely. You feel much more the tropical suffocating heath, the dust getting stuck to your clothes and to your hair, the people pointing at you one more time than allowed, the traffic jam locking you on the same corner for hours, the schedules broken every moment, the deadlines never sorted out on time, the reservations that don't reserve a thing, the mosquitos biting like crazy all the night... and your amazing free time proposals killed by a phone call from the wrong person in the wrong moment. Always.
It is a fact that life in many developing countries is very cheap. Well, this is not true in Dar Es Salaam. Simply because for an expat, in general, to live strictly like a local is not a plausible option on the medium-long term. A house built in a good way and guaranteeing acceptable conditions in terms of hygiene and safety costs to a stranger such as a small apartment in Milan. Cheap food along the road is feasible just until your first serious stomach disease. You'll enjoy a lot food shopping in local markets and experiments with local recipes, but after some months eating chicken and chips, rice and beans, you'll be starving for imported products. Boredom kills you on this side of the World, if you cannot afford to pay the entrance fee to leisure places, because there are not public parks or public beaches where you can go and relax for free. Prices are a bit lower than in Europe, but you will need to buy and pay for many more reasons.
It will be completely useless and frustrating to shout for having basic everyday services on time and in a reliable way. The technician to fix your home's electricity system or your fridge will let you waiting for days and days. At the restaurant, you'll see a wrong order coming at your table many and many times. Somebody will allow you to make a reservation even in situations of overbooking, and you'll realize it too late. Your maid will escape after ruining your favorite dress. The driver of an overloaded bus will start racing like a mad person in the middle of a very busy street, and you'll pray to survive the trip. Nobody will be able to tell you where the hell is, after months waiting, the file of your residence permit. The customer care of your bank will close the call and will not pick the phone again, if the problem you have is too tricky. Think about how going to the doctor can be (insurance coverage for at least an international clinic is highly advised). And if you dare to make a note, somebody will tell you "Welcome to Africa! Here it works this way, you have to understand" - and believe me, your will of understanding will be hardly challenged in those moments.
If the reason is... love
If you're planning a relocation mainly because of a romantic relationship, think about your choice many and many times. International love can work well, indeed. But things don't go as expected most of the times. Apart this detail depending anyway on very personal factors, relocation and life in a development country is sustainable mainly because you strongly believe that your work will make a difference both in yours and in the other's life; and the things you do will somehow remain as a positive testimony. The belief that you're contributing to the development of a country, and of yourself as well, is the only reason that really makes a person from abroad able to adapt to compromises that this lifestyle requires. On the other hand, this way of working a bit "day by day", with very low chances of making long term plans, doesn't match at all with the will of building a family.
Oh yes. Despite the rich social life mentioned above, recurrent periods of boredom are a big problem here. The rate of turnover among expats is high so you'll loose periodically your adventure mates. And also the company of locals, of course, cannot fill all your time. You can say that life in your country is lonely as well sometimes... but in cities like Dar Es Salaam, this can be even worse. I give you a reason: there is no choice, places are always the same, shops are always the same, you'll not find that variety typical, for instance, of European cities - there are not panoramic spots, public parks, relevant museums, theatre and concerts where you can even go alone, just a few art exhibitions. So in the end you'll always be around restaurants and parties. Parties and restaurants. Great fun, but nothing new. Ever.
And that's all folks. If you're a wannabe expat, dreaming to relocate here, just make your evaluations with honesty... if the pros are worthing to you more than the cons, welcome to Dar Es Salaam!