After almost 3 years of living in Angola, I think it’s time to look back a little and think about everything I have learned while an expat in Africa. Living in such a different and exotic place, and being exposed to a reality so different from Europe made me have different perspectives, learn to do unexpected things and ultimately contribute actively on my goal of enjoying life the most! So, What have I learned living in Angola?
Luanda will test and retest your patience, in every possible way! In the beginning, you will lose it a few times. When you think: there’s nothing else to happen, then something really “amazing” will surprise you! But then you get used to it… or sort of 🙂 Well, if you don’t get used to it, you will probably have a bad time, during your expat years. Many of my friends and expat colleagues tell me that they have to go back every 3 or 4 months to relax and take a breath. Believe us, you will need those days out of the mad traffic, the traffic police officer, the long work hours, the few and very expensive fun activities, the constant slight feeling of insecurity, the electricity and water supply problems, the foreign currency nightmare… and so on. I have learned to constantly live with it and disregard most of these things. After all with a little patience, flexibility all these small things get solved, become a valuable experience and some cool story to tell afterward.
To appreciate electricity
After two and half years in Angola, I truly love electricity. I have learned the value of things I always thought were a given fact. I now know what we can’t do without electricity and I will share this awesome insight: without electricity… WE CAN’T DO ANYTHING! You don’t have TV, internet, computer (at least after a few hours)… The water pump won’t work, so you can’t bath, do the dishes or use the toilet… The fridge and freezer won’t work and your food will get rotten; you won’t be able to charge your phone; you will have a problem even to enter your building at night because you don’t see anything. Did I ever mention that Luanda is quite hot? You won’t sleep at night because it’s too hot, and guess what? The air-conditioner doesn’t work without electricity. And that’s why in and Jorge, Claudia and electricity have a three-way love affair 🙂
The Handyman Things
I may have a few qualities but being handyman isn’t one of them. Or wasn’t !? You will learn about handy things in Luanda, or at least you will have many opportunities 🙂 By now I have learned or at least improved my skills of changing a car tire; change and charge a car or generator battery; I have even charged the generator battery using the car; I have learned how to bleed the water pump and change the water pump’s pressure tank.
I still need to learn how to do the maintenance of a generator 🙂 but we still haven’t left!
The three companies
I have learned that renting in Luanda has its own uniqueness, you need to be aware of the three companies. Meaning? You have to make sure that you can substitute the public companies: TCUL (transports) EPAL (Water) and EDEL (Electricity). Although they exist and provide the services, they are just unreliable! So, your house will always have to have a generator, an electric water pump and a water tank. And you will have to have a car, service car or yours. Unfortunately, internet companies work as bad as the three above, but you have to live with it. There’s little you can do about it.
One of the first things I’ve learned was to be in alert, due to the unfamiliar environment and a constant feeling of insecurity. With the time that fades away, but it’s always there. I have got used to always double-check if car and house doors are locked, check if someone is following you if that neighborhood is safe to drive or walk by. I always avoid crowded streets, walk fast or at least as if I have an important goal and avoid having the phone and wallet in my hands. I have learned to be safe about water and fresh food and to vigorously avoid mosquitoes due to the danger of typhoid fever malaria and other diseases. But don’t be too scared about this, I’ve never got typhoid or malaria (although almost everyone I know has) and only got robbed once and it only happened because I was slightly stupid. The funny thing is that by now when we go on holidays and my family and friends tell me to be safe… pfff please, I live in Angola! 🙂
Yes, he was robbed on stage, with everyone watching 🙂
As we have written several times before, street selling is part of Angolan culture. I have to say I’m not the biggest fan of buying things on the street but as everyone else, I do it regularly. One of the great things about it is that you can bargain a little or a lot. With time you become used to it and as you learn more about the fair prices you will become better. Just don’t expect to be able to buy at the same prices as Angolans do. Well at least I still can’t, but now I can buy things easier and get much better value for money deals.
Luanda has its own charm and it’s important that someone who comes from Europe or the US knows that they are in a very different place and don’t expect to have everything we have in our home country. The key to all of this is our ability to adapt and enjoy what you have. I have learned that I am way more adaptable and flexible than I ever thought. I believe that this ability is inherent to everyone, people just need to really want to and/or have a goal to achieve.
What do you think?…