What Four Black Expats Wish They Knew Before Moving to East Africa

There is something about relocating to East Africa that gets us excited and ready to book that one-way ticket, immediately. With Black expats taking the cues and making homes around the world, East Africa is a favored destination. Rich traditions, bustling art scenes, magical safaris and diversity in languages and landscapes, this is a top Travel Noire region.

We spoke with four Black expats who live or have lived in various East African countries to share their experiences. They have a lot of eye-opening thoughts to share about the expat journey, here is what to know:


Expat and YouTuber, Princess Living Free, moved from the U.S. to Ethiopia to enjoy life in East Africa. Having lived in Ethiopia previously for 2 years as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer, she was pretty familiar with the country and what to expect before returning again. This time round, she had never lived in Ethiopia as a wife and mother, nor had she lived in the country’s capital city, Addis Ababa.

Here are a few things this new experience has taught her so far:

  • There is a detox period: You may have left Babylon/the West, but Babylon/the West may not have left you. This is one thing that I also experienced during my first-go-round in Ethiopia but definitely hit me harder the second time around. During the first 4-6 months after arriving to Ethiopia (and likely to other African countries) you may experience “Western world withdrawals” especially if you came from Europe, America or places like those. Ethiopia is a developing country, so many of the comforts, standards and luxuries that exist in developed countries are not yet in place. For example, power and water outages are certainly not uncommon in Ethiopia, and there may be more flying and crawling “guests” in your home than you’re used to. The accessibility and reliability of Wi-Fi also leaves much to be desired. Of course these issues aren’t that big a deal in the grand scheme of things, but it does take time to get used to a new way of living. However, if you stick it out, you will make it through the detox period and the West will be purged from your system. When I first arrived in Ethiopia more than 10 years ago, I seriously questioned my decision to come. After my first 2 year stint in Ethiopia, I had become so well adjusted that I cried hard when it was time to leave. I knew one day I would return.
  • Addis Ababa is very expensive: If I am not mistaken, Addis Ababa is the most expensive city on the continent, per capita. I repeat, do not be fooled by the attractive U.S. Dollar to Ethiopian Birr conversion rate! Trying to buy Western foods, clothes and overall lifestyle will cost you and your money will fly away and disappear if you don’t spend and save wisely. However, for your mental sanity there are a few things I would definitely advise that you splurge on including a washing machine and a house/decor that makes you feel comfortable in your space. Other than that, try to bring other products such as clothes, shoes, lotions and cosmetic items that you’re used to from home – and bring extras! You can always have people bring you things, send you things, or you can go get stuff when you visit. Unfortunately, Amazon does not deliver here.

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SOURCE: Travel Noire, Amara Amaryah