Moving to Tunisia
Tunisia, located on Africa’s Mediterranean Coast, is home to thousands of expats, most of whom are from France, Italy or Malta. Due to the country’s history of migration, invasion and occupation, as well as its location at the crossroads of the Mediterranean, Africa and the Arab world, Tunisia is home to a unique blend of peoples and cultures.
Expats moving to Tunisia will find a fascinating, vibrant and culturally rich country and will enjoy the pleasant lifestyle that Tunisia has to offer.
The main drivers of Tunisia’s economy are petroleum, mining and manufacturing. Most expats relocating to Tunisia are employed as senior management professionals in these industries and live in the major cities of Sfax, Sousse or the capital, Tunis.
While Tunisia is a predominantly Muslim country, it is considerably more progressive than its counterparts in the Middle East. This is especially true when it comes to the position of women, who are held in high regard and encouraged to play a leading role in business. The official language of Tunisia is Arabic, but French is widely spoken in business. As Tunisians speak a very specific dialect of Arabic called Derja, it might be easier for expats to learn French before moving to Tunisia.
Partly due to the historic presence of a large expat community, new arrivals will find that Tunisians are tolerant of other cultures and open to forming strong business relationships and friendships with foreigners.
However, there are a number of security concerns for expats living in Tunisia. The Tunisian revolution of January 2011 resulted in the ousting of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali after being in power for 23 years. Protests against poor living conditions and the lack of political freedom resulted in many deaths and injuries but ultimately led to the democratisation of the country. In June 2015, more than 30 tourists were killed in Sousse in a terrorist attack. While this was an isolated case, there have been recurring states of emergency since 2011, allowing Tunisian authorities to implement curfews and roadblocks if the political situation becomes volatile again. Expats should avoid public demonstrations as they have been known to result in violent clashes between the police and protestors.
After the most recent attack, various countries have declared a high threat of terrorism and advised against all but essential travel to Tunisia's borders with Algeria and Libya, as well as the mountainous area in the west of the country.
It's important to be particularly vigilant in crowded places such as souks where pickpockets commonly operate. Expat women might experience some harassment from young males, but this is generally harmless and it's best to just ignore the comments. It is also advisable that women dress modestly to avoid unwanted attention and as a sign of respect for the local culture.
Expats relocating to Tunisia with children should be aware that schooling options are limited. There are just a handful of international schools in Tunis and, in many cases, expats opt to send their children to international boarding schools in Morocco, Spain or France.
Most expats living in Tunisia prefer to use private healthcare facilities, which are of an excellent standard, especially in Tunis. Tunisian doctors are competent and generally speak fluent French.