Jacques Boonen moved to Lusaka in Zambia in 2013 because he felt like he needed a change in his life. Two years later, he says there is very little he misses about his home country of Belgium and he has embraced his new life in Africa.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Antwerp, Belgium
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Lusaka, Zambia
Q: When did you move here?
A: October 2013
Q: Did you move here alone or with family?
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I really like the country, I work here and needed some change in my life.
Q: What do you enjoy most about Zambia? How would you rate the quality of life compared to your home country?
A: I do not have to compare with my home country, because Zambia is my home country now.
Q: What do you miss most about home?
A: I do not miss Belgium at all.
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life in Zambia?
A: I am well travelled so I didn’t experience culture shock when I moved to Zambia. With all necessary precautions and experience, everybody can manage a lot.
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home?
A: Comparing to Belgium, Zambia is cheap, even if it is more expensive than neighbouring countries. Being organised is very important to save a lot of money.
Q: How would you rate the public transport?
A: The best is having your own car or a company car. I do not use public transport.
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in Zambia?
A: You find criminality everywhere and there are certain areas to avoid. I also always lock the car when I’m driving, but this is the same behaviour seen in other capitals in the world.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city?
A: Every option is there – real estate in Lusaka is a booming sector. But it depends on what you want to pay for it.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Chilanga, where I live, is splendid. Lilaya is also very nice.
Meeting people and making friends
Q: Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: No, absolutely not.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends?
A: Meeting people is pretty easy, even when you are travelling in Zambia and there are lots of possibilities through sports like golf and bars and cafés – or even just making an enquiry in the supermarket. Zambians are very friendly.
About working in Zambia
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit?
A: I was very well informed, so I did not had any problems. By law, work permits must be obtained by employers. I have an official investor passport so that makes a very big difference. But Zambia immigration is very strict on the issue, so do not underestimate their controls.
Q: Is there any other advice you would like to offer new expat arrivals?
A: This is a very difficult question because everybody experiences such a move very personally – there is no manual here. But prepare yourself before you move, and know that nothing is easy in the world and that each challenge will make your day.
~ Interviewed in May 2015