A Medical Student On Living & Learning In Windhoek, Namibia

Considering a move to a foreign country? Expatations features foreign nationals from countries around the world who share their insights on life in their adopted countries and what to expect in-country. We feature Esraa El-Marakby, an expat who calls Windhoek, Namibia (sounds like: Vindt- huk) home.

Where are you originally from?

Cairo, Egypt.

Where do you live now?
Windhoek, the capital city of Namibia.

What is your occupation?
I am a medical student at the University of Namibia.

What do you enjoy most about Windhoek and how would you rate the quality of life?
The quality of life is fairly good. It is a quiet and very peaceful city. I enjoy the culture and the way of life the most. The way of living in Windhoek is simple and people are free to be who they are. The people are also friendly. The infrastructure is very good, with necessary amenities.

Are there any challenges?
Yes of course; any city in the world has negatives. Like most major cities around the world, the incidence of crime in Windhoek is relatively high, but it is mostly petty crime. Many people who are not cautious with their property usually end up as victims of property theft. Crime in Windhoek hardly leads to physical harm.

What are the biggest adjustments you have had to make, if any? How is the culture here different from yours?
Because I have spent most of my life in Namibia, I never felt the culture shock when I moved to Windhoek. The only major adjustment I had to make when I moved to Windhoek was learning how to live alone as I had previously been living with my family in Northern Namibia.

What is the cost of living in Windhoek, would you say it is an expensive place to live?
It is hard to determine the costs of living in Namibia compared to the rest of the world, because it is all relative. While it is more expensive to live in Namibia than it is to live in Egypt, I would not say that it’s an expensive place to live.

How would you rate the public transportation in Windhoek? What is the best way to get around?
In Windhoek, taxis are the main source of public transportation and are very easy to catch.

How would you rate healthcare in Windhoek – are there any hospitals or clinics you would recommend?
Public health care is lacking in the range of services it is able to provide, however the private hospitals and clinics are good.

Are there any areas or suburbs that you would recommend for expats to live in?
Expats who are not familiar with the area should live in the city centre. Supermarkets and fast food franchises are within walking distance everywhere in the city centre. There are many backpackers and relatively affordable accommodation in the city centre. Keep in mind that in Namibia, stores close much earlier than in other parts of the world. Most supermarkets close at 8pm while most clothing stores close at 5pm.

Is there particular discrimination towards foreigners?
Not at all. Namibians are very friendly.

Was it easy for you to meet new people and make new friends?
Yes, it was extremely easy.

What are some of the local hangout spots and what are some fun activities to do over the weekend?The warehouse theatre and boiler room are my personal favourites. The warehouse theatre is a local chill spot in the centre of town. It draws the artistic community in Windhoek and is a fave among tourists. I would suggest weekend trips to the coast including Walvis Bay and Swakopmund. If you are into surfing, beaches and great seafood, this is the place to be.

What is the shopping experience like in Windhoek?
Not luxurious or exciting, but there is a great selection of stores and boutiques. For clothing and accessories, I would recommend Mr. Price, Trueworths and Woolworths. For your groceries: Checkers, Pick n Pay and Shoprite are good places to go. This list is not exhaustive of course, but these are the most popular places to go to.

Would you say that Windhoek offers great options for foodies?
Yes indeed! The city is very eclectic in terms of good and affordable cuisine.

Do you ever have to worry about your safety?
Sometimes you need to worry about your safety. It is always better to be cautious than to be sorry. But Windhoek is a safe place once you get used to life here.

Is there anything else that you would like expats considering a move to Windhoek or Namibia in general?
To enjoy the Namibian experience as much as you can. It is indeed a unique place and I would encourage people not to shy away from mingling with the locals. They are very friendly and it would enhance your experience if you have a local to show you around.