Why This Globe-trotting Black Family Decided To Make Tanzania Their New Home
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IMAGINE packing up and taking your family to live in exciting locales around the world. That’s exactly what Rukiya McNair and her husband have been doing…for years! And after test driving several countries, the McNairs recently decided to make Tanzania their official home.
A recent study found that one-third of Americans are thinking about moving abroad. Have you been feeling the pull too? Then, Rukiya’s book is the perfect resource to get you there. Keep reading to find out how the McNairs have successfully made a life out of international living and how they’re adjusting to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania.
Hi! You and your husband have lived abroad since your youngest child was about six months old. WHY DID YOU DECIDE TO leave the U.S.?
We initially left the United States to have a slower pace of life than the one we were living in the Washington, D.C. Metro area. However, before we got married we talked about living abroad with children. We both agreed that we didn’t want to raise a family in the United States.
Why didn’t you want to raise your children in the states?
Raising children abroad is appealing to my husband and I because we appreciate the way many countries give children the opportunity to have the childhood they deserve. In our opinion, children in the U.S. have to grow up more quickly than necessary and are exposed to more violence at a younger age, whether it be through entertainment or real-life, compared to many other countries around the world. Black American children particularly have to grow up faster because they need to be taught how to maneuver in a society that treats and views them as less than. My husband and I would like to preserve more of their innocence for longer than would be possible in the United States. We want them to have the most adventurous, low-stress, and fun childhood possible.
You and your family have moved from country to country…on purpose! Why have you chosen this lifestyle? how do you decide which country to experience next?
We have been traveling to different places to find out which place is a good fit for a long-term stay. When deciding on a new location, we look at several different factors such as the cost of living, weather, safety, ease of starting and owning a business, and the ability to purchase property.
How challenging has it been to relocate several times with two kids?
It has been very challenging. However the more we do it, the easier things get. I have found that having a good plan and packing early are the keys to a smooth transition.
You’re now living in Dar es Salaam, Tanzania and plan to stay permanently! What is it about Tanzania that hooked you?
Yes, we plan to stay in Tanzania permanently! We have finally found a place that feels like home to us and that is important. We love it here because the people here are kind and friendly, the cost of living and weather are great, there’s access to the beach, nature, and things to do for the children and...it’s Africa!
On Everyday Life
Can you tell us a little bit about Dar es Salaam? What’s everyday life like for you?
Dar es Salaam is a large city and just like any other major city around the world it has a variety of people, businesses, foods, schools, and things to do.
Everyday life is laid-back for us. However, things will pick up when our children start attending a local school soon. Right now, we wake up and get their homeschool work out of the way in the mornings. After that, we usually go out to the grocery store or take care of whatever errands we have to do. I prefer to go out before 11am because it can get very hot here after that.
In the afternoon, our children usually have free time and play. In the evening, we either have dinner at home or we might dine out. There are so many great restaurants here to choose from. Our favorites are the Ethiopian restaurants and there is a Jamaican restaurant on the beach that we enjoy as well.
How are your kids adjusting to life in Tanzania?
Our children love the adventure of travel and get excited about new places. They really like living in Africa and seeing, as they say, other “brown people” like themselves. Both of our children love the beach so it’s been important to us that we have access to one wherever we are located.
Let’s talk school! Are your children in local schools or homeschooled?
Right now they are homeschooled. However, we have found a school here in Dar es Salaam that they will be attending soon!
How was the process of picking a school? Easy or Difficult?
My husband and I are clear on what we want in a school for our children, so it made the process fairly simple for us. I also homeschool, so if there wasn’t a school we thought was suitable for our children, I would teach them. There are several international schools in Dar es Salaam and even more if you are looking at the whole of Tanzania.
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So far, what are the best parts of living in Tanzania?
Blackness. That’s the best part! I love seeing Blackness. I love that people speak to me in Swahili without hesitation (even though I’m still a newbie and slowly learning). I love being referred to by strangers as sister. I love that the billboard advertisements on the streets are reflections of me. I love turning on the television and seeing people who look like me. I love that my children get to experience all of this and that this will be the norm for them as they grow up.
I also think the music is here is amazing! The influence hip-hop has here is clear and it’s something I’m hoping to learn more about as time goes on.
What are the most challenging aspects of living there?
Power outages. The power goes out arbitrarily and that can be frustrating, especially considering how hot it can get here.
How have you been welcomed as an African American expat?
I feel like people have been extremely welcoming to us and that is a large part of the reason we feel so at home here. Even though the majority of people we have met speak Swahili and English, it will only get better as we learn more Swahili.
Can you share a few details on the cost of living in your community?
The cost of living in Dar es Salaam varies but it seems like there is something for most budgets. You can get a nice two bedroom house for as little as $300 per month. However, you are generally asked to pay six months in advance. Outside of Dar es Salaam rent can be much less. Most houses come unfurnished, while many apartments are already furnished. Electricity here is pre-paid just as it is in many countries outside of the United States.
You’ve also lived in Rwanda. So far, how does living in Tanzania compare to living in Rwanda?
Tanzania is vastly different from Rwanda. Dar es Salaam is a much larger city than Kigali, so by default there is more to do, more opportunity, and access to a wider variety of products.
Would you say there are many entrepreneurial opportunities in Rwanda and Tanzania? What have you noticed so far?
We are still researching about this for Tanzania. However in Rwanda, yes there are an abundance of opportunities!
Your husband works in Afghanistan; what tips can you share for other parents considering traveling/living abroad without a spouse around 24/7?
The advice I have is to just do it! Reach out to others who are doing the same, research your future home thoroughly, block out the naysayers, and always know that it’s okay to change your mind!
On Professional Life & Business Opportunities
Can you tell us about the immigration process for relocating to Rwanda and Tanzania? Are there any specific visas you had to get?
In Rwanda, there is a process that for us, required starting a business and then steps to residency. We arrived in Rwanda on the East African Tourist Visa, which is valid for 90 days. After this, you can register a business in Rwanda and then you can apply for temporary residency. The length of residency depends, but it’s usually two or three years and is renewable. If you have your paperwork in order it can be done fairly quickly.
In Tanzania, you can get a visa on arrival for $100 and it is valid for one year. On that visa, you are allowed to stay in Tanzania for up to 90 days at a time. We will be applying for residency once this visa expires.
You previously owned and operated a fair trade jewelry and clothing business. What advice can you share for others interested in starting a similar venture (at home/abroad)?
Start small and grow over time. Research the laws, restrictions, and licenses needed thoroughly. Also, choose your vendors wisely and don’t be afraid to be upfront and honest about what you want.
What are your professional plans for Tanzania?
My husband and I plan on starting a business in east Africa.
Many families want to move to abroad but feel overwhelmed with the process. However, you offer consulting services and have written a book breaking it all down! Tell us about your book Melanin Migration!
Melanin Migration is a book for families who want to take the leap abroad but don’t know where to start. People will learn about getting over their fears, the basics of pre-planning a family move abroad, how to deal with naysayers, how to choose where you want relocate to, how I personally view money in relation to a move abroad, what to do once you land in your new country, and so much more! The Melanin Migration Official Workbook accompanies the book and will help future globetrotters and migrants organize their travel plans. It includes a financial planner, affirmation writing practice, and more!