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78 WORKING IN AFGHANISTAN •• Top Tips For Working in Afghanistan

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 ‘Things to bring: a very warm duvet or sleeping bag for the winter, carbon monoxide detectors for heaters in the winter so you don’t die in your sleep. Bring lots of intensive moisturiser, but not lightweight stuff – something like Elizabeth Arden Eight Hour Cream. In the summer, a pumice or equivalent for feet and especially heels which can get dry and cracked.’

JN, Kabul

Essential Field Guide:

Afghanistan by Edward Girardet and Jonathan Walter is an excellent primer for those staying long-term in Afghanistan.

 ‘Nothing is never what it seems in Afghanistan and if we (the visitor) can understand 20% of what is really going on in any one scene (politi- cally, culturally and so on) we are doing pretty well. Instead, chill out and spend your first couple of months just listening and observing.’

Anonymous, Kabul

 ‘Try to learn enough language to do the basic greetings at the very least. It takes down barriers quickly and serves to humanise you to Afghans. They love to hear you try and are very forgiving with their language. Lots of people bring great big clunky hiking boots as their main shoes. Try to remember to bring a lightweight pair of shoes that slip on and off easily. It makes it easier getting in and out of houses and offices.’

JK, Faizabad

 ‘The key tip is to approach Afghanistan mentally prepared for a truly surreal experience and adventure. You’ll certainly get sensory overload here and it’s normal to get depressed occasionally and ask the prover- bial ‘what the hell am I doing here?’ question. It’s vital to have a set of friends outside of the work field that you are involved in. Try to break out of the UN, USAID/American, NGO, security firm or French/Euro speaking cliques. Otherwise, you end up talking shop all the time and find it hard to let go.’

Anonymous, Kabul

 ‘Get out on the street to walk, see, feel, experience. The bazaars and streets have so much to offer, but many expats will never take the risk for fear of what might happen and never for a moment thinking what they might have missed.’

JV, Bamiyan

 ‘Try to make local friends and visit as many local restaurants and places as possible. Ask plenty of pertinent questions with your Afghan friends, but realise there is a huge cultural and economic gap. Just because someone speaks English well and dresses in Western clothes does not mean they share all of your values and beliefs.’

JR, Kabul

 ‘Don’t bring too many things – pretty much any Western products are available. Shop locally instead of just going to the PX supermarkets. The only advantage they have is the alcohol they sell, and that’s now restricted to International Security Assistance Force people.’

SKL, Kabul

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