This month we are sharing an exciting interview with an expat in Uganda! The first time on the blog, all the way from Africa! Expat mom from Germany, Susanne, shares her life and parenting story in a small town in Northern Uganda. She lives there together with her husband and two young children.
I have yet to go to Uganda, so this conversation was super interesting. I am delighted I can share it with you. So enjoy the read, and remember to connect with Susanne on Instagram! Mama_in_Uganda shares delightful pictures and stories about daily life in a small Uganda town.
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Please tell me about your family and what brought you to Uganda
I grew up in a village in Germany and always had an interest and a heart to travel to Africa. So after studying social work, I joined YWAM, a Christian organization. I did my training for that NGO in Rwanda and later joined a South Sudan team. Unfortunately, we had to leave because of war and are now based in Northern Uganda. I met my husband at work in South Sudan, He is South Sudanese, and we have two children, a 3-year-old girl, and a 1-year-old boy.
What kind of work do you do in Uganda?
We work with a Christian NGO called Youth with a mission YWAM. They focus on areas of Evangelism, training, and mercy ministries. With two kids, I am doing background work in communication, social media, and member care, and we were leading a discipleship training school.
What do you think are the main advantages of raising kids in Uganda?
The first one that comes to mind is the weather. It is always sunny and hot every day all year round. So you only need a few different clothes just for hot weather and some sweaters. The kids can always play outside with mud and get wet, but they will dry quickly in the sun. Secondly, people here love children, they are always welcome, and people have many children. So my kids always find friends to play with.
The saying “it takes a village to raise a child” is a reality here. Everyone cares and looks out for each other. When my child falls down or has any need, every adult around and even bigger children will help.
We also eat healthy because everything we can buy here is fresh from the market and the gardens. It is easy to raise your kids to eat healthily here. Many fruits are abundant: mango trees everywhere, jackfruit, passion fruit, and papaya.
What do you recommend to see when traveling with kids in Uganda?
While traveling in Uganda, you can visit national parks and see many animals. When you reach the main airport, you are just next to Victoria lake. If you have bigger kids, you can do gorilla trekking. The River Nile passes through Uganda, so there are a lot of delightful touristic places around the Jinja area, wild water rafting, and many other things.
What advice would you give to families traveling with kids in Uganda?
If you don’t have your own car, hire a private taxi to move around. You can get a reliable driver with a good car, and they will stop whenever you need and adjust the journey according to your kids’ needs. You can buy many snacks even while traveling from the roadside, fruits, and other fried snacks. There also are restaurants along the way with buffets where you can stop and eat.
Have any cultural differences between parenting in Germany and Uganda impacted your family?
There are different parenting styles here also depending on whether you stay in a bigger town and if both parents are working. Compared to the villages, families rely on agriculture, and parenting looks quite different. The same in Germany. There are different parenting styles and views on it. So comparing both of them is pretty hard without ending up in stereotypes.
Here, people love having children, and they are welcome. However, outside the capital, there are few options or offers for what you can do with kids, like public playgrounds, swimming pools, or anything. Unless as part of a restaurant we can find one playground in our town and one swimming pool, you have to eat or drink something in the restaurant to use the playground. So I am missing that from Germany.
Also, you cannot find groups for kids for sports or dance classes here. Instead, children start going to school or kindergarten when they are 3 and stay mostly the whole day in school.
Have any challenges or surprises come with moving to Uganda with a family?
We lived in Uganda when we started having children. The differences that I can see are about breastfeeding, for example. It is common to breastfeed until the children are around 2 years old. If you stop breastfeeding before that, it will be considered as early.
Power outages are widespread here and can happen several times a week. I find it very challenging to deal with that when you have small kids, and suddenly all the houses and the neighborhood are in complete darkness. However, provision for that can be taken by always having candles ready or installing solar power.
Another challenge is house chores. We don’t stay in a big town. So it is rare to use machines for anything inside the house. You would usually cook on charcoal or firewood. There is no washing machine, dishwasher, or vacuum cleaner. And there is way more dust and specks of dirt carried inside the house because life takes place mainly outside the home. So the workload is enormous and hard to manage alone.
But at the same time, having a helper or more is very common. Either the relatives help you, or you employ house helpers. It is also way more affordable than in Germany.
Almost everything has to be cooked from scratch, sorted and cleaned from the soil from the garden, then prepared. So that retakes more time but is also more healthy.
Are there any safety precautions that visitors traveling with children should be aware of?
Try to protect your children from mosquito bites, mainly in the evening and at night. You will need to sleep under mosquito nets, wear long trousers, and apply anti-mosquito spray. Then there should not be a problem; maybe also take malaria prophylaxis.
How accessible is healthcare for families in Uganda?
There is no general health insurance that everyone needs to have. So you choose your doctor and hospital according to your financial situation. Families in the villages may have small health centers nearby with basic health care. For expats or visitors, it is affordable, and there are good hospitals and doctors of Western standards available (mostly) in the capital Kampala.
Are there any social or cultural customs you have had to adjust to as a family living in Uganda?
Respecting elders and people older than you is very important. It is something valuable we also want to teach our children. The roles of girls and women and boys and men are traditional. Everyone knows their responsibilities and is expected to fulfill them. In the area where we live, among the tribe, curtsy is common and expected for girls and women. When greeting older people, they bend their knees.
Do people have to worry about dangerous wild animals coming into their towns or villages that are more remote?
We once struggled with Monitor lizards coming to our compound and even living there without our knowledge. It kept eating our rabbit babies, so we had to stop the rabbit project.
In towns, you may find poisonous snakes, which are a threat but can be treated in the hospital. If you live close to the National Park or a village inside the National Park, you may find wild animals come rather often. Like they can announce on the radio that elephants or other animals are moving around.
The National Parks are not fenced, so animals can roam freely. Also, some main roads lead through the parks. For example, if we go to North West Uganda, we drive through the park and sometimes see elephants crossing the road.
What traditional Ugandan dishes have you become particularly fond of?
Our kids and us as a family love the food here. In our town, we mostly only have local dishes available, so that is what we eat regularly. Most common are rice and beans, plantain, sweet potatoes, g-nut paste, greens, sesame, and maize posho.
Thank you, Susi, for participating in the global parenting interview series! It was lovely meeting and talking to you. Uganda sounds and looks fascinating and I hope to visit it in the future! Meanwhile, I wish you and your family the best of luck and look forward to seeing new stories and pictures on your Instagram grid.
Best wishes all the way from India!