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Aussie families are increasingly heading overseas to reap the benefits of international mining. But what's it really like? Mining Family Matters women spill the beans on living and working across the globe ...  

By Pru, an expat mum in Maputo, Mozambique

I currently live in Maputo, the capital city of Mozambique, with my husband and two boys (10 and 7.5). We have been here for two years, my husband works for Mozal, an aluminum smelter which is majority owned by BHP Billiton. To say that the move here was a shock to all four of our systems would be a gross understatement! We relocated from Roxby Downs, SA (a mining town of 5000, where the boys walked or rode to school and we didn't have to lock our doors) to a Third World

country and compound living, behind electric fences and armed security guards. There are even two police officers posted outside the boys' school with AK-47s! Needless to say, the boys really struggled. Which, in turn, meant that I struggled. Thankfully they adjusted and now love Mozambique, their friends and their school. 

Unfortunately, I am useless with languages, so moving to a Portuguese-speaking country without time to prepare, even a little, didn't help. My Portuguese teacher was a lifeline! I find if I at least try to stumble through a conversation or transaction in Portuguese (with liberal amounts of English thrown in!) that I can get my way around most things, including police road blocks and the customs officials at the border (I do all of my meat shopping in South Africa once a month and smuggle it back into Moz - with a few cases of wine too!).

The security issues here were beyond my understanding prior to our move, but I have mostly felt safe. If you are sensible about where you shop, wear minimal jewelry, lock your car doors and pay attention to who/what is around you, then you are generally ok. We did have some fairly serious riots here a month ago... roads blocked with burning tires, people throwing rocks, police using live ammunition on the people... definitely one experience we could have lived without, but I guess it is something else to tell the grandkids!

Something I wasn't prepared for was how difficult it is to have someone else in your space every day. Yes, I am talking about our maid - I know, poor me! I love her dearly, and must admit I will really hate having to do my own ironing again, but two years in and I still struggle with never being alone. That being said, leaving Nelia will break my heart :(

Mozambique and it's people are beautiful. The beaches to the south and north of Maputo are stunning, and we are very close to Sth Africa and Swaziland for quick weekend getaways or a safari :)

There is a large expat community here (very different from a mining community). I have found some wonderful friends from all over the globe, but have also been shocked at times by the attitudes of many expats. My salvation came, as it usually does, in the form of friends and having a sense of community. My boys attend the American International School and I have become involved with the PTA (believe me, I would have laughed at the thought previously) and in the school community generally.

We have fallen in love with Mozambique and Africa. All the things that make this a difficult place to live only highlight the beauty of this continent and the astounding resilience of the people who have survived, and continue to survive unbelievable hardship. We leave Maputo in less than 7 weeks and we are all a little heartbroken to be saying goodbye. Knowing what I know now, warts and all, I would make the choice again to move here - it has been truly life changing for all of us, and I feel blessed to have had this experience.

More amazing testimonials from overseas:

Q&A: what to expect when moving overseas

Ever worked and/or lived overseas for an international mining company? We'd love to hear your story!