I have already discovered this on my first day of touching ground in Luanda. Even though I knew Angola’s capital is famously the most expensive city in the world, prices are even beyond one’s wildest imagination. A pretty average hotel room that already costs 450 USD a night when I booked it three weeks ago has just been increased to 490 USD. A small bottle of water costs 7 USD and pasta with tomato sauce 50 USD.
Cultural notions of time and reliability are different and as a result it is a challenge to schedule meetings. Calls are by far the preferred method of communication as people like the human interaction. On the upside, time is fluid and people are generally flexible. If they are late, they smile – no need for an excuse. But overall, this attitude makes it a challenge to commit to a time and date though, let alone keep a tight schedule.
But the Western business traveler (myself included) needs patience. After all, the country only emerged from a traumatic civil war a decade ago. Today, this is most obvious in the labor force where an entire generation did not receive the most basic schooling. This of course, presents various obstacles in everyday life.
Luanda’s skyline has changed dramatically in the last ten years
But Angola’s pace of change is nothing less than remarkable. The city is bustling with commercial activity. Everywhere you look there are huge construction sites and office towers are rising into the sky. Local bank branches are on every other corner. The roads are packed at most times of day with a considerable amount of expensive cars. There are business people of all colors and races, with a definitive majority of Portuguese, Brazilian and Chinese. People are very friendly and approachable. They like to enjoy life, to celebrate. And so I was warned before coming to Luanda that I would get little sleep because at nighttime, “that’s when the real business deals are struck.”