Tunisia is on the northernmost tip of the African continent and its location is at the crossroads of Europe, Africa and the Arab world. Expats who relocate to Tunisia aren't always sure what to expect from this relatively small African country, but are unfailingly and pleasantly surprised by the unique blend of people and cultures, and its eminently diverse landscape.
Despite its size, Tunisia has much to offer: from the olive-producing eastern coastal plains of the Sahel, the Maghreb mountain range known as the Atlas Mountains and its rolling hills, to the semi-arid Saharan climate and salt lakes in the south. Of course, the warm beaches and coastal resorts are popular tourist attractions, as are the ancient ruins of Carthage and the multicultural capital of Tunis.
With large international communities from France, Italy and Spain, among other countries, expats are bound to hear a familiar accent or language. While the official language of Tunisia is Arabic, French is widely spoken in social and business settings, and most Tunisian doctors speak fluent French. On that note, most expats living in Tunisia prefer to use private healthcare facilities, which are of an excellent standard, especially in Tunis. Nevertheless, a potential language barrier may be just one element of culture shock to overcome.
Safety is likely to be another concern. Expats must be aware of the political situation and follow news developments regarding protests as well as heightened security measures at Libyan and Algerian borders due to terrorist threats. Moreover, as beautiful and colourful as the local souks may be, expats should remain vigilant of pickpocketing in these crowded marketplaces. Expat women may also experience harassment from men on the streets. We recommend all expats dress modestly, especially around religious sites, as a sign of respect and in some cases to avoid unwanted attention.
That said, most visits in Tunisia are problem-free, and Tunisian culture is considerably more progressive than its counterparts in the Middle East, even though it is a predominantly Muslim country. This is especially true when it comes to the position of women, who are held in high regard and encouraged to play a leading role in business.
Fortunately, partly due to the historic presence of a large expat community, new arrivals will find that Tunisians are tolerant of other cultures and open to forming strong business relationships and friendships with foreigners.
The main drivers of Tunisia’s economy are petroleum, mining and manufacturing. Most expats relocating to Tunisia are employed as senior management professionals in these industries and live in the major cities of Sfax, Sousse or the capital, Tunis.
While most expats enjoy a low cost of living, families moving to Tunisia with children should be aware that schooling options are limited, and alternatives can be costly. There are just a handful of international schools in Tunis and, in many cases, expats opt to send their children to international boarding schools in Morocco, Spain or France.
All in all, Tunisia is a fascinating, vibrant and culturally-rich country, and expats moving here will enjoy the pleasant lifestyle and generous cost of living.
Population: 11.8 million
Capital city: Tunis
Neighbouring countries: Tunisia is bordered by Algeria to the west and Libya to the southeast, and is otherwise surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea.
Geography: Tunisia contains the eastern end of the Atlas Mountains and the northern reaches of the Sahara desert. Much of the rest of the country's land is made up of plains and low hills.
Political system: Unitary semi-presidential republic
Major religion: Islam
Main languages: Arabic and French
Money: The Tunisian Dinar (TND) is subdivided into 1,000 milim or millimes. ATMs are available in most towns and cities. Expats will be able to open a local account once they are in the country.
Tipping: Tipping in restaurants is 5 to 10 percent. Taxi fares should be rounded up.
Electricity: 230 volts, 50 Hz. Plugs have two round pins.
Internet domain: .tn
International dialing code: +216
Emergency numbers: 197 (police), 198 (fire), 190 (ambulance)
Transport and driving: In Tunisia, driving is on the right-hand side of the road. Buses and taxis are common, and trains connect the major cities.