A First-Time Guide to Port Moresby: My Personal Impression of Papua New Guinea

A First-Time Guide to Port Moresby: My Personal Impression of Papua New Guinea

A couple of weeks ago, I had the opportunity to take my first trip to Papua New Guinea as part of Peopleconnexion PNG.

This was my first time in the country, so ? like many expats visiting for the first time – I was keen to understand whether all the things I had read online were true.

With the APEC Summit just completed and countless news stories about PNG circulating online, I wanted to share my first-hand experience in Port Moresby to provide a different viewpoint than what you might have read over the weekend.  

I?m commonly asked the same question by candidates looking to move to Papua New Guinea’s capital:

?What is Port Moresby really like??

Having come from South Africa, Papua New Guinea was no shock to me.   I am familiar with developing countries, and to me, in many ways they can be a breath of fresh air.  To people whom are not from developing countries or haven’t experienced them before, I can understand why it could be overwhelming for some to experience for the first time.

Having previous experience in the recruitment and legal industries, it’s refreshing to do business in a place where relationships and a sense of community take centre stage.

From my experience, working in PNG means getting to know your clients and colleagues in a more personal and authentic way than you might in other places around the globe.  

Papua New Guinea’s culture places a heavy focus on community, and Port Moresby is no exception. To really thrive in the city, you’ve got to be willing to get out in the community, find your own way to have a positive impact and really get to know people (and not just the expat community).

One of the main aspects of PNG that stood to me most was the people.

From all of the expats I have spoken to that have lived in the country for years ? this is one of the main reason they’ve fallen in love with PNG and can’t leave.  They also enjoy being able to appreciate the small things and not being part of the daily rat race you would experience living in a first world country.

Despite the negative reports about security in Port Moresby, you will find people out walking the streets, families down by the seaside and kids out playing soccer on vacant land. As a Mum, it was refreshing to just see kids being kids. They aren’t holed up inside playing computer games or worried about who is and isn’t wearing Nike shoes. They?re just free to be kids and don’t take the little things for granted. 

As the country’s capital, Port Moresby is the main business hub and stopover for anyone travelling to transport and trading hubs Lae and Madang, regional areas of mine sites.

In Port Moresby, you?ll meet all types of different people who came to the city for different reasons ? for opportunities not yet available in rural areas, to focus on providing for their family back home, as a break from the grind of urban living overseas, an unexpected career shift, to get back to their roots, for the money or just for an adventure.

Having spoken to countless people who’ve lived and worked in the country, I?ll be the first to acknowledge that a life in PNG just isn’t for everyone.    It would also be irresponsible of me to say that you are completely safe.   I myself did not feel unsafe or threatened whilst I was there, however, things do happen, as do they all over the world.

The key is to not put yourself in any vulnerable situations and stay out of the areas people tell you.   If you look for trouble it will find you.



There are major conversations to be had at the APEC Summit about the future of PNG, and how to improve equal outcomes across the country. Like many developing nations, PNG has serious challenges in health, education, security and equality that will require true cooperation from government, private industry and the community to overcome.

The reality is that PNG is in the middle of some major changes that are likely to define the future for the next generation. Hopefully, APEC will be a platform to have the right conversations about PNG’s potential and future.

Looking forward: What’s next for Port Moresby?

Following APEC and the announcement of Papua LNG and an electrical infrastructure program, it’s expected that resource, infrastructure and development programs will be launched over the next few years. Construction is still taking place all over the city, with major building projects due to be completed over the next 12 ? 18 months.

For professionals working in PNG (and Port Moresby especially), there is now a unique opportunity to enact positive change through networking, training and mentoring others. It’s all about keeping an open mind and being willing to invest in the community that you become a part of.

Of those that cherish their time in Port Moresby, the common thread seems to be their positive attitude and willingness to be open-minded.

As I touched on in my last article, if you are committed to keeping a positive attitude and are willing to get out and about in the community, life in Papua New Guinea is far more rewarding.

Life in PNG really is what you make it. 

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