What’s it like to Live and Work in PNG? Your Questions Answered

What’s it Like to Live and Work in PNG? Your Questions Answered

This time last year I returned from the trip of a lifetime; my first trip to Port Moresby, the capital of Papua New Guinea.

Now, Port Moresby is known for many things ? last year’s APEC forum, the rolling dry hills, the jewel blue sea, and its tale of transition (the stark contrast between the city in 2000 and now is staggering).

But if you Google Port Moresby, the headlines and relentlessly negative articles may have you discounting the city as a place to live and work before you even jump on a plane.

When we think forward to how we can help our candidates in 2020, we wanted to shine a bit of light on experiences outside those of our team.  

To do this, we spoke to Frank Van Der Poll, Deputy COO of BSP and Guy Leonard, Change Manager at BSP about their experiences.

They present two sides of the coin ? one from Frank, a seasoned expat who has worked and lived on (almost!) every continent; and Guy, who is on his first expat assignment.

PXP: So, what is it like to live in Papua New Guinea?


 ?A bit of context before I start.. I?m originally from Holland but left in 1992. Since then, I’ve lived in various parts of the world – in the UK, South America, and Africa. I lived in Rwanda for a couple of years and then in Botswana, while the family has been in Portugal for the last few years, I was in Afghanistan, before I recently made the move to PNG. I’ve lived all around the world, experienced different cultures, food, people..

So when my colleagues at the bank ask me what I think of PNG, I constantly answer with ?it’s paradise!?

When I was here for a week ? my wife called and said ?how does it look??

I described the place and said ‘the climate like Rwanda, the traffic is like Botswana, but the beaches are beautiful, the ocean is beautiful, it’s a simple lifestyle and that’s it. Paradise!?

And I mean it.?


?It’s definitely a more relaxed environment, the pace is very different than in Australia. Keep in mind, the pace at work is the same as anywhere in the world.

But when you leave work, the pace is different so it’s good to be able to get out of that space. There’s a real juxtaposition between that city life and the pace of life here.

I’ve really enjoyed my time in PNG so far.?

PXP: What is the most challenging part of living in PNG?


?For normal people with a normal life who enjoy the simple things, I think they will have no problems.

I’ve worked in many different countries, been exposed to different counties and different cultures. When you keep that in mind, the step for me (moving to PNG) was relatively small.

If it’s your first time, you?re maybe going to struggle. I think the biggest issue will be that culture change. What I’ve noticed with first-time expats is that they very much listen to what is in the news and struggle to assess what the real story is.

We spend quite a bit of time trying to make them understand – it’s really not as bad as it seems in the media.

Where people may struggle tremendously is adapting their work ethic. I see expats falling into this trap where they end up doing the jobs of multiple people.

But instead, it’s about coaching, mentoring and training constantly. ?We as expats have a job to coach and mentor and train constantly, to get employees to the point where they?re saying, ?Well hang on, help me do my job better.? That’s what we?re here to do.


I’ve worked overseas before but this is my first time living abroad. I’ve usually been on my own but this time, I’ve got my family with me.

For first-time expats, I think you’ve got to reframe your expectations and be careful about your sensibilities when you?re working here. Try changing up your approach and keep that in mind for your work. For some people, that can be challenging.

For example, at least half my time is probably spent coaching and mentoring. You’ve got to be willing to shift your approach ? as an expat you?re building up that capability in your team. You’ve got to lift standards, but also fill in the gaps as well.

PXP: Any advice for first-time expats thinking of moving to PNG?


?A couple of things I would say.

One: Don’t believe what’s out there in the news.  If you?re a sensible person, PNG is paradise. If you like a simple lifestyle, you can thrive here. And I mean that.

Two: Try to understand the other side of things, but don’t buy into everything. What I mean by this is that coaching and mentoring is an incredibly important part of your job. If you don’t coach and mentor, you can fall into or buy into that expat trap where you?re working 80 hours a week doing the jobs of multiple people instead of coaching and mentoring your team and building up their skills.

All that said, I?m extremely lucky because I’ve got 5 children, the 2 youngest will come (12 years old), their entire life they grew up in Africa, so I know this won’t be a jump for them. They?ll love it here.

I can’t stress enough, I mean what I say when I repeat the word paradise!?


?Don’t always listen to what others say about the location. Everyone’s got an opinion and a lot of those are based on other people’s opinions, and not actual experiences.

Take those opinions and with a grain of salt, and just embrace the country because there’s a whole lot of good you don’t hear about!?

We couldn’t have said it better ourselves!

For further reading on living and working as an expatriate in Papua New Guinea, head to the links below:

?         Living and Working in Papua New Guinea: A 5 Minute Guide

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

?         How to Be A Successful Expat in PNG: 5 Characteristics to Live Out

If you?re in the finance or banking sector and thinking of making a move in 2020, please get in touch with me in the new year on claire@peopleconnexion.com or over at www.peopleconnexion.com/contact-us

Peopleconnexion PNG: Where Talent Lives

Your future is our business. 

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