Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 12/26/10

Personal Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya 12/26/10

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

no

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

US, takes 1.5 days each way.

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3. How long have you lived here?

7 months

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

U.S. Embassy

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

There are two American compounds, but it seems like less than half of tbe embassy lives on them. The rest are spread out in different neighborhoods. The housing tends to be spacious.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

Availability is good, especially for this continent. You can get a reasonable facsimile of most things in the American store (but it won't taste as good and it will cost two to three times the US price).

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

More cleaning products, paper products, beauty products, cupcake liners, over-the-counter meds

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

There is decent Indian food throughout the city, also a mix of other international cuisines. Prices are about the same in restaurants as in the US.

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5. What kinds of organic, vegetarian and allergy-friendly foods are available, such as organic produce, gluten-free products, meat substitutes for vegetarians, etc?

Organic produce is available. The local indian population has helped encourage a market for vegetarian foods.

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6. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

ants, mosquitoes, but supposedly there is no malaria with the nairobi mosquitoes.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

Embassy.

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Super available; they make between 125 and 250 USD per month.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes, there are good options for an African post.

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

They are usable at the shopping centers. There is always a risk in using them.

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

A few services in Nairobi are in English.

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6. English-language newspapers and TV available? Cost?

Most of them.

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7. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None.

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8. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Many, no sidewalks, no handicapped parking spots, etc.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

No. Embassy employees are allowed to use ONE taxi service, and the prices are about eighty percent of US prices.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

4wd, try to import one from Japan, as it won't have been beaten up yet and will be cheaper than on the local market. It must have the steering wheel on the right. Consider fuel efficiency: gas is expensive.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yup- it varies. American compounds have fast access. Off-compound, AccessKenya is pretty fest.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

They are cheap here, and everyone has one. Airtel has good coverage.

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

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2. Quality pet care available (vets & kennels)?

A good-sized pet industry has sprung up around the expat community. Good vets, kennels, etc, are available.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

Not that I know of, but the embassy hires quite a few people.

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2. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Fairly dressy.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

yes, carjacking especially. We limit night driving, and never drive between towns at night. Embassy housing is secure, due to the great lengths taken by the embassy.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is pretty good. I would feel comfortable with, say, getting a bone set here, dental care, or emergency care.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

the air is great, except while driving- all the black smoke from the matatus and other trucks... like any other third world city

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4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

beautiful weather all the time, due to our position near the equator and our high altitude. There is no heating or cooling systems in our house because there is no need.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

ISK is, as far as I can tell, universally loved. People go to Afghanistan, etc., just so the govt will let their spouse and kids stay here and continue to attend the school.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

Domestic help is inexpensive, so if you had a child who needed an attendant, that would be easy. Not sure about education.

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

There are lots of daycares and lots of nannies.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Yes, many. Many activities for school-age children: lessons, etc.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Huge. It feels like a quarter of the population, but that is an exaggeration due to where we shop and dine and the people that we run into in our daily lives.

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2. Morale among expats:

Moderate. Some are so happy here. It is just very expensive here, and there is no COLA. I think between London (with no hardship pay) and Nairobi (with the hardship pay), it would be easier to go on weekend trips or save money, etc. in London.

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3. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

it is such a big post that it isn't all that social. Better if you have kids and live on the big compound.

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4. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, overall. Education is good. Medical care good for Africa, several things to do around town, lots of wonderful but very expensive weekend trips. But the time and money it takes to travel to and from the States makes visits to home (and visits from family) prohibitively expensive.

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5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Kenyans are, in general, not accepting of gay and lesbian people.

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6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Yes, somewhat. Black Americans are sometimes treated poorly by white or Indian Kenyans. They assume that they are African, and expose how they treat their countrymen. But racial issues are not nearly as bad here as in so many other countries. Tribalism is rampant, though: ethinc tensions.

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7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

the beaches (short flight away), safaris, but it is all expensive

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8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

There are several things to do in Nairobi. Fun things like feeding giraffes. You can do all of the things in one weekend. There are GREAT weekend trips - safaris and the beaches, but they are very expensive.

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9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Jewelry and soapstone stuff.

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10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

perfect weather nearly every day, inexpensive domestic help, wildlife

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11. Can you save money?

No,not unless you confine yourself to a boring life in your house and you eat mainly produce.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

I think so. I am a bit disappointed, but it is not a bad post. You can't beat the weather, the housing, or the avocados! But you can get tired of the corruption, the driving, the poverty, the security concerns and the costs, and it can be surprisingly isolated here.

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2. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

friends, it is too expensive to visit! Also, you do not need your coats or bikes.

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3. But don't forget your:

sunscreen, lots of sunscreen.

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4. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

Our Turn to Eat

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5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

The Constant Gardener

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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