Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 12/19/11

Personal Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya 12/19/11

Background:

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

third

View All Answers


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?

20+ hours - we like KLM

View All Answers


3. How long have you lived here?

one year

View All Answers


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

US Embassy

View All Answers


Housing, Groceries & Food:

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

A mix of compounds, stand alone homes and apartments. Commute time can be 10-45 minutes depending on traffic and where you live. Be advised - most people ask to live on Rosslyn Ridge, which can house about 1/5 of Embassy/AID families, so adjust your expectation that you can ask for and receive Rosslyn Ridge. We are in a different compound that we like better for its location and because we really like our neighbors, but there are people that are super bitter about not being on Rosslyn Ridge. Housing is at a premium here - if you arrive during peak season you may be in temps for awhile. Sorry to say, but no one seems to be minding the store at GSO housing, so I'd try to keep in touch as much as possible. The 2011 rotation was atrocious and I heard some stories that would have put me back on a plane, quite frankly.

View All Answers


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

I don't find groceries, etc. to be that exorbitantly expensive, but I haven't lived in the States for some time. Anything imported will cost you $.Chicken is expensive, steak is not. Gas is hugely expensive as are the AEA stores (commissary).

View All Answers


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

Not too much, but here's what I'd recommend - ship sporting goods, kids toys, shoes, clothes, tolietries and plan to order all of those things online when you need them. You can find lots more than you expect in the grocery store and there's always the overpriced commissary when you're desperate.

View All Answers


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

Fast food - KFC, which is nothing special. Otherwise, Java House, Art Caffe, Zen Garden and other Asian restaurants, Lord Errol's. Prices vary, but it's not cheap to eat out.

View All Answers


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

Surprisingly, quite a bit at Healthy U, the health food/organic store.

View All Answers


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

Nothing too out of the ordinary - ants are an issue.

View All Answers


Daily Life:

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

DPO

View All Answers


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

Readily available and affordable. Average salaries for a nanny or a housekeeper are $16KSH-20KSH.Be wary of someone that asks for more than that unless they have a ton of experience.

View All Answers


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

The Embassy has a decent gym, the UN has a gym and there are commercial gyms available.

View All Answers


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?

We use Barclay's or Standard Bank ATMs with no problems. I've used my credit card at Nakumatt in a pinch, but overall I would not use a credit card anywhere.

View All Answers


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

Yes.

View All Answers


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

DSTV = $70/month, excluding initial installaion.

View All Answers


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

English will get you by just fine.

View All Answers


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

Lots.

View All Answers


Transportation:

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

No

View All Answers


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?

Ah, vehicles. I agree with the previous poster - import from Japan - Toyota, Mitsubishi, Subaru. Land Rovers are popular, but hard and expensive to maintain. If you do decide to buy at post I would not buy anything that had been in Kenya more than two years. Labor may be cheap, but it also may not be skilled. And you can't just up and sell your car - the Kenyan bureaucracy has a whole procedure if you want to sell a car before the end of your tour.

View All Answers


Phone & Internet:

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

We have ResNet and it's good when it works - $60/month

View All Answers


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

You need one. Buy it here, there or in between, but you must have one. You can get good 3G plans so if you can bring an unlocked iPhone or Android phone that's nice.

View All Answers


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?

No, but work closely with GSO.

View All Answers


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

Yes, ask the CLO

View All Answers


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?

Yes, with NGOs. Just don't let them send you off to Somalia.

View All Answers


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

Business casual. Short shorts and miniskirts are not the norm.

View All Answers


Health & Safety:

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

Yes. This is a critical crime/terrorism threat post, but I think most people like to overlook that. Carjackings and armed robberies are common and terrorist threats do exist.

View All Answers


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

I have to disagree with the previous poster - I have found the Embassy health unit to be a poorly managed mess with excellent cargeivers once you get through the doors, but getting an appointment seems to be a definite challenge. Basic and diagnostic care can be done here, but I wouldn't go farther than that. I've had two incorrect lab tests ordered for me by local doctors.

View All Answers


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?

Good, but the Kenyans burn trash

View All Answers


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

Nice, but I think there's more rain than most people have described. July-September is rainy and cool. December-March/April are really nice.

View All Answers


Schools & Children:

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

I don't have kids at ISK or Rosslyn Academy, but people are satisfied with those schools.

View All Answers


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

No experience with this, but there are services.

View All Answers


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?

Lots of preschools available. ISK has a very expensive ($7k+) pre-K.Shop around and be prepared to go to interviews. The schools want to see you before they admit your kid. Local prices are about $3k per year. My child is in a local preschool and I have really liked that experience for her.

View All Answers


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

Yes. Through the school or private. Some programs will come to you if you have enough kids and enough room. It can take a bit of time to ferret these out, but I've been pleasantly surprised by what's available for kids.

View All Answers


Expat Life:

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

Huge.

View All Answers


2. Morale among expats:

Varies. Generally good, but Embassy ineffeciencies take their toll as does the crime, the traffic and general Nairobi BS.

View All Answers


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?

House parties, restaurants, clubs for the younger set.

View All Answers


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

For families, yes, singles and couples, probably. If you are a bit adventurous and want to travel around Kenya, I think it's probably a good place for all. My tolerance for driving around Kenya is low, but I find it a good place with small children.

View All Answers


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

Probably not the best.

View All Answers


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

Yes, tribal issues mainly.

View All Answers


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

The vacations, friends we've made and the availability of household help

View All Answers


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

Pick up a guide book - in Nairobi, there's not much new to discover. Outside Nairobi, there is lots to explore.

View All Answers


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

Lots of local and regional crafts and travel.

View All Answers


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

The Masai Mara and other safari destinations, the Kenyan coast, getting a taste of "real" Africa, but not too much.

View All Answers


11. Can you save money?

I think so.

View All Answers


Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes, I would, but I admit that saving money is a part of it. You can find friends here and you may find them in the Embassy, but this is not some homey little African post. That said, we have made some good friends and there are great people here. The Kenyans are by and large nice people, hard working and honest. I am enjoying getting to know them.

View All Answers


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

Down coat and boots.

View All Answers


3. But don't forget your:

Patience. I think the living here is pleasant enough, but the Embassy has a long way to go. Dealing with the place on a daily basis through work is just a beat down. The RSO's office is a complete joke for a critical crime/terror threat post. Our RSO in our safe post before this had us more secure than these clowns and getting them to care is impossible - excuse after excuse after excuse. Blame the victim seems to be the official motto. Housing is another mystery of inefficiency with more excuses and lies than one would think possible (and that's not from my personal experience - we actually really like our housing).State seems to treat Nairobi like some unimportant African backwater and you definitely feel the pinch.

View All Answers


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

View All Answers


5. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

View All Answers


6. Do you have any other comments?

Nairobi is a large, chaotic African city and living here can be challenging. My personal opinion is that you simply must venture outside what the Embassy has to offer and make other friends/acquaintances to keep yourself sane.

View All Answers


}

Subscribe to our newsletter


New book from Talesmag! Honest and courageous stories of life abroad with special needs.

Read More