Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 06/26/13

Personal Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya 06/26/13

Background:

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

4th expat experience. Previous posts in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe, and North Africa.

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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?

Transit from the US through Amsterdam is easiest. 27 hours total.

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3. How long have you lived here?

3 years.

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

Government.

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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 a few compounds and lots of stand alones. I think it can range from a 5-minute commute to about a 20-minute commute.

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

Groceries can be pricier than you think. With the exception of seasonal vegetables, expect to spend at least the same as in the states if not more.

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

Walnuts, pine nuts, sunscreen, pet food (quality pet food is crazy expensive).

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

KFC. No idea on KFC prices, though, because there are too many better options from Indian to Italian.

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

Mosquitoes by the coast, ants and cockroaches.

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Daily Life:

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

DPO or pouch.

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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 cheap. We hired someone who wasn't part of the "embassy mafia". We paid her much less. She worked much harder and she didn't get into the gossip group like the others.

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

Yes. At the embassy and the UN.

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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?

Don't do it. It's not worth the risk of having $15,000 worth of airline tickets charged to your account. Yes, that happened to us.

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

I think there are many.

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

On compound you can get AFN. Not sure about any others, as we didn't use it. We only used Apple TV.

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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. Everyone speaks English. But some Swahili is appreciated by locals.

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

Many. There are no ramps -- or even sidewalks -- to speak of.

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Transportation:

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

Taxis with Jim Cab are ok. Anything else, no way. Matatus are dangerous, and if you drive in Kenya you will understand why they are so hated.

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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?

Right-hand drive 4WD less than 5 years old. Or buy one here from another diplomat leaving post. But have it checked out by a trusted person already at post, and don't get a lemon like we did :-(

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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?

About $100 per month for decent service with JTL. Some places just have a horrible connection. Depends on your house's location.

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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?

Safari Com seems to be best. They are cheap and usually reliable.

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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?

No. But they do need to be cleared as cargo even if on the same flight as you. That doesn't mean they have to be shipped as cargo. They just have to be cleared as cargo. Get with GSO -- they have tons of experience with pets and can help. Don't forget to get an import permit as well.

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

Very good pet care and kennels. Dr Cockar and Dr Galay seem to be the preferred vets.

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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?

If you don't mind being paid peanuts.

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

Business casual.

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Health & Safety:

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

YES! Car jackings, home invasions, pick pockets, rape.

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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?

Malaria and dengue if you are visiting the coast. Nothing too bad in Nairobi -- other than some parasites and tummy stuff.

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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?

I used to think it wasn't that great, with trash burning and diesel vehicles, but once I returned to the US, I realized it was pretty darned awesome.

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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?

Since Kenya is below the equator, summer is winter and vice versa. But "winter" is more like a rainy spring day in the eastern US.

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Schools & Children:

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

Embassy children attend ISK, a Rosslyn Academy, Lycee Francais, and Braeburn Garden Estate (British School).

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

I think not many. It would depend on the need.

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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 is s great Montessori school next to the embassy -- Gigiri Montessori House. There are lots of other preschools available as well.

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

Yes. There are many, either through schools or at the UN.

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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's a hub for east Africa and UNEP, and UN HABITAT is headquartered here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Morale can be quite low at the embassy. It seems like some folks pick Nairobi as their last hurrah before retiring and don't really care much about actually doing their jobs. Also, morale among spouses can be low due to the lack of spouse employment opportunities or the lack of people within the embassy who actually do their jobs to get their jobs going. HR, Management and RSO seem to be common topics of complaint.

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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?

Due to the great weather, there are always parties, picnics and BBQs amongst friends.

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

Yes for all.

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

There is a gay community here BUT Kenyans as a whole are not accepting of homosexuality. Some believe its a curse. Some believe that homosexuals should be put to death.

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

Yes. Tribal violence is an issue, more so than religious.

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

Definitely the great migration in the Masai Mara.

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

Safaris, restaurants, movies, night clubs, shopping, safaris, massages, safaris, beaches at the coast, safaris! Did I mention safaris?

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

Masai market items (always offer bit less than half of the asking price).

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

Safaris and beaches with great year round weather.

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11. Can you save money?

Yes, if you don't do too many safaris. But they are SO worth it.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Absolutely! Loved it and would take another assignment there in a heartbeat.

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

winter coat.

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3. But don't forget your:

rain boots, umbrella (for rainy season), sunscreen (on the equator =super strong sun), and stain remover for your socks (the red clay dirt makes socks REALLY ugly).

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

Out of Africa

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