Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 06/10/18
Personal Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya
1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?
This is our second assignment as a family. Our first post was Singapore and prior to that I lived in Cape Town, South Africa, and Rome, Italy.
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?
New York City and St. Louis, Missouri US. Usually you will fly KLM/Delta with one layover. If going back to Missouri, you have two stops: in Amesterdam and in Chicago.
3. How long have you lived here?
4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
We have a very spacious and beautiful home that is three stories tall. The highlight of our house is our yard which is massive. Embassy workers may also live on the compound which has nicely-sized homes with smaller yards, as well as access to the playground and pools. If you live in a single home, you can expect a decently-sized house.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
With the new addition of Carrefour, you can find pretty similar supplies and prices as one might find at Target. However, the issue is usually the quality of the supplies. Most items we have purchased here have already broken.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
A blender and a Crock-Pot! If you use protein shakes or supplements for working out you will need to ship those to post as they are triple the price here.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
There are many great restaurants around the city. Many expats enjoy Talisman in Karen (my favorite) and there are also many great choices in Village Market located behind the US Embassy.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
We have had major problems with ants during certain seasons of the year.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
We use DPO exclusively.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
This is one of the perks of living here! For a nanny/housekeeper salary you will pay US$230-350. For a gardener or driver you are also expected to pay around the same.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
There is a Gym located in the US Embassy and also the UN. A CrossFit is located directly behind the embassy. A huge gym has also recently opened in Village Market. However, all around the city there are an endless number of gyms and running clubs.
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?
In most malls and restaurants you can use a credit card. However, there are sometimes issues with the machines so it is always great to have mpesa on your phone or cash. As for ATMs, there are only certain ones that I use as some are not reliable.
5. What English-language religious services are available locally?
We are more familiar with the Christian services (there are many options).
6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
The US Embassy offers Kiswahili and you can also take lessons at the National Museum of Kenya. You can get by with English but if you are outside of the city it is great to know some Kiswahili. People are also more willing to negotiate if you speak the language.
7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
Yes, I would imagine so.
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
Most expats use uber or taxify. The public transport seems quite chaotic here as you have to jump in a large van as opposed to a bus.
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?
The roads seem horrendous and we have found the potholes are numerous. It is strongly advisable to find a 4x4 with excellent tires.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes! Usually within a couple days.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
We use Safaricom. We have found it really easy to pay for minutes and internet plans using mpesa and airtime on our phones. We bought unlocked phones online and just purchased sim card at Safaricom.
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?
This is a major problem and probably one of the only things I do not like about living here. Many spouses seem to have great difficulty finding work and it is getting harder as it seems to get more difficult to get a work visa. I have heard of many expats who have moved here for work and have not been able to get their visas renewed. I have not been able to find work here and not for want of trying. Most expats spouses who are working either find work at the embassy or own their own business.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
There are many places to volunteer. However, research opportunities carefully.
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Most dress in business casual. It seems the nicer you dress, the better you are treated.
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, however, the amount of security and checkpoints going into the groceries stores helps. Be careful and vigilant and always aware of surroundings. We have been lucky that we have not had any personal encounters while living here, however, I have heard of people being robbed.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
We have not had any here. Due to the high altitude you are not at risk of malaria in Nairobi.
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 love the air quality outside of the city.
4. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
The climate is pretty moderate. This is year the rainy season was very very wet and there was a lot of flooding.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
I have heard good things about Braeburn, ISK, and Woodland Star School. Our children go to Potter House , and we have been very happy with it.
2. 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?
If the children are under three it is more common for them to have nannies. There are preschools available, but they are pricey.
3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Most sports classes are done at school. However, there are dance schools available in Kenya.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
If you are a trailing spouse, it is very important to find something you enjoy doing here or I think it could be difficult.
2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?
Running clubs such as Urban Swaras are a great way to meet people!
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
It is definitely a great post for families. I am not sure about singles. It would certainly be entertaining as a single person. I have a friend who told me she dated a guy who sold his goat just to have minutes on his phone to call her.
4. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
I feel there appear to be major issues with tribalism. I would imagine these issues might be more apparent when one tries to get a job locally. It seems to me that these issues were revealed in this last election, and do not seem to have disappeared.
5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
The land and the people. Kenya is a beautiful place with extremely warm hospitality. The wildlife and landscape is breathtaking. You also learn a lot here about living life slowly and having patience. It has been an incredible incredible experience and my family and I are so grateful!
6. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Nairobi Fashion Week, Elephant Orphanage, having lunch at Ole Sereni overlooking the national park, going to the fabirc market in CBD, and Sunday afternoons in Central Park.
7. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
I would not call it a shopping post but if you are into jewelry this is a great place to be!
8. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
It is ultimately an international city that brings sooo many people together from all walks of life.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
I wish I would have understood the job situation better. It felt very difficult for me to find work.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
Yes! My family and I have grown up a lot here!
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Ideals on efficiency and western savior mentality.
4. But don't forget your:
Sense of humor!
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
A Guide to the Birds of East Africa by Nicholas Drayson and Facing Mount Kenya by Jomo Kenyatta.
6. Do you have any other comments?
It is an incredible place if you go with an open mind and a lot of patience.