Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 03/22/22
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?
No, also several posts in Europe.
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?
Washington DC and Chicago: 28-hour flights with a transfer In Europe; brutal travel day.
3. What years did you live here?
4. How long have you lived here?
Almost two years.
5. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?
Housing, Groceries & Food:
1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?
Housing is mostly in compounds, though they are getting rid of most single family homes and putting families into 3/4 bedroom apartments (and a few town houses) that are currently being constructed. Comments times should be better, but can vary especially when there is a UN event. Something to note: there are no public playgrounds and no sidewalks, so one must drive everywhere. After the move, most embassy people will live on one of the two large housing compounds.
2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?
Most everything is available and if not, just an Amazon/Walmart order away. There are many options (carrefour, naivas to name a few) of western style grocery stores or some csa options.
3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?
More cleaning vinegar, dish soap, toilet paper.
4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?
Lots a restaurants, Uber eats, and other delivery options.
5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?
Ants and wasps can be a problem.
1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?
Embassy: though packages often seem to get lost in the Chicago sorting center.
2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?
Super cheap and plentiful.
3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?
Some gyms around the city.
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?
Yes. Some places only accept cash or Mpesa.
5. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?
6. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?
1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?
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?
SUV; right-hand drive only.
Phone & Internet:
1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?
Yes, within a day.
2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?
Safaricom for local sim and Mpesa setup, keep our google number for US business.
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?
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?
Some telecommuting, most work at the embassy.
2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?
3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?
Very casual, I wear jeans and Birkenstocks if there are no meetings!
Health & Safety:
1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.
Yes, high crime which is why most people never walk anywhere and keep doors and windows locked at all times. There has been an uptick in armed robberies, which I have heard has included US embassy personnel in the past few months.
2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?
Lots of medical resources: some have had babies 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?
Not bad but frequent burning of trash especially in winter is a problem.
4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?
Good idea to hire a personal chef.
5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?
Isolation, lack of activities outside of work.
6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?
Dry, mild. Can get chilly in winter.
Schools & Children:
1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?
Excellent schools. Most go to ISK.
2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?
ISK may not accommodate all students but other schools such as Woodland Star excel in that area
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 but more expensive than you would think. For daycare or outside school hours you need to hire a nanny.
4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?
Some through the schools.
1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?
Large, probably in the thousands.
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?
Work functions, school functions.
3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?
Better for families, ok for singles due to more suburban lifestyle.
4. Is it easy to make friends with locals here? Are there any prejudices or any ethnic groups who might feel uncomfortable here?
Pretty strict social and racial barriers.
5. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?
Homosexuality is technically illegal, but most haven’t had issues from Kenyans (more issues from the embassy).
6. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?
Yes to all the above.
7. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?
Safaris, trips to the beach.
8. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?
Karur forest, lots of day trips and hiking. Easier driving once outside Nairobi.
9. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?
Lots of shopping and African crafts.
10. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?
Cheap household help. Cheaper cost of living, safaris, excellent weather. Excellent schools.
Words of Wisdom:
1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?
How easy it is to travel.
2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?
3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:
Winter gear and carefree attitude.
4. But don't forget your:
Street smarts and sunscreen.
5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?
Out of Africa, Imperial Reckoning: The Untold Story of Britain's Gulag in Kenya