Nairobi, Kenya Report of what it's like to live there - 12/09/09

Personal Experiences from Nairobi, Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya 12/09/09

Background:

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

No, Budapest, Chiang Mai, Manila, Vienna.

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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?

Washington, DC. 24 hours total - two flights.

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3. How long have you lived here?

18 months.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, 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 decent apartment buildings and housing compounds. Most expats I know live in a decent-size to spacious house with a large garden.

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

Terribly high, even for "local" items.

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

Chocolate chips, US food stuffs that your children may like, children's clothes and shoes.

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

No US fast food. At a few gas stations there are food courts. Pizza Inn and Creamy Inn (desserts) are Kenyan chains. There is a food court at both main malls, Westgate and Village Market. Good food but not speedy service.

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

No real problems. There are mosquitoes, and some people sleep under mosquito nets. While on safari we often sleep under nets. I however do not get bitten at all.

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Daily Life:

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

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

Easy to find, but not easy to find a maid who will actually work. Costs start at $100-250 per month.

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

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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?

Use the Barclay's ATM - we have never had a problem.

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

Yes, catholic, protestant, a wide variety.

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

About 50 cents a paper. The three national dailies - The Standard, The Nation, and Kenya Times - are in English.

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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?

Not much, but it is good to know some words of Kiswahili. The kids learn it in school which is nice.

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

Roads and sidewalks are awful, huge potholes. Appreciation for human life does not seem to rate as high as in the US.

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Transportation:

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

Jim Cab is the recommended cab company, with set 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?

Either a peppy older right-hand drive car, or SUV.Your car will really got knocked about and dinged wihle here. It is wise to only bring a used car. Car jackings happen frequently per above.

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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?

Yes, there are many ways to get internet. But this is Africa, and service is sporadic or non-existent. It is never strong enough to upload photos as attachments to emails, for example.

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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?

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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.

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

Great vets, mostly Indian.

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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?

No.

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

Very conservative. Much like in WDC, suits or dress shirts and ties for men, skirt or pants suits for women. Casual away from the office. The coast is predominantly Muslim, so ladies should cover up a bit, no short shorts. The coast is hot, so be prepared with hot-weather clothing.

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Health & Safety:

1. Pollution index (Good, Moderate, Unhealthy, or Very Unhealthy)?

Moderate. Wonderful foliage and flowers.

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

Car jackings and petty crime are rampant. People joke about living in "Nai-robbery."People tend to avoid going out at night unless it's only for dinner. Stores are closed - save for the supermarkets - after 6pm, so there isn't a big need to go out after dark, which is about 6pm. Monkeys invading your house are a real concern, though! They will open windows and steal fruit.

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

Thankfully none. Dental work gets raves from most expats for its high quality and relatively lower prices as compared to US dental work.

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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?

People love the climate here. It is spring year 'round in Nairobi. Winter here is June-August, summer, when it can climb to 90 degrees F, is usually January - March. Currently in December we have bright sunny days, clear skies with some rain, with temps about 75F.

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Schools & Children:

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

There are several - the most I have seen to date. The International School of Kenya follows the US model, Rosslyn Academy is a US-modeled Christian school, the British School, Peponi and Brookhouse are also both European, and there is a German school, Norweigian school, etc.

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

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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?

Several - many excellent. Many Montessori schools from wihch to choose. My daughter attended Kyuna in Westlands and really enjoyed it.

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

Yes but limited.

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Expat Life:

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

Pretty large, as this is the regional hub for East Africa. UN headquarters is here. Over 70 embassies are here.

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2. Morale among expats:

Good to great.

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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?

Bars, clubs, and restaurants.

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

Good for families, though it is expensive here.

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

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

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

Giraffe center, Nairobi National Park, Kimabethu tea farm, Trout tree restaurant; Going on safari in the Maasai Mara, Amboseli, or Tsavo; Visiting the wonderfully Swahili island town of Lamu; Visiting the many Indian beach resorts near Mombasa.

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

Baskets of all sizes and colors, for all sorts of uses; beaded jewelery; Indian-style furniture.

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9. Can you save money?

Not at all, unless you have two incomes. Travel within Kenya is very expensive. Going on safari is very pricey. Often it is cheaper for an American to fly here and go on safari than those of us living in Kenya. For example, driving to the national parks ourselves, spending two nights, will cost a family of 2 adults and 2 children approxiamtely $1500. If you fly, add another $1000.

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Words of Wisdom:

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

Yes.

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

Expensive jewelry.

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3. But don't forget your:

Patience.

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4. Recommended movies/DVDs related to this city:

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

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6. Do you have any other comments?

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