Expats in Nairobi have the best of both worlds

Expats in Nairobi have the best of both worlds

Expats in Nairobi have the best of both worlds

When expats dream of their favourite destination for improving career prospects as well as quality of life, Kenya doesn’t always spring to mind as an option.

Nairobi is possibly the first port of call for expats looking to spend time in Kenya, but adjustment might be tricky as it’s not at all similar to the scrubbed, modern aspects of Cape Town. It’s more the real Africa on expats’ doorsteps, with online posters describing joys such as monkeys and giraffes in the garden and warthogs on the school playing fields. Tribal culture is everywhere, with seeing a Masai warrior herding his cattle a regular sight.

Local people are warm and friendly, and children whose families have little to sustain them seem far more content than their Western equivalents. Nairobi is, above all, a vibrant city divided into hundreds of small communities, all of which have their own ways of living. It’s much the same with the scattered expat communities, split into American, British and other nationalities’ hangouts dependent on location. The largest UK community is in Karen, a leafy, tree-lined area close to the National Park, the Elephant Orphanage and forests, and also home to a good selection of the local wildlife including hyenas and leopards.

The choice of expat accommodation in Karen varies between crumbling colonial mansions and homes in ultra-modern new developments, all of which boast swimming pools and stables for the family’s horses. Weekends include house parties, safari trips to the National Park or a quick private flight to the coast, and every expat is an expert on conservation and taking care of Africa’s stunning wildlife. Due to the region’s colonial past, the vast majority of locals speak English, a relief for expats whose linguistic talents evaporated when they left primary school.

However, getting accepted in Kenyan society isn’t as straightforward as it might seem at first. Many new expat arrivals only last a year before moving on, and breaking into established Kenyan society is tough. Local friendships are also difficult to maintain due to the discrepancy between expat salaries and local wages. Some expats will miss the home comforts they’ve been used to on previous assignments, with many items simply not available except online. For families, older children will find Nairobi an endless wonderland, but their younger siblings may be nervous about finding a selection of Africa’s wildlife in the back garden.

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