Things You Need to Know before Relocating to Nairobi
It’s a country which boasts beautiful beaches, a cosmopolitan capital and fantastic wildlife. With its rich multi-cultural background and tribal influences, Kenya is full of things to do and places to see and it’s no wonder that the expat community is constantly growing and thriving boasting a strong economy and plenty of opportunities for both families and professionals.
Before you rush to book your one-way ticket, however, here are a few things that you need to consider before coming over, especially if it’s your first time in the country.
- Where to live -it sounds a bit obvious I know, but like any city there are certain areas that you should steer clear from. There are two main areas in Nairobi which are the favourite choices of the expat community, and they are Westlands and Karen. Karen is where you are more likely to rub shoulders with the old Kenyan expats whose families have been in the country for generations, whereas Westlands boasts a larger international community, being the home of the United Nations Headquarters and a large number of embassies. The reason that these are the two places of choice brings me to my next point: schools.
- Where you choose to send your child to school in Kenya defines not only which part of Nairobi you will end up living in, but will also determine which social circles you enter into. Now this depends completely on where you are coming from and what type of education you wish your child to have. If they are following the European systems, then Westlands and Karen both have good schools, which teach the British, German and French education systems. If you are coming from further west, The International School of Kenya and Rosslyn Academy in Westlands both teach children in line with the regulations of The USA and Canada.
- Security: This is quite a big issue when moving to Nairobi, but you will find that most if not all houses have their own enclosures, and are surrounded by protective walls, as you don’t want to live somewhere where anyone can walk onto your property. But that being said, it is unlikely that you will find anywhere that will allow someone to do so. Many families also choose to hire an askari (guard) who will be on watch during the night.
- Get yourself a four-wheel drive. These cars are the only cars worth driving in and around Kenya. Unfortunately driving here is not the same as in most places as there aren’t really any rules. The bigger the car you drive, the better are your chances of winning any on-road battle. Also, Kenya is the home of safaris, an experience that every expat loves. So a car with which you can drive off-road and into the wild is absolutely essential.
- Make sure to get a work permit before re-locating. The Immigration department in Kenya is a complete nightmare and, unless you are sponsored by a company, there is very little chance of your application being approved. If it is then it comes at no small price. Even if you manage to secure a work permit that is not a guarantee that your spouse/partner will be able to work.
- Look into joining a country club! As pretentious as this sounds, they aren’t too expensive in Kenya and I guarantee it’s one of the best ways to socialise and make friends amongst the expat community.
- Invest in a lot of candles and some strong torches. KPLC (Kenya Power and Lighting Company – or as we call it Kenya – Please Light Candles) is temperamental at best and there will be lots of times when you are stuck in the dark.
If you have the above areas covered, then you might as well jump on the next plane to Nairobi and start to enjoy the experience. Kenya is a fantastic country, which boasts one of the best climates all year round, ensuring you get that tan and constant supply of vitamin D! It’s a country where you learn to expect the unexpected and you have to have a great sense of humor while out there. Although the list of things to look into may seem slightly daunting, I promise it will be worth it and all the hassle will seem like a distant memory while you are sipping a Tusker (East African beer) and watching a herd of elephants in the distance.
Amy Shaw was born and brought up in Kenya in the 90’s, having left the country to pursue her education and a career as a writer, she recently returned to join the expat community and start living in Nairobi full-time. Amy has previously worked in both London and Paris. Having had to adjust to different cultures at a very young age, she is fully aware of the hardships of moving to a new place, not knowing the language or the people, but this hasn’t stopped her from travelling the globe and writing about it. Her blog ‘Expat Diaries Africa and Abroad’ which tells of her travels and gives insight into what it’s really like to live in East Africa.
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