I know most of you are here for ‘mbenyo’ but will be ‘disappointing’ that this is just a simple story of another Kenyan trying to survive abroad.
You guys need to understand that I’m a changed person and I stopped gossiping. What? It’s true! Ok fine! I do gossip still. But not for a living anymore. I just gossip as a hobby. Gossip is now an extra-curricular activity for me.
So anyway whom have I dragged to my madness this time? You ask?
Her name is Hottensiah Muchai. She is a radio presenter, actress, singer and fitness enthusiast. But some of you may know her as Hottie. But for the sake of millenials let me post this video so that I can refresh your memory. No wait, this is actually the remix and I can’t find the original version.
But she is all grown up now and has made a big name for herself in Austria as a Radio and TV queen. And if you don’t believe me please check out this video where she is interviewing P-square.
So anyway this is what she shared with me …… 1.How was your first year after relocation like?
Exciting and filled with a sense of adventure and discovery.Looking back, though I had never been the kind that thought of Europe as “paradise” or a better place than where I was coming from, I appreciated the opportunity to discover a new culture, a new way of living and see what was out here for me.I made new friends and did my best to adjust to the “musical city of the world”.I travelled to neighbouring countries and saw 6 of them in the first year but I also learnt some hard lessons like 100 euros wasn’t 100 kshs lol so spending habits and awareness had to change.Time seemed to move fast as well and it still does to a certain degree.
2.How long did it take for you to get a job after settling in?
It took me about 4 months to get a job in my field.I started singing as soon as I arrived as I had started connecting with other musicians and event organisers while I was still in Kenya ,but as I knew it would take some years to build my repertoire as a performer in a completely new country, getting a job in media was my top priority.It’s a career I started back in Kenya as a radio theatre actress in Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC), had some roles in theatre and film and was at the time of my relocation studying for my degree in Communication Science.I eventually started working as a broadcast journalist for Radio Afrika Tv and 8 years later.I worked hard and consistently and I’m currently the Editor-in-chief and Programmes Controller at the station.I am still active with my music however and balance the two careers as they’re my passions.
3.Do you believe racism exists and have you been discriminated before?(What happened)
I believe it does and I can say I’ve experienced subtle racism,for instance you get it into shops where sales people follow you around and its quiet obvious its more than “just doing their job”,certain rude remarks that are directed to you because of your skin colour etc.At first,I was taken aback and abit furious experiencing and hearing some of this stories.I grew up in a very multicultural environment back in Kenya.From neighbours to school teachers,my first best friend in kindergarten was from Czech/Slovakia,so I found this discrimination based on skin color absolutely insane.With time however,I saw it for what it really was because on the other hand,I met and have extremely great friends in this country and since I’ve always been very confident and secure about my heritage,I now see discrimination of any kind as insecurity and people who just had a bad day,not happy with themselves or totally clueless about other cultures and barely travelled outside their own country.I try to avoid situations and places that I know may expose me to this mental illness as I see it.
What I also urge fellow expats to do is to create initiatives,campaigns and platforms that address racism and all forms of discrimination that minority groups experience and in the same breath,showcase what their homeland has to offer.I created a programme,Diaspora Colors,accessible on Tv;Web and radio,to do exactly this.It showcases the talent and skills of Africans living in the diaspora be it in the arts,activism or corporate fields and the response from the community has been amazing.Instead of going out protesting and getting angry on a daily,I believe creating this kinds of platforms also brings across a very strong point without loosing precious energy.Life is happening every day, and as we strive to bring our issues to the forefront,we need to be growing in the process and show the community who we really are and what we have to offer.Let’s change the narrative.
4.Do you get homesick and how do you deal with it?
Yes I do.My family is very important to me and I I have a very strong bond with them.I had no idea how hard it would be to be away until I was away.To make it easier,I keep in touch with all of them almost daily and my Sundays are strictly scheduled for family time.I’m totally grateful for the internet and technology as it makes it much easier so we audio and video chat for hours.I have one of my sisters living in a neighbouring country so we have each other and I travel home as often as I can.
5.Do you get requests from people asking you to get them a job abroad and how do you deal with that?
Well,lol yes I do.It’s not as easy to get a job here as some may think and I do my best to explain the reality and also the way the system runs here in terms of migration and the law.Language plays a huge role in navigating one’s life here.It’s not until I learnt German that I started feeling that I belong.One has to be able to converse,job search and attend interviews that are mostly conducted in the language.This applies to other expats also coming from other parts of Europe and the world.If by sheer chance one lands a job in an international organisation or one that needs the language one already speaks,then you are in luck,but that is seldom.
However,I always appreciate when someone reaches out to me and I do my best to give them all the information they would need if they are keen to relocate.
6.You are also into fitness . What inspired you?
I started my fitness journey back home in 2007.I popularly had the title of the singer who was proud of her African curves and embraced them.I still do.However,my health was starting to suffer.I was also very sporty and athletic in my younger years before joining high school.At the same time,puberty hit and I added so much weight.I decided to do something about it,not to loose my curves but to be healthy and go back to my sporty self.In the process,not only did my body change but so did my life,the way I viewed the world and discovering myself in a whole new light.I loved who I was morphing into and I stuck to eating healthy and staying fit and do so till this day.I plan to write an e-book detailing my journey and all the tips I used to stay strong and consistent,as I’ve gotten many requests from those who witnessed my transformation.
Fitness has become a daily part of my schedule here too because living abroad requires one to have alot of spiritual and mental strength.If there’s one activity that keeps me focused and balanced,it has to be fitness.
7.What do you miss the most about Kenya?
Everything! My people,my family and friends,the food..I enjoy watching my Mum on video calls preparing chapatis in the kitchen and my Dad settling down for his meal as we talk.All I can do is salivate lol but I do try to prepare Kenyan meals when I can.
I miss the Sun,oh the Sun! and the smell of the soil,especially when it rains.First thing I do when I land is step on that ground and just breath in Kenya !
8.What misconception about Europe do you wish Kenyan’s could get over?
Hmm,the view for me on these misconceptions has changed over time as I frequent home and I see how much Kenyan’s perception of going abroad has changed.Kenyans are an intelligent group of people and have been in the forefront of many technologies,take block-chain and Mpesa for instance.Kenya has a lot to offer and its my hope that the government can continue striving to make the country conducive for Kenyans to bring it to its full potential as they in turn get their basic human needs met that are vital for any society to grow and a right for each Kenyan.There’s so much potential in our country and for those of us in the diaspora we aim to harness all we have learnt here and contribute to the growth and development of our country.
Earlier on though,I would get bombarded with ‘oh wow,you’re so lucky ‘oh how I wish I could come to Europe’ etc.With time however and with great access to the internet,Kenyans truly get to see that life abroad isn’t so much different from life at home,they aren’t so blinded by the idea of going abroad.Winter is no joke and relationships are no different meaning men and women are the same everywhere irrespective of their skin color.Someones character is of utmost importance.You may also go two to three months without seeing your neighbours and apart from having your loved one and friends in your life,everyone is busy(including you) so you have to fall in love with the idea of ‘Me’ time until summer arrives lol.
All in all,I’d love it if they understand that while yes,there are some perks of living abroad-some are great like the health care system and infrastructure,they should know that working hard and sometimes long hours is the same here.The wages are higher but so are the taxes and nobody hands you anything for free.One has to work extra hard and stay focused on the reasons that brought them abroad.I’m grateful for the opportunity to further my career here and to anyone giving it a try,by all means do so but with an idea of what to expect so you can hit the ground running!