Nairobi is home to very many expatriates. Mostly because we host very many international organisations.
Expats in Nairobi tend to stand out either due to the neighbourhoods they live in, their skin colour, language barrier or the women they date.
I came up with six characters who represent a typical expat in Nairobi. Do you agree? Sound off in the comments and feel free to share your ideas as well….
Types of Kenyans you will meet abroad
1.Jim the career Disciple
This is the type that has built a long-term income around expat life, and he does pretty well at it, too.
And he always has a plan. He might have started teaching in Tanzania or Malawi, but probably had his eye on a high-paying contract in the Nairobi’s UN headquarters as a translator as a long-term goal.
2. Perpetua the Student
Perpetua the Student took a course at USIU, or did a study abroad program, and just never left.
She stayed because she met a guy pale Thika Road. Kajamaa flani, probably Mluhya wa Busia ama Chavakale. Guy plays rugby small time. Perpetua loves kitenge outfits and flaunting her inlaws online. She doesn’t want to go back home because she no longer fits in. But she isn’t really fully integrated into her new culture, either. Language or custom remain a challenging barrier to be overcome.
You’ll often find Perpetua the Student working with an NGO eventually. Because living in Kenya as a foreigner can be an uphill battle, especially when it comes to creating a career.
3. Stacey the wifey
Stacey the expat wifey gave up her career to move abroad when Dennis, her partner, was offered a cool job as Country director.
Rather than look for opportunities of her own to pursue, she spends her expat days trapped in an endless hell of play dates, coffee with other expat spouses and sitting in shoping malls striking a downcast martyr’s pose.
She gives all her kid’s outgrown clothes to her loyal house manager Felista, takes photos and shares them on social media. She is a good person, her comments from friends abroad read.
How to be successful middle class in Nairobi
4. Thomas the Correspondent
Thomas the correspondent was sent abroad by his media house as the regional beareau chief. The company arranged for the movers and paid for the entire relocation.
Thomas moves around in Taxis and lives in a subsidized house, often in a gated community or compound with a bunch of other expats. He never really gets to know his host country or culture, because he’s not a part of it, yet he writes about it. He lives on the fringes and sees it through glass when commuting to meet his next source. He only comes into contact with “locals” at gypsy’s when deciding if he is going home with Njeri or Akinyi. Or even both. And that’s after buying them both a bottle of Smirnoff ice to share.
5. Crabby Ken
Crabby Ken hates everything about Kenya. He, originally comes from Bangladesh, and spends most of his time complaining about it as well.
Everyone will have things they don’t like about a country, but most people can balance out the bad with the good and find a reason for being there. Not Ken. He hates everything. He only really seems to enjoy complaining and being miserable.
You’ll bump into Ken at every expat event. He’ll be standing at the side of the room, weaving slightly from an excess of drink. There’ll be spittle flying from the corners of his mouth, and his face will be slightly red with rage. He’s in the midst of a rant because he’s cornered some new person again, someone who hasn’t figured out that he’s best avoided.
Did I also mention that he is dating a Kenyan woman. His in-laws can’t stand him either but have learnt to accommodate him over time. But theirs is a disfunctionial relationship as the girl suffers massive inferiority complex. Her ex was the same. And the guys before.
6. The Cultural Chameleon
The Cultural Chameleon tries to blend into Kenya by going native—sometimes to a ridiculous extent. She or he wears maasai sandals and has a kiondo. She or he knows the guidebook forward and back and goes out every weekend to see some new tourist site. This type is a self-styled expert on the country they’re living in. And they usually write a blog to share with family and friends.
Cultural Chameleons are naively optimistic and eager about their host culture. There can be nothing bad about it, and they’ll get very angry if you criticize it or say anything remotely negative. It goes without saying that they hate Crabby Ken. They always end up broke at some point. Hanaga kakitu aiseee!