Culture shock on moving to Nairobi
- Clean, hot and cold running water and 24/7 electricity are no longer guaranteed. This is a big shock and can be a bit tough to get your head around. This is stuff you normally take for granted. Power cuts and a water supply that is dependent on electricity fed pumps, can mean that both go out together and that’s stressful and uncomfortable.
- Wildlife. There is a bit more around that perhaps you are used to, depending on where you live. Could be monkeys, hawks and warthogs in the garden, or cockroaches, mosquitoes and ants in the house. And I haven’t even mentioned the night time screaming; tree hyrax, bush babies, cicadas.
- There’s no fixed phone lines in houses any more, nor are there in many businesses. For a few years we had one, then the copper phone lines kept on going walk about (thanks to their scrap metal value). So now we all rely on mobiles and not just for calls but for money transfer/payments.
- You stick out like a sore thumb as a foreigner and you might feel out of sorts, but on the up side, you are treated as a visitor, often on the receiving end of undeserved deference and respect. You are far from home but you also get to feel special.
“People stare. Kids shout “hello!” from across the street. Strangers go out of their way to be nice to you. You’re consistently treated like a guest.” (see link from The Week below)
Culture shock experienced on going home in 2016
- The place is the same but there are more people, more traffic. Is it just me being paranoid or do people really just love driving exactly 2 feet behind me? Driving in Nairobi is bad so I am used to it to some degree, but the pressure of driving at 30mph through quiet villages with someone tailgating me the whole way, is too much.
- This year I noticed that phone fraud is a pretty terrifying thing! Householders seem to be totally at the mercy of cold calling salesmen and elderly residents suffer most. I answered a cold caller who was hoping to talk to my mum and he actually pretended he was calling her back from yesterday (though obviously didn’t want to leave a business name or number). The cheek! And quite scary.
- Seeing homeless people beg on the street and charity workers somewhat aggressively approaching strangers for contributions comes a shock. In Nairobi, we are often asked for money by people we know well (for funerals, for school fees, for medical bills), or there’s some kind of giving drive that follows a tragedy or drought etc. We make cash transfer by phone or make donations of food or clothing. We are still giving in Nairobi, but its different.
- The fact that I love home and it is infused with memories of growing up, makes visiting parents who still live in the same place, difficult to process. Very odd that this has not worn off after nearly 18 years away from home.
There’s a really great article in The Week that sums up these feelings and those of moving back home, a hell of a lot more succinctly than me: I lived in Korea for 5 years, here’s what happened when came home to Nebraska
“The places that I had fond memories of were just that, places with memories, filled with the vestiges of people who weren’t around anymore, or weren’t like they once were. I had no control over the constant flood of remembering.”
Featured image credit: Moving about.com/cultureshock