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My notes on 3 weeks in Nairobi

At the start of this year something interesting happened. First, I moved jobs and started doing something I was passionate about – working with a digital communication agency. And before I could even warm the office chair I was packed off for 2 months to visit the jungle land. Yes, I was in the Kenya office of our partner company here in East Africa and had an interesting stint. Thankfully before I got home-sick, I was home but not before I was lured to come back and do some more work.

And so staring July I was back here on a new mission in a new role. It’s been about 3 weeks now and besides reading the dozens of presentation files, brief documents I also spent some time making little notes of things around me.

So here is a quick perspective on life, people and some more around me here in Nairobi.

People

The first impression you get after spending some time with most people here is that they are warm and there is a lot of courtesy. Like you never start a conversation with – Ok listen I need this report. Most often the conversation will start with a few feel good greetings, weather talk and then to business. Like this morning I was at the bank and when I walked up to the teller – she said Hi, how are you? I missed the second part of the greeting and she repeated her question. Warm service for starters I say. Sadly, a common trait is the lack of punctuality and most often you’ve got to give it 10 mins of grace time. But it doesn’t really bother an Indian, does it?

Lifestyle

Life starts real early around here. Most of the staff in my office is well settled in by 8:30AM and on good days we are done by about 5:30 – 6pm. Coffee shops and malls are shut by 9pm so you usually find them crowded during the evenings or then Sat-Sundays. Friday night is a big night – and I am told most youngsters party hard till the wee hours of the morning. Sat / Sun is for the family and lunches are popular.

Till a few months back movies came in late – but they are now released locally on time with international release dates after some big cinema buy over deal. Good for me I say. I watched my first movie here – Zindagi Na Milegi Dobara – And trust me we were not more than 20 people in a 75 seater cinema hall at a 1PM show on a Saturday. Strangely, there is no intermission.

The food courts at the mall are interesting. You just sit in the common area and waiters from all the outlets attack you with their menu and you can mix and pick from all of them. I kind of like that option – No self-service.

Technology

Early adopters. Talks for 4G launch are already being discussed in tech circles and should not be long before it comes in. Government and communication companies are investing good money in laying high-speed under-sea fibre. Oh, interestingly Macs are very popular and I have seen at least a dozen people both in my office and coffee shops use the iPad. Having said that, the IT team has promised me that my now much delayed Macbook should come in soon. Seems the supplier here has issues with stock.

Cost of living

I am not sure if I can comment too well but I noticed vegetables are expensive but most of them are fresh and there is a good variety available. Compared to what you would pay in a city like Mumbai, I think housing is affordable and you get a much more spacious accommodation in decent localities. But I am not very happy with the quality of construction and the interiors of most of the furnished apartments. So you’ve got to be picky and look around a bit. TV / Newspaper and Internet is high expense. Mobile call rates are competitive but not dirt-cheap like in India. Entertainment can get a little expensive since most often you end up eating at food courts in the malls or then good restaurants. I haven’t seen much option for nice, quick cheap meal option – like the many udipis we have back in India or even street-side food is missing. Similarly movie watching is also expensive since more often I think you see it in the mall’s multi-screen cinema hall.

That’s it for now, more experience will hopefully be blogged as we go along this journey.

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