M. Cavanagh is a New Yorker and a User Experience Strategist and Designer. My
husband and I have moved to Nairobi for his job. We plan to be in
Nairobi for at least a few years. Their blog is where she hopes to record adventures (and not too many
misadventures), life as an expat in Nairobi, and maybe even some helpful
1. Why did you move abroad?
Husband’s work opportunity.
2. How do you make a living?
I am a User Experience Strategist and Designer. I work as an independent consultant. Mostly, I’ll work for US firms (remotely from Nairobi). I can also do work within Kenya with the right work authorization. Kenya has very strict rules about that. If a local company wants to hire me, they get the work permits set up.
3. How often do you communicate with home and how?
I communicate with home daily, mostly through social media and sometimes a “phone” call. By “phone” I mean Skype, What’sApp, or Facebook Messenger.
4. What's your favorite thing about being an expat in Nairobi?
Nairobi is a wonderful, multicultural city with a lot to offer. It’s also easy to get out of town. In two hours, you can be in total paradise, surrounded by nature and wild animals.
5. What’s the worst thing about being an expat in Nairobi?
It’s harder as woman. For anyone to integrate, it’s tough. Kenyans are warm, friendly people. But, they’ll never really let you in. Most of the people I know have this same complaint, even after living here for years. It’s even tougher in this respect if you’re female. Then, on the expat friendship part, it’s also hard. If you’re a professional woman, it’s hard to find likeminded female friends, or even male friends. There’s a bit of Peter Pan Syndrome that seems to affect many expats here.
6. What do you miss most?
I’m from New York, so I used to walk everywhere. I can’t do that here. I really miss walking.
7. What did you do to meet people and integrate in your new home?
I tried various expat social gatherings, like InterNations. Those didn’t work so well for me. (See note about Peter Pan Syndrome.) I had better luck through get togethers hosted by people I know. How did I meet those people in the first place? Husband’s work, friend’s of friends, and a few more private expat gatherings such as the Canadian High Commission’s Karibu Club.
8. What custom/ habits do you find most strange about your adopted culture?
People don’t like to use sidewalks. Even if there is a sidewalk, and wide empty one, people will walk on the street. It’s very strange to me.
9. What is a myth about your adopted country?
People think of Africa and they think of danger, mud huts, terrorism, and so forth. Kenya has its problems. But, it’s much more sophisticated and advanced than people think. Nairobi isn’t just a real city, it’s a cosmopolitan one.
10. Is the cost of living higher or lower than the last country you lived in and how has that made a difference in your life?
It’s much less than in New York and that makes life easier.
11. What advice would you give other expats?
When you see something you like in a store, buy 10 of it. You’ll need to hoard a bit because what’s there one week might not be back for months.
12. When and why did you start your blog?
I started before I moved here. I did it as a way to keep friends and family in the loop of what was going on in my life. It then grew into something bigger and more of a wider audience with whom I could share my stories.
M's Blog, NYC2Nairobi
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