There are obvious destinations for expats considering a move overseas, such as Canada, which ranks third on HSBC’s 2016 Expat Explorer Survey. However, there are also less obvious destinations which may also offer the expat a valuable and satisfying experience. One such country is Kenya, which ranks at 40 in the same survey.
For expats seeking a happier and healthier work-life balance (and who may be looking to avoid long cold winters, expensive housing, and high taxes) Kenya may be a more attractive option than Canada.
Social (culture and language)
The cultural shift in moving to Kenya from more developed nations is significant. Urbanite Western expats, used to a hi-tech 24/7 lifestyle, may struggle to adjust to the lack of creature comforts they would be used to at home. That said, expats and their families may well feel the benefit of high salaries and large houses, which may help them adjust to, and embrace, a more relaxed way of life.
While there might be concern about crime in the major cities, most expats choose to live in gated communities where crime is much less of an issue.
Expats working in Nairobi and other major cities tend to avoid the rush by living in the suburbs. Lavington, Kitisuru, and Karen are all popular expat areas on the outskirts of Nairobi. Outside Mombasa, Kizingo and Diani Beach are popular locations for expats to live.
Kenya has a tribal culture, which will become clear to any expat moving between cities. The country has 42 ethnic tribes, but only two official languages, one of which is English – another reason why expats could find settling in Kenya easier than it might first appear.
Lifestyle and Entertainment
For the expat and their family, Kenya is a playground for nature lovers with parks and safaris to see the incredible animals that call Kenya home. Lake Nakuru National Park, for example, is a rhino sanctuary, but visitors are also likely to see thousands of pink flamingos on the lake that covers a third of the park – as well as lions, leopards, and giraffes. Also in the Rift Valley, Amboseli National Park allows visitors to see elephants in the wild with Mount Kilimanjaro in the background. Remarkably, such extraordinary natural sights can be seen just 2.5 hours from the capital city, Nairobi.
As well as Kenya’s beautiful natural sights and national parks, Westlands (located 3km outside Nairobi) and Gigiri’s The Village Market are both well-known locations for expats looking to enjoy shopping, cafes, restaurants and cinemas.
Diani Beach is Kenya’s busiest resort, so expats looking for a quieter experience could consider heading to Wasini Island and Funzi Island, both located to the south of the country, on the east coast, to enjoy snorkelling and sunbathing.
Climate, Geography, and Nature
Located on the eastern coast of central Africa, Kenya has a varied geography, with highlands that include the country’s highest peak, Mount Kenya – an ideal spot for expat adventurers and nature-lovers alike to explore.
Kenya’s tropical climate offers hot and humid conditions, especially along the coast, making it ideal for expats looking to slip away for days off and holidays. Nairobi, by comparison, has a mild climate – so while it might be humid, expats from cooler regions are likely to be able to live here comfortably.
As with many countries that enjoy a humid climate, Kenya is home to a wide range of creatures. An effective method of reducing the risk of mosquito bites is to use repellent and mosquito nets. The water quality in Kenya is variable, so expats are advised not to drink tap water and use filtered or bottled drinking water instead.
Health and Well-being (diet and medical emergencies)
Food in Kenya is diverse and exciting, and for expats who enjoy tasting the local cuisine, there is a range of local foods available, depending on where in the country they are staying. Many local offerings, like sukuma wiki (kale stew) and nyama choma (grilled sheep or goat) reflect a simpler time. However, on the coast, Swahili food is much more dynamic. Here, cuisine blends seafood with influences from across India and Africa. As with many major cities of the world, restaurants across Mombasa and Nairobi offer international cuisine, rounding out a varied and exciting menu for the culinary expat.
While government hospitals in Kenya are struggling due to underfunding, private hospitals offer a good quality of medical care. The national healthcare plan is available to expats, but due to the standards of care, they may prefer to set up a private health plan to ensure they have access to the right medical care at the right time. Without it, the costs can be incredibly high. A medical evacuation out of the country could cost in the region of 100,000 USD.
Expats with chronic illness or with a prescription should bring a supply of medication along with their prescription. Pharmacies, or chemists, are available in town centers across Kenya. Reputable chains include Yaya Chemists, TriChem Pharmacies, and MedWorld Pharmacies.
The Final Decision
From incredible natural beauty to varied local cuisine and a rising economic profile, Kenya might not be the obvious choice, but it could still be an attractive alternative for moving abroad, particularly for those looking for the road less traveled.
Add the good weather, an English-speaking population, and a growing economy that is one of the fastest growing in Africa, Kenya could be a great career opportunity for expats too, especially those looking to set up their own business. An Ernst & Young report in 2016 revealed Kenya is the top investment destination in East Africa, benefiting from strong economic growth.
No doubt, the final choice of where to move overseas next will come down to a combination of factors, not just one.