This week my friend Lydia (who I met through the blog) wrote this for me. She studied in the UK and moved back home. She has a thirst for travelling, loves all things chocolate and really loves her hair. She is a hair blogger, please visit her blog.
This year I want to explore the “going back home” scenario more. On to the points:
Have a well thought out plan before you move. What do you intend to do? Is it employment or a start up or join the family business? Then take it from there and do your research.
Visit several times before you move. People who do so integrate better than people who left ten years ago and never came back even once.
Keep up with Kenyan current affairs either via social media, family and friends or through various TV/ radio channels.
Get your financials in order: living at home may not suit your independent self so make sure you have at least up to one year’s rent saved for your neighbourhood of choice, if living at home/with relatives is not for you. It may take you a while to get a job, a long while in some instances unless you know people who can help you get one faster that is a fact, it is who you know that counts in this country even for the smallest of jobs. Have enough savings to last you a while.
If you can secure a job before you come back the better. A lot of companies head hunt…. this is where actively keeping in touch with friends and family who can help you secure a job comes in handy. You are better of moving with a job and a signed contract in place. This is not set in stone; some undergraduate degree holders have been lucky to secure a job all on their own within a month of moving back while some PhD holders are still tarmacking a year later. Every one’s story is different.
If you are thinking of setting up a business then do your research on business registration, location, staff availability, necessary documentation, viability of the said business (chances are it may already exist) a feasibility study of your proposed business beforehand will come in handy.
Be patient. While Kenya may be a middle income developing country, things still move slowly compared to Western countries, so people may say they will get back to you on Monday but do so on Wednesday. Others may surprise you and actually get back to you when they said they would. The quickest way to get response from a company would be to tweet them. The turnaround time on twitter is unsurprisingly much quicker than email.
Foreign degrees are a dime a dozen these days…. you are not special and do not expect to be treated so because you have a foreign degree. For every Kenyan who has never left the country, there are about five others who have and moved back. Kenyans are a very educated lot; your foreign undergraduate degree may not compete with someone with a double masters from Nairobi University.
Don’t come with a know it all attitude. Kenyans are well travelled and well conversed in foreign cultures… they will humble you if you turn up with a show off attitude. Be real, they can smell a fake person a mile away and will call you out on your fakeness. You may have lived in the US for 10 years and never crossed the border to Canada, and find a Kenyan who has been to 30 plus countries for work /pleasure. Be humble; you are not the first to go abroad neither will you be the last. There is a very large and growing middle class and they are not fazed by “maisha ya majuu”. Very few people will find you fascinating because “umetoka majuu”. A lot of returnees make the mistake of moving back with an “I am better than you attitude” and are quickly humbled.
The one thing that will be very evident is the different social classes and the huge poverty-wealth divide that is a culture shock; get ready for it. Not every beggar on the streets of Nairobi is genuine and not every appeal for money is honest, be wise don’t fall victim to fraudsters. People will try and take advantage of “generous people”.
Kenya has developed vastly since the last time you were home. International brand names can be found all over the country, urban cities have huge malls, they even have a MAC store in Nairobi. Pizza will be delivered straight to your doorstep alongside mutura from your local butchers if you so wish and a mtumba dress from Gikomba alongside a high end boutique designer dress.
Lower your expectations: things will not work like they did abroad; the police may not come on time, or even come at all or they may ask you for fuel money for the government vehicle which you a tax paying citizen already pays for. Get health insurance; getting ill can be a very expensive affair; American returnees may not have a problem with this, but all you free health care Canadian, UK returnees may be in for a rude shock. In fact have no expectations at all that way you will not be disappointed. Things will move way more slowly than what you are used to.
Socially people will have moved on the boys you used to hang out with now have families that are their priority, your girls are now mothers; things may not be exactly the same as you left it. Once again actively keep in touch with people while abroad so you do not end up like a fish out of water in your own country, family/ your social circle that you grew up with. You will need these networks for various things when you get back…. I repeat keep in touch, keep in touch and keep in touch some more. The same can be said if your move is temporary; keep in touch with the people you left back in the Diaspora they will come in handy when you move back to the Diaspora after your two, three year stint in Kenya is over.