African Culture And Traditions

Or what to do when you are somehow stuck in an African metropolis
Monday, August 1, 2016 to Wednesday, August 31, 2016

Introduction: finding and preparing a new challenge

The social project that brought me to Africainfo-icon was finished. For half a year I was living in San Francisco and Nairobi. At Angaza, I could work with a young and highly motivated team. Together we grew as a company and improved our products for the low-cost solar market. Now, the time has come to find a new opportunity or challenge. For another month, I was staying in Nairobi and preparing my next big adventure. I was enjoying my life without responsibilities and dealing with local culture and authorities.

Lifestyle: generally easy going and hard to rely upon

Thanks to the internet, I was living in an affordable room with locals. In comparison to most foreigners, I was walking a lot and using public transportation. I tried to get around a lot and visited many areas in town. By spending much time with locals, I discovered a few behavior patterns. Hakuna Matata: in Africa, time is relative and everybody notoriously late. People often do not realize how they get lost in time. Surviving of the fittest: those who are fighting and standing up are better off. Nevertheless, many people are barking louder than they bite. No fair play: people are not held accountable for mistakes they have made. I have heard many apologies but seen few consequences.

Culinary: eating in a hidden backyard or on the street

The Kenyan kitchen is not extraordinary, but I enjoyed it a lot. Only on a few occasions, I was eating international cuisine. To my surprise, I found delicious Pizza and Sushi in hidden backyard restaurants. My favorite western adaption was the localized coffee shops, serving Cappuccino and flavored Café Late. But most of the time, I enjoyed local food, such as Chapati (flatbread) and Ugali (staple food of maize). Many adorable “mammies” are serving a selection of homemade food in the streets. For as little as one or two dollars, you get a large plate filled with different dishes. This food reminded me a lot of the Swiss countryside.

Culture: hidden behind faceless walls, but still there

African culture and traditions are slowly and silently evolving. As a European citizen, I was first only looking at the preserved traditions. In Kenyainfo-icon, it’s mostly the arts, craft, and dances of the Masai people. Next, I discovered the imported entertainment products like cinema and music. It took me a while to discover the hidden local productions. Behind the malls of faceless buildings, I found contemporary African art exhibitions. With new local friends, I enjoyed Jazz in the green and fashion between railways. Nairobi is not drowning in culture but clearly offers a lot.

Nightlife: finding the right places and people after all

At night, young locals and expats are getting louder. Both groups like to drink a lot of alcohol and forget the sorrows of everyday life. As for myself, I enjoyed getting into the mood and music of different places. My personal preferred style of music and clubbing is not represented well. Nevertheless, I found great sound and amazing people, dancing together through the night. Most fun I was having with locals, enjoying my electronic music as well as African beats. Once again I realized, that I need bumping beats and ecstatically raving people.

Buying a car: mechanical and administrative problems

As my next adventure, I started to plan a big road trip in Africa. After some research, I decided to buy my own car in Nairobi. After a while, this turned out to become a real nightmare. Because I did not stay long enough in Kenya, I did not have a social security number and could not register the car on my name. None of the officials in several departments was able to assure me, that I would be able to cross any border. In the end, I found support at the AA (automobile association) and acquired a Carnet de Passage. The purchase itself was a disaster. After looking at several cars, I clearly decided for the wrong one. The closer the mechanic inspected the car, the more problems he found. I knew it will not be easy, but I never expected that many issues.

Summary: taking my time to enjoy and prepare

Without any doubts, I decided to extend my stay in Nairobi. After all, I clearly enjoyed city life in one of Africa’s largest metropolis. Adapting to the lifestyle never was an issue for me. Finally, I had the time to dig deeper and find more hidden gems. Spending time with dear new friends was valuable and enjoyable. Also, I needed this time to prepare my next big trip. This clearly took more time than I was hoping for. My excitement grew every day and I felt like a child before Christmas!

Great thanks to everybody who spent great quality time with me!

My waypoints on this journey

  • The Alchemist

    hitting the dance floor together with Monalisa to some sort of techno


    Parklands Rd, Nairobi, Kenya


    Saturday, May 28, 2016

    Personal highlights

    1. The Alchemist: probably the hippest bar and club in Nairobi these days - mostly for expats
    2. Meltdown: Nairobi's darkest, most broken and experimental night of techno and electronica
    3. Bad Mambo: group of DJs playing an absolutely crazy mix of electronic music - not my favourite
    4. Mama Rocks: setting the bar really high for quality burgers - from a food wagon after midnight
    5. Event venue: great outdoor location with a large stage, lounge, multiple bars and restaurants

    Image sources

    1. Bad Mambo Productions
    2. DJ Jinku on the stage from the side
    3. Monalisa (bigger than the original!)
    4. Random people just hanging out
    5. Random people smoking shisha