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 Africa 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 Kenya, 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
hitting the dance floor together with Monalisa to some sort of techno
Carnivore - eating meat like a wild beast until there is no more space in my human stomach
eating meat like a wild beast until there is no more space in my human stomach
Hurricane Lounge - spontaneous party night at a local lounge with no other foreigners
spontaneous party night at a local lounge with no other foreigners
Habesha - having my very first Ethiopian dinner with a bunch of friends in Nairobi
having my very first Ethiopian dinner with a bunch of friends in Nairobi
Matatu - public transportation emulated by private saving groups and entrepreneurs
public transportation emulated by private saving groups and entrepreneurs
Goethe Institut - joy for all senses triggered by a mixture of traditional and contemporary dance
joy for all senses triggered by a mixture of traditional and contemporary dance
Alliance Française - celebrating World Music Day in Nairobi at the French learning institute
celebrating World Music Day in Nairobi at the French learning institute
Space Lounge Bar & Grill - listening to bumping African beats under the starshine of a clear night in Nairobi
listening to bumping African beats under the starshine of a clear night in Nairobi
Boda Boda - fastest, but sometimes risky, transportation within the big cities and countryside
fastest, but sometimes risky, transportation within the big cities and countryside
Caribea Bar - goodbye dinner in a typical Kenyan karoga style with live food preparation
goodbye dinner in a typical Kenyan karoga style with live food preparation
Fashion Couture Affair - attending my very first fashion show and posing on the red carpet with a real miss
attending my very first fashion show and posing on the red carpet with a real miss
Swiss National Day - celebrating 725 years of Switzerland with a bunch of Swiss expats in Nairobi
celebrating 725 years of Switzerland with a bunch of Swiss expats in Nairobi
KIZA Club - one of the coolest places to watch the sun go down high above Nairobi
one of the coolest places to watch the sun go down high above Nairobi
Temple - celebrating the night and pumping techno beats on a hidden rooftop
celebrating the night and pumping techno beats on a hidden rooftop
Arts to end Slavery - combining creative arts with political statements to create awareness
combining creative arts with political statements to create awareness
Jazz Festival - listening to the tunes of Jazz legend Hugh Masekela under the stars of Nairobi
listening to the tunes of Jazz legend Hugh Masekela under the stars of Nairobi
Xtreme Outdoors Africa - celebrating extreme outdoor sports with parkour, motorbikes and scaters
celebrating extreme outdoor sports with parkour, motorbikes and scaters
Juniper's Kitchen - a hidden gem in Nairobi's nightlife, could not unfold its true potential
a hidden gem in Nairobi's nightlife, could not unfold its true potential
Photizo Gallery - admiring contemporary African art - instead of traditional Masai crafts
admiring contemporary African art - instead of traditional Masai crafts
Cold Stone - accidentally stumbling onto the best ice cream on the entire African continent
accidentally stumbling onto the best ice cream on the entire African continent
G-Skyye Lounge - accidentally stumbling into a teenager's birthday party and having fun
accidentally stumbling into a teenager's birthday party and having fun
Mitsubishi Pajero iO - buying my very own car in Nairobi - just to drive to Cape Town and back
buying my very own car in Nairobi - just to drive to Cape Town and back
Car Bureaucracy - going through a lot of unnecessary trouble before finding the easy solution
going through a lot of unnecessary trouble before finding the easy solution
Car Mechanics - fixing too many mechanical and electrical problems before hitting the road
fixing too many mechanical and electrical problems before hitting the road