Should You Move to Africa? 7 Mistakes to Avoid

Moving to Africa was one of the best – and hardest – decisions of my life. If you have the opportunity – or even just the desire – to live and work in Africa, do it! I lived in Nairobi, Kenya for three years – and I don’t regret a minute of it. Here are seven mistakes to avoid when you’re moving to Africa, three valuable tips from expats living overseas, and a list of things to take with you.

Moving to Africa was the biggest adventure of my life. It wasn’t easy, though. Living in Kenya was difficult in many ways and I often wanted to go home. I’d signed a three-year teaching contract at a school for missionaries’ and ex-pats kids in Nairobi, and I could’ve broken the contract if I needed to…but I stayed.

I don’t regret living in Africa but I found it emotionally, physically and socially difficult. I share a few insight below; my thoughts might help you decide if you should move to Africa and how to prepare for life overseas. Feel free to comment if you have any questions about or tips for moving to Africa. And, you’ll see from the comments section that many readers disagree with the way I portray life in Africa! That’s okay. I don’t mind :-) Remember that this is just my own personal experience, and that Africa is a huge continent. My experience of life in Nairobi, Kenya 15 years ago won’t be the same as moving to South Africa or the Congo today.

10 Things I Learned While Living in Kenya, Africa

If you have the chance to move to Africa, do it. At the end of your life you’ll regret what you didn’t do more than you’ll regret what you did do. I taught at an American school in Nairobi, Kenya, East Africa for three years. I loved it and hated it; it was both the best and worst time of my life. I wish I could do it over, and I never want to move to Africa again! That’s how moving to Africa was for me, but it’ll be different for you. Some people move to Africa and never move back.

Here are the mistakes I made while living in Kenya, East Africa. I taught at Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi for three years, and didn’t get the most out of my life in Africa. I was scared most of the time, which wasn’t the best way to live.

1. Fear will control you – and ruin your experience – if you let it

Every morning in Africa, a Gazelle wakes up. It knows it must run faster than the fastest lion or it will be killed. Every morning a Lion wakes up. It knows it must outrun the slowest Gazelle or it will starve to death. It doesn’t matter whether you are a Lion or a Gazelle… when the sun comes up, you’d better be running. Don’t be afraid. Just keep running.

When I moved to Africa, Nairobi was one of the world’s most dangerous cities. I was scared to leave the school’s protected compound after dark, scared to spend a lot of time downtown Nairobi, and scared to cycle the Rift Valley. I did it, though! I biked up and down the Rift, camped in Kenya, and ate lunch downtown Nairobi. But, I didn’t let myself loosen up and enjoy it. I allowed my fear of things such as the baboons on the side of the road in the Rift Valley steal my enjoyment of the experience. I worried about my safety and didn’t have faith in my travels, or even in God. If you’re moving to Africa, don’t let fear grab you by the tail and swing you around! Be cautious and courageous.

2. Don’t bring all the “comforts of home” with you

Should You Move to Africa? 7 Mistakes to Avoid
Me in Nairobi, Kenya

Before I left Canada, I sent myself two boxes of stuff to my new home in Africa. I’d heard that most of my favorite things wouldn’t be available (eg, Crest toothpaste, Twizzlers, Tylenol, etc). So, I packed up a couple boxes of my favorite stuff and sent it to Nairobi, ahead of me.

Sending that box of stuff was extremely expensive, and it didn’t get to Africa until three months after I’d settled in. I was so disappointed when I opened my boxes of home goodies! I had already started using the African or European version of what I sent myself, and I had no use for anything in the boxes. If you’re moving to Africa, I encourage you to live like the locals. Use local toothpaste, eat local sweets, and tend your headaches the local way.

3. Carefully research what you should take when you move to Africa

At the end of this article you’ll find a list of things to pack for people moving to Africa. What you take depends on where you’re moving (eg, Cape Town versus Sudan), your health (do you need prescription meds, are you on a special diet?), and your lifestyle (eg, if you love to read, get a Kindle or digital reader!). What you should take really depends on you, but there are some things we all need. See the “things to take to Africa” list below.

The most important thing you can take if you’re moving to Africa is good health! That includes your guts. Read Should You Take the Dukoral Vaccine to Prevent Traveler’s Diarrhea?

4. Don’t put barriers between you and the people of Africa

I regret saying that I didn’t make African friends. I spent time with my fellow teachers and my Bible Study group, but that was it. I didn’t make expat friends, Kenyan friends, or African friends. I isolated myself for several reasons, and didn’t connect with African people on a deep level. I also lived on the school’s private, protected compound, which didn’t encourage me to meet people outside of work.

If you’re moving to anywhere in Africa, go out of your way to make African friends. Try not to isolate yourself in your own little American, Canadian, or home-culture bubble.

5. Learn Swahili, Zulu, Amharic – the language of your African country

I didn’t learn any Swahili when I was living in Africa, and I regret it now. I would’ve liked to but I just didn’t have the emotional, physical or intellectual energy to try to learn a new language. If I were to relocate to Kenya again, I’d try to learn at least a little Swahili before actually moving.

6. Share your experience of living in Africa

I never wrote online about what it was like to move to and live in Kenya. I wasn’t a blogger then (like I am now). I wrote in my private journals, but I didn’t share my experience moving to and living in Kenya. I regret that, now! If you’re moving to Africa, consider blogging about your experiences. Writing is a great way to sort through your thoughts, express your emotions, and share what it’s like to live in Africa.

If you’re prone to homesickness, read Are You Traveling Alone and Feeling Homesick?

7. Get involved in African culture, events, experiences

When I lived in Kenya, I didn’t own or lease a car. The school I taught at (Rosslyn Academy) loaned cars to teachers and staff, so I didn’t feel the need to buy my own car.

In hindsight, not buying a vehicle was a mistake because it limited my activities and excursions. I didn’t venture far off campus, and I missed alot of Nairobi life! But, on the bright side, I saved a lot of money. Cars were expensive in Africa, and I was living on a poor teacher’s salary.

If you want to get the most out of your African life, find ways to be mobile and independent. Don’t restrict yourself to a small, safe life.

8. Travel around Africa during your work or school breaks

Instead of deeply exploring other African countries, I went home to Canada every summer. Now I believe that if I’m living overseas then I should immerse myself fully in the country, culture, climate. I wouldn’t go home when I had time off from work or school (although friends and family back home really wanted to see me). Actually, looking back I remember that I really needed to see them — my family, friends, and home country of Canada in the summers. So, perhaps going back home isn’t a mistake to avoid when you’re moving to Africa…but it’s valuable and good to explore the African continent while you’re there.

3 Tips for Moving to Africa

The following three tips are from expats’ blogs about moving to Africa…

1. Talk to expats about moving to Africa

“South Africa generally, and Joburg, particularly, often times take a big hit from the press and those who have chosen to leave. Surely there are issues in South Africa, but there are many expats living here – by choice (myself one of them) – who are leading meaningful and interesting lives. I would really urge you to speak to as many people as possible, but to concentrate on those who currently live where you are considering living. This is not to say that people who have chosen to leave South Africa have not had valid reasons for doing so. But many have chosen to continue living in South Africa, and some are now returning after years of living abroad. Those reasons are also worth listening to. This is a very profound and intense society on the move. Remember that no place is without difficulty, it may just come in a different package.” – from 10 Tips for Living in South Africa.

2. Bring print copies of pictures with you to Africa

“Yes, like actual physical prints of 4×6 pictures. In Nigeria (and I’ve heard this is the case in other African countries) people love seeing photos, especially of your family. It’s nice to have an assortment of 25-30 pictures in a small album to “tell” people about your life back home. It’s also nice to have photos to put around your new living space, even if it’s just arranging a bunch of unframed pictures on a wall in your bedroom. It can make the place feel more homey and bring a bit of comfort when you’re feeling lonely.” – Moving to Africa- General Packing Tips.

3. Prepare for culture shock

“The adjustment [of moving to Africa] was massive, but not in the ways I expected. Squatting over a stinky hole in the ground to do my business? Piece of cake. Sleeping under a mosquito net, purifying my water, and never walking after dark—these are effortless accommodations, the new facts of daily life in Africa. What is hard is the emotional part. I never imagined I’d walk past a little girl asleep in a wheelbarrow and do nothing to help her. What is bad is not that she is poor; it is that she lacks proper nutrition and clean water and a roof over her head. These are the issues my non-profit organization is working to address. Picking her up out of her wheelbarrow won’t give her a better future, but providing women with sustainable incomes will. It still breaks my heart. Life in a developing country requires a thick skin if you are going to be useful, but it is hard to grow it nonetheless.” – from Volunteering and Living in Kenya.

For me, culture shock was one of the hardest parts of moving to and living in Africa. I think that’s partly where my fear came from – which was my first tip or mistake to avoid when you’re moving to Africa.

If you have a soft spot in your heart for animals, you’ll be sad when you see some of the dogs and cats when you’re living in Africa. Read How I Coped With Seeing Starving Dogs in Nepal.

Essential Things to Take if You’re Moving to Africa

One of my most practical tips for moving to Africa is to get a Ziploc Space Saver Set – 15 Bags. I packed everything I wanted to take in two huge hockey bags, because I didn’t realize how much space you save when you suck the air out of your clothes and other items! This is huge – I could have taken twice as much with me if I had a space saver set.

should I move to africa?
  •  Cocoon Silk MummyLiner – “If you are planning to stay in India [or Africa] for long, particularly if you are working or volunteering, the Cocoon Silk MummyLiner can come in handy,” says Shalu Sharma, author of Essential India Travel Guide: Travel Tips And Practical Information. “Made of silk, it’s ideal for hot countries because it allows one to feel cool in the hot summer and is warm in the cold winters. It’s hand washable, and can be washed and dried easily.”
  • The SwissGear USB ScanSmart Laptop Backpack – abrasion-resistant, travel-friendly laptop backpack with a lock for safaris and travel within Africa. Don’t wait until you move there to discover how Africa can be rough on your clothes, housewares, and equipment. The dirt and heat is brutal on your travel gear, backpacks, even cloth grocery bags. You can carry your laptop in this backpack, plus a pile of other things you want to take when you move to Africa.
  • Hand Cranking Solar Powered Rechargeable Flashlight Emergency LED Flashlight – The power goes out all the time in Africa – even in big cities like Nairobi and Cape Town. A wind-up flashlight (which is called a torch in Africa, Britain, and India) works best. You won’t have to worry about buying or charging batteries. Many wind-up flashlights LED lights and even a radio. Bonus! You can listen to English radio programs and get the latest updates on the power.
  • Africa Travel Plug Adapter (Type M) – 3 Pack [Grounded & Universal] – for your phone, laptop, tablet, kindle, and camera. Keep your electronics as fully charged as possible at all times, because you just never know when you’ll lose power. You may have a generator but they run on petrol, and petrol doesn’t last forever.
  • SteriPen Adventurer Opti Water Purifier – for when you can’t boil or filter water. I took iodine tablets when I went to Nepal last month, but they tasted like iodine.
  • Adventure Medical Kits World Travel First Aid Medical Supply Kit because you just never know when those unexpected lumps and bumps will hit you. This isn’t something you need for Africa, it’s for your own home, too!

What have I missed? A lot, I bet :-) I’m trying not to write a book, but there are lots of things you need to know before you move to Africa.

A Few Random Packing and Travel Tips

These Africa travel tips are focused on Kenya but apply to all parts of Africa. They’re helpful good for women over 30 traveling solo; that’s who I was when I lived in Nairobi. I traveled to South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Zanzibar. Here’s what I learned…

1. Take bug, citrus, or lavender spray for bedbugs and other insects. I don’t think Africa is any worse or better than other countries for bedbugs. But, no matter where I travel, I always take insect repellant. Before bed, I spritz or dab it on me or the sheets (or both, depending on the room I’m sleeping in). If you’re touring Africa and beyond take bug spray, and be generous with it.

Things You Need to Know About Moving to Africa
Should You Move to Africa?

2. Research the current malaria concerns in places like Nairobi. When I lived in Nairobi, there wasn’t a problem with malaria because the city was at a high altitude (mosquitoes don’t survive at that altitude, if I recall correctly). But, traveling to other parts of Kenya may be riskier – it’s good to check with your consulate or travel clinic before you go. And be prepared for conflicting evidence! When I went to Costa Rica last month, some doctors advised malaria precautions, and yet few of our fellow travelers did. If you’re packing for and traveling to Africa, do your health research at least three months in advance of your trip, as some meds require multiple dosages and/or time to kick in.

3. Seriously consider Swahili lessons with Africans. The Kenyans I met and worked with (I was a teacher at the Rosslyn Academy in Nairobi) were incredibly friendly. I wished I learned Swahili before I went there – and I unfortunately never took the time to learn more than the basics when I live there. This is a great travel tip, no matter where you go: learn a bit of the language, so you can reach out to people in their own words. Even if you make mistakes and butcher your accents or grammar, you’ll still build good relationships.

4. Learn what you can about kidnapping and assaults. As far as I can recall, assaults were rare, partly because of the harsh penalties (I know of one Kenyan man who was beaten by other Kenyans who found out that he attacked a girl). A basic travel tip for Africa is to wear clothes that aren’t revealing, leave your jewelry at home, and maintain a friendly but aloof manner. Regarding kidnapping – it’s not likely you’ll be grabbed in broad daylight, especially if you’re with other people.

5. Avoiding carjackings and muggings. This was no doubt the worst part of living in Africa. As a general rule, it was too dangerous to drive around after dark (6 pm!) – but I did occasionally. When I drove during the day, I made sure that my windows were rolled up and all my doors were locked – even the hatchback. I was never mugged, carjacked, or hurt…but I did have friends who were. When you’re traveling in Kenya, East Africa — or anywhere — don’t carry all your money or important documents with you when you’re exploring. Use a hotel safe.

But, don’t let the crimes rates in Nairobi scare you! Before I moved to Kenya, I’d read all the horrible crime stories – and yet in three years, I never experienced a single bad moment. And I even camped in the wilds of Kenya with my students three times, camped with some of my colleagues in different parts of the country, and went on four day bicycle tour through the Rift Valley. I ran through my neighborhood four times a week — the Kenyans stared at me with their jaws dropped — but no one every hurt me. All my African experiences were exciting and fulfilling … and safe.

If you’re nervous, read 4 Ways to Calm Travel Anxiety and Fear. And feel free to share your thoughts – big and little – below.

Are you moving to Africa? Use your head and watch your back (like you would anywhere in the world). Travel in faith, be transformed, and enjoy your adventure!

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70 thoughts on “Should You Move to Africa? 7 Mistakes to Avoid”

  1. This article should be titled; Moving to East Africa as a racist white woman. I’ve lived in Nairobi for 5 years now. I moved from Indianapolis, IN and I haven’t dealt with any issues. I go out late at night, I have made lots of friends and I absolutely love it. I will be moving to West Africa, to either Nigeria or Togo next.

  2. Such a useful article with practical tips, Laurie! In fact, there are a whole host of reasons why people decide to move to another country like Africa. Living overseas can offer new opportunities, new lifestyles, new careers, and a new direction. It gives you the opportunity to leave your past behind and reinvent yourself. When moving abroad everything is different.

  3. I work at a rural HIV clinic in South Africa. You should include that HIV is rife. Avoid any contacts of a sexual nature while in Africa. We see it all too often with overseas volunteers who get involved with the local men. Don’t do it!!

  4. Laurie –

    Things are getting wrapped up and I leave for Kenya in about 10 Days. I’m almost ready I can’t help but feel there is something i’m forgetting or not doing. I will be in contact when I return and let you know about the experience. Thank you again for your tips and advice.

    Tina

    1. A couple more tips before you move to Kenya: take your address book, email address book, prescriptions on paper from your doctor, vitamins and supplements, rechargeable batteries…..

      But really, as long as you have your passport and a few bucks, you’ll do great! You can buy most anything you need – even if it’s not the same as you’d get at home – and if you can’t buy it, you’ll probably be fine without it. You’d be surprised what you can live without.

      Please do let me know how it goes, I’d love from you again. Maybe you could write a guest post here, and tell me “What I Wish I Knew Before I Traveled to Kenya, Africa.” :-)

      Travel in faith, and you’ll never get lost.

      Laurie

  5. My daughter is planning a trip with earthwatch. my biggest concern is after arriving at the airport her trip to the hotel, they are providing a pick up for her but she arrives at 9pm. I am afraid of the trip to town alone. fear of carjacking or that the driver is not legitimate. I know it sounds crazy. How safe is the trip to town after dark?

    1. When I flew into Nairobi, it was long after the sun went down, and we were perfectly safe driving across town to get to the school! Many, many people drive after dark — it’s just that if you have a choice, you’d choose not to. But driving at night in Africa isn’t always a threat, it’s not always dangerous.

      I’m willing to bet that the Earthwatch people have arranged for a legitimate driver and an extra passenger, so when they pick your daughter up, she and they will be safe going “home”!

      Here’s some impossible advice, but I’m gonna say it anyway: try not to worry! Whether your daughter is going to Africa, or you’re going there as a single woman or solo traveler, it doesn’t help to worry. What does help is to make smart choices and equip yourself with knowledge, knowledge, knowledge!

      Here’s a twist for you: What really helped me not be afraid was a guy who broke into my apartment in the middle of the night when I was 19, living alone in Edmonton. Luckily, he didn’t really hurt me — but I realized from that experience that bad things can happen to you ANYWHERE: in Canada, in the US, in Africa, in Asia……so there’s no point in hiding or being scared of trying new things or taking risks! If your number is up, it’s up.

      I’m glad that your daughter is up for this experience, and I wish her and you all the best :-)

      Laurie

  6. I am saving this post for when I move to Africa in 5 years. I have a longterm plan but need to get my degree in international development first. Thank you for these tips, they were helpful. But I agree with the commenter who said it is too general to say “moving to Africa.” Africa is HUGE and every country has different culture and language. But it does help to have general tips too. Thank you!!!

    1. Thanks, Priscilla. You’re right – it’d be more effective and helpful to have specific tips for moving to a specific place in Africa. Like Kenya, or Nairobi, or even Rosslyn Academy (the school I taught at in Nairobi).
      Keep traveling in faith – and best wishes on your upcoming move to your part of Africa :-)
      – Laurie

  7. Thank you for your tips on moving to Kenya! I’m glad I found you. I want to move to Africa but don’t know where yet. Maybe South Africa but I heard it is dangerous. What do you wish you knew before you moved to Africa, about safety for women in particular?

    1. Any part of the world can be dangerous for both men and women. Sometimes it’s just a matter of being in the wrong place at the wrong time! When I was 18, a man broke into my apartment and tried to rape me. He didn’t succeed – I got away – but I was scared to live alone for decades after that. But the good news is that it taught me that there are few “safe” or “dangerous” places in the world. You can live in somewhere nice and safe like Canada and still get hurt or even killed. You can live somewhere that has a dangerous reputation and live to be 100. Of course, your chances do increase if you live in a war zone!

      About moving to and living in South Africa…I’d feel safe there. I traveled from Johannesburg to Cape Town, through Pretoria and Swaziland. I jogged alone every day. The only threat I met was a warthog on a path in Swaziland! We came face-to-face, and both turned and fled in the other direction.

      Research the safest places to live in South Africa as a woman. And, remember that millions of women live safely in South Africa. You’ll meet some when you get there :-)

      Travel in faith,
      Laurie

  8. I would like to move to Arusha Africa. Ten years ago I volunteered for a month at a Vervet Monkey Sanctuary in Tzaneen, South Africa, Limpopo province. I’m an animal lover & would like to work with orphaned animals of any type, such as Monkeys, Hippos, Giraffes, Rhinos, etc. I hve a FB acquaintance that rescues & helps save homeless dogs. His rescue is growing & becoming well known. He’s adopted puppues to other countries now. I hve 4 dogs & 4 cats of my own & am wondering if it’s possible to bring them with me if I moved. I know certain areas require quarantines & it can be costly. I just cant see leaving my own animals(my babies) behind to take care of other animals. I hve no clue where to begin in this journey but know that Africa is where I belong. I need so much direction & information! I would appreciate any expertise you could give me. Thank you so much! At the Sanctuary I volunteered at you could, if approved by their committee, to come back for a year & after volunteering for a year you could then work there. I let fear talk me out of it & the fact of not knowing how to get my animals there keep me from going. I so regret it almost everyday. I’m now 60 yrs old. A young 60, ha! Again, thank you for any help. It’s much appreciated.

  9. I Have read the posts and being honest I’m concerned, Americans have polluted their country to the point of no return and now they want to move to Africa, Africa is a magical place and you should only move there to make the country better. SO From a carbon footprint perspective leave Africa alone unless you have family there

  10. I don’t know what writing jobs currently exist in West Africa – and it depends on your education, training, genre, past experience, etc. What type of writing jobs are you looking for in Africa? Do you blog? Where do you want to move to, in Africa? Do you know anyone there?

    There are lots of opportunities to be found in Africa – or all over the world! It’ll just take some time to research…and a big leap of faith, to go to Africa and start living and working there. That’s the best way to research a country: from within. But, start with a good safety net there.

    What research have you done so far?

  11. Love this!! I’ve been thinking about moving to West Africa for two years now and I woke up this morning and said enough is enough. I’m a writer, what kind of opportunities are there? I could use some tips!

  12. Hello, I’m a college student looking to move to Nairobi, Kenya. We have friends out there currently and they seem to be very happy with their move. However, he is already a Kenyan Citizen from being born there. How would I as American Citizen obtain Kenyan citizenship, a permeate work visa or other means of legally living in the country?

  13. Hey..i ve been having a dream for 5 years of moving to africa and i dont have any fears about it..For some reason my heart is leading me to africa and its real exciting to me thinking about it. So now these days im preparing myself for this journey!!!!

  14. Hello Laurie

    I am looking for some advice or sites that I can use that are reliable for moving to Africa. I’m looking to plan a move and just go for it so I’d like to get in touch with some people who have did the same. I’m going to head straight to Nairobi and find my feet there and see what unfolds. I work in oil and gas so I’ll be travelling to Aberdeen UK every month for two weeks and residing in Nairobi. Ideally, I’d like an apartment to rent and make a nice home for myself to come back from work to. Any advice or help would be greatly appreciated.

    Blessings

    Scott

  15. Hello Debi,
    It sounds like your experience in Africa was incredible! And you left a big piece of your heart there, if not the whole thing :-)
    I’m not a relocation expert, nor do I know much about moving to Africa. The school I worked for took care of all those details, and I just got to show up at the airport on time.
    But if I were you, I’d begin by looking into Arusha’s quarantine and animal laws. Are you allowed to bring your own dogs and cats with you, if you move to Africa? And, do you want to take them with you?
    Financially, do you own a home and would you have to sell it?
    Those are a couple practical matters to consider. Also, what do you know about moving your pets to Africa? What research have you done?
    I suspect that moving 8 animals to Africa would be in itself a full-time job. Think about the logistics of feeding and caring for them when you’re there. The place you volunteer or work may have a veterinarian or animal care techs to help you out…but it seems that taking care of 8 pets of your own might hinder your ability to move and work in Africa.
    What do you think?
    Blessings,
    Laurie

    1. Thank you for your input, it’s greatly appreciated! Yes, my animals are my main concern & what’s keeping me from just up & moving! I could never give them up & wrestle with the fact of giving up my own animals to take care of others. I’ve lived in Missouri for the past 17 yrs & absolutely HATE it here! I’ve struggled & struggled to make ends meet.I moved here to be with my mom, brother & niece but it’s been a nightmare! They have chosen not to speak to me so am all alone with my animals here. I’ve wanted to try mvg out of state like to Arizona. But again quite difficult when you’re not familiar with the area & dnt know the ‘good’ places to live. You’d almost hve to find the right area & just move & find a job when you get there but who has the money to do that? Africa never leaves my mind & feel that’s where I shld be. I do know certain areas dnt require quarantine for my animals which is a huge expense cause you hve to pay for the boarding, vetting & certificate. I get overwhelmed & then shut dwn & then get mad at myself. I shld hve been there 10yrs ago & now I’m almost 60 (a young 60, ha!) Fear is a major factor in my life & has prevented me from so much! I hve nothing keeping me here. I know I need out of Mo cause it’s killing me living here! Thanks again for responding. I truly appreciate your time.

  16. Question For Anyone:
    I want to move to Cape Town, South Africa to live with my brother, Period. He mentioned 30 day or 90 day visas, but my question is what do I need to live there permanently? I’m 62 years old and not looking to work or set up a business, just to leave my grown children and their problems here in the US for a few years. Any information will be helpful and thank you!

  17. Please be sure to be specific when you say “moving to Africa.”
    And try remember Africa isn’t a country.. We have many places within Africa that differ immensely and so when you comment on how you “lived and worked in Kenya, East Africa for three years.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that you’ve lived and totally experienced Africa now and this is so what you must and mustn’t do..

    Just try specify where and what you’ve experienced because you’re talking about a country on that one.. Not “Africa”..

  18. My child and I are very long time thinking about going in the Africa and all his drawings are,more or less,based on that matter.Someone of them are totally immagination(from the state of situation in we are leaving),but,at the end,might be very realistic.We don`t have much dreams like anyone other does-only one-to live free,natural,to earn by helping the children who are modest and warm (the real children),because they characters are reflections of the climate,traditional and economic situation and it is deliberating thing for any(like us)who lives like in the prison,with unpossibility to comunicate and travel and work normally.Essence of life is to be free to give what you want to those to whom you want-and if I could have this essence for everyone takes for a granted,I would be happy and my son wouldn`t,in his small ages,dream about the leaving the country like other children are thinking of lolipops,bicycles and etc.

  19. It sounds awfully like you’re romanticizing Africa and living in developing countries in general. It is hard seeing the poverty in places like Kenya. I once walked past a girl, maybe six, sleeping on a cardboard in the middle of Bangkok. And that’s not even a true developing country. But what can you do? If you stop for her, you’d stop every five minutes. There’s tragedy at every corner of these countries. We cannot fix what people cannot fix themselves.

    And violence. You do have to live in fear of it. Rape and murder in Africa is real. Sure, you feel guilt now. But how would you feel if you had been raped instead or worse? You are being woefully irresponsible advocating such silly notions as “do not live in fear!” while in one of the most dangerous places in the world.

    People need to be realistic about their relative safety and responsibility when they travel. Telling them how to do it differently from how you safely survived isn’t keeping it real.

    1. There is crime and danger everywhere in the world.. And maybe another blog would comment on “why not to move to Africa” but shes right.. Don’t be living in fear just cause “its Africa”, Although its realistic, its also extremely offensive when foreigners move to Africa and constantly comment on how they’re so scared cause there’s crime and murder and all in Africa.. Like okay but its our home so go somewhere else then maybe?

      1. Subway New York Harlem evening. That is scary but doesn’t have to be. How much different is that fear to Mexico City? Tourists flood both.Why is Africa any different? I would like to call it the Karmic effect. Help and give as much as you can without judgement of the larger political picture. Make a difference every minute of your life. THAT kind of thinking will make the difference in yours and start the spiral of good to come for all. Never stop giving. Never stop trying. Every little bit counts in the whole puzzle of life.

      2. That’s ridiculous. Why do people live in walled gated cities in Sao Paulo and not the favela next door? Why do suburban people in Johannesburg surround themselves with concrete walls and even electric fences? On the other hand, walk down the leafy suburban streets of Park Cities Texas or Lincoln California. Houses are in the open. There are no fences in the front yard, no menacing dog signs. So obviously, crime is not everywhere to the same degree. You’re saying something like, “Why take the precaution of using a seat belt? People die in every sort of accident.” You can’t stay safe by “not living in fear.” You have to be aware of dangers. And it’s especially hypocritical to tell others to not live in fear after having protected your safety by living in fear yourself.

  20. Hi there

    So I have bin date a guy from Ghana Africa. We have bin talk for a long time now and we Share everythingwe are always sending stuff back-and-forth all the time. He and his family have welcomed me to come there. They live in a small town outside of sunyani and said you can walk there. He said I would be safe there and I can work with them on there farm. They don’t have running water in their home they have to go to a place to get it there foods are really different to what I eat a lot to. I am from Canada bc I live in a 40 foot motorhome with an addition sometimes for months I don’t have water either so I think I could cope with that part I don’t have no fancy job either so it’s very hard for me aford extra stuff. I would like to go there but I no I can aford it as a trip because that’s too much time off of work and I wouldn’t be able to pay my rent as well pay for plan trick it. So I would just move there. I won’t go with out my dog. So am I crazy and should end are relationship or should I look in to more

  21. Any suggestions on Finding work for Americans with no degree but AMPLE WORK HISTORY? or opinions on moving to Western Africa (Sierra Leon) or is it wiser to start of somewhere a Little bigger Johannesburg or Capetown? How much money should you have when moving? Please help very ignorant on topic at hand but desperately looking to move very soon!!

  22. Oy vey…

    As a Person that did the opposite(Moved from Nairobi to Dallas, TX) i can understand your experience and also saw a lot of it as a local child. I did shake my head at some of what you said. No judgement though.

    I’d like to re-relocate( Is that a word) for a few years to show my children a different way of being because i’m terrified of the bubble of ignorance(not as a slight… just a fact) one lives in while here.

    I appreciate your candor as i reflect on the possibility of my becoming an expat in my home country… strange i know.

  23. Actually this is the issue/”problem” mostly with Americans. The sheer ignorance is like nothing I came across when I spent about 5 yrs in USA. People would ask me – is there grass in “Africa”? is there water in “Africa”? Do you have cars there? I was shocked when a mexican university colleague said you are from “Africa” … WOW!! – They have even transferred their ignorance to mexicans.

    In simple words I found people there to be shallow and just concerned about looking good and uptight about everything. And those murders that happen in US are like once in a while occurrence here. I witnessed the life there during my college years and I made the choice of returning back home to “Africa” … and have never ever regretted anything about US. Life there in US is not healthy at all, they need a change there in their thinking otherwise it will get worse off.

    1. Thank you for the post. I am researching Africa and find the differences from the US to be broad and magnificent. You are fortunate to have had to opportunity to be so far from home. Many people do not have the ability to travel outside of their own birthplace. This does not mean they are intentionally ignorant of where “you” come from….but simply not “well-traveled”. The fact they asked you questions shows a desire to get to know you and where you came from which should be seen as a positive, no? I would allow people such questions without judgement.

      Between your words in the post I can almost “feel” a disdain, especially placing blame on US for “transferred their ignorance to mexicans”. That is very short-sited and cannot come from a place of love. Of course there are people, in every part of the world, who lack knowledge and understanding. This does not mean there is something “wrong” with them or a human issue.

      Peace and Love to you on your continued journey atop this giving yet aging earth.

    2. I agree! I have friends from may parts of Africa and they all say the same. They broke down the ignorance expressed especially on the parts of black Americans, but does have a lot to do with what the media over here wants us to believe and the image that is portrayed.

  24. Thanks for your insights on moving to Africa! You made some really good points on the difference between different countries in Africa.

    However, my tips for moving to the beautiful African continent aren’t geared specifically for a specific country in Africa, such as Zimbabwe, Egypt, or the Ivory Coast (though I myself lived in Kenya for three years). My tips for moving to Africa are very general, and can be applied to any country overseas.

  25. Please keep what you learn from Africa to yourself when you’re still at the state where you call it “Africa” as if it were a concept in itself, somehow representing militias, orphan children and diseases. Be aware that Africa is the second largest continent in the world made of 54 countries. One would hardly refer to America meaning from Alaska to Cape Horn and generalizing on safety levels, culture, population. That someone who has never been to an African country would expose such ignorance is unfortunately to be expected but to see this vision coming from someone who has made the effort of trying to bridge the gap?? Well one can only conclude that you have definitely failed at your “African” journey!! I am appalled to see such frames of mind advertised in all impunity. And for the record, I am from “Africa”, I am Moroccan and I wouldn’t dare to presume of what’s what in Kenya just as you wouldn’t for Mexico (or at least I hope you wouldn’t).
    Here’s my tip for your trip to Africa: Take a long hard look at your racism.

    1. Thank you, thank you thank you, Sara aa!! I was thinking the same thing as I read this obnoxious article! Funny how a Westerner can claim ‘Nairobi’ or some other part of Africa is, or once was, ‘the MOST DANGEROUS’ place in the world, when US police keep murdering citizens at a pace that would astonish the Kenyan police!

      Right now I am following, with a mixture of fascination and horror, the ‘News’ and ‘YouTube’ covering of the murder of Alton Sperling and another Black American called ‘Philando’ or something, who were murdered by American police within the week.

      I really feel sorry for African Americans- especially the men. I thank God I was born in Kenya! If you were to ask me, the US is easily the world’s most dangerous country!

      The establishment there murders more people everyday than Africans could even begin to conceive of! Its actually funny to hear of Westerners speak of a Kenyan city being ‘dangerous’.

      Also, I notice the writer ignored the truth about urban cities in Africa. Capital cities in Africa are like any other city in the US- just slightly smaller in size. Writing things like “Don’t carry Tylenol- use the toothpaste that the locals use” makes readers from outside Africa imagine that Africans use ash or branches to clean their teeth, when the truth is that supermarkets like Nakumatt, Tuskys etc., which are found all over the place in Kenya, carry the same products like Colgate and Imperial Leather, perfume, processed foods, organic foods, inorganic foods etc. which are found in the US and Europe.

      Whenever I go to visit my grandparents upcountry, I actually carry my laptop because there is electricity in the Kenyan countryside!! And when I get there, there are places where I can go to access Wi-Fi, just as I would if I were in any city in the West like New York!

      Alternatively, I could use internet packages offered by regional companies like Safaricom, Orange, Airtel, Zuku etc. to access the internet. In the Kenyan countryside! Actually, now that I think about it, internet bundles are far cheaper in Nairobi and the rest of Kenyan than in the US- and I would know- I went to University in the US!

      This backward version of Kenya that this writer is speaking about actually existed in the 1950s-1960s!

      I happen to be a Kenyan (of the Kikuyu tribe) who currently lives in Nairobi, and I cannot understand one bit what the writer is trying to prove by presenting Nairobi as a backward place full of primitive natives.

      1. I enjoyed and appreciated your comment. The only part I must clarify, as a citizen of the US, is the part about murders by the hands of police. Yes, there are some unfortunate African American (and white) souls who have had their lives cut short by a police pistol. Unfortunate as that is, the number of African Americans killed by police pales in comparison to the thousands of African Americans killed by African Americans every year, right in their own neighborhoods. The news outlets would like us to believe police are killing “at will” and out of control which is NOT true. The sensationalism is for political gain as well as other reasons. This “black on black” crime is ruining the lives of the people and their children who must live amongst the gangs. Gang violence and suicide are the #1 cause of death by firearm. The police murders are minuscule yet to watch the news you would never know the truth. It is a racial and socioeconomic issue that worsens each year…yet the people in power do nothing. It is a vicious cycle of poverty, lack of education and the inability to break the cycle due to government assistance creating life-long slaves of the people who beg in need. It is dehumanizing and something must change. The police (and there are many more “good” vs. bad”) are many times less eager to go into certain neighborhood (Chicago inner cities for example) as the criminal element on the street far outnumbers law enforcement capabilities. The police have also been stripped of riot gear and funding that is absolutely essential to law and order when riots break out. They must try to balance the safety of the innocent from the overwhelming “thug” presence on the streets. It is one of our greatest challenges as a nation but the police are not to blame. Guns are not to blame. People are to blame.

      2. The Kikuyu are the primitive natives of Kenya. Nairobi is one of the most dangerous cities in the world with the biggest slum in Africa. Why do Kenyans like to pretend that Nairobi is heaven on earth when the place is so filthy?

        From a South African.

      1. And I suppose, RAY, you believe ALL lives matter, police in uniform are never profiling anyone and that White People are not killing each other… that’s very sad. Oh, and again, just for the record for my Kenyan friends… there are more white people who are on the ‘cycle of government assistance’ who have been created into ‘life-long slaves” than people of colour. And lastly, your post is very inaccurate: police murders are NOT minuscule… it’s that now they are being filmed by the public and we now know something the streets have known for 50 years. Your use of ‘thug’, slave, ‘people are to blame’ are signs of a person of a white privilege who cannot speak for the nation of the US,

        This blog is written by a person who freely admits that she didn’t make the most of her time there, didn’t acclimate or inculturate herself and frankly, is a good example of someone who stayed being ‘muzungu’ for too long. But thanks for the insights…

    2. Here here, I agree ! just another burnt out fake ‘ mazungu’ thinking they can teach africa anything, spat out from a crumbling supposed civilisation on a quest to heal they’re broken western minds in the great bosom of African spiritualism, under the illusion they have something precious to offer back as they come from the golden land where one dog eats another to survive, the greed, self importance/ indulgence and cancer, and we have many nice looking shops that make big profits to keep them looking nice and shiny and feed our diseases.
      Do you not think that every time one of you hobbles of the plane dripping in sweat barely able to carry your belly let alone your bags full of nothing carted in your sealed 4 x 4 straight to your locked up hotels for fear of what google has told you about the imaginary bogey man hiding in the bushes that every African isnt laughing at you, what a comical sight to be seen, the Missionaries, the UN they’ve come to help us again.
      The words of a ‘mazungu’ thats been travelling to Uganda
      For 10 years, thank you Uganda for your warm welcome and all that you have given and taught me, just want you to know we are not all like them, soon you will have the power to stop those monsters taking all your rich resources. I’m glad to see you are gaining strength to strength every time I visit
      Bless you all

  26. Let’s all bear in mind that Africa is a continent and not a country so please do not say you are moving to Africa when you are moving to one country. When we move abroad, we reflect our knowledge or lack of knowledge and we represent our home countries. We often think wrongfully that we can teach Africans and most of the time, they know more about us than we do about them. As a professor who recently moved to Nairobi, Kenya, my students can explain American politics more than my former students at US universities.

    1. I don’t see the need to mince words over the use of the word Africa in this instance. Many say they are moving to or traveling to “Europe” and, seriously, people understand you get that it’s a collection of countries, some western, some Nordic, some eastern, or part of the EU, well for now anyway. The reply is usually something similar to, “Oh yeah!? Where in Europe?!” I think it’s the same with Africa. Most understand it’s a continent with different countries each uniqe in their own way. As with Europe, the response to “I’m moving/traveling to Africa” is usually something like, “Oh yeah!? Where in Africa?!”

    2. I do agree that we should go humbly to other places – or even at home – and not assume we have some superior knowledge and intellect over and above others

  27. Hello, I am moving to Africa after my third child and doing ministry in Cameroon as well as wanting to start some small soon to be large businesses. As far as experience with jobs or other things. For a mother where or who can i talk to about what to bring and do in a place like Cameroon(Under Nigeria) ? Also my husband was born and raised their until the age of 16 when he moved here.

    1. Hello Elayna,
      Cameroon, like Nigeria has almost everything you might need. Do you know where exactly you would be living in Cameroon. That way I could give you specifics.

  28. Hello Collete,

    Thanks for your note! Please do forward this blog post to your friend. If she’s interested in learning more about moving to or living in Africa, she can leave a comment here. That way, she can ask whatever questions that occur to her.

    I hope you get the chance to visit your friend in Africa. It’s quite an exciting way to see the country :-)

    Laurie

  29. Hello,
    I’d like to speak with you in more detail about living in Kenya. I have a very dear friend moving to Africa this year and would love to give her some real insight from your personal experience. Is there a way to connect with you?

  30. I want to move to africa and i wany to start my own business dealing with children. My plans is to have an orphanage. Do you think moving to Africa will be a good idea for my purpose

  31. Laurie Pawlik-Kienlen

    I’m glad these tips for moving to Africa were helpful! If you have any questions on making the transition to the African continent, please do ask. I’m happy to write more about it. That said, however, I’ve only lived in Kenya so I don’t know what it’s like to move to other parts of Africa.

  32. Love your post! I’m moving to work in Nairobi in the middle of the next year and it so good to read from someone, who’s been through this, lived there, felt the spirit of Africa. All your advises are so valuable for me. Thank you for sharing your experience!

  33. Great article! I think although everyone who’s moving anywhere in the world should make their research, when you move to Africa you have to do your homework twice as better! Thank you so much for all the useful information!

  34. Rose,
    I don’t have answers for you, but I was touched by your question. We have a young lady in our lives who was born in the US of Taiwanese parents. She grew up living all over the world. As a result, she doesn’t feel like she fits in anywhere. She spent a number of years in the US, and is in many ways American, but feels most at home in Taiwan where her family is. Unfortunately, people there see her as a foreigner, including some family members, Romance is tough for her because, as she puts it, she will never be a “good little Asian wife”. It is so tough to be stuck between cultures. I hope you find “home”, and peace.

  35. Dear Rose,

    It sounds like you’re a very interesting person with lots of adventures in front of her! Everything from writing books to moving to Africa :-)

    I wish you all the best as you sell your business and start over. Where in Africa are you moving? No matter where you move, I’m sure the African people will treat you the same way you treat them: with respect, kindness, and acceptance. May your move to Africa go smoothly, and may you make friends quickly!

    Blessings,
    Laurie

  36. I am an African American/white person that just wants to go Home! I am not Black enough or white enough for the South. I hope to sell my business and move to Africa! How will the people there treat a 58 year old black woman who looks white? I am non religious! I am writing a Book about my family and ran across African history before slavery and it changed my life!

    1. I am so lost.. You wanna go home as in you where born in Africa? Or wanna go home in terms of your ancestral heritage ? Because what I’m hearing is moving back to Africa is sort of you contingency and the alternative … Move to Africa if you want to but I hate to break it to you that you’re not African if you’ve evolved in an American culture (for example) from birth and in your case being linked to Africa from far ancestral descendants (I assume).. If you’re wanting to move to Africa just say so but commenting on how “you just sooo wanna go home!” when you haven’t even grown up here kind of irks me

  37. Very interesting. My father went to Rosslyn Academy in the 70’s. Glad to see its still running! Good tips on moving to Africa for expats.

  38. Moving to Africa was one of the best things I ever did! It’s a unique opportunity to experience life at its fullest. I hope you take the leap of faith and go.

    When I asked my pastor if I should move to Kenya, he said “yes, without a doubt, your life will never be the same.” He was right. It wasn’t the easiest experience of my life, but it was definitely the richest.

    1. How! I really want to move to Africa. I work for Chase, don’t have a lot of money. I’d like to find a job and volunteer.

  39. Thanks very much for this post. I am currently trying to decide to move to Africa for work, there’s a part of me that wants to go, but the other part is really scared of living so far away from home, and in such unknown territory.

  40. Thanks for being here, Barbara. I know a couple who want to move to Sudan, to minister to Muslim people. They’re raising money to live and work in Africa. I personally didn’t go that route – I’m happy I found a job at an international school that paid its teachers.

  41. These are very helpful tips on moving to Africa. I know a young woman who has always wanted to go to Africa to live and serve in missions. Thanks for being so candid.
    Barbara