Things all Kenyan students are tired of hearing

I am Kenyan, but no, I do not live in a jungle

It’s interesting to see the look on peoples’ faces when I tell them that I’m from Nairobi, Kenya. Some know where it is, but others have no clue. The people that are aware that it’s an African country have a very amusing idea about what it Kenya is like. Here are some of the common misconceptions that Kenyan students such as myself hear all the time:

‘Do you have wild animals roaming the streets?’

Ask any Kenyan this question and I can guarantee you that the answer will be yes, with lots of exaggerated details laced with sarcasm. Truth is, we do not have wild animals roaming our streets. Such a situation has happened in the past, but it was a very rare occurrence where a lion escaped from the national park, which is likely not going to happen again for many years to come (I hope). To actually see wild animals you’d have to go into the Nairobi national park or to other parts of the country known for wildlife.

‘You must be a really good marathon runner?’

I couldn’t help but laugh when I was asked this question recently. No, not all of us are athletes, despite the typical stereotype of Kenyans practising running for a marathon every day, with a spear in hand because we are chasing lions; and yes I have heard someone tell me this before. I, for one, cannot run a marathon to save my own life.

‘So you guys must stay in huts, right?’

This is just plain wrong. The common assumption is that Kenyans live in jungles, hence there are no concrete buildings. Once again, do not make the mistake of asking a Kenyan this question. It does shock many when they find out that Nairobi has a skyline and that people stay in ordinary houses. The actual situation is that most Kenyan houses are built within gated communities that consist of homes such as apartments, townhouses, maisonettes and bungalows.

If this is your definition of a hut, then yes, I do live in one.

‘How do you manage without WiFi or technology?’

Many will remember how Twitter exploded with shock a few years ago when Nairobi was featured live on Snapchat’s own worldwide story, with users commenting how they couldn’t believe that Kenyans have phones and WiFi. Some of the comments were amusing, whilst others just outrageous.

Yes, we are technologically advanced compared to what most people would think. We also do have good WiFi in most parts and if not, then you can use mobile data, just like you can in the UK. It’s not that different!

‘Isn’t Kenya war-torn?’

Not every country in Africa is war-torn. Most Kenyans will be able to tell you about their day-to-day lives and no one will mention anything about being afraid of security or an outbreak of war.  It is also interesting to note how many people do not realise that Africa is a continent with 54 countries and every country is unique in its own way.

‘Isn’t Kenya a poverty-stricken country?’

When my friends and I tell people that we are from Kenya, they assume that we’re there for charity work. While poverty is an issue in the country, Western media do not show often show the other sides of Kenya. Most of the youth coming from middle and working-class families lead the same average life as you do; we go to school or university, do homework, go to lunch with friends or family, go out on the weekend, take a trip to the cinema (yes, we have those too) and go shopping.

‘If you are from Kenya why are you Indian?’

I was born in Kenya and my family has called the country home for the past three generations. Despite what many might believe, Kenya is a very ethnically diverse country; it’s a place filled with people of various different races, different backgrounds and cultures, making it a vibrant and exciting place to live.