Nairobians are typically a very rough lot with the unofficial policy being to push until they get what they want. This aggression is useful in two ways; it helps you in your search for you daily bread as well as protecting you from those who might want to take advantage of your kindness.
If you are seen to be an easy mark in this town, you will cry a lot of tears and you will sleep hungry for many moons until you learn your lesson. You have to be on the lookout for alleged friends who will borrow money from you when they are desperate and you naively give it to them with the best of intentions. This is because you are promised payment as soon as some form of payment has been made; either a salary if one is employed or a cheque if one is in business. Getting the money back can prove to be the hardest thing even if you gave them the money that you were hoping to use to pay fees and their emergency seemed life threatening even though it might have been some “deal” that was guaranteed to pay out in a big way.
Even the threat of a court suit will not be useful in getting your monies back as some Nairobians are quite willing to lose friendships cultivated over the years over an amount as small as Sh5,000. When lending a Nairobian a loved DVD or novel, you might as well kiss it goodbye as you will hear stories like; “I lent it to my sisters who lent it to her boyfriend who lent it to his cousin who…”
If you are to survive in this town, you need to know how to manage the stress that comes with dealing with strangers. Every city has pan handlers, those people whose careers are to beg for money in the streets and have become part of the city’s architecture. In Nairobi, however, this is a highly-specialised profession as those in need use the most imaginative methods to get your money. The sponsorship form blind people carry shaking their coin filled cup at the corner is being slowly been overpowered by those with more elaborate begging-cum-scamming techniques. Some will sit in a corner with a drip going through them with a tale written on a manila paper on the floor explaining how this person had treatment at Kenyatta National Hospital and abandoned by their family and friends thus need your assistance. The thing is that while there are such people in need, if you catch this dying invalid at the end of the day, you will see them wrapping up their business and removing the drip. If you follow them, you will see him walking into a nearby bar and ordering a drink as they toast to a good day at work. When you see this, your kindness metre goes down even more.
This aggression sometimes spills across borders. It is seen when Nairobians under the moniker “#KOT” decide to savagely attack anyone who they feel has slighted them in any way. The number of those who have felt the sting of these ferocious attacks is growing fast and include news organisation CNN, who were bashed with the Twitter trend #SomeonetellCNN that went global.So how do you recognise these Nairobians? It’s not easy if you use their names as they come from the greater Kenyan population so they typically have the same names as everyone else. When you hear the names of their children, it might be easier to recognise them as they are famous for giving their kids names like Tamika, Rihanna, Ewan and Shaniqua. a
Apart from the names, the next best way to recognise Nairobians is to observe their behaviour. They are the folks who will see a whole bunch of people at the kiosk being served and confidently shove their money into the hands of the shop keeper and state, “nipe sportie mbili” ignoring those who were patiently waiting. They are the folks who say on TV that they can’t go to work in a matatu anymore because the weekend’s bomb blasts have traumatised them If the news reporter asks what they do, don’t be too shocked when their say that, “Actually I am a student but still we are stressed.”
Your behaviour betrays you.