This blip of time back in the U.S. has offered me some perspective on both Kenya and my home country, and a chance to reflect on how the two compare. So I had myself some fun and made this chart.

Granted, some of these are generalizations based only on my own experiences; nonetheless, I think the following juxtaposition could be both entertaining and illuminating. Enjoy!


United States
Airport employees mostly smile.
The women working security at the Mombasa International Airport are delighted at my attempts to speak Ki-Swahili, try to convince me to find a Kenyan husband, and totally crack up when I joke that I already have seven and I don’t want any more.
Airport employees rarely smile.
I try to make a joke with the woman directing the passport control line about the man who seems to be trying to cut in front of me. The look she gives me is closer to shock than anything else.
Pedestrians are responsible for themselves.
Crossing the street is on you. Try not to get hit.
Pedestrians are the drivers’ responsibility.
There are crosswalks. Cars stop at them.
Salad could be anything made from vegetables, be it mango salsa or tomatoes and onion… or mixed greens!
Divisions (or the corresponding linguistic term).
Caeser salad; cobb salad; garden salad; waldorf salad… you get the point. So many kinds of salad out there, and we will name them all!
People have been using digital currency for a while. Not a big deal.
Apple Pay.
You can pay for things with your iPhone now. It’s a big deal.
All the time. Everywhere. Buses blast awesome music (sometimes too loudly), as do shops, restaurants and motorcycles. Usually I like it.
The usual suspects (restaurants, bars, retail) play the usual tunes, and then yoga classes, of all places, blast terrible hip hop. I don’t like it.
Police take people’s money and call it Christmas. (As in, “So, what did you get me for Christmas?”)
Police take people’s money and call it the law.

(See the excellent John Oliver clip below.)

Are nuisances so problematic in Lamu that they were loaded onto boats and shipped to a remote island (Kiwayu), where they continue to be nuisances.
Are beloved pets.

Love him (from what I can tell). I even bought playing cards with Obama’s face on them a couple weeks ago.

Apparently at least 50% of citizens do not love him. And I’ve never seen Obama cards, though they might exist here too.
 Local food is the norm.
The main fruit and veg market in Kilifi features whatever is grown (which is a lot!). Imported foods are exorbitantly marked up.
 Local food is a trend.

I hope it’s a trend that will stick, but the supermarkets I’ve seen still stock masses of produce from around the country and the world.


And there you have it! Kenya V United States… Not so different? Not so similar? Maybe a venn diagram would have been better..