Between dating in Kenya and in the US

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By Clara Nyamu

Someone in Kenya once asked me a question along the lines of: ‘Which is better for dating, the US or Kenya?’

I did not give it much thought until recently, when I found myself stuck at home on a rainy afternoon and decided to pass time dissecting that issue. (Yeah, I know, I need more constructive hobbies).

Dating in the US is a whole different ball game because being a foreigner comes with its own set of complexities. At home, you understand the culture and know what is expected of you. In a different country, you are like a fish out of water, flailing to survive in strange romantic wilderness.

Like most people, the enquirer believed the US is the easiest place to find a guy since you have a variety of men from all backgrounds. You can find White or black-Americans, Africans and pretty much guys from any country you can point to in a map.

My point is, there are a lot of choices to pick from, even from your own country. But you have to remember that the more choices you have, the more dunderheads you have, too. Want a spoiled brat who grew up in a leafy Nairobi suburb and believes daddy’s money can rescue him any time? He’s here. Looking for a hardworking, humble man who grew up poor and is determined to never go back to poverty? There are tones of those, too.

Some Kenyan guys in the States, especially the ones who live in big cities, know that there are more women than men, so they no longer feel like they have to make an effort at impressing a woman. Some have perfected the art of being players so well, if there was an Olympics category in that area, they would walk away with more gold medals than Michael Phelps. (And yes, there are good guys in the States, too, not all of them are bad news).

Unlike Kenya, jobs happen day and night in the States because a lot of facilities are open 24 hours. This gives a lot of players a valid excuse. Want to go for a booty call at 3am? Hey honey, I have to go buy milk. You cannot argue with that because the supermarket is open 24 hours.

Next big thing

Some Kenyans also get caught up in the instant gratification culture of the US and are always looking around the corner for the next best thing. Whenever a new Kenyan woman lands in some States, there is always a scramble to date her, even from married men and guys who are in relationships. The phenomenon is alive and thriving in a lot of cities I have lived in. Kenyans tend to live in little enclaves, which means that word spreads fast whenever there is a new face in town.

When you are not being dumped for the new face in town, there is always the issue of your girlfriend/boyfriend leaving you for someone who has US citizenship and can help her/him get a Green Card. Citizenship is the hottest thing to have in the States. It trumps beauty, money and education. Not too long ago, a friend of a friend dumped her long time Kenyan boyfriend because he did not have makaratasi. A week after, she was in the arms of an American. A month later, she sent out invitations for a wedding. You do the math. This happens among all foreigners, not just Kenyans.

Dating in a foreign country comes with different rules, too. In Kenya, there is that silly phrase that when a woman says no, she means yes. In the States, if a woman calls the cops and tells them she said no and you did not stop, you are in trouble. The laws protecting women and children against sex predators and violence are rigorous. If a woman or a child calls the cops and says she was hit by a man, you better have a good lawyer. This makes the intimacy dance a little tense, especially at the beginning.

The bottom line is, while dating is complicated whether you are in Kenya or the US, the latter has more variables involved. Dealing with situations that no one prepared you for and doing it in a culture you were not born into adds another layer of complexity to dating. I regularly meet Kenyans who swear they would not date a foreigner because there is too much work involved. That may lessen the burden because you both understand each other, but you still have the other variables to deal with.

To cut a long story short, yes, there are more choices to pick from. But no, that does not necessarily mean dating is much easier.

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