Although safaris are its greatest attraction, Kenya is a place of great diversity with much more to offer than splendid wildlife. After taking us all over the world in his Travel Etiquette Series, this week Adam Barralet takes us to this beautiful country in Africa. From initial greetings to proper eating etiquette, he shares with us the do’s and don’ts when it comes to interacting with the locals:
Kenya boasts magnificent landscapes, amazing animals and a pleasant climate all year round. To ensure you receive as pleasant treatment for your visit here are a few etiquette tips.
When meeting a local for the first time a handshake is customary. The most common greeting in Kenya is “Jambo?” meaning “How are you?” Typically you should address someone by their title and surname until given the lead by them to use something more casual. Sometimes this is title and first name eg. Mr. Adam. Don’t get confused about who is related to who in Kenya, as women over the age of 21 are often addressed as “Mama” and children generally refer to adults as Aunt or Uncle, even if there is not a family relationship.
The conversation style of Kenyans tends not to be frank and direct. Points will be carefully considered to save face and avoid any uncomfortable situations. Stories, metaphors or analogies may be used to get a point across. In the cities, avoid raising your voice or getting angry. Showing anger is considered a sign of mental instability. Kenyans pride themselves on their emotional control and expect the same in others. You will notice people speak a little louder in the rural areas.
Kenyan dining can be rather formal. There isn’t generally a set seating arrangement although there can be a seat for the most honoured guest. Kenyans often wash their hands before and after a meal. Sometimes a basin will be brought to the table. If this happens, wash your hands as water is poured over them. If food is being brought around and offered it is a good idea to take just a little of each dish, that way when you are urged to take a second helping you have some room in your belly. Do not start eating until the oldest male at the table has. Although it is not mandatory to finish everything on your plate, but it is preferred.
If giving a gift to a hostess of a dinner party bring pastries, flowers or sweets. Do not bring alcohol unless you know the host drinks. The gift should be nicely wrapped (there are no taboo colours for wrapping paper). When presenting the gift hand it over with your right or both hands, not with your left.
Overall remember that Kenya is a poor country and purchasing someone a gift, of something they need but can’t afford, at a suitable time is a noble thing to do. In rural areas gifts of tea or sugar are greatly appreciated. In return I am confident you will find the Kenyans to be caring and group orientated. Combine that with the stunning backdrop of scenery and beautiful weather and you are set for a remarkable time in Kenya.
For more information about Kenya check out our travel guide or feel free to call one of our travel agents at 1-866-502-4605. To read more from Adam check out his Etiquette Series or follow him on Twitter.