Experience the beauty of Kenya
Kenya is a culturally diverse nation made up of different tribal groups, each with distinct languages, dress, music, and food. Kenya Culture includes some of the better known tribes include the coastal Swahili people and Maasai warriors in the wildlife rich grasslands. As much as a quarter of the population belongs to farming communities in the north.
The Kenyans have a family and community oriented culture, influenced by African traditions and the colonial period, most notably Catholicism. They are creative and artistic and the nation has produced a number of notable writers and musicians and has a well-developed cultural scene with television, theater, music, dance and the visual arts well represented. Kenya’s colourful festivals are a good way for visitors to gain insight into aspects of the country’s traditions during Kenya Safari.
Kenyan Society and Culture
The Kenyan People
- Kenya is not a homogeneous country ethnicity wise.
- The make-up of Kenyans is primarily that of 13 ethnic groups with an additional 27 smaller groups.
- The majority of Kenyans belong to ‘Bantu’ tribes such as the Kikuyu, Luhya and Kamba.
- There are also the ‘Nilotic’ tribes such as the Luo, Kalenjin, Maasai and Turkana.
- The ‘Hamitic’ people include the Turkana, Rendille and Samburu.
- Around 13% of the population are of non-African descent, i.e. Indian, Arab and European.
The Kenyan Constitution guarantees freedom of religion. Around half the population are Christians, 10% Muslim and there are small Hindu and Sikh minorities. The balance of the population follows traditional African, often animist, beliefs. Christians tend to be concentrated in the west and central sections of the country while Muslims cluster in the eastern coastal regions. Most Kenyans interweave native beliefs into a traditional religion.
Kenyans are group-orientated rather than individualistic. “Harambee,” (coming from the Bantu word meaning “to pull together”) defines the people’s approach to others in life. The concept is essentially about mutual assistance, mutual effort, mutual responsibility and community self-reliance. This principle has historically been practiced by every ethnic group with its roots in cooperative farming or herding. Harambee took on a more political resonance when used at the time of independence by Jomo Kenyatta as a way to bring people together.
Etiquette and Customs in Kenya
Meeting and Greeting
- The most common greeting is the handshake.
- When greeting someone with whom you have a personal relationship, the handshake is more prolonged than the one given to a casual acquaintance.
- Close female friends may hug and kiss once on each cheek instead of shaking hands.
- When greeting an elder or someone of higher status, grasp the right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands to demonstrate respect.
- Muslim men/women do not always shake hands with women/men.
- The most common greeting is “Jambo?” (“How are you?”), which is generally said immediately prior to the handshake.
- After the handshake it is the norm to ask questions about the health, their family, business and anything else you know about the person.
- To skip or rush this element in the greeting process is the height of poor manners.People are generally addressed by their academic, professional or honorific title followed by their surname.
- Once a personal relationship has developed, you may be able to address a person by their title and first name, first name alone, or nickname. Wait for the Kenyan to determine that your friendship has reached this level of intimacy.
- Women over the age of 21 are often addressed as “Mama” and men over the age of 35 are often addressed as “Mzee”. Children generally refer to adults as Aunt or Uncle, even if there is not a familial relationship.
- In general, Kenyans give gifts for events of significance in a person’s life or days of religious significance.
- Gifts need not be expensive. In fact, practical gifts are preferred. Kenya is a poor country and a gift of something that the person cannot generally afford is always welcome.
- It is customary to give small gifts to servants, trades people, and service workers at Christmas.
- If invited to dinner at a Kenyan’s home, bring pastries, flowers, or sweets for the hostess. In rural areas, gifts of sugar or tea are quite common.
- Gifts should be nicely wrapped, although there are no prohibitions concerning the colour of paper.
- Do not bring alcohol unless you know that your host drinks.
- Gifts should be given using the right hand only or both hands. Never use the left hand.
- Kenyans table manners are relatively formal.
- Dining patterns vary tremendously according to ethnicity, location and socio-economic position of the host.
- The best course of action is to behave formally. When is doubt, watch what others are doing and follow their lead?
- Except for formal functions, there is generally not a seating plan. However, there may be a special place for the most honoured guest.
- Guests are expected to wash their hands before and after the meal. In some homes, a washing basin will be brought to the table. If so, hold your hands over the basin while water is poured over them.
- The honoured guest is usually served first, followed by the men, children, and women.
- Servants often bring the courses to individual guests who are expected to take what they want.
- Do not begin eating until the eldest male has been served and started eating.
- It is a good idea to take a small amount the first time the platters are brought so that you may take second helpings when urged.
- Beverages are not generally served with meals since Kenyans think it is impolite to eat and drink at the same time. They are generally served at the completion of the meal.
- It is considered polite to finish everything on your plate, although it is not mandatory.
Kenya Festivals And Holidays
Kenya Tourism celebrates several holidays and festivals throughout the year. Celebrations almost always include music and dance. These events celebrate community and family, if you are around during these times, expect to be a part of the celebration. With a predominantly Christian culture, Easter and Christmas are widely celebrated throughout the country. Eid al-Fitr, the end of Ramadan is also celebrated. Keep in mind that Ramadan happens at different times each year.
Feel free to contact Safaris Online if you are looking for a unique Kenya Safari Packages. We can arrange customizable Kenya Safari Adventure for couples, families, honeymooners and groups. Whether you are looking for a customized tour or a fixed departure group tour, African Outback Safaris can help you make the right decision to make your dream of Kenya Culturea reality.
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