Biggest Culture Shocks Foreigners Experience in Kenya

Just like any other country, Kenya has its own set of ways, Attitudes and Culture that can come as culture shock to many Foreigners. Some of these ” THINGS” are particular to Kenyan while other are also familiar to other African Countries or can also be considered ”AFRICAN”.

We came with the top five according to commentaries of foreigners from YouTube.

7.Cows or Domestic Animals on the Road.

Cows on Outer Ring Road, Nairobi

A very common scene across most Towns in Kenya, usually the livestock belong business merchants, think of it as ”free storage ” before they go to slaughter house or Butchery. Most often they come from Pastoralist community like the Maasai and are on transit for trading in town areas. Though know an outdated belief the Maasai culturally believe they a right to graze their Cows anywhere. Nairobi was occupied and belonged to the Maasai before colonization by the British.

Domesticated Cows and Livestock in Towns

They are also domesticated cows which are let free to eat and around forage in the city, and by evening they usually go back to owners residence for the night .Another surprising fact is they are rarely involved in any traffic accidents and usually know how to navigate the city Gridlock to the owner Residence.

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Kenyan Tea

For country that is Known for its Coffee, Kenyans are Tea drinkers which is culture taken from the British Colonialism. Any Kenyan household that doesn’t serve tea either before or after meals is almost unheard of. Tea is served on most occasions in the Kenyan setting as the beverage of choice, for functions such as Dowry ceremonies.

Infact one of the more common phrases in Kenyan is-One would rather not eat Food rather than not get a Cup of Tea. When you ask someone someone if they have taken Tea it’s akin to asking someone whether they have taken Breakfast.

Drink Tea Like A Kenyan, Run like a Kenyan

Kenyan Marathon Runners are the perfect exact examples of the magnitude of which Kenyans like Tea, a cup of Tea before before a morning Jog is their version of wake me Coffee.

5.Matatu Graffiti and Loud Music

Matatu Culture

In Kenya, public transportation minibuses are called Matatus. Most Matatus can be identified with their decorations and the different names given to them. The Graffiti portraits can be of famous people, slogans and sayings.
Matatus are cheap and convenient. They are known to play loud music with the intent to attract passengers, especially youths. Though a tad chaotic, they are favored to be the choice mode of transport for most Kenyans.

What Influences The Graffiti Designs On Matatus?

These Matatus have evolved from just being transport vehicles to being a lifestyle or ”Art on the move”.
The designs are inspired by the current craze or Pop culture in the Nation’s youth.
Rappers such as Cardi B and Nicki Minaj have acknowledged and tagged on their Social Media Pages, some of these Matatus which have their Graffiti images.

Are Matatus Safe For Tourists/Foreigners?

One can travel alone but it’s advised to travel with a Guide especially for a few times until you get the hang of it. A Guide with extensive knowledge of routes to and from Nairobi will help you not get lost, especially when using public means of transport.
Side note: Keep your phones and other gadgets away from the window area. It’s safer not tempting any keen thieves. They tend to target unaware passengers.

4.Visiting Friends or Family with Gifts

Naivas a Supermarket in Kenya

In Kenya its a unspoken rule when visiting your Family ,friends ,neighbors or even strangers that there is a sizable ” Shopping” has to be done. A famous African saying goes ”Mkono mtupu haulambwi” which literally means ”You cannot lick a Bare hand”.

What’s in the typical Kenyan Shopping?

Typically a shopping will contain Basic Food item Like Bread,Sugar,Tea leaves,Baking Floor e.t.c .There’s is usually no set number of items that have to bought and is basically getting what you can afford as long as it doesn’t appear you were just being Cheap.

3.Eating Food With Hands

Eating with Bare Hands

Very common in most African countries ,eating with your hands is as natural to most Kenyans, most Kenyan foods i.e. ugali and Sukumawiki are usually eaten with hands. Though still cutlery are used for eating, consuming certain foods with spoons is frowned upon or seen as a form of westernization or shunning your culture.

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2. Organized Human and Traffic Chaos

Traffic Jam Nairobi

For any westerner walking in the street of Nairobi is like walking on ticking time bomb. The streets Lights are more for decoration rather than following. Crowds of people hurriedly walking past hooting cars and grid lock jam. However for most Kenyans wheezing past moving past dangerously speeding public Transport vehicles is almost normal.

1.Time Keeping

African Time Keeping

You Know its an issue when a movie is made from the Topic. Though it cuts generally cuts across Africa, Africans are not known for their Time Keeping .Africans and Kenyans are viewed to have a relaxed approach to time ,if you conduct a simple research and ask most expats or foreigners will attest that lateness in business appointments, meetings and events is a normal occurrence.

What are the Contributors for Lateness?

There are a couple of contributors especially in Nairobi, Kenya’s Capital City including Traffic Jams and poor road Infrastructure. There are also cultural influences as some communities are regarded as better time Keepers than others. The issue is even more pronounced in the Coastal regions where’s there a big hospitality Industry with a lot of complaints from foreigners regarding slow service. It however important to note in the Private sector or Hospitality industry especially with services targeted to foreigners or upper class there is sense of time Keeping as compared to other Sectors.

How is Time Keeping In Kenya vs Neighboring Countries

With Regards to other East African Kenya is regarded as the better Time Keeper as compared to neighboring nations thus you can imagine the level lateness that you can experience there. Infarct other neighboring Countries usually complain Kenyans are rude from they term as perceived slow Service in other African countries.

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