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Kenyan Etiquette Tips

Although Kenyan culture is very different from ours, you will find that Kenyans are incredibly polite to visitors. Return their kindness and respect their culture by following their customs and etiquette. Below is a list of etiquette tips for you to keep in mind on your trip to Kenya.

1. Dress Attire

  1. DO dress formally for business occasions. For men, wear a suit and tie. For a woman, wear a dress or suit, but make sure the skirt is below the knee. Women will not usually wear pants in a business meeting.
  2. DON'T wear tank-tops or tight, revealing clothes if you are a woman. Some areas of Kenya are Muslim, so it's best for women to dress modestly.
  3. DO dress less formally for casual situations. Sneakers are fine for casual attire. Shorts are acceptable for a safari, but they're not usually worn by Kenyans.

2. Table Manners

  1. DO behave formally when dining with Kenyans. Kenyan dining etiquette may vary.
  2. DO wash your hands before and after eating.
  3. DON'T use your left hand while eating.
  4. DON'T begin eating until the oldest male begins.
  5. DO take only a little bit of food the first time you are served so you have room for second helpings.
  6. DON'T expect beverages with your meal. Kenyans believe it's impolite to drink and eat at the same time. You'll probably be served a drink afterwards.
  7. DO finish everything off your plate. It's not necessary, but it's a polite thing to do.

3. Tipping

  1. DO tip in the following fashion:
    1. Tip baggage porters 50-100 Kenyan shillings.
    2. Tip bar staff 20-30 Kenyan shillings per drink per round.
    3. Tip waiters 50-100 Kenyan shillings.
    4. Tip safari guides 500 Kenyan shillings per person per day.
    5. Tip hotel room staff 50 Kenyan shillings per day.

4. Gift Giving and Accepting Gifts

  1. DON'T give or receive gifts with the left hand. Use the right hand only, or both hands for larger gifts.
  2. DO give practical gifts.
  3. DO wrap a present nicely.
  4. DON'T give alcohol unless you are certain the recipient drinks.

5. Greetings

  1. DO greet with a handshake. Close female friends will sometimes hug and kiss each other on each cheek.
  2. DO grasp the right wrist with your left hand when shaking hands with an elder. It shows respect.
  3. DO remember that Muslim men and women may not shake hands with the opposite sex.
  4. DO ask questions when greeting. Appropriate questions are about the person's health, family, etc.
  5. DO say "Jambo?" while greeting, immediately after a handshake. "Jambo?" means "How are you?"

6. Visitors Etiquette

  1. DO bring your hosts a gift, such as dessert or flowers. Tea and sugar are common gifts in the more rural parts of Kenya.
  2. DO remove your shoes before entering.

7. Business Meeting

  1. DO make time for small talk during a business meeting. Personal relationships are very important in Kenya. Ask about their families.
  2. DO communicate diplomatically. Directness is uncommon in Kenya.
  3. DON'T show anger. In Kenyan culture, displays of anger means mental instability.
  4. DO present and receive business cards with both hands.
  5. DO be flexible. Sometimes meetings will be very structured (especially if it's with an Indian or British owned company), sometimes they won't.

8. Socializing and Conversation

  1. DO learn a few words in Kiswahili. Kenyans usually like when guests to their country try to make an effort to speak their language.
  2. DO understand that women over the age of 21 will often be referred to as "Mama" and men over the age of 35 are often referred to as "Mzee." Children will often refer to all adults as "Aunt or Uncle."
  3. DON'T kiss or hold hands in public.
  4. DO understand that Kenyans will sometimes use analogies, metaphors, and stories when conversing. This is to avoid bluntness.
  5. DON'T speak loudly, although in more rural areas Kenyans may speak louder.

9. Photo Etiquette

  1. DO ask permission before photographing someone.

10. Safari Etiquette

  1. DON'T imitate animal sounds, throw objects, or corner a wild animal. You never know how an animal will react, and it could be dangerous.
  2. DO listen to the guide. Respect their judgment; they're the expert!
  3. DON'T smoke while on a safari.
  4. DON'T litter. It's disrespectful and can be dangerous to animals. If you bring something in, take it out with you.
  5. DON'T take anything you find while on a safari.
  6. DON'T feed animals.
  7. DO take photos while on a safari in National Parks.

While traveling to Kenya, be friendly and kind to people and remember to always keep an open mind. When in doubt, follow the lead of those around you. You will catch on in no time! Happy travels to Kenya! is a first-of-its kind Web site that gives travelers a whole new world of choice in international air travel. With an extensive selection of airlines, flights and fares - many never previously available online - Vayama helps you find the best prices and schedule options for your international travel trip.
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