I think it is only fair that I share some “tricks” with you my fellow travelers, as you plan to visit Kenya. I wouldn’t want you to embarrass yourselves as some of the below may “work” in your countries, but here in Kenya, it will be a fail. Ignore at your own peril.
1.Wild Life: Please, do not ask me or anyone,” Do you own a lion?” We do not house wildlife as pets, they are wild. Not every Kenyan has seen wildlife as we also need to visit national parks, reserves, conservancies and sanctuaries to see them. So no, I have never had “Simba” or “Mufasa” roaming around our compound. Kindly also, “Keep your Hands off” any wild animals you may come across as it is illegal to hunt/poach them. #DontLetThemDisappear, #Endivorytrade, #IvorybelongstoElephants, #stoprhinopoaching, #saveblackrhinonow, #Rhino, #Elephants, #wildlife, #lions
2.Roads: We drive on the left, adjust your thoughts consciously to this, if this is opposite of what happens in your country. That means, when crossing the road, look right, look left, look right again and only cross when clear. I am embarrassed to say this but I must. When at a zebra crossing, you do not have the right of way, ok, legally you do, practically is something else. Always ensure you look at the driver of the oncoming car straight in the eyes, confirm he has acknowledged your existence via a nod, and only cross when he stops and/or waves for you to cross.
3.Flip flops aka Slippers: Do not leave the house with these, at all. I do not care how “cool” they may look or seem in your country, in Kenya, they are called slippers or better yet, bathroom slippers. That means we use them mainly to shower or at best to move around the house.
4.Dressing: Kenyans are generally conservative, so kindly observe the general dressing code of the people around you, before you step outside the door. Kindly, when you arrive and find ladies wearing “lesos” while cleaning the house or cooking, do not wear yours outside. Ladies wear lesos/shawls as a sort of overall when doing house chores especially in the cities. They are not to be worn outside the house, unless, it has been made into an outfit. Also, leave the micro shorts and the like for the beach, and nude sunbathing is also not allowed in public beaches and pools.
5.Development: Developing Country does not mean stone age. We do not live in caves or on trees, jump around camp fires, hunt wild game for food or eat wild berries, unless we really have to :-). We have planes, schools, vehicles, homes, clothes and cities. Yes, we are actually like most developed countries. One statement that always brings a smile to my face, “You speak such great English, did you grow up abroad?” No, I am born, bred and educated in Kenya. English is actually like a first language to most, we speak it better than our mother tongue-A shame though. The British colonialists ensured English became a major part of our life.
6. Culture: There is nothing like African language, refrain from asking questions like “do you speak African?” as Africa has 154 countries. Also, refrain from asking “do you speak Kenyan?” Kenya has 43 tribes, which means 43 distinctive languages and cultures. Take the time to learn as much as you can from across the tribes and cultures, you will be impressed.
7. Personal Hygiene: Yes, the African sun is hot. Yes, its summer time throughout (most times). Yes, we have the “Hakuna Matata” mentality, It means no Worries-Watch Lion King ,it explains it superbly. However, personal hygiene is very important to us. Take a shower daily, apply deo or roll on, comb your hair, dress in clean clothes and look presentable. Most of us have no idea why some tourists tend to look haggard and destitute. The sweat stains on their clothes, the unkempt look makes most Kenyans want to “ adopt some tourists” or assist them with a few shillings.
8.Diseases: Africa and in this case Kenya, is not a disease waiting to happen to you. Yes, take the recommended vaccines and medication but relax when you arrive, its not that bad. When the wind blows, do not fret, it isn’t a disease being blown, specifically to get you.
9:Smile:Kenyans are rated as one of the most optimistic people in the world. Yes, we have problems, yes we have issues, but, we choose to count our blessings more, hope for better…so Smile!
10: Learn Kiswahili: This is one of the formal languages in Kenya apart from English. It would thus be in your favour to learn some of the basic words to get you by.
Habari Yako? Sasa? How are you?
I am well- Poa, Niko mzuri/mzima
I am well.- Niko mzima
That I believe will enable you to blend in, of sorts.The rest you will learn on location. Fellow Kenyans, is there something I have left out? Share, and lets help our foreign tourists assimilate easier.