How not to look like an Idiot in Kenya

I think it is only fair that I share some “tricks” with you my fellow travellers-I wouldn’t want you to embarass yourselves. 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 in Kenya,” 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 animals wild animals you may come across, it is illegal to hunt them, we love them alive.

2.Roads: We drive on the left, adjust your thoughts consciously to this, if that is opposite from your country. That means, when crossing the road, look left, look right, look left 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 mode 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 as a sort of overall when doing house chores especially in the cities, thus, 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).

6.Culture: There is nothing like African language, refrain from asking questions like “do you speak African?” or “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, 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, hope for better…so Smile!

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.


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