Lifestyle in Kenya

The Kenyan lifestyle
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Published 2018-10-25 09:36

Kenya is a welcoming and diverse country, home to over 40 different cultural groups. Although expats are likely to find many similarities in Kenya to their home country, there are many things that may be different. Heres an overview of Kenyan culture and important things to be aware of, if youre new to the country.

Kenyan culture

There are over 40 cultural groups within Kenya, each with a unique history, way of life, and traditions. That means, even before you introduce an expat population to the country, Kenya is already a place with great diversity. Many Kenyans, even in large cities, still identify themselves by their ethnic group, and they still incorporate many traditional foods and cultural norms into their daily life. The largest ethnic groups in Kenya include the Kikuyu, Luhya, Luo, and Kalenjin. Generally, cultural groups co-exist and have smooth relations with one another, although clashes do occur between groups, especially in the political sphere.

In Kenya, as in many countries, a family is very important, and many family units live together. When you meet a new acquaintance or colleague, they are likely to ask about your background and family, as a way of getting to know you. It is always considered polite to make small talk with those you encounter, even shopkeepers.

If invited into a Kenyan household, you are likely to be offered tea or a snack, and if is considered impolite to refuse. It is also nice to bring along a small gift for your hosts.

Religion

Christianity is the most popular religion in Kenya, with over 84% of the population belonging to the Christian faith. This is, in large part, due to Kenya's history of colonisation, and its popularity with missionaries. Other religions found in Kenya include Islam, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Traditional African religions and ceremonies are still observed by several cultural groups, including the Tutkana, Maasai, and Samburu tribes.

Economic inequality

New expats in Kenya are likely to be unprepared for the vast inequality encountered in the country. Although there are many wealthy Kenyans, it is estimated by UNICEF that 42% of the population live under the international poverty line. This can be a shock to many expats, as the country suffers from extreme poverty, and under-funded healthcare and education system. Many preventable diseases go untreated, due to lack of access to healthcare or adequate funds. Although the country has experienced much economic growth in recent years, poverty is still a big problem, for reasons such as government underfunding of health programs, and corporate tax evasion corruption.

Safety and security

Many expats who come from a safe and open country may be surprised by the additional safety precautions required in Kenya. Moving to a gated community with security guards and a driver is very different compared to the open neighbourhoods and towns you may be used to in your home country. Although the extra precautions may seem strange at first, there is, unfortunately, a large problem with crime in the country, especially in major cities, so taking additional safety measures is highly recommended.

Expats should take care to always keep valuables out of sight when driving, take care on roads and street crossings, as the road accident rate is high in Kenya. Avoid walking alone, especially at night. In popular tourist areas, there are likely to be many tourists scams, designed to take advantage of unsuspecting tourists, so always stay vigilant.

Useful links:

UNICEF Kenya

Kikuyu tribe

History of Kenya

Kenya Travel Advisory

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