Kenyan Culture

By Culture, Kenya

The culture of Kenya is a result of people migrating from numerous countries across the world. Kenya is primarily Christian (over 80%) with a small fraction of other religions. This vast array of religions feeds into the diverse yet accepting population which reside in this country. Kenya is made up of 42 tribes and while their villages embrace the modern world, they are also rooted in the simplicity of it as well. Kenyans tend to focus on engaging people from all parts of the world.

The people of Kenya make it an amazing place to visit!

I started visiting Kenya when I was a young teenager. I immersed myself in the culture by staying with a local family. Over the years I began to see people differently. No longer am I a stranger to the family, instead, I have become a part of theirs and they are a part of mine. Every visit, I would help them with their daily chores and was a responsible member of the family. I also loved visiting orphanages and remember one time when the children asked where I was from. I replied, “I am from America.” They corrected me stating, “No no, you are now one of us. You are Kenyan.” I went from being an outsider to being welcomed as one of their own. They accepted me although I was different and loved me as their family. Traveling and living with the locals allowed me to be fully accepted into this amazing culture. Throughout my travels around the country, I was welcomed as family.

Each of the 40 different ethnic groups in Kenya have a unique dialect. While you might think that this would cause communication gaps, surprisingly, it does not. By utilizing a combination of Kenya’s main two languages, English and Swahili, communication gaps are bridged. They thrive on communicating with each other and working within their communities.

Kenyans value honesty, trust, and family amongst other things. Greetings are extremely important in this culture. Eye contact builds trust, while the proper greeting also builds respect. Greeting people in order from oldest to youngest, shaking hands even with the children is very important. The families tend to be large and aren’t limited to their immediate members, but extends beyond including more of the larger community where each person has a responsibility and role within the family – everyone has value.

Kenyans participate in numerous sports. Fútbol (known as soccer) is a very popular activity and well loved throughout the country. Kenyans are natural and experienced runners as well.

Janeth Jepkosgei and Pamela Jelimo are two such great athletes. Janeth, a former world champion and middle distance runner and Pamela, the gold medal winner of the 800 meter run in 2008 summer Olympics, contributed to the pride of Kenya. Additionally, the culture boasts rich and vibrant music and colorful and energetic dances having historical importance each unique to their respective tribes. Traditions run deep and are rooted to their very core.

Kenya celebrates numerous tourist and cultural attractions. Some favorites include: the Nairobi National Museum, the Karen Blixen museum (famous as the author’s residence who penned the acclaimed novel, “Out of Africa”), Kenya Conservatoire of Music (Symphony) and the Kenya National Theatre. The Nairobi National Museum is a must see on a cultural tour of Kenya. The museum is filled with everything from a hall of mammals, some 900 bird species display, the Cradle of Humankind and Historia Ya Kenya. The Conservatoire of Music was founded specifically for the purpose of the teaching and performance of Kenyan music. It also provides education of voice (singing) development music history. Training is provided at an affordable cost to all.

Cultural activities don’t stop with the big city items. The University of Nairobi has a traveling theater troupe. From comedy to drama, the theater expresses a variety of entertainment genres. The Kenya National Theater is part of the Kenya Cultural Center. No matter which theater you choose, both will fulfill your desire for live performances.

The Maasai Market is an excellent opportunity to interact with the Kenyan people. The market moves based on the day of the week. No matter where you visit the market, you will get an intimate feel for the culture. Come prepared to bargain for your purchases and enjoy the fresh air and conversations. In the markets you will find paintings, fabric, clothing, jewelry, wood carvings and other items. Tourists will often find great souvenirs in the market.

Beyond the social aspect, Kenya is filled with a diverse and amazing wildlife. Have you ever seen a wildebeest migration? View thousands of flamingos cover a lake? Watch a lion hunt for its prey? Keeping wildlife in its natural habitat is important. Kenyans believe when on safari, it is important to see wild animals in their true habitats.

When you visit Kenya, prepare to become Kenyan. Prepare to be changed. Their lifestyle, culture, community, enthusiasm and hospitality cannot help but to influence and change you.

Kenya will remain with you forever!

Last modified: October 14, 2021

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