There are about 40 different ethnic groupings in Kenya and each one has its own unique culture. This basically means that Kenya doesn't have one main cultural identity.
Its many-sided culture is expressed in different forms, ranging from its people and language, food, music and dance, art, theatre, literature and ethnic values.
Kenyans dress quite conservatively, particularly in a business context. Kenyan men wear shirts and long trousers, often with a blazer. Women wear long trousers or skirts that fall below the knee. This conservative dressing is even more obvious at the coast, where the majority of the Muslim Kenyans live. But, you won't get into trouble for wearing shorts and T-shirts and Kenyans are far too polite to say anything to you!
Most Kenyans are Christians, although many mix it with traditional religious beliefs. For example, you'll probably encounter a widespread belief in witchcraft. Witches are thought to cause illnesses and bad luck in love or money.
You'll soon discover that, in Kenya, anytime is tea time! Spiced Chai tea is a popular choice and is served at mealtimes and also during Kenya's regular afternoon tea break. It's likely that tea time is a custom borrowed from Kenya's British colonial past.
Things to do
With spectacular game parks dotted all over the country and a stunning Indian Ocean coastline to explore, there's plenty for expats to see and do. There's also a sense of freedom, a relaxed pace of life, great international schools and an almost perfect climate.
Obviously, you’ll have the unrivalled opportunity to go on safari. Kenya enjoys the reputation of being the safari country of Africa and has an enormous variety of landscapes and wildlife between its national parks.
You could also take the time to visit an ancient tribe. A number of the ones in Kenya have lived more or less the same way for thousands of
years. The Masai are possibly the most famous tribe and, nowadays, they earn extra cash by receiving tourists for a 'cultural' visit. You can meet the eldermen, hear about their way of life, have a cup of chai tea and watch them perform traditional dances.
For the energetic expats, the diving and snorkelling possibilities are endless. For example, Watamu National Park on the coast is
highly rated. The reef is in excellent condition and there are huge numbers of colourful
and unusual exotic fish and harmless whale sharks.
Business culture in Kenya
Business culture in Kenya is governed by ‘harambee’, a concept involving mutual assistance, responsibility and community spirit; respect for family, community and ancestors are integral to the way of life.
It follows that business success is closely correlated with interpersonal success. So, to be successful in business it’s vital to invest time in getting to know people in order to build good working relationships.
Kenya is largely a hierarchical society in which deference to older members is quite rigid. Senior employees will seldom discuss decisions with those lower down the ladder. Social standing is also important to Kenyans and you should always use a person’s official title when you talk to them.
Quite a lot has been made of crime rates in Kenya, particularly in the capital city of Nairobi,
where the city has even been nicknamed ‘Nairobbery’. However, the crimes that take place tend to be opportunistic, fairly unsophisticated and pretty much comparable
to crime levels in other cities around the world where there are similar levels of social inequality.
For the majority of people, frequent road traffic accidents are more of a worry than serious crime. According to some media figures,
muggings and car-jackings are on the increase, but these are reported to be rarely violent.
Kenya has a tropical climate, with hot and humid conditions along the coast, a temperate
inland climate and very dry conditions in the northern parts of the country.
The country enjoys plenty of sunshine all year round and you’ll probably only ever need summer clothes and light jumpers. A blissful change for expats from the northern hemisphere!
There is a long rainy season between April and
June and a short rainy season from October to December. The rainfall is sometimes heavy and often falls in the afternoons and evenings.
Many expats find the huge range of diverse cultures in Kenya disconcerting and choose to live entirely enclosed within expat compounds. However, living in these communities can create a feeling of segregation when, in fact, Kenyans are cheerful and friendly and enjoy meeting new people.