Kenya Traditions, Customs, and Rythmns
Kenya culture is rich and diverse, made up of Kenya traditions and customs, music and dance, arts, and the warmest of hospitality. Kenyans are a warm and friendly people, known to be group-oriented.
Kenyan FamiliesCulturally group oriented, the extended family is the foundation of their social structure, that includes relatives from both sides of the family and even close friends. The children call close family friends Auntie and Uncle, even though they are not blood relatives.
It is not uncommon for the husbands parents to come and live with the nuclear family when they get too old to care for themselves.
Joining families when they marry provides the couples with a sense of security knowing there will always be a group to help in times of need.
Kenya Traditions and Customs
AncestorsAncestoral ties are part of Kenya customs and traditions. Like most Africans, Kenyans highly respect and reverence their deceased ancestors. They believe that the spirit of the dead person must be acknowledged to bring harmony and peace within their own families, extended families, clans and tribes.
Kenya WomenExpected to do most of the work, the women are still ruled by the traditional subservient role, especially in the outlying villages.
They are responsible for farming, cooking, cleaning, chopping wood, child care and the general running of the home.
In the areas still influenced by the old ways, women would not generally give instructions to the men. Things are changing however, as society becomes more modern.
Women over 21 are called 'Mama' and men over 35 are called 'Mzee'.
EtiquetteKenya hospitality is warm and inviting to visitors and guests. When you come into a Kenyan's home you should always accept their offer of tea or a drink. To refuse would be bad manners.
It would also be considered to be very rude to lose your temper and shout. Disagreements are not openly addressed, and confrontations are rare.
Issues tend to simmer for long periods or they get resolved with humor. Even when frustrated, it's best to be polite and smile.
GreetingsThe handshake is the most common greeting of Kenya culture, a short one to casual acquaintances. Close female friends often hug and exchange one kiss on each cheek instead of shaking hands.
To show proper respect to an elder or someone of high status, you grasp their right wrist with your left hand when shaking hands.
Just before shaking hands, you exchange the very common greeting 'Jambo', meaning 'How Are You?'. It would be considered to be poor manners if you didn't continue to then ask questions about the persons health, their family and business or job.
Africa TimeAfrican time is very flexible. Delays are accepted as just the normal part of life.
It is rather common for services not to run completely or for African's to be late. However, employees arrive on time or even early, having allowed for any possible delays with public transit or the bad roads. Heavy rains can bring things to an absolute halt.
Kenya RythmnsRythmn is very important to social and religious life, so the drum and wind and stringed instruments also play key roles in Kenya culture through their music and dance.
Kenya DanceA contemporary dance type of music that originated in Western Kenya among the Luo people is known as benga. Kenyan's love their music and the benga style that became so popular in the 1950's is still recognized today.
The many traditional tribal dances of Kenya are equally important to the culture as well.
Kenyan traditional dancers, who express their joy just to be alive. Note the school children in the audience near the end of the clip.
Kenyan school children drumming and dancing with their teachers.