Know your Kenyan visitor

The main languages are Swahili and English, but 62 others also spoken.

'Jambo' ( jum-bow ).

Talking in loud voices.

Disrespectful behaviour.

Bring a finger bowl to the table at a restaurant, and go the extra mile and do the traditional custom of pouring the water onto your guest’s hands as they hold them over the bowl.

Enquire about family, health and business.

Be diplomatic and respectful at all times.

The most common greeting is the handshake. If you know someone well, the handshake lingers for longer than it would for a casual acquaintance. When greeting an elder, respect is shown by grasping your right wrist with your left hand while shaking hands.

It is a sign of respect to lower your eyes when greeting someone older than you, or someone of a higher social status.

Rather than shaking hands, close female friends hug and kiss once on each cheek.

Women over 21 are often addressed as 'Mama' and men over 35 as 'Mzee'. Children refer to adults as 'aunt' or 'uncle', whether they are related or not.

The guest of honour is usually served first, followed by the men, children and women.

Drinks are not usually served with meals, as it is considered impolite to eat and drink at the same time. Ask your guests when they would like to have their drinks.

Business colleagues and superiors are expected to inquire about a person’s family before launching directly into a business discussion.

Direct and frank discussion is not the norm in Kenya. Metaphors and stories are often used to make a point.

Kenyans qualify what they say to deliver a message tactfully.

Communication in new, especially formal, relationships is conducted with utmost diplomacy.

If you need to be critical during a discussion, rather wait until an opportunity to do this directly with the person concerned, in private.

Kenyans often gesture for emphasis when speaking, but loud voices are only used during business disagreements.

Kenyans pride themselves on emotional control and expect to be shown the same courtesy. A display of anger is considered a sign of mental instability.

It is expected to exchange business cards. Present and receive your card with both hands.

Wait for an invitation before moving to a first-name basis during business or social interaction. Greet your guests as Mr, Miss, Mrs, Dr, etc.

Kenyans usually consider it polite for mobile phones to be set on 'vibrate' or 'silent' in public places.

Important calls should be taken in a private place, away from others.