Kenyan Etiquette: What you need to know

  • 27 November 2015

When hosting Kenyan guests it is important to note their cultural customs. We all know the last thing you want as a host is to accidentally offend someone, so we’ve compiled a nifty list of Kenyan etiquette – so that you can make sure your Kenyan guests have the best stay possible in South Africa.

It’s all in the name

Pay special attention when your guests introduce themselves. In Kenya it is expected for people to address each other by their surname and title until permission is given to address them by their first name.

A firm handshake

When you meet a Kenyan for the first time, be sure to shake their hand – and firmly. If you’re meeting a group of people make sure to shake everyone’s hand individually, beginning with the most senior person, as this is a show of respect.

Note: When greeting an elder or someone of higher status, grasp the right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands to demonstrate respect.

Greetings

Knowing a bit of Swahili is a surefire way to make a good first impression. Jambo or hujambo is a generic hello, and the reply to “Habari gani?” (“How are you?”) is, “nzuri” (“fine”).

Punctuality

Kenyans are known to appreciate punctuality. Lateness is considered rude and disrespectful, so make sure to keep an eye on your watch.