Kenya 101

As we hit the 7 month mark of living in Kenya I thought I’d share with you some of the things you will never find on a website nor in a Lonely Planet book.

  • They are called ‘blinders’ here not ‘netting curtains’.
  • There’s no cell phone, nor mobile phone, we just call it a phone.
  • You’re either from Western Kenya, Central or The Coast – seems like nothing in between and definitely no South.
  • Kenyans don’t like Ugandans. It’s a relationship similar between Aussies and Kiwis.
  • Asians tend to belittle Africans, it’s like they are the superior race.
  • All Muzungu’s (white people) are considered rich. They think you have enough to give them extra work, extra money and extra for when they don’t have it.
  • You get a fine for being on your phone when crossing the road. A council worker will grab you by the arm into their car, then you pay them off.
  • Everything is negotiable, especially when they say ‘what are you prepared to pay’.
  • If someone says ‘it’s possible’ it probably won’t be.
  • If someone is directing you in traffic or on the footpath they might say ‘straight’ but may mean left or right depending on the direction their hand is in.
  • People will say yes to your face, but what they really mean is no.
  • Someone will say ‘yes, yes’ which actually means they don’t understand what you just said.
  • Tipping is not mandatory, but it is highly appreciated.
  • Your ‘friendly’ traffic officers have no worries about paying their kids school fees with your ‘donation’ to them paid at their discernment (or lack of it).
  • You can wear whatever you like in the city, but it’s a big coverup for the ladies in the country.
  • Up country doesn’t refer to the direction you’re going, it means you are traveling more than 2 hours out of town.
  • You seem to be every Kenyan’s ‘friend’ especially when they want to sell you something at the market.
  • Always make use of toilets available, especially when you probably will be stuck in traffic for 2 hours after a meal.
  • A meal without ugali is not a real meal (Google ‘uglai’)
  • Having dinner (called supper here) before 9pm means you will need a snack before going to bed
  • If you want to leave work, you just don’t turn up to your present job, it’s usually done just after payday. No resignation letter, no text message – just don’t show. While it ticks your boss off, you’ve been paid so that’s all that matters.
  • No matter how bad the singer is up the front at church, you clap anyway in appreciation.
  • Kenyans top at hospitality. Even if you’re super poor, you put on the most amazing meal for your visitors.

If you learn this by heart before you come you will be years ahead of us!

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