NOTE FROM ED: Looks like this was started but never finished. Looks like it could be ready to go with a little formatting. Make sure to publish Part 1 first.
In part one of this series, we provided some basic greetings and phrases to keep in mind when travelling to Kenya on an epic safari destination in order to experience one of the greatest animal migrations on earth, while engaging in a true cultural experience with the local indigenous people. In addition, being aware of a few cultural norms and customs will go a long way to improving your experience in Africa.
Meeting and Greeting
Every new engagement between locals in Kenya starts with a greeting, which includes the handshake. Even when entering a shop, you shake hands and make polite small talk with the shopkeeper. This is the same for departure and is normal between all men present. The most common greeting is “Jambo?” (“How are you?”), which is generally said immediately prior to the handshake.
The common, respectful handshake – particularly with an elder – involves grasping the right wrist with the left hand while shaking hands in order to show respect. When greeting someone with whom you have a personal relationship, the handshake will last a lot longer than one given to a new. In fact, traditionally, greeting exchanges last a minute or two, and you’ll often hear them performed in a formal manner between two men, especially in rural areas.
Long greetings help subsequent discussion (How are you? Good, how is your family? They’re doing well thank you? How is your business? Etc.). It is considered impolite to skip or rush through this, and grunting in the affirmative and saying thank you often is common.
Hissing (“Tsss!”) is an ordinary way to attract a stranger’s attention (you may hear this in restaurants to get the waiter’s attention). Don’t be offended if you are on the receiving end! When asking questions, try to keep them open ended and avoid yes or no questions as anything negative is considered relatively impolite.
Until people have a personal relationship with others they tend to address each other by title or status. Once you have a personal relationship has developed, you’ll likely be able to address them by their title and first name, first name alone, or nickname. Wait for the Kenyan to determine that your friendship has reached this level of intimacy.
Between locals, you’ll often see women over the age of 21 addressed as “Mama”, while from about their mid-thirties onware addressed as “Mzee” (“elder”, which I guess makes me ancient!). Children generally refer to adults as Aunt or Uncle, even if there is not a family connection.
As with many places in Africa, it is good to be aware of the left-hand rule: traditionally the left hand is reserved for unhygienic acts and the right for eating, passing things to others, touching (handshakes), etc. Pointing is also to be avoided as a general rule.
Other than that, do what your guides suggest and take the lead from any local hosts during your once in a lifetime Kenya Safari!