Through analysis, a better understanding of the culture of Kenya will be encouraged, and through understanding strategies will be developed to facilitate effective communication with the people of Kenya.
KENYA: At a Glance LAND Located on the east coast of Africa. About twice the size of Nevada. OFFICIAL Name: Republic of Kenya Gained independence from European countries in 1963 (British East Africa). Official languages: English, Swahili. PEOPLE Population: approximately 41 million (2011). Nearly half the population is under the age of 15, and the average age is 19. Approx. 40 ethnic groups live in Kenya. The major subsets are Kikuyu (22%), Luhya (14%), Luo (13%), Kalenjin (12%), and Kamba (11%). Europeans, Arabs and Asians make up only about 1% of the population. Nearly half the population is Christian, though pre-Christian beliefs are still common, and Islam is growing. (“World Factbook,” 2011) Image: The World Factbook (2011) Image: The World Factbook (2011)
Nonverbal Communication: Cues to Watch for The First Impression—Appearance Starting with “hello”—Kinesics and Eye Contact Continued Interaction—Proxemics, Vocalics, and Dominance Do’s and Don'ts—Things to Keep in Mind.
Nonverbal Communication: The First Impression In urban areas, most business is conducted in formal business attire. Men are expected to wear a suit and tie. Professional women may also wear suits or dresses. If a skirt is worn, it will be of at least knee-length. (“Kenya: language, culture customs, and etiquette,” n.d.). In rural areas, the clothing is much less formal: Informal dress will vary depending on the ethnicity prominent in the area visited. Clothing may be more revealing in rural areas than urban. Some ethnicities use emblems, such as hair styles or jewelry, to indicate certain social statuses: marriage, children, etc. Muslim areas, generally along the coast, will often sport traditional Muslim garb (“Kenya: language, culture customs, and etiquette,” n.d.) Students and urban youth can be very westernized. They will often wear jeans, t-shirts and hip-hop influenced clothing. Even among youth, revealing clothing is generally frowned upon. (“Kenya: language, culture customs, and etiquette,” n.d.) Image: state.gov (2009) Image: Sassoon (n.d.)
Nonverbal Communication: Starting with “hello” Handshakes are expected at greetings between men. All men shake hands when greeting one another. A younger or subordinate man is often expected to lower his eyes during the greeting. Clasping the right hand with the left is also a sign of respect for an elder or superior. (“Kenya,” n.d.). Greetings for women: May include a limp handshake. More often consists of a hug and a kiss on the cheek. Muslim women often will not exchange greetings with men, and by some doctrines are prohibited from interacting with them at all. (“Kenya,” n.d.). Image: Hockstein (2008)
Nonverbal Communication: Continued Interaction Proxemics After the greeting, business is conducted at arms length. Touching is rarely done while conducting business, except between very good friends Like many African and Middle Eastern countries, men often hold hands in public in a non-sexual manner. Proxemic norms are more relaxed in rural areas, and may include more touching and less personal space than is experienced in the cities or during formal business. (“Kenya: language, culture customs, and etiquette,” n.d; United Nations Office at Nairobi, n.d.). Vocalics It is considered rude to raise one’s voice at any time, even in praise. (United Nations Office at Nairobi, n.d.). Dominance Men are normally greeted and served before women. (“Kenya,” n.d.). Image: state.gov (2009)
Nonverbal Communication: Do’s and Don'ts DON’T Don’tuse your left hand. It is generally reserved for hygiene and sanitation. Don’t signal people with your left hand, point, or beckon with your palm facing upward. These actions are considered offensive. Kenyans often use their chin to point, rather than their hand. Don’t take pictures of people without their permission—especially the President. This is even more important in rural areas, where superstitions regarding cameras may still linger. Don’t decline food or drink if it is offered. DO Do clasp your left hand around the other person’s when shaking hands with an elder. This is an exception to the rule above. Do grasp a person’s elbow in greeting instead of their hand if your hands are dirty, and expect them to do the same. Do wait for a woman to initiate interaction, if you are a man. Many women are prohibited from interaction with men outside of their family. Do offer a tip for taking someone’s picture, especially in rural areas. (“Kenya: language, culture customs, and etiquette,” n.d; United Nations Office at Nairobi, n.d; “Kenya,” n.d.). Image: state.gov (2009)
Verbal Communication Image: Wainscoat (n.d.) Image: Stanley (n.d.)
Verbal Communication: Language Kenya is a multilingual country Swahili and English are the official languages There are 62 other languages spoken in the country These consist of African tribal languages Most African languages come from three different language families Bantu languages Nilotic languages Cushitic languages (“Kenya: Language, Culture, Customs and Etiquette” (n.d.). Image: exploringkenya.com
Verbal Communication:Kenya Tribes and Linguistic Groups The Bantu Bantu people live mainly in the coastal, central, and western regions of the country They occupy less than 30 percent of Kenya's land base but form more than 70 percent of the population. The most notable among the Bantu are the Kikuyu, Luhya, and Kamba tribes The Nilotic Nilotic people reside in Kenya's broad Rift-Valley region, around Lake Victoria The Maasai, Turkana, Samburu, Luo, and Kalenjin are the most significant Nilotic tribes The Cushitic Cushitic people live in the arid and semi-arid eastern and northeastern parts of Kenya Somali are the largest Cushitic ethnic group in Kenya Others Kenyan Asians (mostly Indians) Kenyan Arabs (from Yemeni, Omani, and Persian Kenyan Europeans (from British origin) (“The Kenyan People” (n.d.). Images: kenya-information-guide.com (n.d.)
Verbal Communication:Communicating Through Culture Kenya culture is a way of life that is a blend of thousands of years of tradition with modern influences Music and Dance Traditional music and dance is part of Kenyans' lives and forms an important part of Kenya culture Harmonious beats and rhythm are central parts of dance, which is traditionally backed by drums and guitar instruments Theatre and Literature Kenya has a strong oral tradition Stories are passed on throughout the generations, often in the form on song The Kenya National Theatre is a performing art center for cultural music, dance, and plays written by Kenyan authors Art and Artifacts Most arts and artifacts are crafted manually from local materials Beautifully carved wood sculptures are produced in large quantities and sold to tourists Other popular Kenya artifacts include colorful hand-woven sisal baskets, beaded jewelry, gold and silver jewelry, musical instruments, tribal masks, figurines, paintings, prints, and beautiful traditional Kikoys (African sarongs) (“Kenya Culture” (n.d.). Image: kenya-information-guide.com (n.d.) Image: eileen-morrow.blogspot.com (2009)
Gender Roles The differences between men and women in Kenya
Kenyan Men Centuries of Tradition Regulator of Life Make all decisions Own all property Homes Land Primary Family Women become property of family Women are forced to marry other male members within family Image: intrepid travel (2009) Image: redbubble.com (2010)
Women of Kenya struggling to be heard Second Class Citizens, Voices not heard Man is head of household Little to no influence regarding decisions and their own lives Not able to own property or land worked Forced into marriage If widowed, women are “inherited” by brother or close relative Changes are possible Article 27(8) – Government & Legislature to implement principles of no more then 2/3 of the members shall be the same gender Article 81 – adopt same principle as above Article 91 – Political parties respect & promote equality MEGEN – Men for Gender Equality Now Recognizes need for men to participate in the fight for gender equality Image: Zunia.org (2009) Image: africastyledaily.com (2010)
Times, they are changing… Tribal life Older Women Hold important roles in tribal life Command Respect Different Types of attitudes in men Resistance to change MEGEN Mzalendo, Eye on Kenyan Parliament Women and Top Political Office 21 out of 222 parliamentarians are women 7 out of 44 women are permanent secretaries 7 out of 425 ministers are women Image: worldofstock.com (2011) Image: Wall Street Journal (2010)
Kenyan Diverse Styles of Dress Formal and Informal
Diversity of Kenya Formal Dress Kikuyu Tribe Western society influence Shukas Large, square pieces of red & blue cloth Fling over their bodies & tie around their neck/shoulders Masai Maria Tribe Women Vast plate-like bead necklaces Kangas Colorful wraps Men Shuka Red checkered blanket Red indicates power Carry a distinctive ball-ended club Kikuyu Tribe typical woman in formal dress; Shuka is proudly shown Men of the Masai Maria Tribe in typical formal dress
Diversity of Kenya Formal Dress Western Culture Inspired Kalenjin Tribe Women Skirts Blouses Dresses khangas Men Trousers Shirts Suit jacket Sport coat Akamba Tribe Leather short kilts Made from animal skins or tree bark Jewelry Copper Brass Neck-chains Bracelets Anklets Woman of Kalenjin Tribe Women member of the Akamba Tribe
Diversity of Kenya Formal Dress Luhya Tribe Traditional clothing Worn on specific occasions Worn only by certain people Cultural Dancing Wear feathered hats Skirts made of sisal strands Circumcision Rites Wear clothing made of skins Paint themselves with red ochre (a pigment) or ash Turkana Tribe Women Yorfas Sheepskins/goatskins dyed red or black Create Mohawks, adorned with beads Men Wear wrap as tunics Women of the Luhya Tribe Members of the Turkana Tribe, with the adorned Mohawk
Kenyan Informal Dress Western style clothing Colorful Skirts Jewelry Rich cultural heritage Kanga Tribe with colorful cloth used as shirts, shawls, and skirts
Kenyan Informal Dress Turkana Dress Both men and women wear brightly colored objects around their necks Accessories Wrist knives Stools Walking sticks Women Wear oblios Necklaces that Turkana women wear upon reaching the appropriate age to marry Masai Dress Dress according to the traditional nomadic ways as herders Women Kanga Bead necklaces Men Red-checkered blankets, shukas Coastal Regions Muslim-influenced Johos Long robes Kofias Traditional hat Kikois and Kikoys Brightly colored cloth which can be worn many ways Tribal members with Kofias, traditional hat Tribal men wearing Kikoys, brightly colored cloth
Questions What is the significance of eye contact during a greeting, and how would you use this knowledge to your advantage? Does it matter when greeting the same/different gender? If so, how do you compensate? As Kenya’s society progresses into a more democratic state, will women of prominence be accepted more easily? If women of Kenya are to initiate contact, and they are not as respected as much as men, how effective is a woman’s communication if she is so restricted by the cultural standards imposed upon her?
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