Who would have ever thought that something as simple as how to get another person’s attention would become such a cultural battle. Over the past few weeks there have been some very explicit examples that just serve to remind me that sometimes, I still just don’t get, “it,” and though I won’t share the examples, I thought I would use the reminder to typify the experiences to my readers.
Tag Archives: kenyan culture
Last night I was talking with my dad when our phone connection got cut off (as is common). The last question he asked before we lost connection though was a question I have been fielding a lot recently, with the unveiling and roll-out of the Rural Internet Kiosk (RIK) in Ukunda: how do you prevent people from stealing it? This is not an uncommon question regarding many projects Peace Corps volunteers work on here in Kenya, where the concept of trust, though the same as in the West, is at a different level when it comes to perception of ownership than of that in the West.
Personal encounters that lead to conversations are a bit different in Kenya compared to those in America, or at least those in America I have ever partaken in.
Oftentimes an American greeting includes an acknowledgement of the person relevant to the time of day, “Good morning,” followed by an inquisitive into the nature of the person, “How are you?” Other more common phrases might be, “Afternoon, how you doing?” and variations on this theme. They may also include slang, such as the popular, “What’s up?” which is not often preceded by temporal-based initiator, but instead stands on its on. Also, there is usually an accompanied physical motion, such as a hug, or kiss or handshake. With greetings concluded, it is on to the meat of the conversation.
Greetings are most probably the largest area of difference between the two cultures regarding conversation. Kenyans take their greetings much more seriously. First there is an acknowledgement, such as “Jambo,” or in my case, “Mambo,” which is then followed by several inquisitives. “Habari yako?” “Habari za leo?” “Habari za nyumba?” “Habari za jamaa?” These are the formal inquisitives, asking simply (and in literal translation), “Your news?” “News of the Day?” “News of the house?” “New of the family?” Not all are used every time, but it is very common to hear more than one in a single greeting and each one requires a response. Continue reading