All students from Kenya are Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study (YES) Program scholarship winners. Click here to learn more about the YES Program.
Kenya is a country made up of approximately forty two tribes. The Kikuyu, Masai, Swahili and Kamba are just a few you might have heard of.
All these tribes have their separate culture, rules and regulations that, along with the difference in their languages, all contribute to Kenya’s deep cultural richness.
Kenya is bordered by the Indian Ocean to the East and Lake Victoria to the Southwest, and is bisected by the Great Rift Valley. Its numerous wildlife preserves are home to thousands of animal species, including the so-called “Big Five”: lions, leopards, buffalo, rhinoceros and elephants.
Lifestyle and Family
Kenyans are group-orientated rather than individualistic. “Harambee” (coming from the Bantu word meaning “to pull together”) defines the people’s approach to others in life. The concept is essentially about mutual assistance, mutual effort, mutual responsibility and community self-reliance. This principle has historically been practiced by every ethnic group with its roots in cooperative farming or herding.
The extended family is the basis of the social structure. It includes relatives on both sides of the family as well as close friends. Quite often the husband’s parents will live with the nuclear family when they get older and can no longer care for themselves. When people marry, they join their families, thus ensuring that there will always be a group to turn to in times of need. Adults close to the family and unrelated can be referred to as aunt and uncle.
Kenyans are not known for being direct and will try and find a more sensitive way to deliver information, such as use of analogies. In new relationships, diplomacy is of high importance.
Teen Life and Sports
Many rural teens work on their families’ farms, even the youngest of children, and by the time they start school they know how to grow and harvest crops. Teens and kids are also known to create their own toys and sports equipment from sticks, wires and bottle tops. Soccer is by far the most popular sports, and running is very popular as well.
As Kenya has many tribes, there are also many different styles of dress. Traditional garments include wrap dresses, or sarongs, for women. For the most part though, Kenyans dress casually and are influenced by Western style.
Much of the Kenyan diet consists of beans, maize (a mix of both is called githeri), carrots, tomatoes, kales, cauliflower, capsicum, coriander, spinach, onions, beetroot and cucumber. All these are found in plenty and are affordable for the average Kenyan. Meats are beef, goat meat, chicken, and fish. Fruits are common depending on the season but most times of the year mangoes and bananas, luqorts, plums, apples, grapes, pawpaws, watermelons, guavas, peaches and oranges are available. Western food is widely available but is considerably more expensive than local cuisine.
Language and Religion
Kenya is a multilingual country. Although the official languages are Swahili and English, there are actually a total of 62 languages spoken in the country. The majority of Kenyans are Christian.