How Is Kenya’s Culture

Kenyan culture is a way of life that blends tradition with modernity. Traditionally, most Kenyans will not engage in direct communication, but instead, use non-explicit techniques in passing over their intended message. However, the style of communication depends directly on the level of intimacy between each person.

How Is Kenya’s Culture

Although the official languages are Swahili and English, Kenya is a multilingual country. There are 62 languages spoken throughout which mainly consist of tribal African languages as well as a minority of Middle-Eastern and Asian languages spoken by descendants of foreign settlers (i.e. Arabic, Hindi, etc). The African languages come from three different language families – Bantu languages (spoken in the centre and southeast), Nilotic languages (in the west), and Cushitic languages (in the northeast).

Kenya is not a homogeneous country ethnicity-wise. The make-up of Kenyans is primarily that of 13 ethnic groups with an additional 27 smaller groups. The majority of Kenyans belong to ‘Bantu’ tribes such as the Kikuyu, Luhya and Kamba. There are also the ‘Nilotic’ tribes such as the Luo, Kalenjin, Maasai and Turkana. The ‘Hamitic’ people include the Turkana, Rendille and Samburu. Around 13% of the population are of non-African descent, i.e. Indian, Arab and European.

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.

In Kenyan culture, family is considered a major factor when it comes to identity, a sense of belonging, and security. The upbringing of a child in Kenya means cousins, aunts, and uncles play a large role in their day-to-day life and may make visits without prior notice and expect a helping hand when in need.

Religious services are communal experience for families. Religious beliefs are strong in Christian, Muslim and Hindu communities. Sunday is the biggest day for Christian families as they will spend almost all day in church activities.

Kenyan culture is very communal in nature. Kenyans share everything from clothes, food, and even space!  At home, personal items are often shared with every member of the family. In most families, they don’t understand the concept of private time and it’s uncommon to stay alone in one’s room for long periods of time except to sleep.