Emma Scott's Quick Guide to Kenya
My time in Kenya was an amazing one - from the highs of my week long safari and trips to the coast, to the lows, realising the prevalence of glue; each bottle with its own child, trying to escape the realities of life on the street. Nairobi was my home for four and a half months, the most dangerous city in Kenya. It has been nicknamed Nairobbery for a good reason!
One thing to consider is the sexual inequality in Kenya, and what this means for female travellers. Often I would find the answer to my question directed to the male of my group, or he would be asked to make the decisions for what we wanted to do that day. Although not a major issue - it can be slightly frustrating!
Kenyans are generally very friendly people - interested in how you find their country. However, as a female, you can meet some very persistent males who try and insist that you NEED a Kenyan man in your life (One guy even said he'd give my dad an elephant in exchange for me...not sure we have room in the garden!)
Something to be aware of is the impression you, as a Western female, give. A drunk female, stumbling to the bar to order a drink, can be frowned upon - and you could find yourself the subject of gossip. You won't see Kenyan women in bars very frequently - it is seen as more of a place for men. The more prosperous areas are much more accustomed to seeing women drinking, due to the larger number of tourists.
Generally, just be aware that you are in a different culture, and people's expectations are different... but don't forget to have fun!
Here are some tips that I picked up along the way:
- Be especially careful of your belongings if you sit next to a bus window - its easy for someone to lean in and take it.
- Friendly but firm - my motto for dealing with the persistent men. Subtlety got me nowhere!
- Greetings - shaking hands when greeting is important in Kenyan culture. It means a lot to them.
- "How are you?" - You are likely to hear this shouted at you a lot whilst in Kenya, mostly from kids. A smile and a 'fine, thank you' always go down well.
- Be careful after dark - Unless you are with a group of locals, I would suggest taking taxis after dark. I thought I was safe in buses until one broke down in the middle of the slum!
- Dress appropriately - just tone down the flesh baring a little. I think a short skirt would really cause a stir - stick to knee length.
- The Street Kids - Ultimately, as a tourist, you will be approached for money. Try not to be scared of the kids; they're just like you and me. As for giving, the debate goes on about whether it's right...
- And finally and most importantly... Do as the Kenyans do. It is their culture and they are the ones who know it best.
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