How not to Look like a Tourist in Kenya

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Blending in with the culture of Kenyans is not complicated at all. And when you learn how not to look like a tourist, you will go about your daily excursions inconspicuously. Here are a few tips to get you started.

  • You do not have to smile at strangers.

This is not just wrong, it is awkward. How would you feel if strangers approached you with an ear-to-ear grin? Unless you intend to say hi or start a conservation, you do not have to smile at everyone you meet. Kenyans are warm and friendly, but a stranger’s grin, without so much as a hallo raises eyebrows.

  • Jambo is good, but habari yako sounds so much better

Jambo and hakuna matata are cliches that Kenyans associate with mzungu( tourist or white man). Break away from this stereotype by greeting locals in plain Swahili or just stick to English. In the urban centres like Nairobi, slang rules so saying jambo will make your acquaintances know you have just flown into the country. Learn a few basic Swahili words if you really wish to impress locals by talking to them in their language. The most popular greetings are habari yako to which the reply is ni mzurimzuri, and sasa to which the reply is poa or fiti.

  • You can move in a duet for safety and company, but not a flock.

Hire a professional local guide to take you around if you don’t want to do so alone. You will explore faster and unostentatiously especially in small towns.

  • Do not shove money, sweets or other gifts into the hands of everyone you meet along the way.

Some Kenyans may be underprivileged, but they are not necessarily waiting for handouts. Additionally, a meal may count more than a handful of coins more so for street children.

  • Stereotypes you have heard about Kenyans are just that… stereotypes!

All Kenyans are not athletes, all Kenyans are not tribal chieftains, all Kenyans are not Maasai, all Kenyans do not live in houses without running water and electricity.

  • No fanny-pack or waist wallet

A fanny-pack dangling around your waist is a dead-giveaway. Instead, carry your essentials, in a shoulder bag. A backpack is okay, but you might have to watch over your back in crowded places.

  • Shorts will earn you stares, glares and eye rolls

After your amazing race in the countryside, with your backpack, pack your shimmy shorts and wear a pair of trousers. Men in Kenya rarely wear shorts in public, and when they do, the shorts are at least below the knees, and only on casual Saturdays.

  • Practice restrain when using your camera

You do not have to capture everything that moves. Additionally, ask for consent when taking pictures of locals or of private property.

In addition to viewing the great migration, you can also explore Nairobi, Amboseli National Park, Samburu National Park and many other attractions in the country.

Now you have an ideal about how not to look like a tourist when visiting Kenya. Mingle with locals, learn about their culture and you ill have an unforgettable experience.


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