Thursday, September 3, 2015

Kenyan Hospitality

Chai Break
If you are coming to Kenya then its important to know the basics of greeting and eating in Kenya. Greeting and introductions are very important in Kenya. Anytime you enter someones home its important to understand how introductions are done.

In general someone else introduces you to the group. You will then shake everyone hands. This goes for if you are meeting one person or a room full of people. People will even jump over furniture and relocate to shake your hand and you should make the same efforts to do the same. Even when seeing friends any meeting is begun with a hand shake or even a hand shake turned into hug with a double sided kiss.


There are two types of hand shakes, one formal and one less formal. If you respect someone (doctors, older individuals, bosses) then you shake their hand but at the same time you place your opposite hand on your bicep. You can make it even more formal by bending your knee slightly. Less formal is similar to a regular hand shakes, but they can last for a long time. Older women often will shake your hand for almost a minute using both their hands to grasp yours. They will even have a conversation with you while shaking your hand or holding your hand.

Ugali, sukumawiki and fried fish
Shaking hands is very important in Kenya culture but so is food. If you enter someones home expect to eat, they might even hold you until you have a "snack" which can often be a whole meal. Traditional foods include ugali, chapati, sukumawiki, chicken, goat, fried fish, fried potatoes, mukimo,chai and fruit. Before eating its mandatory that you wash your hands. There is either a sink in the dining room or a bucket with water that someone pours over your hands.

Washing your hands is very important because most meals require you to use your hands to eat. Ugali is usually balled up between your fingers and eaten along side the meat and sukumewiki. Meat is usually eaten straight from the bone, its important to eat everything on your plate and clean all the meat off the bone. Some families even insist you eat cartilage and marrow. After eating you then wash your hands again.

Hand washing
Chai is another important part of hosting guests. Guests will often be served chai upon arrival to hold them over for dinner. Chai is again served after dinner, probably to keep everyone awake and alert for the drive home.
Can I help cook? If you are a woman then its traditional to ask if the hosts need help in the kitchen. Here you can learn how to prepare many traditional foods. Sorry men are not allowed to prepare food, but maybe things will change soon for Kenya.

Learning how to cook Ugali


  1. Oh good, That means I don't need to help in the kitchen, because I'm not allowed to, but am I allowed to come into the kitchen?.

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