The Kenyan culture and lifestyle is multifaceted and is expressed in various forms in the language, food, dressing, music, art, ethnicity of our people. Our population comprises of people with different cultural and religious backgrounds. But this sets the stage for a lifestyle that is uniquely Kenyan.
Although we are different in many ways, there are a number of things that give us a sense of pride and love for our country. Here are 25 things that make us uniquely Kenyan.
1. Athletic Prowess
Kenyan athletes have consistently topped races and broken world records over the years, especially in long distance races. We are accustomed to hearing the sound of Kenya’s National anthem playing during international athletics competitions. Those moments when we see Kenyans cross the finish line and bag gold, sometimes even silver and bronze on the same race, make us so proud to be Kenyan.
2. Matatu Culture
Matatu life is front and centre of Kenyan culture. They come complete with grandiose and elaborate graffiti works, booming systems sometimes louder than the club and touts whose set of lungs are not for the average human given their shouting and calling passengers to board skills.
Matatus are often the fastest and most affordable means of public transport to get around the city. You will find buses with fancy lighting, screens and expensive sound systems and some even offer free wifi. Others have creative artwork both inside and outside, and a coordinated theme. This creativity is definitely a source of pride. The culture is so rife and vibrant, so much so that there is even an annual awards ceremony – Nganya Awards dedicated to Matatus!
3. Magical Umbrellas
Sometimes the Nairobi skies can be moody and the meteorologists can just get it wrong. There are times when the sky is sun-kissed and you decide to dress for a sunny day – get up and about with your errands. Suddenly it starts to rain and in less than five minutes there is a hawker next to you and everywhere else trying to sell you an umbrella. At double the price mind you! How do they just appear and disappear? This is a mystery to us all! Go figure!
M-PESA was launched in 2007 in Kenya by Safaricom, which is currently the largest telecom operator. The mobile money transfer service has enabled locals to send and receive money, pay for goods and services as well as save and access loans via their mobile phones. The service has been so entrenched in our lives, that you can use it to pay for nearly anything, from groceries to electronics to cab fares. It has also created jobs for millions of Kenyans and increased access to financial services. Whilst the service has been launched in other countries, M-PESA has been tremendously successful in Kenya, and is a significant source of pride for Kenyans.
5. Nairobi National Park
The Nairobi National Park is said to be the only national park within a capital city in the world. This detail makes Kenyan’s particularly proud when talking about Nairobi. It helps that the park is easily accessible, hosts a wide range of animals and is fairly affordable for locals. You can go on a safari walk or game drive or even seek accommodation at the lodges nearby.
Nairobi National Park
6. Nyama Choma
Nyama Choma is essentially Swahili for ‘roast meat’, and it is a local delicacy that brings Kenyans together and makes us proud. It’s a mainstay in whatever Kenyan conversation. It’s the default answer to ‘Welcome to Kenya’ or ‘Let’s go chill’.
The meat is mostly beef or goat, but Kenyans have made delicacies out of mutton, chicken and even pork. Barbeque is nice and tasty, grilled chicken too but they are just not Nyama Choma.
There’s just something succulent & otherworldly about Nyamchom. It’s mostly served with Ugali and Kachumbari (Fresh tomato, onion & pepper salad). Nyama Choma is everywhere, from the local neighbourhood alleys to urban restaurants and hotels.
Great memories and good impressions have been created over this cherished delicacy. Meetups with friends and family gatherings during holidays will very likely have some ‘nyama’ on the grill. It’s a National treasure!
Kenyanisms are particular characteristics that have come to be uniquely identified as Kenyan. They are often humorous or just easily relatable to Kenyans, so much so that some have been recently labelled as Kenyan Proverbs.
Most are in Swahili or slangs, and have special meanings understood by locals, and tend to give a sense of belonging. ‘Niko Kwa Jam Nakam’ is very popular, owing to the traffic jams especially in Kenyan cities, and loosely translates to the fact that you’re stuck in traffic.
8. Spectacular Beaches
The spectacular white sandy beaches at Kenya’s coastline almost always come up in conversations about the things we love about Kenya. Some of the popular towns along the coast include Mombasa, Malindi, Watamu, Lamu, and Diani.
Kenyans tend to flock these beaches during holidays to relish in the beauty and swim in the warm turquoise waters. The beaches are an easy choice when determining travel destinations for families, schools, and work trips, and they make us so proud to be Kenyan.
Diani Beach spectacular beaches
9. Sheng (Slang)
Sheng is local Kenyan slang that is quite widely spoken especially among urban youth. It’s more commonly a mixture of English and Swahili and it is constantly evolving and innovating. Sheng is very much a part of Kenya’s pop culture and is given much traction by lyrics in music and other art forms. It is quite conventional; in fact, there is a fully fledged sheng radio station that read the news in sheng.
10. Mount Kenya
Mount Kenya is the highest mountain in Kenya and second highest in Africa. The highest peak is 5,199 metres above sea level and conquering the climb is described as life-changing. The trek is difficult even with prior training and getting to the snow-capped peaks requires a great level of mental and physical preparation. Getting to the top always comes with this sense of self-pride and love for our country, after which you embark on the next adventure of getting to the bottom.
11. The Great Wildebeest migration at Masai Mara
One of the Seven Wonders of the World happens right on Kenyan soil in the Masai Mara. Every year between July and October, over 1 million giraffes, zebras and wildebeests move between the Maasai Mara Game Reserve in Kenya and Serengeti National Park in Tanzania, in what is known as the Great Wildebeest Migration. The migration is truly magical and the fact that it happens in Kenya gives us a deep sense of pride.
The Great Wildebeest migration at Masai Mara
12. Internationally acclaimed Actors of Kenyan Origin
There are a number of Kenyan actors who have conquered international audiences and make Kenyans so proud each time they grace our screens. They include Edi Gathegi who acted in X Men First Class and is also a producer. Lupita Nyong’o was the first Kenyan to win an Oscar for her role in 12 years a Slave. She has also acted in movies like the Queen of Katwe and Star Wars: The Last Jedi.
13. Breathtaking Landscapes
Kenya boasts of beautiful landscapes, from the mountain regions to the lakes and the rift valley region. So important are these landscapes that you will often find viewpoints at various high points especially in the Rift Valley, where you can stop and marvel at the scenery. Those views bring forth a sense of belonging! Check out the most popular places in Kenya and marvel at our beauty!
14. Rich culture
There are over 40 tribes in Kenya, each with a unique history, culture, and language. There are aspects of these cultures that make us identify as Kenyan, irrespective of our differences. Over time, cultural practices have been adopted by other tribes through interactions and intermarriages. Our rich history and culture give us a unique sense of belonging.
Tusker is a beer brewed in Kenya by a subsidiary of DIAGEO. It is made from locally obtained ingredients and has over the years been identified as Kenya’s beer brand. It is a popular beer in Kenyan meetups and events and now comes in a range of varieties including Malt, Lite, and Cider. Even teetotalers will agree that Tusker is one of those brands that are uniquely Kenyan.
16. Cool Parties and Nightlife
Kenyans love to have a good time and party, especially after work and on weekends. The number of bars and clubs in cities that are full of life regardless of the day of the week only goes to support this. Kenyans throw cool parties amongst friends and family, and these parties enhance a sense of togetherness.
17. Kenyans On Twitter (KOT)!
Sounds rather random and rather ‘nothing to see here ‘right? Wrong. “Kenyans On Twitter” or #KOT as they are popularly known are a different breed of interesting. On these Twitter streets, they will erupt, they will come for you, they will bay for blood, they will take their pound of flesh, and they will retire to their throne.
Suddenly all KOT are experts and professionals on all subjects. They are activists and lady justice. They are a source of comedic relief as well as unforgiving rage. In equal measure! They will reprimand you, tell you how to live your life, come up with all sorts of memes before you have can ‘hashtag’ anything. They will use pretentious, half-baked information to sound intelligent and can drive you to the edge.
That being said there is a section of KOT that are actual experts, activist or intellects that will send out tweets relevant to a subject. All in all, it’s a fun and enlightening space and KOT forever thrives.
Some #KOT Humour:
After succeeding in forcing NTSA out of the roads #KOT should now focus on forcing banks to let customers have access to toilets
— AbuSakeena (@FauzKhalid) January 10, 2018
— Kenya Car Bazaar™ (@KenyaCarBazaar) January 13, 2018
18. Street Delicacies: Smokies & Egg Pasua
‘Pasua’ means to slice down the middle. This is basically roadside smokies, or boiled egg that sliced down the middle and a local salad known as Kachumbari (Fresh sliced tomatoes and onions plus a little salt) are added. Now that right there is the special part. You can choose for your salad to have a little pepper too then you snack away. It’s also quite an inexpensive snack.
Smokies & Egg Pasua
19. Wildlife conservation
Kenya has committed to the conservation of wildlife and to prevent poaching through the Kenya Wildlife Service and other public and private organisations. Wildlife is an important part of Kenya’s story and is a big tourist attraction. The efforts to end poaching and trade in ivory have been particularly helped to safeguard lives of elephants and even rhinos. These efforts make us proud.
Elephant Orphanage Wildlife Conservation
20. Food Culture
The food space in Kenya is pretty diverse. There are plenty of established restaurants offering Kenyan cuisines as well as smaller informal hotels locally known as ‘Kibanda’ that are usually cheaper. Roadside bites are also pretty popular where you can grab snacks like cassava, roasted corn on the cob and boiled eggs. Popular Kenyan food items include Ugali (corn meal) with green vegetables and Githeri (meal of maize and beans)
21. Kenyan Music
There are so many Kenyan Musicians that bring us pride that it would be impossible to list all of them. Many have won awards internationally for their music. Some who have created a buzz recently include Sauti Sol and Nyashinski. The Moipei quartet has also performed in major events all over the world.
22. Prime Time News
In most Kenyan households the news, more so the 7 o’clock and 9 pm news, are somewhat of a ritual. By then most people are at home and all tuned in to catch up on the day’s developments. This also sets the pace for the following day’s street conversations especially on matters to do politics.
23. ‘I have a guy!’ – Kenyans have a guy for everything!!
In fact, this is a freshly minted modern day Kenyan proverb. Whether it’s a movie guy, a guy to supply the alcohol at a party, a guy for the ladies that sources the best ‘camera’ ladies shoes and dresses from the flea market and then they call him to make deliveries and do fittings, a guy to get you cheap tickets, a guy to get the ladies knock off designer bags etc. The guy is always a phone call away.
24. An Undying Giving Spirit.
The Kenyan spirit of selfless giving has been captured and documented many times over. Sometimes, it is in times of distress, grief, and tragedy. When such is the case and Kenyans are called upon, often via an M-Pesa Paybill Number announced on Tv, Radio or social media, the response is nothing short of a thing of wonder.
Whether it’s raising money to pay the medical bill of a perfect stranger that runs to the millions, crowdfunding to send a sickly stranger to India for much-needed surgery, raising funds to educate a bright but needy child or raising money to buy foodstuff and other necessities to send to a hunger-stricken area. Kenyans for Kenya is usually the rallying call and through that Paybill number they show up and show out for their fellow country people.
25. ‘Chama’ (Micro-savings Groups)
You are not doing life right if you don’t belong to at least one micro-savings group aka Chama. It’s a Kenyan craze and for the most part a good one at that. It’s basically a way to pool and invest financial resources and has been embraced by everyone from the village women, the farmers, suited up men, campus students, colleagues at work, friends, cousins everyone.
They have various formats from merry go rounds, to table system etc. These groups have literally been lifesavers and groundbreakers for lots of Kenyan families and groups. People have used Chama money to pay their kids school fees, furnish their houses, buy a ‘matatu’ for business, start a project, clear a loan, buy land and even finance multimillion projects.
What Make's You Proud to be Kenyan?
We searched high and low to find those gems hat make us uniquely Kenyan! If you have anything to add to the list contact us on social and we'll be glad to add it!
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