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Business etiquette in Kenya

All countries have their own specific habits and customs for carrying out business transactions, or holding meetings, and Kenya is no exception to this. Here are our business etiquette tips:

  • When meeting your business hosts, now’s the time to try out your Swahili greeting – a simple ‘Jambo’ will be appreciated. It’s good manners to shake hands with everyone and address all by their full name, unless a more informal approach is suggested by your hosts. Eye contact is important.
  • No matter how frustrating, small talk is obligatory. You may be used to meetings having a set agenda and coming to the point quickly — this isn’t the Kenyan way, and your hosts will be offended if you try to speed up the meeting. Kenya’s politics are complex and a topic best avoided; you might insult someone, and that’s the last thing that you want to do.
  • Despite the heat, you’ll soon notice that business attire is relatively formal – this applies to both men and women.
  • Punctuality is important, despite the myth about the fluidity of ‘Kenyan time’.
  • When striking a deal, expect to haggle but always keep your cool during the process. Raised voices aren’t appreciated.

National holidays

Different parts of Kenya celebrate different holidays. In the Muslim eastern area, Eid and Ramadan are honoured, Christmas and Easter are public holidays throughout the country, and national holidays marking Kenya’s independence are also kept.

National holidays include:

  • 1 May – Labour Day
  • 1 June – Madaraka Day (celebrating internal self-rule)
  • 20 October – Mashujaa Day (commemoration for the struggle for independence)
  • 12 December – Jamhuri Day (Kenya’s Republic Day)

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