By Bernard Wainaina
Whenever I travel outside my country,Kenya,I’m always surprised by how the rest of the world sees us.
In other words,the Kenyan stereotype.
Recently,when I visited DR Congo on a tour of duty,a lady serving at a local food stall sidled up to my table after serving my lunch and asked me without any preamble; “How many miles do you run each morning?”
I was shocked by her brave intrusiveness.
When I recovered,I meekly told her that the last time I ran was during my high school cross country races which I hated very much,but they were compulsory,all the same.
She didn’t look very satisfied with my answer.
“But you look thin and athletic”.She egged me on.
I honestly didn’t know what to tell her after that.
You see,Kenya is known for successive generations of marathon champions in world races.
The rest of the world seems to think that every other Kenyan is an athlete!
And that was not enough; a white lady colleague during the duration of my stay offered me a package in a recycled carton of biscuits,and told me to take it to “my wife”.
“What is in the box? I was curious.
“Oh-some undies that I don’t want to fly out of here with”. She replied.
Now,at my age,she assumed I had wife,and a big family that was probably in need of clothes.
Kenya,according to WHO statistics has been topping the list of “high fertility and unsustainable population growth”.
I presume this is what informed her decision to donate clothes for “my exploding family”.
All over the world,people have formed stereotypes about other people,and most international interactions are usually based on this stereotypes.
Listen to my taxi driver in Kinshasha literally driving home this stereotype point;
“I can get you a girl to warm your bed tonight;I know Kenyan men like ‘Nyama Choma” (roasted meat) and young girls. Do you want a good girl?”
Me; “No. I already have a young girl who is only 22 years old,very loving,very beautiful; she is my daughter!”
Driver; “I mean one that you can take back to your hotel room”.
Me; “Would you mind if I first consulted someone about this?”
Driver; “Not at all. Let me know about this arrangement after you have consulted”.
He was just not going to give up so easily.
He was probably a pimp,and his cut meant more to him than my screaming morals.
Anyway,I did consult,after all.
I whatsapped my daughter back in Nairobi,breaking the ice first about this uncomfortable topic with a “Hi”.
One hour later,only one tick still displayed in my sent message.
Four hours later,two blue ticks and a reply;
“Hi dad,how was your day?”
Me; “very fine,very interesting!”
Daughter; “Interesting like how,Dad?”
Me; ” I don’t know how I should tell you this,but do you remember the many conversations we’ve had about how you should relate with men,taking care of yourself,I mean?”
Daughter; “Yes Dad,but pliz,let’s not go over that again tonight,pliz.”
Me; “I’m afraid we will have to,Liza,but this time,it is about me”.
Daughter;” What has happened Dad? Shoot!”
Me; “It is like this, Liza, this afternoon,when I was being driven back to my hotel room,my Taxi driver offered to get me a young girl for the night”.
One hour later; “did you take up that offer,Dad?”
Daughter; “Thank you Dad,and please take care of yourself!”
Conversation muted from her end.
This conversation must have been nerve-racking for my daughter.
We have talked many times with my daughter about morals,her morals,but never my morals.
She also doesn’t seem to buy the idea of stereotype of “Kenyan men” always wanting “young nubile escort girls,at least,not about her dad.
But who I’m I to argue about the Kenyan stereotype.
I googled “Kenyan stereotype” after this disconcerting episode,and here is what I got from ‘QUORA’;
»Question”How is the stereotype of people from Kenya?
Doesn’t have to be right, it’s just a stereotype. Also;
-include stereotypical physical appearance if exist.
-Factual information is easy to get, but cultural info
e.g. stereotypes are hard to analyse.
Cultural stereotype gives insight not only about the stereotyped society, but also the society who
and remember, it’s just a stereotype, doesn’t have to be right, and please don’t get emotional over stereotype”.
Best Answer;”Best Answer: They are very friendly, welcoming, and family oriented.
The women work very hard all day long, washing, cooking, pretty much doing everything. The guys have a lot more free time.
They are proud of Obama – he’s Kenyan!
The kids are very good students and get excited
about learning even though the resources aren’t
A lot of Kenyans will have multiple boyfriends or girlfriends.
This doesn’t necessarily mean they’re sleeping together, often they don’t even live in the same city but someone will say “yeah, I have three
The food is pretty basic but the Kenyans love their ‘ugali'(Maize meal Cake). It’s the national food. Most foreigners aren’t huge fans of ‘ugali’, chapatti’s more palatable.
They love sugary things like children – chocolate, soda, especially Fanta. A
lot of Kenyans think cheese is disgusting.
Kenyans are crazy drivers. They also prefer to drive over walking. I’ve never seen a Kenyan out for a jog.
Kenya is very multicultural so everyone has
stereotypes about other groups. For example, the Kikuyu are business people and the Kikuyu women are the hardest to handle! Luhya women are loyal and if their husbands are difficult they will stand by them anyway. The Maasai are the most trustworthy, you can feel very safe in Maasailand. Maasai women
have crazy earrings and jewellery and the men are quite noticeable. People from the coast are really relaxed and friendly. Anyone not from Nairobi will tell you that the city is full of thieves, someone could steal from you and no one will care. Kenyans don’t always trust Somalis.
Kenyans also stereotype white people, believing that we are all rich and well-educated. As for rich, well, most foreigners in Kenya are, so they’re right on target there.
A mix of my own generalizations and stereotypes I
heard while in Kenya by Ryemtl ·
Answer two;”A Kenyan is a party animal who loves beer and nyama choma for a general kenyan, when you go to tribes the luos are
known to be proud and gives ladies a treat of their life, Obama is a luo. The luhyas are known for their love of Ugali and Kuku (maize meal taken with chicken) Kikuyus for their love of money. If you are in kenya just drop a shilling and those who will turn to look at it are kikuyus. kambas for their love for witchcraft.”
for more about kenya http://
Answer three; “They run fast in Track and Field events because back at home, they have to run from cheetahs and avoid getting trampled by zebras”.
Stereotypes. Not Facts.
Answer four “They get elected President of the USA”
I bet stereotype is the way the rest of the world sees us,no matter the factual truth.
I’m glad that my daughter does not share this view about me as a “Kenyan man” with the rest of the world!
Bernard Wainaina is an Independent Agribusiness Advisor and CEO at Profarms Consultants®,Nairobi,Kenya.
He mainly works with Agribusiness Youth Groups in Eastern African Region.
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