Local Culture

Kenya has made the brave decision to ban all plastic carrier bags in order to safeguard the environment. Please avoid bringing plastic carriers of any sort with you when you enter the country. NB Plastic Ziploc bags for airport security purposes are fine.

In the main – our visitors experience trouble-free visits. The Nasio Trust is well known and respected in the area – if you are a ‘muzungu’ (European) affiliated to the Trust, then the whole community will have your best interests at heart!

However you should be mindful that you are staying at the heart of a community where many people live their lives in desperate poverty. This can lead to behaviours which are regretful but relatively commonplace, such as low-level thefts of small items. Alcoholism and substance abuse are also common. You should take out comprehensive travel insurance to cover your time in Kenya.

When out and about, keep a close eye on money, phones, cameras etc – it’s best simply to keep these out of sight as much as you are able to. For your own peace of mind, it is sensible to avoid wearing flashy accessories – jewellery, watches, sunglasses – while on placement.

It’s always sensible in any country where you are unfamiliar with the culture/language to observe a ‘buddy-buddy’ system when out and about. Local staff and volunteers are always happy to accompany you to the market/supermarket and can help to make sure you are not tricked into paying more than you should.

Please be aware of conmen (and women!) You may be approached in the street by individuals telling you stories designed to elicit money from you – a classic trick is to ask for ‘sponsorship’ so that they can reach relatives in England/the US etc. Under no circumstances should you give them money or make any promises to do so!

While in the guesthouse, keep money and valuables inside your rooms. There is a safe in ‘Melsa’ room which all guests can use subject to negotiation with the room’s occupants. The Nasio Trust will not be held liable for any loss or damage to property during your stay.

Although most people speak some English (and some people speak it very well!), the ‘lingua franca’ is Bantu language Swahili – this is the language most people use day-to-day, as well as local languages Luyha and Luo. To make sure that you are understood, please speak slowly, calmly and clearly and repeat as necessary. Getting frustrated will not make anyone understand you any better! Local staff and volunteers are always available and willing to translate if necessary – please just ask. You may even decide to learn a few words of Swahili during your stay – here are a few to get you started!

Hello Jambo (response: Jambo)
Hi/How’s it going? Mambo/Sasa (response: ‘poa!’)
How are you/what news? Habari/Habari yako? (response: ‘mzuri!’)
All (very) good/fine Mzuri (sana)
Please Tafadhali
Thank you (so much) Asante (sana)
Welcome/you’re welcome Karibu
Repeat/say that again Rudia/Tena
What are you doing/up to? Unafanya nini?
Where are you going? Pesa ngapi?
What time is it? Saa ngapi?
Let’s play football! Tucheze mpira
I’m tired Ni me choka
I’m hungry/thirsty Ni me shiba/Ni na kiwi
Goodbye Kwaheri


Local religions are Christianity and Islam. Most people are very religious – you will often hear services and calls to prayer while you are here. You may be asked what religion you are, and even invited to pray. Whatever your personal religious beliefs, we would ask you to be respectful of others’ and to participate as far as you feel comfortable. Please try to avoid inflammatory conversations about religion or politics if your views differ from your hosts’ – you are a guest in the country and here to learn.

The local culture is very strict in terms of dress codes. Women – please avoid wearing anything too revealing, including plunging necklines, short shorts or tops that reveal too much of your back and shoulders. For church services, please cover your shoulders. Men – please keep your tops on and dress your lower half to avoid anything ‘jangling!’ Please help us avoid unnecessary complaints from the community.

Yes. Please note that it is a legal requirement in Kenya to carry ID with you at all times. All Kenyans have ID cards – for tourists, a passport will suffice. If you are travelling to/from Kisumu, you are very likely to pass through police check points where your vehicle will be stopped and you will be asked to produce your ID. Failure to do so can result in delays and even fines!

Be mindful of local cultural sensitivities when interacting with children, particularly in relation to physical contact. For example, while a child in the UK might feel comfortable kissing you on the cheek or having you kiss them, this is a complete cultural no-no here. If you are unsure as to what’s appropriate and what’s not, then it’s best to ask.

Pleas avoid swearing – particularly in front of the children!

Cultural perceptions around alcohol are very different in Kenya. Many people you will be working with do not drink for cultural and religious reasons. Kenyan visitors to the guesthouse will often expect to be met in an alcohol-free environment.

Therefore we ask that (assuming you’re old enough to drink alcohol in your home country) all visitors kindly drink alcohol only in the dining hall – it’s also acceptable to drink in the cottages, as long as you have obtained the occupant’s permission! The living room is an alcohol-free quiet room for reading, journal-writing, chatting, and for meeting visitors to the guesthouse.

Smoking in Kenya in public places (such as streets, markets, schools etc) is prohibited. The Chief’s guesthouse is a ‘No Smoking’ zone – if you need to smoke, please do so outside the guesthouse in the designated smoking area (behind Exit 7).

Don’t do drugs – EVER. You will be asked to return immediately to the UK.