The United States and Kenya differ greatly in cultural powers. The United States values the well-being of its people, though it is in a more individualistic sense. The Unites States believes in democracy and that following rules and set contracts are important. Also, doing one task and doing it correctly are also important. On the other hand, Kenya values the well being of the environment. They also believe that the country and its tribes are more successful as a whole, but power should be distributed by age and status. Personal relationships are valued more than written contracts, and multitasking to get things done on your own time is very important.
In order for one to understand the differences in the feel of the culture of the United States and of Kenya, it’s necessary to understand the norms of each culture. In this case, we’ll look specifically at the behavior of business meetings in each country. In the United States, it’s fairly understood that people greet each other with handshakes and then proceed to cut straight to business. While someone may ask questions about the other person, in the United States these questions are generally out of courtesy and last for short amounts of time due to the extreme focus on business. A large part of this lack of personable meetings comes from our individualistic culture. In Kenya, however, they tend to be more collectivistic, with more focus on families. Even though they have the same greeting style (a handshake), they purposely go around with every person in the room and have genuine, personable conversations regarding that person’s health and family. As such, they are substantially less direct with their approach to business—they focus on relationships first. Additionally, unlike the United States, they place low importance on being punctual. Even in business meetings, it’s extremely common for one to show up extremely late (sometimes hours). This results in a different “feel” of the culture. For example, a person from the United States may feel uncomfortable in a business meeting that places low emphasis on the actual business and high emphasis on the relationships of the people. Conversely, a person from Kenya may feel insulted or out of place at a meeting in the United States in which there is low focus on relationships and high focus on business. In order to successfully do business in each country, it’s necessary to be aware of the different “feel” of the culture.
The cultural can be additionally described by examining its music. Music in Kenya is very traditional in the sense that it uses drums, humming, lyres, flutes, and guitars. Traditional music in Kenya has had to make way for a movement of more modern music such as rap, hip-hop, and reggae. Many artists in Kenya are known for missing these genres together. One famous artist in Kenya, Suzanna Owioy, is known for her performances of traditional and modern music. She has received various nominations for her music and in 2011 was awarded the Order of the Grand Warrior of Kenya by the Kenyan president.
Equal to music in importance, the sights of Kenya are also a part of its culture. Not to be confused with geography, these sights are cultural due to their meaning to the locals. Kenya’s economy relies heavily on tourism and their Nations Park Services is what bring two thirds of tourism each year. Kenya may still be very well undeveloped but they are known for their beautiful sceneries in their parks. Kenya has 40 different parks that you can visit all are abundant with wildlife. In 2013, Kenya’s government established a state of emergency because of local tribes causing threats and violence to the city. This hurt Kenya’s economy overall because people were being told not to come visit the parks because the country was unsafe for travel. The most talked about park is Mount Kenya, which use to be an active volcano. Local tribes call Mount Kenya the Holy Mountain. Overall, Kenya may be considered a undeveloped country, but their parks are some of the pretties in the world and are adored by the locals.
Kenya is a multiracial society, and the food reflects the different types of lifestyles that are in Kenya. Kenya’s food is known to be simple and wholesome. So it’s not very complicated, but it can be very filling. One lifestyle is called Maassai. The maassai are cattle herders. They only live off the livestock, and they do not hunt for wild game or fish. Western Kenya is near the coast, which also means they are close to Lake Victoria. People in western Kenya eat fish because they live on the coast. Additionally, there’s a group of “traditional” Kenyans who eat essentially anything and everything.
As we remember from the political presentations, Kenya’s culture can be measured through Hofstede’s dimensions. We will use what we already know about these to guide us through Trompenaar’s dimensions. In Hofstede’s dimensions, Kenya rests higher on the Power Distance scale around a 70. This means that, as a country, they accept that there is an unequal distribution of power and inherently understand that there is a hierarchical governmental system. Subordinates expect to be instructed on what to do because everybody has their place. However, cultural changes are omnipresent. For example, women within the Samburu tribe created a women’s rights group in Northern Kenya. This has caused an uproar within the walls of their people. The next rating places Kenya at a 25 on the individualism scale. This ultimately mean Kenyans’ are—as stated previously—collectivists, who take pride in relationships and doing well for the group of people for which they are a member of. Promotions in the workplace can happen because of these family connections. As far as the third dimension, masculinity, Kenya was placed around 60, meaning that both countries tend to value winning and achieving success in life, more than complete job satisfaction. The 4th and final dimension I will mention is uncertainty avoidance, to which Kenya ranks a 50, meaning they are indifferent about planned or unplanned events occurring in the future. These dimensions lay the foundation for what really should be addressed for Kenya and that is Trompenaar’s dimensions. Beginning with the first of seven, Kenya falls under both Universalism and Particularism. While they do tie values and beliefs into work (and life), they also believe relationships are important. The 2nd facet has Kenya as communitarianism based culture where the group is more important than the individual. Kenya, in the third point, is a diffuse culture meaning personal life and work overlap. Relationships are vital to meeting business goals. The next dimension describes Kenya as an emotional culture with body language being an important aspect of conversation, seeing that it typically gives away current emotions. For the 5th dimension, Kenyans operate mostly on ascription, meaning power and title matter, however, this leads to corruption, something Kenya has been fighting for years. Synchronous time is how most of Kenya operates because of the flexibility in the work schedule. However, they are aware of how to meet deadlines and stay on task if a goal depends on it. Lastly is locus of control, in which Kenya has both internal and external qualities. Kenyans believe in achievement and have some self-drive but also need to focus actions on others and need some reassurance.