Yes, we're still working our way around the globe!
In our previous Friday blogs about cross-cultural gifting, we've established why finding a gift for your friends from other lands can be a minefield of potential social and cultural faux pas. Stick with us and we'll help you avoid such frustrations... this week in Kenya, since our tour group has been visiting that country this month.
Generally speaking, Kenyans are a welcoming people.Whatever you give as a gift will be accepted with joy and pleasure. And they usually reciprocate thoughtfully and generously -- in a way that the recipient is left humbled.
That being said, your choice of gifts will depend on how well you know the host. It also depends on their circumstances. Some good choices for personal gifts include:
- Crockery, mugs
- Photo frames
- Photographic calendars
- Cultural gifts from your country (baseball caps, team t-shirts, sports equipment, food items that are unique to your home region).
- Small electronic items
- Books and cookbooks
As far as African countries go, Kenya can be considered very progressive. A great many business etiquette protocols overlap with the standard Western expectations, with few exceptions. The lax African approach to punctuality is a pervasive stereotype — which unfortunately has its roots in truth, especially in social situations. Kenyan business meetings will largely keep to the clock, however.
Business Gift Giving:
Discretion is key. Gifts are generally not expected as a normal part of business relations, and you are by no means required to provide one. Exceptions can be made for the holiday season at the end of the year, usually between Christmas and New Years Day, when business partners may send each other tokens of appreciation. These gifts are normally exchanged between high-ranking officials and executives. When presenting a business gift, it should be made very clear that the gifts are from you as a representative of your organization.
Appropriate Business Gifts:
- Gift baskets of fruits and other foods
- Hissing (“Tsss!”) is an ordinary way to attract a stranger’s attention, though less common in more sophisticated urban situations. You may get a fair bit of it yourself, and it’s quite in order to hiss at the waiter in a restaurant: it won’t cause any offence.
- If you’re asking questions, avoid yes/no ones, as answering anything in the negative is often considered impolite. And when making enquiries, try not to phrase your query in the negative (“Isn’t the bus leaving?”) because the answer will often be “Yes” (it isn’t leaving).
- It’s good to be aware of the "left-hand rule." Traditionally the left hand is reserved for unhygienic acts and the right for eating and touching or passing things to others.
- Unless you’re looking for a confrontation, never point with your finger, which is equivalent to an obscene gesture.
- The Maasai people of Kenya actually spit on the items they intend to give as gifts. The tribespeople do this out of respect for each other. Spitting is interpreted as a blessing, not as an insult. They spit on people they meet; on newborn babies; on newlyweds; on newly acquired property.
There are lots of other #funfacts to learn as our blog treks around the globe. Join us here next Friday as we discuss gift giving in Hong Kong!