5 Phrases That Are Distinctly Kenyan

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The Kenyan people have to undoubtedly be one of the most creative, ingenious, funny and greatest people in the world. Like the saying goes, East, West, home is best. We in Kenya have a vibrant social culture, littered with humorous everyday phrases and sayings that are distinctly our own which help to identify us both locally and beyond the borders of our country. Here are a few of those phrases.

  1. Njaanuary

This is a perennial, ever-present phrase on the lips of Kenyans, year in year out. It signifies the hardships that come with the first month of the year, January, mostly due to the lavish and often exuberant lifestyles most Kenyans treat themselves to in December. The ever so present festive mood that’s always there in December sips a little bit too deep into Kenyans’ minds as they go absolutely crazy with their spending habits. From week-long drinking sprees to road trips upcountry, to hosting of very exorbitant get-togethers, Kenyans almost forget that January is right around the corner, bearing harsh responsibilities such as utility bills, rent and the most feared of them all, school fees. Nonetheless, this term has come to symbolise the perennial struggle of getting through the month of January with limited or almost zero finances.

  • Aki hii jua ni ya mvua.

This is arguably the most common and hilarious of the bunch. Every single time that the sun is out and completely shining, Kenyans automatically, through some unknown but definitely hilarious process, suddenly become meteorologists and weather experts. Every single time that there is blazing sunshine, the streets are littered with comments like, ‘hii itanyesha baadaye’ and ‘mvua enye itaanguka leo’ among others. The funniest bit, however, is the near accuracy of this assertion, because more often than not, it does actually rain (even if it’s just a slight drizzle) when Kenyans get their weatherman on. So the next time you hear this phrase, you might actually want to pay a bit of attention to it.

  1. Tao mbao.

This is another common phrase distinctly founded by our ever so creative brothers of the Matatu Industry. Every stage within every hood is littered with this phrase on an almost daily basis. It is usually a very familiar song, sang repeatedly by touts, in an almost coordinated way, at the stage as they compete for passengers amongst themselves, to ferry into the city’s CBD. Woe unto you though if you actually board a matatu believing the mbao being shouted is the actual fare price to town, as our brothers of the matatu industry are known to be very unscrupulous, so it is one phrase to take with a bit of salt.

  1. Tuma na ya kutoa.

This is another hilarious one, referencing the popular Kenyan mobile money transfer service, M-Pesa. Every single time that you’ll want to send money to anybody, be it a friend, colleague, or even a stranger, chances are that you’ll be met with this phrase. There is something about Kenyans and not wanting to ‘break’ the original amount being sent, or not wanting to foot the withdrawal costs of the transaction, albeit the transaction cost being a mere twenty-seven shillings, for the most common transaction bracket.

  1. Mtaachana tu/wataachana tu.

This one is a little bit more cynical but hilarious nonetheless. There’s nothing Kenyans enjoy more than a good gossip session, where this phrase could freely be found in abundance. It is used to express cynicism over a new relationship, mostly during gossip sessions and could come in various variations such as, ‘haitapita miezi mbili’ or ‘wakitoboa ni Mungu tu’. Although founded on petty traits such as jealousy, it is still a hilarious phrase and has become a steady part of Kenyan’s conversation, especially during gossip sessions.

Speaking of lines here are 6 types of Team Mafisi you will meet in Nairobi

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