Travel: Why We Should Observe Matatu ‘Mat’ Etiquette

Two matatus
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95%. That’s the percentage of Kenyans who use PSV’s every day according to, and I am proudly (okay maybe not so proudly) numbered among them.

Recently I was chilling in a matatu waiting for it to fill up. Open window check. Proper leg room check. The mat fills up, the driver pulls out, turns on the radio and Marion Shako’s Ahadi Zako comes blaring through the speakers.  The woman seated next to me having caught some Holy Ghost fire starts singing along and if you’re thinking she was doing it with her inside voice, you’re wrong. It was like she was auditioning for all of us in the mat. Now it’s been a while since the man upstairs and I spoke but I’ve got to tell you I haven’t prayed for anything this year as hard as I prayed for her not to know the next song(s). My prayers were answered, she did not know any other song and the rest of our ride was nice and quiet. #Blessed. That incident got me thinking about the do’s and don’ts for PSV passengers and here are a few of my thoughts as a veteran of the PSV circuit.

  1. Singing

Don’t sing along to the whole song. You could sing along to bits and pieces of it that really touch you but you’ve got to realize, for the most part, we just want to hear the performer’s voice. Nothing personal. Sometimes we don’t even want to hear that much so maybe just Shazam the song and go sing it at home.

    2. On windows

My sister has a simple rule, if you don’t want to open the window, don’t sit next to the window. Airborne diseases are a real thing and circulation is one of the ways we deal with that. So yes, I’m keeping the window open. Sorry.

    3. On letting other people in

Guys, how is your twenty-something year old self-going to contort yourself so that someone’s grandmother can try to alight without rubbing all of her business on you? It’s a question of respect. It does not cost you anything to alight so that others alight with dignity. R-E-S-P-E-C-T that’s all we need from you.


Two matatus
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   4. One for the drivers and conductors

Drivers please, rubbing your hands all over female passengers’ legs in the name of changing gears when you do not do the same with male passengers. We’re onto you. Also, is it too much to ask that the matatu come to a full stop for passengers to board and alight? All pre-2000 babies remember the PSAs that were on KBSs all over town of the guy alighting from a moving bus and being thoroughly run over. Those lessons have stuck with us. Once again, this is a question of R-E-S-P-E-C-T for passengers and our humanity. For the conductors, it’s been said once it’s been said a thousand times, I’m using a mat so duh I’m broke! Stop pretending you’ve forgotten about my change or you’re looking for it. We both know better.

5.  Manspreading:

This is me saving the best for last. I have a whole rant on this but in the interest of keeping it PG-13, I’ll say this, do you know how matatu chairs clearly have lines demarcating one seat from the next? Use those to know how far you can spread your legs. Pesa yako inaishia hapo kwa hiyo line. Don’t be that guy. We know you have this inexplicable need to I guess air out your junk but the matatu is not the place to do this.

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Writer. Filmmaker. Lover of life, words and rational thinking #Activism.