Kenya vis Norway part 2

In the first part of my comparison between Kenya and Norway, I focused on some eleven elementary things that, in my perspective, were pertinent to one’s appreciation of the two countries.
whatMany issues were raised due to the last article; and so today, I want to attempt twelve more aspects to shed more light on this great comparison. I still want to reiterate that this are simply facts as per my opinion… I’d say this is a likeness of putting these two countries on a seesaw balance…

  1. Language variety: Norway has Norwegian as the main language; this is what is taught and used in schools all the way from elementary to university, at least until third year of study. In some few cases (where international students are involved), there are fields of study at the university in which English is fully used. This implies that even though English is taught at school, it is not regularly practiced. Thus, it won’t be shocking to hear a Norwegian shy away from using English for lack of confidence to speak it. In Kenya, on the other hand, both English and Swahili are nationally acclaimed as official. They are taught and used all the way from elementary school to university. English is, however, pretty dominant as all the subjects of study are taught in English except Swahili. Thus, most Kenyans tend to be relatively poor in spoken Swahili relative to English. One very interesting twist is the emergence of a third language called Sheng. This is the youths’ way of communication and is a dynamic derivative of the two national languages and some of the local (tribal) languages, making it very lucrative to learn and try. In addtion to this, every Kenyan has a native language that they locally use; at least when in the village. It is, thus, very common for a youthful Kenyan to have a command of four languages. This variety of langauge is very colorful… 😉
  2. Education system: Kenya has an education system called 8-4-4 simply meaning that a child spends 8 years in primary school, 4 years in high school and 4 years in university. University education has become the in-thing for most Kenyan youths, especially with the desire to get a good form of employment. Education in primary school is basic; information starts building up and getting quite specific in high school. Inasmuch as most bachelors degree programs take 4 years; engineering takes 5 while medicine and architecture each takes 6 years for attainmnet of a similar degree. Norwegian education system, on the other hand, is such that a child takes 7 years in primary school, 6 years in high school and 5 years in university (I guess we could call it 7-3-3-5). The remarkable thing about this system is that high school is split into two parts: lower and upper high school. It is not necessarily compulsory to go to upper high school; as someone may choose to forfeit their studies and focus on learning a craft that may come in handy in facilitating their upkeep and livelihood after. Furthermore, there is room for those who clear high school to have a one-year break to do whatever they want away from studying. So, most young Norwegians learn how to play musical instruments, go hiking and traveling, among many other adventurous activities. Both upper and lower high schools take 3 years each. University takes 5 years, but one could stop after three years to earn their bachelors degree. If they clear the five years, they get a Masters degree without a bachelors…
  3. Richness in food: Norway has quite a variety of food. While here, I have gotten the privilege of feasting on different delicacies ranging from fårikål (mutton stew), to kjøttkaker (meatcakes), to kjøttboller (meatballs), and to sodd (soup with meatballs). All of these foods are mainly eaten with potatoes. As such, the common dinner dish is potatoes served with something; whereas bread is served for breakfast and for lunch mainly as matpakke which can be eaten anywhere… Pig, fish and sheep meat is quite dominant; with notable absence of goat meat. The various meats are present in Kenya with goats, sheep, cows, pig and even game meat. In addtion, the mode of preparation varies greatly. Whereas boiling is readily used in Norway, frying, roasting and smoking are common modes in Kenya. Of all this, I think the fact that most of the Kenyan food is fresh is very laudable. Most of the Norwegian foods are canned ready for cooking. As such, the food in Norway usually takes a maximum of 15 minutes. Whereas rice is mainly eaten white in Norway, rice in Kenya is eaten in many forms. It can be eaten in a special form called pilau; which is a blend of meat, rice and some special spice. And it is quite something! This is one meal that most tourists end up loving so much. And of course there is chapati (harder pancake) made from wheat flour; eaten with any stew ranging from lentils to green grams (mung beans) or any meat. 😉
  4. Hospitality: Norway has a keen focus on completion of tasks and the keeping of time in everything that is done. Kenyans are more into the events and the people. As such, relationships are very crucial in Kenya. A Kenyan will endeavor to defend the relationship with a friend at the expense of a task. I remember in one sitting at Hald, we were given this task in combined groups. I got to sit with some Norwegian girls. When we sat down, one of them took the lead and everyone was focused on completing the task in the given time; while I desired that at least, we finish the task but also get to know each other; now that we were still new to each other. I was shocked when on finishing the task, every Norwegian was standing up and leaving!!! 🙂 There’s no emphasis on relationships when it comes to meeting targets and fulfilling given roles and expectations. A Kenyan will take you in, want to know how you are doing… Even on a bus, it is very easy to begin a conversation with a Kenyan; something that is ordinarily very difficult with a Norwegian.
  5. Cost of living: Norway has one of the highest cost of living in the world (http://www.numbeo.com/cost-of-living/rankings_by_country.jsp). It is quite difficult to live on a meager salary within this nation. As such, despite earning much, one ends up spending a lot for some of the most crucial services and products. When compared to Kenya, I think the Kenyan spending will definitely be a drop in the ocean… 😉 Taking a loaf of bread for example costs from NOK20 to 34 and this is about KES280 to 476; which is nearly 10 times the current cost in Kenya. It is much easier to live in Kenya despite earning less. I have seen this evident among some visitors from other countries when they are shocked at how cheap things are in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi. A great cup of mocha coffee goes for about KES600 in Nairobi Java house (an equivalent goes for about KES4600 in a related cafe in Norway)… 🙂
  6. Weather: Kenya has a very stable and predictable weather. Being equatorial, there are equal days and equal nights; something that is a bit far-fetched in Norway. The seasons experienced in Kenya are more into the rainy and dry times; but the sun is always present. As such, the sun is largely used as an indicator for time; the clock is not a common phenomenon. People can actually tell the time by looking at the length of their shadows. In Norway, there are four seasons; all connected to the presence of the sun. Apparently, even in the summer, which ought to be the hottest, the sun is still not as hot as that in Kenya. Ordinarily, there can be the sun up high but without any warmth from it. This was a bit frustrating for me, especially now that I am aware of the importance of vitamin D from the sun’s rays. It is impossible to bask in the sun in Norway in any other time except in July (hottest summer month)…
  7. Beautiful nature: Norway has some amazing sceneries especially of the fjords; with outstanding fish life and the colorful northern lights. Kenya has a great nature too, with sizzling sand beaches; the wonderful Great riftvalley that one can enjoy from an escarpment; the high mountains including Mt Kenya (5199m high) and Mt Kilimanjaro  (5895m high) on the border. There are great coffee and tea plantations which are amazing to behold in Kenya…
  8. Animal life: Kenya has a very rich animal life. It is known to have all the big five comprising the lion, rhino, elephant, leopard, and buffalo. This is complemented by the presence of so many other animals that make Kenya a spectacle to behold. The presence of the tall giraffes to the chattering monkeys to the beautiful zebras and then the lovely wildebeests all make Kenya a preferred destination. Then the large hippos in the water, the fast cheetahs and the cunning hyenas in the savannas remain significantly visible. It is simply a profound blessing to behold all these in addition to the majestic flamingoes on Lake Nakuru. The fact that some of these animals can be encountered in forests locally available makes it even more adventurous. Seeing the gazelles and dikdiks grazing while appreciating the outstanding bird melodies from the sky is a wonderful view. 😉 Norway, conversely, also has some animal life. Given the coldness of the country, it is even difficult to find insects!!! This necessitates the presence of seals, crabs (including the giant ones) and whales… While in Kenya, the butterflies, locusts and crickets make the sceneries awesome.
  9. Social life: Norwegians are generally focused people. It is possible to meet a Norwegian and think they are smiling at you; only to be disappointed onwards. It is very common for them to express their politeness with a smile. This was  my first reality with culture shock in Norway when I encountered this lady on the road walking her dog; and then she smiled at me!! I was really glad, then I smiled back only to see her look away and pull her dog along… It is very common to find Kenyans not necesarily smiling but willing to talk. They are happy people; exuding with life!! 🙂 They have this enthusiasm of facing the next day that at times you may be shocked at what exactly drives them. It is very normal to meet a very poor person; one who has no idea what they will eat in the next meal, but yet very happy at what they have already gotten…
  10. Gratitude: Norwegians have a polite way of simply expressing their gratitude by giving simple gifts. In fact, giving a Norwegian a special treat will warrant an inquisition into why that happened!! The presence of great wealth, I think, has somehow altered their model of gratitude and spirit of thankfulness. In Kenya, most people are very grateful for everything including the very basic things that one may easily forget to mention. A Kenyan will typically be grateful for that meal they receive, no matter how meager it may be. They will be thankful for their families and for the gifts they receive without asking how much it may have cost… 🙂
  11. Cultural diversity: Kenya has 42 tribes most of which still have variations due to sub-tribes; adding richness to the diversity of culture that is present. Despite the intrusion of westernization, there are lots of cultural chunks and realities back in the villages. It is amazing to hear people express themselves differently; it makes it look spectacular. And seeing the values that every tribe attaches to the things that matter to it; their heritage and origin, makes it just splendid. In addition to all this, noting that these varied people can still understand each other by the use of Swahili, English and, sometimes, by the derived slang called Sheng makes it outstanding. Norway has a narrower scope; they speak a similar language with variations in pronunciations and emphases on the grammar hence differences only in dialects. All of them have very many common facts that when put together, it is more similarities as opposed to differences.
  12. Sports and games: Being an outdoor lot, most Norwegians love to play some kind of sport. They are renowned for cross-country skiing; given the availability of snow. Despite all that, soccer is the most popular sport in Norway. I guess this is similar for Kenya especially when it comes to football. Kenya thrives best in athletics; it has produced some of the very best athletes in middle and long-distance races. Some of the world records in those races are held by Kenyans; and this makes them very proud. Kenya also performs very well in volleyball continentally; as well as in rugby, a sport that has been greatly gaining fame in the past few years.
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8 comments on “Kenya vis Norway part 2

    • Yes Dominic; every thing in this life has a good and a bad side. Kenya may not be the best country in the world, but it has lots of desirable things… And the same applies to Norway. 🙂

  1. A fantastic comparative analysis of the two countries. You have a keen eye on what sets us apart. Thanks bro for presenting the literature. I wish you a successful 2014

  2. Having read this, I look even more forward to visit Kenya in March! Very good observations and reflections, Simiyu!

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