Kenyans adopt new greeting habits amid Covid-19 pandemic

Wednesday June 03 2020

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto cemented the greeting in Kenya's formal circles on Monday when they used it during Madaraka Day celebrations in Nairobi. PHOTO | PSCU


As Covid-19 cases take an upward trend in Kenya, reaching 2,093 on Tuesday, citizens are adopting new greeting habits, such as elbow bumps, which are helping people socialize as they maintain hygiene and keep social distance to curb the spread of the disease.

With handshakes, hugs, cheek kisses and shoulder bumps among other forms of salutations dead, thanks to the new coronavirus disease pandemic, new forms of greetings considered safer are taking root in Kenya, both in official and informal circles.

One such a greeting that is taking Kenya by storm is elbow bump as citizens consider it much safer.

From the old to the young, men and women, elbow bumps have now become the official greetings of Kenyans both in formal and informal settings like homes.

President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto cemented the greeting in Kenya's formal circles on Monday when they used it during Madaraka Day celebrations at State House.

Wearing masks, clenching their fists and smiling, Kenyatta and Ruto bumped their elbows to greet each other.


Their greeting did not only acknowledge the popularity of the salutation amid the pandemic, but it also confirmed to citizens that they can use it.

Several dignitaries at the event that was attended by few government officials and opposition leaders also used the elbow bump to greet each other.

"I have been using the elbow bump since last month, some people have been comfortable with it, others are not, avoiding contact but when I saw the president use it on Monday, I felt happy, that this is the greeting for those of us who are used to handshakes," said Gilbert Wandera, a businessman in Nairobi.

Wandera, who sells computers, had shunned any form of contact greeting when the disease broke out to maintain hygiene.

"But I changed my mind as people embraced face masks and other sanitation measures. Besides, elbow bumps are a little safer because chances that you will touch your face with the elbow are nil," he said.

The greeting has also been embraced in households, corporate offices, operators of public transport vehicles commonly known as matatus, commuters, motorbike taxi riders and traders among others as it quenches citizens' thirst to shake hands.

Besides elbow bumps, other forms of greetings that Kenyans are using include foot taps and hand on my heart, what the World Health Organization recommends. But these are not as popular as elbow bumps.

Another culture that has taken root in the east African nation, thanks to the pandemic is the wearing of face masks. Initially, wearing of masks was seen as a mark of style mainly done by the sophisticated or wealthy, but it has now been embraced by all citizens, with thousands hardly venturing out of their houses without the gadget.

"I am also finding myself maintaining the 1.5m social distance in public places naturally. No one is reminding me to keep distance in supermarkets, at ATMs, in public transport vehicles or in the office. And this is what many other people are doing. It is now a culture that is helping curb the disease," said Victoria Selima, a government auditor.

Initially, funerals in the east African nation would attract hundreds of people, some who would stay at the affected families' homes for days mourning.

But with Covid-19, citizens have learnt to keep away from the events without being forced by government officials, noted Victor Mulanda, who traveled to western Kenya on Monday from the capital for a funeral.

Rashid Aman, Kenya's health chief administrative secretary, noted Tuesday that citizens must be responsible and embrace new norms to beat the disease that is currently deeply entrenched in community across the east African nation.