The African continent is home to a very big diverse population of people who belong to very many different tribes belonging o different ethnic and social groups. A number of these tribes comprises of millions of members while others have only a few thousands. Different countries have different tribes each with unique cultures and customs staying within their national boundaries. Below we have brought you some of the most popular cultural groups found on the continent which you can actually visit while on a Cultural Safari Holiday in Africa.
Where To Go For Cultural Tours in Africa
The Swati People of Swaziland
Also known as the Swazi people, they live on the southern part of the African continent living in countries such as Swaziland, Mozambique as well as South Africa, and to date still uphold their culture and norms. During the fifteenth century, these people migrated from central Africa where they were a section of the Nguni tribe. In 1750 when they arrived in Swaziland, they established their own economical as well as political identity.
Even today, the people of the Swati Kingdom wear their colorful customary dresses, and being a strong patriarchal society, the queen mother may even have more dominance over the king. Actually choosing a next king would be like choosing a new queen mother. There are major distinctions between the social status of the people living in the urban and rural areas. the closer one is to the king, the higher they are in status in their clan.
The Swazi speak a Bantu language with an origin of the Nguni group which is very similar to the Zulu people. It is among the two (2) official languages (Swati and English) spoken in Swaziland and among South Africa’s eleven (11) official languages. The Swazi Language comes in two major variations one being the royal upper-class style that is spoken in most of the parts of Swaziland and the other being the crude style of speaking.
Similar to most tribes across the African continent, the Swazi people have traditional attire which is strange and very unique. Such attires are normally worn on important cultural ceremonies whereas just a few cultures wear their traditional attires daily. Unique about the Swazi people is that they have particular attires specific to every gender as well as age group. Nonetheless, there are some particular clothing only worn during particular traditional ceremonies such as the Incwala and the Umlanga.
The attires worn on a daily basis by the Swazi people on a daily basis are highlighted below:
- The newly born to 3 months old don not wear any clothing other than protective medicines
- 3 months to 3years: the boys wear a small loin skin, whereas the girls wear only have a sting of beads in their waist.
- 3 years to 8 years: the boys wear a loin skin whereas the girls have a skirt made of either cloth or grass, and waist beads.
- 8 to 17 years: the boys wear a loin skin plus a penis-cap
- Unmarried: the men wear loin skins, bead ornaments and cloth whereas the women wear a dress and hold their hair up.
- Married adults: the men wear loin skins and clothes whereas the newly wedded women wear a skin skirt and a skin apron.
The Vadoma – The Ostrich People with Two Toes of Zimbabwe
Also referred to as the Bantwana tribe, the Vadoma people live in the northern part of Zimbabwe, especially in the valley of river Zambezi within Sipolilo district and Urungwe district. Within this native community you will find a number of them that cannot wear shoes because of the nature of their feet; they have just two large toes on each of their foot.
They only have what would be the big toe and the ‘small last’ toe on a normal foot and lack the middle three toes. The two existing toes are bent inwards, and despite the fact that they can walk with such feet, they do so as well as run with some bit of difficulty. However, it’s supposed that these unique feet make them very good tree climbers. According to the tales of the Vadoma elders, they allege that their ancestors whom they believe originated from the stars where bird-like in nature and they reproduced with the early women in that area to get off-springs with such unique feet. The elders maintain that their early ancestors traveled from Sirius a star system and established their first colonies on a planet locally referred to as Liitolafisi in our Solar System.
There is a sizeable number of the vaDoma people with a condition referred to scientifically as ectrodactyly where the three middle toes on the foot are absent while the existing two are curved inwards. And is for that reason that the people of this tribe have been referred to as the ‘Ostrich-Foot’ or Two-Toed’ people. This condition which results from single mutation on chromosome 7 is autosomal dominant. According to reports made on that tribe, it has been found that the people found with that condition are not considered handicapped but rather well integrate into the rest of this native community. Despite the fact that this condition makes them very good tree climbers, it continues to prevail among the vaDoma people and that is mainly because their local traditions forbid them form marrying anyone who is not of their tribe, so intermarriages do not occur among these people.
The vaDoma people are generally an isolated people and consequently the ectrodactyly condition has been maintained among them. For that reason, cases of this small gene-pool can most be found among them than anywhere else across the world. Similarly this condition has also been observed with some members of the Eastern Shona Kalanga community found in Kalahari Desert and because of that it assumed that these two communities could be related in some way.
The Zulu of South Africa
In South Africa, the biggest ethnic group is the Zulu people, and their estimated total population is between 10 and 13 million. During what was known as the great Bantu migration, the Zulu people who were the descendants from the origin of East African moved South on the African continent hundreds of years ago. In the early 19th century, the Zulu under Shaka’s leadership grew into a powerful fearsome empire. The kingdom extensively expanded and greatly contributed to South Africa’s history. To this day the Zulu’s terrifying reputation which was built over time is still present.
Today, the Zulus have evolved into a liberal and modern people. The Zulu have kept their historical and ancestral root connections strong although native clothing are today mainly worn on special occasions. The concept of the Ubuntu is owed to the Zulu people who are generally known to be friendly and kind. Ubuntu states that the people we are is because of the honesty in our relations to people and not because of our characters, thusbringing about relationship significance.
Although they are mainly Christian, the Zulu have kept their belief in Unkulunkulu their superior being whom them they believe is the author of life. Bad or good luck, all fortune or misfortune are credited to the amadlozi or ancient spirits even though Unkulunkulu is isolated and distant. In simple terms, the spirits of the people who died are what they call ancestral spirits especially those who were prosperous and respected during their life time. All the births as well as the marriages of the Zulu people are defined by sacrificial offerings and on a daily basis; they search for an impact on their lives by offering sacrifices to the ancestral spirits.
The people are known for their great skill in crafts work, bead work and weaving. The colorful beads are woven in sophisticated patterns and these are not only traditional useful but can be used for decoration as well. There is meaning in the colors as well as the patterns that is to say if it is a boy, then the symbol is an inverted triangle but a triangle represents a girl. For a married woman, the triangles are linked base to base and for a married man, the triangles are linked tip to tip.
Every color shows an abundance with the paradox of life. The implications are both positive and negative. For instance, the blue color represents request plus loyalty but it also represents hatred and malice the same goes with red which is a symbol for passion and affection as well as heartache and rage. Apart from the symbolism being amazing and useful, it is also rare and complicated. It is hardly surprising that the bead work curios of the Zulu are filled all over the country’s tourist attractions from the cultural villages to the airport curio shops.
The Zulu are a proud people rich a rich culture from the beautiful bead work to pottery, the traditional houses, to the impressive dress code while dancing, these are all worthy exploring. you can also assist in the customary beer brewing. You can get a first-hand experience of their cultural by visiting any of the cultural villages that they have opened for example Shakaland found in KwaZulu Natal. You should keep in mind that the true Zulus are the natives you will encounter on the streets of South Africa as well as the guides at the lodges.
The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania
The Maasai of Kenya and Tanzania inhabit the Great Plains as well as the savannahs of Africa and are usually associated with their red robes. The Maasai are generally tall and are very graceful people. Traditionally their lives are mainly focused on cattle which are their major source of food and highly treasured. Cattle and children are used as a measure of wealth among the Maasai. The Maasai are popular for their lifestyle as great warriors as well as pastoralists who for so many hundreds of years roamed across the plains of east Africa in search for water and grazing pastures for their animals.
The Maasai believe that Maasinta – the very first Maasai received cattle as a parting gift from the sky god ‘Ngai’, who then sent them to earth on a piece of leather. Ever since then, cattle have been considered divine and consecrated and the only thing more precious than cattle is children. Therefore owning a large herd of cattle and having a big number of children is viewed as a sign of wealth among the Maasai who are generally a polygamous people.
In the past, popular parks like the Maasai Mara, Ngorongoro, Tsavo, Serengeti as well as Amboseli were all in the nomadic range of the Maasai people. In spite of the various influences from the outside world, the Maasai have struggled to maintain their lifestyle and old age customs and because of this most of the cultural safaris in East African are covered with the magnificent colors of the Maasai people looking after their livestock, performing their traditional adumu dance or even just walking along roads. Some of the most popular Maasai customs include wearing of the colorful shuka, drinking cow blood, spitting as well as the jumping dance.
The bright colored clothing adorned by the Maasai is referred to as shuka. Red is believed to be a sacred colored and portrays blood and is considered the fundamental color for all shuka. Red also protects the Maasai from wild animals. Orange shows hospitality, warmth plus friendship, blue represents the sky which provides rain for the cattle. Green shows nourishment as well as production and yellow represents growth and fertility. Combined, all these beautiful bright colors are the essence of the Maasai and differentiate them from other tribes across the East African region.
The adamu is the traditional Maasai jumping dance and it is performed as part of the legendary initiation ceremony which takes place when young adults are ushered into manhood. It is accompanied by a traditional song while men in pairs take an opportunity to compete between each other to find out who can jump higher. This custom is carried out to portray courage, manual ability and strength. It is a vital part of the celebration when boys become eligible bachelors. The man who jumps the highest is considered the most attractive by the women and gets the best bride.
Saliva is generally considered as personal and not to be seen in public among western traditions however, the Maasai people consider it as a wish of good fortune to be shared among people. It is very vital for one to spit in their palm before shaking an elder’s hand. It is also a custom to spit on a new born baby’s head to protect him or her from evil spirits. Spitting is very different from drinking the blood of cattle.
The Maasai, are hematophages which implies that they feed on the blood of animals for nourishment. This is slightly ironic since they drink a cow’s blood which they sometimes blend with milk however they refrain to feeding on wild animals. Surprisingly despite them being renowned cattle keepers, the eating of beef is saved for only special occasions and big ceremonies. The Maasai have respect for their cows and therefore ensure that the drinking of blood from them does not have any permanent effect on these sacred beloved animals.
The Batwa Pygmies of Uganda
The Batwa people found in southwestern Uganda were originally hunters and gatherers who dwelled deep inside the rainforests in that part of the country. They are regarded as pygmies due to their characteristic short height. They once lived inside Echuya forest and Mgahinga rain forests before these two were declared as protected areas. According to a national census conducted in 2002, there were approximately 67000 of these. They harmoniously lived inside Echuya National Park which currently is known as the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park – home to the endangered mountain gorillas which was formed to safeguard the dying population of mountain gorillas.
Their eviction from the forest land began way back in 1930s during the colonial administration however it was concluded at the start of the 1990s when their original dwelling was given the status of a National park. They were force out to the edge of the forest and settled in various settlement camps around the park in areas like kisoro, kanungu as well as Kibale. During the relocation, they lost emotional, physical, traditional and ancestral, attachment to the impenetrable equatorial forest which was their home.
Because of the low level of formal education, the Batwa pygmies can hardly find any jobs, therefore, they are normally seen carrying loads of food staff to the markets and doing casual work on people’s farmlands. They have formed a number of cultural-dance troupes that entertain tourists who visit them with vibrant dances and songs. Being a very hospitable people, they are commonly visited by any tourists who come to Uganda to enjoy Gorilla trekking Safaris either in Bwindi National Park or Mgahinga national parks.
The Samburu of Northern Kenya
The Samburu tribe has a Population of approximately 160,000 people who are pastoralists from the great plains of the Samburu region and they are from north central Kenya. They are considered cousins to the Maasai people living in Kenya and apparently they migrated south from the Nile region of Northern Africa. They speak a vernacular of the Maa language which is identical to that spoken by the Maasai. They live in a remote region that is very dry and arid and can barely support life. The Samburu largely look after cattle but they also have other livestock such as goats, sheep as well as camels. It is a nomadic tribe since they live in a very dry area. They constantly move around looking for water and pasture for their animals and most of the conflicts they have are in relation to the search for land. Generally, the Samburu depend on milk and animal blood just like the Maasai whereas eating real food is usually done on special functions.
These native people are known for their very colorful clothing as well as distinct social structure. The men dress in pink or black cloth that looks like the Scottish kilt and decorate themselves with necklaces, anklets plus bracelets. The Moran (the warrior age-group), wear long braids in their hair. The women ironically shave their heads and wear two (2) cloths, one cloth is wrapped around the waist and another is wrapped around their chests. Their cloths can be either blue or purple and the women also go ahead and smear ochre on their skins in a way that is similar to the Namibia’s Himba people. What distinguishes the Samburu from other tribes is their social structure which is gerontocracy -a gerontocracy is a system which is governed only by elders and they make all the necessary decisions. The leaders are usually the oldest members of the tribe and make the final decisions on different issues and they have the power to curse the younger disobedient members of the tribe. The Samburu are a deeply religious tribe and they believe in their god called Nkai – he is their supreme being and has the utmost power. The elders, who are in charge of keeping law and order in the society, carefully follow his will and are extremely devoted to him.
The Surma Tribe of Ethiopia
Today there are there three (3) ethnic groups belonging to the Surma and these are: the Suri, Mursi as well as Me’en and they dwell in the southwestern part of Ethiopia and today have a population of about 187900 people. These three ethnic groups share the same culture and the Mursi people are who stay close to the Omo Valley are the most popular of them all. Their popularity is credited to the fact that their women wear large plate made of clay in the lower lips. The young Surma girls cut the lower lips and put a wooden plug inside it. Each of the plugs is continually changed after some time for a wider size until the lips can eventually stretch enough to accommodate a wooden plate. Interestingly they have to remove 2 to 3 of their lower teeth so that the plate can fit well. Plates as wide as 30 centimeters can be worn by some women.
One wonder why do these women do this? Well the major attraction in this tribe is a woman with a plate in their lip. The wider the plate, the more attractive they are. The younger girls actually wear decorated colored plates to draw more attention to them from the opposite sex. The women normally wear these plates as they serve their husbands food or even during special ceremonies, this implies that they eat with these plates hanging from their stretched lips.
Unfortunately to date, the reason the primary reason why and when this tradition of lip cutting cannot be traced back to when it started despite the fact that there are a number of theories locally told. Perhaps as compared to the women of the modern world, who wear lipstick for beauty and to adorn themselves, the Surma women wear these lip-plates not only for beauty but for prestige as well. In simple terms the girls are not forced to wear them but do so by choice. the Surma men pay the family of their bride to be dowry (cows as well as Kalashnikovs), and its alleged that the women with wider lip-plates make better wives, thus more dowry paid for their hand in marriage.
The young male warriors normally spend a large number of weeks or months from the village tending to the herd of cattle. During that period, they only feed on anima blood mixed with milk. To obtain the blood from the cow, the make a small cutting on the cow’s neck puncturing a vein and then draw the blood. Furthermore, they use white clay to paint their naked bodies. This is done to command respect and look fierce. During the customary tribal ceremonies such as the popular Donga fight during which men illustrate their skills and strength in fight using long sticks, this body painting is very vital as well.
You may also notice that children of the chief also paint their faces in order to distinguish themselves from other village children.
The households are run by the women. The women own personal fields and are at liberty to use the profiles obtained from farming in whichever way they please. The younger boys (Tegay) who are not yet warriors by the age of eight starts to become a Rora (junior warrior) the young men have to go through a long period of initiation which may take 20 to 30 years. This may involve being whipped until one bleeds or being starved for several days. In case of any circumstances that require making decisions for the village, and assembly of men sit and this is chaired by the Komoru who is the ritual chief for the tribes. The women normally do not contribute any opinions to these meetings at all.
The Surma people have a sky god they call Tuma. They believe in ancestral spirits and offers sacrifices as well as prayers to their god through the medicine men. Another interesting yet important position among the Surmi is the rain-maker. The position which can only be held by a male is passed down through hereditary means. Once his services are required, chips are collected from a particular tree, masticated, and then the resultant juiced mixed with clay are smeared on a man, shortly after which it’s expected to rain.
The Khoisan, Bushmen of Southern Africa
Also known as the San, these people have an estimated population of eighty thousand and live in Namibia, Botswana as well as South Africa. The Khoisan are famous for the clicking sound while speaking their language, their nomadic way of life as well as their strong relationship they have with Mother Nature and they are known to be South Africa’s first inhabitants. They were unfortunately hunted in different ways, exploited and eventually kicked off their land, and today they are among the minority people in South Africa. The survival and culture of San is nowadays dangerously hanging by a thread.
The San people from the old times wandered over the wide areas of Southern Africa and were known to be hunters and gatherers who survived off the land. These bush men have been constrained to smaller areas for many reasons such as establishment of national park, farming and mining among others. Today, they live in the area close to the Makgadikgadi Pan, in small groups.
You can find the fascinating rock art that goes back thousands of years ago in the rock projections and caves throughout the country done by the Bushmen who once upon a time were the amazing artists across Southern Africa. The San used stains made from eggs, ochers, blood and mineral deposits to make the beautiful images of animals as well as the humans. Their paintings were for several years believed to be simply an illustration of their daily life and so the paintings in the caves found in the Drakensberg Mountains portray that at one time that place was a habitant to the elephants, elands, and leopards which are currently wiped out in this region. Modern theories on the other hand credit these African tribe paintings to a far more thrilling idea. The caves were believed to be divine monuments somewhat cathedrals that were used as a connection to the spirit world by the Shamans. The images are both archives of the meetings and entry points to these domains. The belief of the anthropologists is that the popular trance dance is defined vividly by this rock art.
The trance dance which is very enthralling is vital to the Bushmen’s beliefs and traditions. the enchanting dance which is also called the healing dance brings the whole community closer. The elders as well as the healers who direct the ritual imitate animals, clap, dance around the fire and stamp their feet as the members of the community control the rhythm by chanting as well as clapping. The energy followed by the panting and sweating triggers a strong weird state through which they can access the world of the spirits. The dance possesses many cultural uses to these natives such as healing illnesses and banishing what they refer to as “star-sickness” that causes jealousy, ill-will, as well as anger arguments.
The Himba of northwest Namibia
The deserted Kunene area of northwest Namibia is inhabited by the strong tribe known as the Himba. The Himba are mainly hunter and gatherers as well as nomadic pastoralists and they are descendants of the Herero of Angola who are migrating southward of the continent. The lives of the Himba people rotate around the sacred fire known as Okuruwo. Through the smoke Okuruwo, represents a connection with their ancestors who are perceived to have a direct channel of communication with Mukuru their god. The Himba ensure that the fire never burns out and it sits in the center of the village. Each family selects a member who is referred to as the fire keeper who has to make sure to look after the holy fire.
The Himba people are an African tribe who are generally nomadic and usually move from one waterhole to another while looking after their cattle, goats and other livestock. Daily tasks are divided according to gender. The women are assigned the difficult tasks such as carrying water, building homes, milking the cows as well as raising the children whereas men are assigned the less hectic tasks of taking care of the politics of the community and looking after livestock. This splitting based on sex expands to the use of water for bathing which is only for the men while women must maintain their personal hygiene using herb-smoke obtained from fire to clean themselves.
Surprisingly, the social structure of the Himba is bilateral which is rare among the different groups of people across the planet. Bilateral descent involves descent regardless of sex and the side of the family. This implies that each member of the clan belongs to two (2) clans, both the paternal and maternal clan. In this unique structure, the sons live with their father’s clan with their wives but inheritance is passed on from the uncle on the maternal side. Since they live in a place with very harsh conditions, it is supposed that the bilateral descent increases the chances of survival of the Himba.
The one thing that clearly distinguishes the Himba people from other tribes is their distinct adornment. Their unique red ochre paint which they smear all over their bodies as well as their detailed hairstyles have turned out to be associated with most safaris to Namibia’s Kunene region; and this tribe is visited by so many tourists annually who come to see the unique lifestyle of these fascinating people. The different hairstyles signify the different social standings of the people. The young children have clean shaven heads, then braids plus plaits which either face forward or backward, then lastly the Erembe- which is a leather ornament made of sheep-skin which is worn by adult females that have given birth to children. The often red-ochre hairstyles are very unique and magnificent.
The red-ochre paint that the Himba put on their body which they refer to as otijze- is traditionally made from animal fat, butter plus a naturally existing earth pigment that contains iron oxide. The Himba women smear this on their skin to act as sunscreen as well as insect repellant as well as keeping moisture and to maintain their beauty. The Himba people have come to be known as the “Red People of Africa” as a result of the strong impression caused by the red-ochre paint on their body.
The Southern Ndebele tribe of South Africa
They have a population of approximately 1.1 million. The Northeastern provinces of South Africa including Mpumalanga, Limpopo as well as Gauteng are mostly occupied by the southern Ndebele people. The Ndebele tribes have similar linguistic characteristics with the Zulu people and are therefore believed to be close relatives with the Zulu. The Ndebele are however distinctive in a number of ways such as their beliefs as well as the different ways in which they express their culture. Traditionally, the Ndebele society believes that any sickness or disease is a result of a curse or a spell by an outside force on an individual. The traditional healer or sangoma has the responsibility of struggling with these external forces using traditional medicine such as herbs or throwing of bones. The Ndebele believe that the izangoma (who are both men and women) are able to communicate with the ancestral spirits, however their capacity to overcome a sickness is an indicator of their success or failure to the entire tribe.
All children (boys and girls) have to go through initiation into adulthood and initiation schools take place in a four year interval. When Ndebele boys are almost 18 years they are divided into division (indanga). Each indanga is assigned a name that is derived from a cycle of thirteen or fifteen names depending on the tribe and the initiation rituals include circumcision however most of the initiation rituals are covered in mystery. The Ndebele girls must adorn an array of colorful beaded hoops or izigolwan around their limbs, neck and waist. They are secluded from the rest of the community and are taught about how to be matriarchs as well as homemakers. As a way of celebrating their ‘coming out’ the Ndebele girls trade their izigolwan for amaphephetu (hard leather aprons). Relatives and friends come together during the initiation period in order to stress the importance of this ceremony. They participate in a number of activities plus ceremonies that mark this event which symbolize the transition from childhood to adulthood important.
The Ndebele traditions of shamanism and initiation are absorbing however their unique artistic style really sets them apart. The women are in charge of decorating the homes and usually the front and sides of the home are beautifully painted with bright colors that have unique patterns filled with color. Traditionally, the Ndebele used earth ochres and muted-dyes but the modern Ndebele designers use more bright and radiant colors. These patterns have become identical with South Africa.
The Herero from East Africa’s Great Lakes Region
It is believed that very many centuries back, the Herero who are a cattle breading tribe migrated from Namibia. its alleged that they once occupied lands of Roruu which were rich with reed and clean water for their animals, however, as these became scarce, they begun migrating southwards. Unfortunately, to date, even researchers have failed to discover the marshland that these people previously occupied.
Basing on the told legends these people further migrated south from the east Africa’s great lakes region, crossing the vast lands of current Zambia, through southern Angola until in around 1550, they finally arrive on the banks of river Kunene. they occupies these lands for over two hundred years (200) and them there was a split in the tribe with Maendo leading the larger group away which migrated further south and left the Tjimba as well as the Himba tribes behind. Close to mid-way the eighteenth century, Maendo’s groups arrived at River Swakop. In the 19th century this group migrated east and finally settled in the northern central part of the country.
During the 19th century the Mbanderu as well as the Herero were still living together in families led by an Omukuru. There is no defined political structure among them and this is mainly because of the dual descent system. The Orzo which is the paternal line is what determines one’s status in the hierarchy of the family, or place of residence. However, distribution of movable property is determined by the eanda – which is the maternal line. when it comes to enforcing proper laws governing their traditional inheritance as well as controlling most of the people’s property mainly cattle, it is the matri-clans that do so. The patri-clans are responsible for sacred objects and the ozohivirikwa (the holy cow), exerting authority in the family, ancestral fires, priesthood, ceremonial food taboos as well as succession of the local chiefs.
Following the colonial wars of 1904 to 1907, between the German and the Herero, there was a huge decline in their general population, as many Herero people were massacred during General Lothar von Trotha rule. They were robbed of their land and cattle and the few survivors disintegrated as a single group with many taking refuge in Botswana – then Bechuanaland (Botswana). In 1915, after South Africa attained administration of Southwestern Africa the refugees started returning and they were allocated areas such as Ovitoto, Aminuis, Otjohorongo, Epukiro as well as Waterberg East to be their new home.
In spite of the suppression of their native culture, taking away of their tribal lands and the limitation of labor laws, the few surviving Hereros have managed to uphold their family life bonds, tribal solidarity as well as national awareness alive. Each year in the month of August, they celebrate the Maharero Day. There are approximately 130, 000 of these living in Namibia. Today they have a theatre group which performs very interesting plays based on their history. Within Okaepe village is a primary school whose pupils entertain visitors with music, games, dance and drama. You can also visit the cultural and tourism centre found in Okakarara settlement.
16 African Cultural Values to Know Before You Travel To Africa
In Africa, different actions have a different meaning to what you might be accustomed to especially if you are not familiar with the language. In an effort to put things in perspective and in considering the different way of viewing things, we have highlighted a few African cultural values to be aware of when travelling in Africa.
- The ‘Hello’ Greeting and a handshake
People in Africa treasure greeting immensely and a simple hello and a handshake can make a great first impression with most people. To make a positive impression, ensure that you greet all the people you interact with or come across.
- Respect African elders and their cultural customs
The cultural values in Africa form a strong foundation of the African tradition and they are based on the past which is why elders are well respected. African elders need be given the recognition they deserve, normally they ask the questions, and they should be serve first during time for eating.
- How to pointing at things
In Africa, pointing at something or someone especially with the index finger is considered bad manners and rude. This is something you should avoid doing. Different groups have different ways of pointing however the safest way to draw attention to something is using your chin to point in the right direction or using your eyes to motion towards a certain direction.
- Overhand motion of calling someone
You should make sure you avoid gesturing for a person to come towards you with an upwards palm. The more accepted method is to gesture someone over with the palm facing down and then pull the fingers inwards.
- Don’t point the Sole of the foot
The sole of your feet are considered the filthiest part of your body in many different cultures around the world. When in Africa, ensure that your foot sole is not directly facing anyone as you sit.
- Eat using the right hand
The right hand is generally considered the appropriate one for eating food while the left hand can be used for other tasks that are unhygienic. Africans prefer that you use your right hand for eating therefore endeavor to use the right hand when touching African food.
- Hissing sounds to call someone
Getting someone’s attention is sometimes done through hissing or a loud smack of the lips. If you are not used to this, it might slightly surprise you however this happens often and is allowed.
- Silence is an African Value
There is a proverb that says silence is golden and this is very applicable in the African setting. People speak only when there is something to that needs to be said but otherwise silence reigns. You should not feel the need to fill these silences in Africa rather take time to appreciate the company of the people that surround you.
- Time – less important
The concept of time is not as important in Africa as it is in other international countries. Africans focus mostly on the past, the near future and the current events. Future schedules cannot be rushed and imagining about it will only agitate you so it is better to just go with the flow.
- Be flexible
Africa will train you flexibility in terms of not being too worried about the future, fully enjoying the present, getting rid of future schedules which means basically changing your way of life for a bit.
- Do not publicly express impatience, anger or frustration
Although the circumstances can become slightly difficult or annoying, it is very important for you not to publicly express feelings of anger, frustration or impatience. Africans have a great amount of self-control and such public outbursts are considered offensive and rude. Ashaming anyone in public should be avoided.
- Polite communication
Another important aspect of the African culture is Positive communication. You should be able to portray the various positive emotions like happiness and joy to portray that you are ok. However in case of any hardship or challenge, take about the issues gradually. Avoid abrupt complaints.
- Establishing of Relationships
With Africans mainly focusing on the present time, interacting with new people and spending quality time with them to foster a lasting relationship is a part of the African culture that is really treasured.
- it’s unethical to talk during mealtime
It is okay are to discuss small or minor issues while eating however serious matters are handled or discussed after meals. It is inappropriate to talk about matters such as business during a meal.
- Use both hands to receive gifts
If someone hands you a gift or a present, it is essential that you receive it with both hands outstretched to show appreciation and that you treasure the gift.
- Personal space
Africans have a different understanding of personal space compared to other people therefore what you consider an invasion of your personal space may be just okay in the African culture.
You should keep in mind that Africans are very hospitable and loving people who might go the extra mile to ensure that you are comfortable. It is important that you learn a little bit about them before visiting Africa so that you do not unintentionally offend them and to build a lasting relationship with them.