- Etiquette in Africa
As expectations regarding good manners differ from person to person and vary according to each situation, no treatise on the rules of
etiquettenor any list of faux pascan ever be complete. As the perceptionof behaviorsand actions vary, intercultural competenceis essential. However, a lack of knowledgeabout customs and expectations within African cultures can make even the best intentioned person seem rude, selfish, or worse.
Africarepresents an enormous expanse of geography with an incalculable amount of cultures and customs, noting the following points of etiquette can be useful when dealing with people around the world who have been raised according to African traditions:
*Many travelers to Africa find their expectations about social life dashed by the realities of much of the continent. In many regions, schedules for such things as
trainsand busesshould be regarded with skepticism. When one enters a taxi, even the expectation that the vehicle can make it to the destination without breaking down might be overly optimistic, never mind believing the driver’s claim that he knows of the destination. [ [http://www.virtualtourist.com/travel/Africa/Transportation-Africa-BR-1.html Virtual Tourist] ] Many Africans are remarkably resilient in dealing with these realities. Allowing oneself to become angry can be a breach of etiquette that alienates the people upon whose assistance one must depend.
*On the other hand, life in places such as
South Africais more akin to that of places like the United Statesthan uninformed people might realize. As was the case in the United States and Australia, Europeans established their culture in Africa centuries ago and it has largely replaced indigenous culture in many regions. Suggesting that an inhabitant of Johannesburg, South Africa or Nairobi, Kenya comes from a remote region or should worry about lionattacks on the way to work would almost certainly be an unwelcomed breach of etiquette.
A number of countries in Africa have many traditions based in
Islamand share values with other parts of the Muslim world. As such, guidelines regarding etiquette in the Middle Eastare often applicable to these places. This holds especially true in Muslim majority countries which include many of the West African nations such as Senegal, Chad and Mali. Even though most people would consider themselves as Muslim, many mix it with local animism. Animism is based on the belief that natural objects and idols or fetishes have magical power. Many, whatever their religious adherence, to some extent believe in supernatural forces and that certain people, primarily doctors, herbalists, diviners, or marabouts (religious figures) have the power to utilise these forces. It is common to see people wearing amulets (called “gris-gris”) around their waist, neck, arms, or legs. People consult with diviners or marabouts to protect themselves against evil spirits, to improve their financial status or bring them love, to cure chronic illnesses, to settle disputes, or to place a curse on another person. [ [http://www.kwintessential.co.uk/resources/global-etiquette/senegal.html Senegal - Etiquette and Customs] ]
Certain customs regarding good and bad
luckare important to many Africans. Although these might be regarded as superstitions by some, these customs are often tied to religious traditions and are an important part of certain belief systems, even among well-educated folk and affluent sectors of society. They should be respected accordingly.
Tribal and ethnic groups
Africa is home to innumerable
tribes, ethnicand social groups, some representing very large populations consisting of millions of people, others are smaller groups of a few thousand. The political map of Africa bears little resemblance to the "cultural map" of Africa, and national borders often cross through territories of people who consider themselves unified. Many Africans identify more closely as a member of a given ethnic or linguistic group than as a member of the nation in which they were born and hold citizenship. Accordingly:
*Oppugning someone's ethnic identity through ignorance or deliberate intention can be a grievous breach of etiquette. Africans themselves may engage in vicious slander along these ethnic lines, even between ethnic distinctions which seem trivial to an outsider, so tread carefully.
*Adoption of a "Western lifestyle" has little to do with a person's affinity with their ethnic group. A
lawyerin a three-piece suit en route to London, able to converse in Afrikaansand English, may also be a native speaker of Zulu and as proud and assured of his specific ethnic identity as the Welshman sitting next to him is of his own.
*Conversely, pride in tribal identity means that wearing traditional dress does not necessarily indicate a lack of education or an unfamiliarity with the ways of the world. A man dressed in traditional
Maasaiattire may have been educated at a universityin Canada.
*As many Africans self-identify in terms of tribal or linguistic identity,
Black peoplewho visit from other parts of the world expecting to be accepted with a feeling of affinity may be disappointed. Acting on a naïve assumption about such a reception may offend the very people whom one hoped to feel kinship with.
Culture of Africa
Etiquette in Asia
Etiquette in Australia and New Zealand
Etiquette in Canada and the United States
Etiquette in Europe
Etiquette in Latin America
Etiquette in the Middle East
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