We all know that we don’t pat the back of a colleague in Korea to thank them for a “job well done”. Or eat with your left hand in India, or sip vodka in Russia. In many countries, these actions are harmless. But in others, they can give a wrong impression or cause offense.

In fact, whatever culture you’re from, it’s likely that you routinely do something that could cause offense somewhere else in the world. So here is:

A primer on how to avoid mistakes in Ethiopia

Ethiopians are very proud of their culture, identity, and country. Avoid criticizing their cultural lifestyle, especially their brand of Christianity (Oriental Orthodox). Avoid all contentious religious discussion, or you may risk all good will and hospitality you could have been afforded. Rather than argue about the merits of Orthodoxy or Islam, it’s best to ask friends to explain their customs, festivals and beliefs and to listen with respect.

Ethiopia culture photo

Photo by gill_penney

 

The Ethiopians’ relationship with the westerners is generally free of racial animosity. However, there is considerable suspicion and even xenophobia toward foreigners in the country side. Ethiopians can be short-fused if they feel they are not treated as equals. If a woman is with a man, ask the man’s permission to talk to her beforehand.

For a man to avoid eye contact with a woman is considered a sign of respect. If you’re a foreign woman and are in public with a man, don’t be upset if Ethiopian men address all questions to him. They will do this not to slight you but to show respect. This will be the case on public transport and in restaurants. Likewise, if you are a foreign man, maintaining a formal distance from women will be seen as good manners. It is very important that you remove your shoes when entering a home.

With this, you had the primer on key facts about Ethiopia, and key facts on culture and customs. Another important part of the culture is the local food and the local drinks. Make sure you read our posts on Ethiopia food and drinks:

Local food you should try in Ethiopia and No miss drinks in Ethiopia.

Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Ethiopia? Please comment below.