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 Zimbabwe
Clapping twice is an accepted “thank you”, especially when someone is handing you something (food, a purchase). If one hand is full you can clap the free hand on your chest. Unlike in Asia, taking items passed to you with both hands is considered impolite, as it is seen as being greedy. Men should clap so that fingertips and wrists meet, but women should ‘golf clap’ with hands crossing.
When shaking hands or handing anything valuable to someone, it is polite to support the right forearm with the left hand (or vice versa), to signify the “weight” of the gift or honour. In practice this often means just touching the forearm, or even gesturing towards it.
When taking something from a local, it is strictly done with the right hand as it is seen as an insult if the left hand is used regardless of dextrousness. The same rule applies when passing something.
Be careful with your opinion, as speaking against the government is a crime.
It is noteworthy that Zimbabweans are generally very very friendly and relaxed people. They will meet foreigners (i.e. Westerners/white travelers) on almost all occasions with a smile, some curiosity and friendliness – or just indifference at worst. This holds true even in larger cities like Bulawayo for instance.
With this, you had the primer on key facts about Zimbabwe, 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 Zimbabwe food and drinks:
Other tips that you’d like to share on mistakes to avoid in Zimbabwe? Please comment below.