Africa is a smorgasbord, not only of wildlife and spectacular scenery, but of people and customs and traditions, too, each one more awe-inspiring than the last.
It is a very large continent, with a huge number of people divided into lots and lots of different groups and tribes, each with their own cultures and traditions. This melting pot of people is one of the many reasons that Africa is such a wonderful and fascinating place.
Each area and each area’s inhabitants have different customs and etiquette. To minimize the risk of a faux pas and ensure that you respect local culture, ask around if you’re unsure about how to handle any social situations. One thing all Africans have in common is a welcoming and friendly demeanor!
These are just a few African traditions that make Africa such a colorful continent;
Many people from Europe greet each other with kisses on the cheek – some once, others up to four times, alternating cheeks. In African culture, we generally shake hands. And by that, we don’t mean just a boring old ‘clasp hands, shake, separate’. No, we do things way more interestingly. African culture comes with some wonderful points, one of the main ones being respect. When shaking hands, the other hand is placed on the upper arm as a display of that respect.
In many African cultures, you talk loudly. This is not in order to irritate those around you; it is to ensure that nobody thinks secrets or gossip are being whispered to each other. Again, this is a sign of respect for people. It’s also one of the wonderful things about Africa – busy and bustling and loud!
In Africa, we dance for everything. Getting married? We dance. Coming of age? We dance. Friday night? We dance. Funeral? We dance. Yip, you read that right. The rhythm of Africa runs through pretty much every aspect of African culture. There is nothing that stirs the soul more than the beat of an African drum and the dust stirred up by dancing feet. Again, each people and each occasion has different dance and music styles.
Traditionally in many tribes of Africa, a groom must ‘pay’ the family of his bride-to-be. This payment – called lobola in South Africa – in days gone by (and still now, in rural areas), takes the form of cows. Nowadays, if this payment is paid, it is generally in cash. Before a wedding, the groom meets with the bride’s elders and between them they agree on a price.
Family & Ancestors
There is nothing more important in Africa than family. In most tribes, ’family’ is not considered to just be immediate family, as in the Western world, but includes the extended family – aunts, uncles, cousins etc. Ancestors are also important. One of the traits that the Western world could take a few lessons from, is the respect given to the elders in the family. Big decisions involving any member of the family usually requires a meeting of the elders.
Any important occasion is celebrated with the whole family, so African celebrations tend to be large and noisy!
A predominant belief throughout sub-Saharan Africa is that of the spirits of the ancestors. Huge importance is placed on appeasing them. It is believed that once a person dies, they continue to be interested in, and influence, the lives of their families.
Many of the traditions, dances and ceremonies still practiced are done so as a communication with the ancestors. They are relied on for guidance.
These are just a few of the wonderful traditions that make me proud to be African and make Africa the unique and fascinating place that it is. We are blessed with the beauty of our own continent, so why not book your safari and see for yourself!