Friday, 24 April 2015

10 things I didn't know about Zambians…

Being immersed in a different culture is so interesting. It's fascinating to observe the way that people live here, and think about why they do what they do. Some things that I’ve noticed seem logical, some bizarre or random, and others just completely different to what we’re used to at home. Here are ten things I've found out about life in Zambians that I didn't know before I arrived:

1) A lot of women wear wigs! You can meet a lady one day who then looks very different the next time you see her. I would have thought it would be rather hot wearing a wig in the heat but it seems to be a pretty popular thing to do. Every so often a child at school will turn up with completely different hair from one day to the next - going from almost bald to long braids, or cornrows to crazy afro!

Hair straighteners heated on the brazier

2) Nshima is the staple food here. It seems that all Zambians love it and some will eat it for every meal. Nshima (pronounced ‘sheema’) is a kind of maize and looks like something in between rice and mashed potato. It doesn't actually have a lot of flavour! I think every African country has its own version, since it is very much like Ugali which I have previously eaten in Kenya.

When visiting orphans and guardians in the village, we might ask them when they last ate. I've discovered that if someone says they haven't eaten that day, they may have actually had rice or something else but what they actually mean is they haven't eaten nshima.

Dad trying nshima

3) Believe it or not, a prime location for wedding photos here is a roundabout! I have seen several wedding parties gathering on the local roundabout leading into town for their photos. This apparently started several years ago because there were very few pretty areas in Ndola and the roundabout at that time was new.

Wedding photographs on the roundabout (taken whilst driving past!)

4) It is OK to ask a Zambian pretty much any question, except whether they are HIV positive. It is acceptable to ask someone how much they earn or how they sustained an injury or deformity, but unfortunately there is still a lot of shame concerning HIV and so this question is avoided.

5) It's not awkward to have conversations about God or spiritual things. Quite a lot of Zambians go to church on Sundays. After a service, everyone forms a very long line so that they can greet and shake hands with every single other person that is there!

Part of the long line shaking hands!

6) The people here are very patient, until they get in their cars! Perhaps the heat promotes patience and a slow approach to life. However once behind the wheel, most drivers appear anything but patient as they overtake, dart about the road and barge in front!

7) Trucks that carry beer stop for people at the roadside to buy from. Here we often see people waiting whilst surrounded by lots of containers. They’re waiting to buy beer from a truck which they can go and sell in their village.

8) Women seem to have it quite tough here. They have to work hard but are generally not respected as much as the men. It is impressive how many things the local women can carry on their heads! I’ve been told that one of the things a Zambian wife is expected to do is shave all of her husband’s hair once a month!

Masala market

9) Knees and thighs are considered raunchy parts of the body here. This means that women have to be careful to keep them covered up. I live in leggings and cropped trousers here, so my best tan is on my feet! (although they could be just permanently dirty!?).

Covering knees is becoming less important in town and the urban areas of the country, but it is still observed in Kaniki and the more rural areas. It does not seem as necessary to totally cover the top part of the body though – so we do see the occasional flash of a boob!

Women wearing African chitenge material

10) People live life earlier here. The day starts and finishes earlier compared to the UK. Some children arrive at school earlier than us, around 6:30am on some days! I often get woken up at 4.30am when the Bible College students have a prayer meeting. Not surprisingly, quite a few of them have regular naps.

Most of the workers at the college start at 7am and finish at 4pm. The sun sets predictably at 6.30pm every day. I guess many people in the villages wouldn’t have much of an evening because they only have candles to help them see once it is dark.

I am learning though that culture is more than just the way people dress and the language that they speak. It is a completely different way of thinking. I didn't realise how British I was until now!

No comments:

Post a Comment