Ever wondered about etiquette in Rwanda? I came across this guide at the Rwanda Chamber. It purports to tell you how things work in social and business situations in Rwanda and what you should and should not do. For anyone who’s ever lived here, I’m sure you’ll recognise many of these situations. Here are a few highlights,
Rwandans may avoid telling the truth if it might hurt or upset the person they are speaking with. While it may be seen as lying by some, most Rwandans feel that they are being sensitive to the person’s feelings.
Humor plays a big role in communicating and most Rwandans enjoy a good joke. However, it is best to avoid sarcasm as it may not translate well, if at all.
Rwandans tend to be very indirect, talking around issues instead of discussing them directly.
On public transportation, personal space is limited to non-existent
In most situations, Rwandans do not tend to be overly concerned with being punctual. People are expected to arrive within the first hour or two after the appointed time.
Punctuality tends to be more valued in business situations, but deadlines are often not met.
In interpersonal relationships, it is common for Rwandans to be 30 minutes to an hour late; flexibility is encouraged. Often, Rwandans expect foreigners to be on time, even if they are not.
Visitors should make an effort to dress well in the capital (i.e. no safari wear)
The legal drinking age is 18, but it is not enforced, and younger people are served. The smoking age is also 18. It is not enforced, either.
I’m not sure I agree with all of them, but these highlights brought a smile, raised an eyebrow or opened a jaw. I’m sure I could add a few more. Especially on the topic of time. And appointment keeping…
I’ve lost track of the number of times people promise to call, get back to me on something, meet me, send me something, introduce me to someone, something or some place. And… well… it never quite happens.
And, while we’re on the subject of cultural do’s and don’ts, I’ll add one more for white folk in Rwanda. You know the full African dress thing? It looks great. On Rwandans. That is all.
Photograph taken from the Kigali Wire Mobypicture account.