• must know facts about Ethiopians
  • Do not misunderstand
  • Taboos In Ethiopia
  • Do not be shocked
  • Learn common customs

It is very easy to offend, being offended, misunderstand, being shocked... when two cultures come face to face. A traveler's experience in a given country can be unpleasant in many ways for the mere reason of not knowing what to expect.

This is particularly true when it comes to a country like Ethiopia, which has unique values and ways of life differing from the rest of the world. While a few minutes of quick reading helps a tourist to better understand the people he/she is about to mingle with, lack of information on this subject has resulted in unnecessary experiences for many travelers. We have listed tourist useful and important information in the section different categories listed above..

We have organized this exclusive page based on tourist's account and recommendation. Some of the information that we have included in one category could actually overlap with the other. We therefore suggest that tourists visit all the links above for a better cultural understanding.


Every culture has its own values and norms. What is considered in many countries as offensive could be seen as normal in Ethiopia. One example for this is the concept of time. In many western countries being late for an appointment is considered as impolite. It will be considered even to be disrespectful if the late comer does not apologize.
The concept of time is different with many Ethiopians. Very often going to appointment 15 minutes is not considered as being late at all; half hour delay and still the person may not appologize since, for many, time is not given due importance. For a new comer to Ethiopia, especially with time bound plans for the day, this might be considered as a personal offense. In truth it is not. The more a tourist is aware of such things the less he is likely to feel offended and the less he will be annoyed for not completing planned tasks in a day.
To get simmilar information based on tourists account, click on INFORMATION ON ETHIOPIAN VALUES FOR TOURISTS

Different actions and different signs are interpreted differently in different cultures. Some misinterpretations sometimes create inconveniences and, in some cases, serious problems.
Consider this incidence that took place in 2011. A single gay tourist from Canada ( that we will call Jhon for this illustration) was walking in Addis in June. He noticed that a couple of men were holding hands while walking near his hotel. The next day he met one of them sitting alone in a nearby bar. Jhon approached him and tried to open a conversation. After getting to know him for a little more than half hour he asked the man to go out on date with him. What followed was unpleasant scene .
Jhon was unaware that holding hands or embracing among similar sex is a sign of close friendship among many and not, as he misunderstood, sign of a gay relationship. He also did not realize that the majority of Ethiopians are homophobic.
To avoid similar misunderstandings click on DO NOT MISUNDERSTAND

Every culture has its taboos. There is no need to explain the importance of knowing these for a visitor coming to the country.
A group of Chinese who came to Ethiopia in 2002 was preparing one of their favorite dishes made of dog meat. This ensued a high profile controversy among the locals.
While dog meat is considered as taboo in many countries accross the world, there are several taboos which are specific to Ethiopians. Click on TABOOS IN ETHIOPIA FOR TOURISTS.

A group of Ethiopians who developed a proposal on community mobilization have provided with a report summarizing cultural shocks in Ethiopia.
As an illustration on this point they explained an incident involving a group of Ethiopian tourists who went to France on short trip. At this time as respected guests their hosts prepared them what they considered as an expensive dish: shrimps. The guests were disgusted by what they saw. Upon their return they were explaining that they were served what they described as “insects”.
In contrast there are other traditions in Ethiopia which, if unaware of, might shock a tourist. For instance one of the favorite Ethiopian meals is raw goat or oxen meat. The sight of an Ethiopian cutting pieces of raw meat and eating it with passion has been described in many ways by tourists. But most who have been unaware of this popular practice prior to coming to Ethiopia explained that they were shocked at the sight.
To prevent such shocks on behalf of tourists we have compiled a list of practices and norms that you need to be aware of. This compilation is based on tourist’s account. ¬†Click on DO NOT BE SHOCKED

While you are in a country you would like to blend in easily, do whatever is considered polite and respectful. In the case where you are moving in with an Ethiopian family for example you would like to know how to behave within the family structure, what the most respectable norms are like.




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