Privacy issues

Even when you are in a country as a tourist there are times where you would like to be alone, beit to reflect or do something. It is not just that Ethiopians are generally sociable: it is often considered rude on behalf of your host to leave a tourist alone because they might feel that you are lonely. Do not feel annoyed when this happens because their action is not based on denying you privacy but rather, feeling that they are doing you a favor by keeping you company. Better to communicate with them you reasons for wanting privacy.

Privacy 2

The average Ethiopian family size is said to be 5 at present. This however used to go as high as 8 or 9 just a few decades ago. Most families live in a small house where rooms and everything else is shared. This basic understanding will help to react differently if for example, someone steps into your room unannounced or without knocking. Do not misunderstand this as impolite behavior but rather the life style of the family structure.


At the table

You might have come from a country where guests serve themselves while dinning. It may not be the case in Ethiopia. In many families you will find your host adding more and more on your plate without you asking or insisting you are full. There is nothing more that pleases an Ethiopian to be certain that your stomack is "staffed". The major reasons why hosts do that is because many Ethiopians tend to be shy while they are guests in a familly and will only eat until they are half full if the host does not insist that they have more. Understand this as a way of many Ethiopians to take care of their guests. Do not feel annoyed if your host relentlessly insists that you eat more once you told him/her that you are full.


Laughing on some of your actions.

Most Ethiopian traditional foods are eaten with bare hands and fingers. Since the vast majority are not used to using forks and knife for example, the way a typical Ethiopian handles them while in Europe will sometimes bring a smile in the face of their host. Likewise the way a European tries to eat a traditional Ethiopian food may be funny to the locals. Some understand this as if being laughed at or mocked.This however is not the case.

Impressing you with language

While many Ethiopians going ashore are expected to learn a few words of their host country, you hosts here in Ethiopia will most likely try to use every possible english word they know to communicate with you. Some go beyond: they try to learn a few new words whose meaning they they don't understand perfectly in an effort to communicate with you

As a result, very often, what people in Ethiopia say to a tourist and what they want convey are different and sometimes the opposite. Limited language knowledge is a major barrier. For example a man who droped out from school early will most likely utter say "you.. hey you" to get your attention. Do not understand this as impolite: "you" might be among the few words he knows. There are also instances where some might use slang language or words whose meanings they don't properly understand but which they heard in a western movies.

Do not interpret an Ethiopian who tries to communicate with you in its litteral sense unless you have confirmed his profficiency. If the communication is of importance make sure you cross checked what he/she meant to say before assuming you got the message right.

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