Uganda Lifestyle and Culture

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What may be acceptable in Europe or America may be offensive in Africa- Uganda! Have you been wondering how Ugandans run their everyday life? Their Dos and DONTs? Then welcome to RocApply!! We have dedicated this piece for your information on Ugandan culture and customs! Let’s get going...

  1. Ugandan people are formal and polite and observing correct etiquette is important. Their body language and physical taboos are different from what an American or an Asian visitor might expect- handshakes may go on a very long time, for example, and a Ugandan man may take the hand of another man in a gesture of friendship or basically during conversation.
  2. Slow down to “Ugandan time” and do not get stressed by delays. Getting around Kampala, the capital, especially in the rain, can be time consuming, with long traffic jams. Being thirty minutes late for a meeting is not desirable, but it’s not a catastrophe. Deadlines are observed here, but are met when conditions are considered right, rather than by having people work round the clock.
  3. Whatever the weather, appearance is important. Ugandans dress smartly for work. Men wear neatly pressed suits and women will usually be very well nurtured. Making an effort without being basic gives the right impression, right down to having highly polished shoe wear.
  4. Ugandans are glued to their mobile phones. Nobody likes to pay for airtime, or credit, so missing a call is a disgrace. Don’t be surprised if a colleague answers their phone in the middle of a meeting or class, simply to avoid having to call somebody back. WhatsApp is extremely popular here; do not fall into the trap of being signed up to multiple discussion groups, which can become overwhelming.
  5. While Ugandans are friendly and welcoming, there are taboos to known. You don’t discuss politics, religion, polygamy or the tribal system. Pregnancy in Uganda is a sensitive subject as the infant mortality rate is high. However strong your feelings on the issue, stay away from the topic of homosexuality, which is illegal in Uganda anyway.
  6. Most people here are committed Christians and meetings will usually start with a prayer and multiple blessings. Business dinners will commence by the host saying grace. Don’t be surprised to see bibles in offices and religious quotations on wall hangings.
  7. Most Ugandans are not accustomed to having money and cannot foresee a future in which they will acquire personal wealth. The prevailing attitude towards investors and foreign visitors is that they have plenty resources.
  8. Ugandans are entrepreneurial and most of them are inspired by the country’s new opportunities, but there’s a resistance to change and an inability to deal with it. Always emphasize both the short term and long term benefits of any investment to a Ugandan investor. People will work hard at a new venture to earn money but most are unlikely to have enough money of their own to venture into financial risks.
  9. Hierarchy here is important and Ugandans will want to put you in context. Assist them to do this by answering questions, however intrusive they may seem, about where you were educated, your rank in their company, the social standing of your family. Ugandans may be indirect communicators but they can be astonishingly blunt. It is not unusual for someone to make personal remarks about another person’s looks, for example.
  10. The people enjoy a touch of drama in their language. If, for example, you return to Uganda after an absence, a local might say ‘You have been lost!’, in which case the appropriate answer is ‘And now I am here!’. Even if you do not learn any of the local language, understanding how Ugandans express themselves in English will help you interact better.

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