Africa Guide
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Guide to Africa

African Etiquette and Protocols

Examples of African protocols

In the African tradition it is rude not to answer a question even when you don't know the answer.......so if asking for directions you may get pointed in 14 different directions.

Africans generally like to please...and in some countries it is considered more impolite to say "I don't know" than it is to give a wrong answer. When asking directions to someplace, ask several people, and keep asking as you go.

Be careful how you phrase your questions: "Is this the way to...." to which some will reply with "yes" even if they don't know, because that is what they think you want to hear.

it is best to say "Can you tell me the way to...." or "Do you know the way to"

If you ask how far it is/how long it will take to walk and the answer is not long/not far it means anything - don't be mistaken it could take a long time!

If you are having a conversation in the street with a friend - do not take offence if an African walks straight between you and your friend - I'm told it is regarded as polite, to show they are not going to stab you in the back

They may say....
just now which will mean sometime in the distant future; maybe tomorrow
now now meaning maybe a little bit sooner than the above - but don't hassle me
right now meaning should be pretty soon

Time is really irrelevant. Tomorrow really is another day.

Bartering is a way of life in most African countries - it's a great way to break the ice and can be a lot of fun.. so do haggle in markets. All the locals do, so why shouldn't you? And if you don't it makes the next backpacker or even a local pay your prices as well.

But there are some tips that you should take into account.

Remember once you have made your offer, do not re-neg as it causes offence.

Always be polite but firm.

deal only with people you are comfortable with: Since you will be spending a lot of time with the person you are bargaining with, and possibly giving them a lot of money, it's a waste of your time to deal with people you don't like.

Do speak a little of the seller's language: In any transaction in a foreign country, the effort you make to use a little of the local language will be returned many fold.

Don't be rude: Under no circumstances should you be rude, or question the validity of any price the seller names no matter how absurd it seems to you. Your attitude should be apologetic and a little self-effacing: "I'm sorry, but I can't pay that much." If you feel the seller is really trying to rip you off, just apologize for taking his time and leave: there is no need to bargain further with him, rather you should seek the item elsewhere.

If bargaining to buy an item, bear in mind that a small amount to you could be extemely important to the seller.

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