African Cultures & Traditions

What is important to know about East African culture?

Every country has customs and traditions that form an integral part of the culture. Below you will find some interesting facts that will shed some light on the local way of life and what to consider when travelling to East Africa.

Haggle like an African local

In Africa, locals love to haggle for goods in the flea markets as there is a real appreciation for the skill of haggling. If you visit a flea market you will surely encounter the “bargaining ceremony” which takes place at most stalls, as sellers get excited to exhibit their negotiations skills. So no matter where you buy and what you buy – put on your best poker face and bargain!

Do not talk about politics

East African locals refrain from entering political discussions among themselves and especially with foreigners. The president and regime are considered to be holy and not to be spoken against in public.

Who needs cutlery?

In African countries, don’t be puzzled if you see people grabbing their food with their hands. It is very common to eat with your hands, especially with your right hand- even in restaurants. There’s always a first for everything so you should definitely try it out, but remember to wash your hands before and after.

HAKUNA MATATA – No worries

This is a Swahili phrase from East Africa, meaning “no trouble”. Welcome to Africa, where everything is possible! The people of East Africa provide very warm hospitality and are sincerely welcoming, especially the Tanzanians and the Zanzibaris. They are wonderful hosts as they feel that everything is possible because they will go above and beyond to accommodate your requests.

 “Pole Pole” Pace 

 Pole Pole means “ take it easy”. Tourists from other cultures should be aware that in Africa the pace is very calm and slow; everything takes longer. Therefore, you should embrace the African pace, and stay calm and relaxed. Rest assured that everything you request will arrive, just at a different pace.


Time in Africa is just a “recommendation”. If you speak to a local, he/she will tell you that there is a terminology called “African Time” and “Mzungu Time”. Mzungu means “white person” and the meaning of “Mzungu Time” is that a white person’s perception of time is different from that of an African. This is crucially important when scheduling a meeting with a local. For example, one can plan to meet with a local at 10:00; however, the actual arrival time may be at noon. Bear in mind that there are two sides to every coin and you are entitled to be late as well.

This may seem puzzling at first; however, you will get used to it. 

Most of the time, your hosts won’t understand why people are stressed on their vacation…

Nightlife in Africa

East African businesses close in most regions at approximately 17:00-18:00, as it gets dark. After these hours, it is uncommon to find people wandering in the streets. 

In most cities, nightlife entertainment and events take place in closed venues, hotels and clubs where people arrive by taxi. Therefore, if you want to experience the nightlife, chances are you won’t meet people in the streets. You may however encounter a few local stalls that sell cigarettes and food to the residents in the downtown neighbourhoods.  

Rest assured that there is no concern for your personal safety at night, as this is a cultural aspect.