When visiting Ethiopia for the first time, if you are not from an African country, you will definitely be affected by culture shock. Some would be normal to you because you’ve probably heard a lot about them before.
All of these are true, at least from my perspective, and they are also funny. I hope you enjoy the do’s and don’ts, when you are visiting Ethiopia.
Do: Eat at a traditional restaurant. After all, they are actually meant for you.* They are meant to entertain you with their great music and at most places, their dancing. They have the best of the best of all kinds of Ethiopian dishes. If you haven’t tried it before, this is your chance.
(* you-ferenji, outsider, American, non-Ethiopian…)
Don’t: be grossed out when you see man-feeding-man in these restaurants. It’s called “Gursha” and it is a tradition.
New Do: Learn what “miss call” means. Ethiopians created that thing. This is how it works.
You know when you check your phone and you see several missed calls, you probably say, “I missed all these calls.” In Ethiopia how ever, someone would ring you for a second and then hang up, they’re usually paging you saying, “dude, I don’t have any credit on my phone cuz I’m broke, so call me back right now!” [if you have credit of course; and if you don’t, you do the same thing: call, listen, let it ring once, then hang up before they pick up.]
Do: Visit Merkato. It’s the biggest market place in Addis.
Don’t: Carry anything expensive and/or personal to Merkato. Some people will try to get in your pocket, even though you’re going to think that they’re just trying to get through. (come on.)
New (From Newal) Do: Wear rain boots (Yejika Boti) not your fancy Ferenji shoes when visiting Merkato or during rainy season. The mud is just nasty… like, these past couple of days. -_____- (sucks)
Don’t: Worry about the people who follow you and keep saying, “hello”, “please”, “mister”. They’re just asking for some money, but you will know what to say to them in the next “Do.”
Do: Learn some of the lingo. Amharic is a very hard language to learn. Some things though, you’re definitely going to need to learn to survive inEthiopia.
- Selam new? Basic, and it basically means “What up?!”
- Dehna. Means, “I’m good.”
- Eshi. Means “OK.”
- Mels setegn. On a minibus, if you give them like 10 birr or even 5 for a 2 birr distance, they try their best to make you forget it by saying, “I don’t have change.” So keep reminding them by saying, “mels setegn,” meaning, “return my change, fool.” [not the fool part, I just had to add that.]
- Weraj Ale. Say that when you need to get off of a taxi cab or minibus. From Newal, Do: say Weraj ale, a few minutes ahead not when you reach your destination.
- Allah/Exiabher yesteh. If the beggers are annoying you, use either one, depending on what you think their religion is, to make them stop following you.
- Sinte new? If you’re shopping or something, say that to ask, “how much?”
- Ameseginalew. yea, that loooong thing, means “thank you.”
Don’t: Try to take shortcuts if you’re walking alone. Use the main roads; but make an effort to travel with a friend. However though, as Eweket said, feel safe; Ethiopia isn’t dangerous for foreigners. We love you. 😉
New Do: Eweket would like to add, eat a lot of fruit; we’ve got great mango juices. Also, all of your fruits are 100% natural and very tasty.
Do: Know that the streets of Addis are very noisy. People yell when they’re walking and while sitting in a quiet minibus; all vehicles honk for no apparent reason; donkeys and dogs cry everywhere; and the traffic police whistle at every car, just cuz they felt like it.
Don’t: Freak out if you see people peeing in the streets, not caring about who might see them.
Don’t: be surprised by the crazy driving. Be very careful. Cars will drive too close to you, the taxis cut in from wherever they want to, and sometimes, they just stop right in front of you without a signal or anything.
Do: check out Sheraton Addis! It’s one of the best places which makes you forget that you are inAfrica.
Do: Get your shoes cleaned by Listero. I don’t even have to say it; you’ll be tempted to do it yourself.
Don’t: Under any circumstances, use the public bus, or autobus, is what they call it here. They are big, colored yellow and red with a lion on the side. Some people on there are crazy and it is just bad for your health.
Don’t: shop alone. Some people here are selfish and can try to make too much profit off of you. Shop with an Ethiopian person. [Not me though, I’m terrible at bargaining with them.]
Do: Try to see the wonderful places of Ethiopia; Harar, Gondar, Axum,…
Don’t: Trust the guys or the girls that you are trying to get with. I’m just sayin…
New Do: When you greet an Ethiopian, kiss each cheek at least once, give one more for the first cheek. 😉 Also, be sure to ask how everyone in the family is doing, not just the person you know.
Example: (This is how you should greet an Ethiopian.)
You: Hi Mr. X, how are you? How’s your mother doing? and your Father? Sisters? Everybody doing alright?
So anyways, this is basically what you need to know when thinking about coming to Ethiopia. If there are any that I might have missed, comment here so I can add to the list. I hope you enjoyed it… 😀