Ethiopian Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • Make sure you spend some time getting to know an Ethiopian before talking about a serious matter or business. This generally makes people feel more comfortable. It can seem impersonal to discuss a topic without asking the person any questions.
  • Be aware that tasks can take a long time to complete in Ethiopia and the pace of life is generally slower. For example, it takes hours to make brew coffee in the traditional Ethiopian way. Plan to allow more time for engagements and be patient if things last longer than expected. 
  • Try to refer to the Ethiopian nation, nationality or culture specifically when possible, rather than “African”. It is appreciated when foreigners recognise that Ethiopia is culturally distinct from the rest of Africa.
  • Show interest in the well-being of an Ethiopian’s family whenever you see them (e.g. “How are your children?”). However, it is best not to enquire about a person’s private life (e.g. relationships, parenting) unless they open up to you first. Innocent curiosity about certain family matters can make people feel uncomfortable as there is quite a strong emphasis on people’s public presentation in Ethiopia (see Yilugnta in Core Concepts for more information).
  • Show greater respect to elders in all circumstances and situations. Their age is thought to indicate wisdom, knowledge and experience. 
  • Remember that Ethiopians see themselves as progressive people and pride themselves on their country’s legacy of independence. Avoid invoking stereotypes of Africa to form conclusions about Ethiopian culture.


Don'ts

  • Do not assume that all Ethiopian migrants have experienced conflict or lived in refugee camps. While this is the case for some, it does not apply to all people. Many Ethiopians migrate as skilled workers or on family visas.
  • Do not criticise Ethiopia’s developmental challenges. While certain things may not be as convenient to access in Ethiopia, it does not mean the culture or people are less sophisticated.
  • Avoid asking questions that assume Ethiopians are uneducated, uncivilised or impoverished, such as “Do you have the internet in Ethiopia?”. Most Ethiopian migrants living in English-speaking countries are skilled, educated, urbanised and familiar with the technologies of the developed world.
  • Do not assume that Ethiopians suffer from food shortages or famine. The country has not experienced famine since the 1980s and stereotypes of the people as ‘starving Africans’ can be offensive.
  • Avoid offering your opinion on local politics, ethnic tensions or Ethiopia’s relationship with Eritrea. There are a lot of political overtones in Ethiopia. If the topic is raised, it is best to simply listen.
  • Do not disrespect religion, be it Orthodox Christianity, Protestantism or Islam.
  • Avoid directly asking someone what ethnicity they belong to. This can come across as an insensitive or divisive question. In Ethiopia, people generally ask one another what region they are from or language they speak, and make an informed guess about the person’s tribe or ethnicity from there. 
  • Avoid complaining, raising your voice or showing public anger/frustration about petty or minor inconveniences. Ethiopians are generally tolerant and stoic people, and are very unlikely to make a scene if something aggravates them (see Stoicism in Core Concepts).
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Ethiopia
  • Population
    105,350,020
    [July 2017 est.]
  • Languages
    Oromo (33.8%)
    Amharic (29.3%)
    Somali (6.2%)
    Tigrinya (5.9%)
    Sidamo (4.0%)
    Wolaytta (2.2%)
    Gurage (2.0%)
    Afar (1.7%)
    Hadiyya (1.7%)
    Other (13.2) - including over 70 other individual languages.
    [Census, 2007]
  • Religions
    Ethiopian Orthodox Christianity (43.5%)
    Islam (33.9%)
    Protestant Christianity (18.5%)
    Traditional/Animist Religions (2.7%)
    Catholic Christianity (0.7%)
    Other (0.6%)
    [Census, 2007]
  • Ethnicities
    Oromo (34.4%)
    Amhara (26.9%)
    Somali (6.2%)
    Tigrinya (6.1%)
    Sidama (4.0%)
    Gurage (2.5%)
    Welaita (2.3%)
    Hadiya (1.7%)
    Afar (1.7%)
    Other (14.1%) - including at least 70 other ethnic groups.
    [Census, 2007]
  • Cultural Dimensions
    70
    20
    65
    55
    N.A.
    N.A.
  • Australians with Ethiopian Ancestry
    13,715 [2016 census]
Ethiopians in Australia
  • Population
    11,792
    [2016 census]
    This figure refers to the number of Australian residents that were born in Ethiopia.
  • Average Age
    35
    [Census 2011]
  • Gender
    Male (48.5%)
    Female (51.5%)
    [Census 2011]
  • Religion
    Islam (23.9%)
    Oriental Orthodox Christianity (23.4%)
    Eastern Orthodox Christianity (18.7%)
    Catholic Christianity (5.4%)
    Other (28.7%)
    [Census 2011]
  • Ancestry
    Ethiopian (59.6%)
    Oromo (9.2%)
    Other (20.4%)
    Not stated (5.5%)
    African (undefined) (5.2%)
    [Census 2011]
  • Language Spoken at Home
    Amharic (40.4%)
    Oromo (15.3%)
    English (13.4%)
    Tigrinya (9.6%)
    Other (21.3%)
    Of those who speak a language other than English at home, 82.5% speak English fluently.
    [Census 2011]
  • Diaspora
    Victoria (53.1%)
    Western Australia (13.6%)
    New South Wales (13.1%)
    Queensland (8.9%)
    [Census 2011]
  • Arrival to Australia
    Prior to 2001 (36.7%)
    2001-2006 (30.5%)
    2007-2011 (27.7%)
    [Census 2011]
Country https://dtbhzdanf36fd.cloudfront.net/countries/149/et.svg Flag Country Ethiopia