Zimbabwean Culture

Do's and Don'ts

Do’s

  • Respect those who are older than you. Contradicting them, criticising them, disagreeing with them or ignoring them will give them a poor opinion of you. They are likely to think that you are not 'hunhu' (well-mannered) and be dismissive of you from then on. 
  • Try to control your emotions in public and express them in private. Zimbabweans are conscious of how they (and their family) are perceived by the public and generally try to restrain themselves from being angry or shouting in front of other people. Laughter or tears are acceptable. However, Zimbabwean men in particular rarely cry in public.
  • Expect Zimbabweans to be open and enthusiastic among those they know. However, understand that they may be more formal and reserved around strangers or when meeting someone for the first time.
  • Expect a Zimbabwean to talk themselves up by telling you about their level of education and occupation. The culture is quite status-conscious and these attributes can earn a person respect in another’s eyes.


Do not’s

  • It is best not to criticise the country of Zimbabwe. Many Zimbabweans do so themselves, but foreign criticism may offend their pride.
  • Avoid raising discussion of politics unless you have a strong understanding of the situation. There has been a lot of political upheaval in Zimbabwe.
  • It is very impolite and offensive to imply that someone is poor.
  • Avoid talking about HIV/AIDS as many Zimbabweans have lost family members to the disease, or know someone who has.
  • Race relations may be openly talked about; however, be aware that Zimbabweans are generally sensitive to racism and discrimination. Many years of colonial subjugation have left an impact in this regard.
  • Avoid bringing up unpleasant topics of discussion or bad news around others. It can be seen as impolite to do so in social situations. If you do need to tell someone something negative, do so alone in private and try and deliver the news as indirectly as possible.
  • Do not be rowdy in front of someone’s family or those who are a lot older than yourself. Men may be very casual in front of other men of the same age. Some social groups may also make jovial comments in front of the other gender. However, it is inappropriate to swear or make derogatory jokes outside of a close group of friends.
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