Zimbabwean Culture

Greetings

  • Greet anyone older than yourself first. Greetings are performed in order of age. If someone doesn’t greet you, it may be because they are older than you and are waiting for you to make the first gesture.
  • The common greeting is a firm handshake with the right hand. This may linger for longer than you are accustomed to. Some Zimbabweans may slide their hands up to grasp each other's thumbs during the handshake.
  • The traditional greeting involves a clap after the handshake. The first person claps twice whilst saying “Makadii” (‘How are you?’ in Shona). The other person responds with two claps in return. Men clap with their fingertips and palms touching, whilst women clap with their hands on an angle (like a golf clap). However, both men and women keep their hands cupped so when they clap it makes an air-pocket.
  • Women may lower their body briefly, kneel or curtsy whilst shaking hands out of respect. Men may go down on one knee.
  • Family and friends may hug and pat one another on the back.
  • All greetings should be followed by a brief enquiry into the other person’s well-being before proceeding with normal conversation. A simple “How are you?” suffices and is met with plain answers like “I’m fine”.
  • Do not use a person’s first name unless they invite you to do so. Titles of ‘Mr’ and ‘Miss’ are acceptable. In rural areas, people who have children are referred to as “Mother of ­­___” or “Father of ___”.
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