Rwanda

Traditions & Customs

Traditions & Customs

Rwanda is a very conservative society; most people dress modestly, especially women. Wearing shorts or tight skirts and skimpy tops is likely to get you stared at twice as much as normal.

It is unusual for a couple to make public displays of affection, even though many men walk hand in hand with male friends. Also, Rwandans will generally never eat or drink in public, apart from restaurants. Rwandan women are rarely seen smoking in public or out in bars unaccompanied.

Although there is no smoking ban in most public places like bars and restaurants, generally it's not encouraged. Sometimes people may complain of being disturbed with your smoking.

Rwandans are very private, reserved people and loud public confrontations (shouting matches) or obvious displays of emotion (such as crying) are also frowned upon. If you feel you are being overcharged by a trader, quietly persisting with the negotiation (or your complaint!) is likely to produce results much faster than an angry outburst!

It is also impolite to make eye contact with an elder.

Please understand that Rwanda is still recovering from a civil war and genocide in which over 800,000 people, perhaps a million, were killed. Many Rwandese lost relatives and friends. Remember to be sensitive to this sad fact when dealing with Rwandese. Most people today are trying to forget the tribal divisions and would rather be referred to as Rwandese than Hutu or Tutsi. It is considered impolite to ask someone about their ethnic origin.

There is not much political discourse in Rwanda, unlike in many neighbouring countries such as Uganda and Kenya where people talk freely about the government and political issues, people in Rwanda will be uncomfortable if asked about their views or even if seated at a table where national politics is discussed.

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Rwanda - Travel guide

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