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Living in Zambia >> Lifestyle ,Culture & Safety


Lifestyle and Culture in Zambia

 

Zambia is a sparely populated and relatively poor African country. Most of the population lives in the capital, Lusaka, and the mineral-rich Copperbelt region. With around 72 different ethnic groups, Zambia is a multicultural society. Most of these groups are Bantu-speaking, although English is the official language of Zambia.

 

Expatriates coming from more developed countries are likely to experience a fair amount of culture shock in Zambia. For an inexperienced expatriate, in particular, the most profound adjustment will be to the poverty endemic to the country.

 

Poverty in Zambia

 

Ultra modern infrastructure in most parts of the country is under development with new offices and shopping malls been constructed. Roads in most areas have been upgraded to good standard.

The sharp contradictions between the haves and the have-nots are very noticeable in Zambia. Within a few miles, one can see the transition from rural mud huts and poor shanty towns to luxurious mansions and ostentatious shopping malls, with the obligatory 4x4 luxury vehicles lined up outside.

 

Time in Zambia

 

Expats living in Zambia will need to learn some patience when it comes to making arrangements and attending meetings or social engagements. Time is sometimes a vague concept in Zambia and Zambians often have a very relaxed attitude to punctuality.

 

Communicating in Zambia

 

English is the official language in Zambia and most expatriates will therefore not struggle with a language barrier. Nevertheless, those living in more rural areas of Zambia will likely encounter those who do not speak or understand English and they should take the time to learn some key phrases of the local dialect. This will be appreciated by the locals and will certainly ease communications in day-to-day encounters with the local population.

 

Zambians are quite formal and prefer to be addressed formally; greetings are extremely important and will be reciprocated. Politeness is highly respected in Zambian culture and requests after a person’s wellbeing are the typical start to a conversation, even in a service situation.

 

Public displays of affection are not common in Zambian social circles, and expatriates should try avoid such displays as they may cause embarrassment to their Zambian piers. However, Zambian men will often hold hands for the duration of a conversation. This is not suggestive, and simply a cultural equivalent of ‘look at me when you speak to me.’

 

The people of Zambia are renowned for being warm, charming and curious. Staring is common and the children will often greet white people with shouts of “mazungu, mazungu!” (white man).

 

Mobile Phone Networks include Airtel , MTN and Zamtel.

 

Safety in Zambia

Zambia has largely been spared the violence and political upheaval that many of its regional neighbours have experienced in recent years and the country is rated as one of the safest in Africa.

 

With low crime rates, a stable political system and little threat from terrorism or ethnic strife, most expatriates report feeling safe in Zambia.

 

Road safety in Zambia

 

Road safety is likely the most significant safety concern for expatriates living in Zambia. The majority of expatriates own or rent a vehicle for getting around. However, driving in Zambia can be an exercise in patience and stamina. Most of the roads have now been upgraded and improved thus ease of movement.

 

Some companies may provide a driver for their senior executives, so this is something worth noting during contract negotiations when considering employment opportunities in Zambia.

 

Road travel at night should be avoided as much as possible. Hazards of driving in the dark include wild and domestic animals wondering on the roads, pedestrians, stationary vehicles and unlit moving vehicles. Criminals are also more active at night and the risk of carjacking increases.

 

Crime in Zambia

 

Most expatriates living in Zambia report feeling safe in their homes. Nevertheless, home burglaries do occur, particularly in the more affluent areas of Lusaka and other Zambian cities and towns. Expatriates should ensure that they have adequate home security, such as burglar bars on their windows. Hiring a security guard or contributing to a neighbourhood security fund can also add significantly to peace of mind.

 

Crimes of opportunity such as pickpocketing and smash-and-grab thefts from stationary vehicles in traffic do occasionally occur. Car doors and windows should be locked when driving on congested roads. Walking around at night is not advisable, nor is driving at night.

 

Zambia is a very conservative society and expatriates should note that homosexuality is illegal in the country. The penalties can be severe. It’s best to be discreet and public displays of affection with people of the same sex should be avoided.

 

Political unrest in Zambia

 

Zambia enjoys a stable political system and civil unrest is not common. Nevertheless, protests do occasionally take place. Recent protests have involved miners demanding higher wages and students demanding better conditions.

 

Food and water safety

 

Although tap water in Lusaka may be potable, the quality of the water is not always consistent and is best avoided as a precaution. Tap water in mining areas has also sometimes been found to be contaminated.

 

Bottled water is widely available and recommended for expatriates living in Zambia.

 

Wildlife in Zambia

 

Expatriates should remember that most animals in Zambia are wild and can be dangerous. More people are killed by hippos in Africa than any other wild animal. Crocodiles on the banks of the Zambezi River are another danger. Expatriates should not swim in any rivers in Zambia due to the risk of attack by hippos, crocodiles and other animals. When visiting game parks, always stay in the vehicle and keep windows closed. Walks in game parks should only be undertaken with qualified game rangers and park staff.

 

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