Zambian Social Etiquette: The Do’s And Don’ts of A Zambian Society

Zambian Social Etiquette is about good manners, good behaviour or simply correct and polite behaviour in Zambian society. As an outsider or new comer, the following will give you a brief account of the do’s and don’ts of a Zambian society.


More and more people are living in towns and cities and professionals have immigrated abroad in a growing diaspora. The following is expected of you when eating, especially the Zambian staple food, Nshima:

Wash hands before eating. But note that the adults, older siblings, and guests wash their hands first before the young ones. It is improper for young persons to wash their hands first before the adults and guests have done so.

You eat using your hands (always with the right hand) from communal dishes. Both hands are never used when eating.

You do not stop eating and wash hands first or leave the dining table before adults do. But the host may grant you permission to do so. 

As a guest, it is considered disrespectful to leave a home immediately after a meal.

It is considered rude of you to ask your guests whether they are hungry or not.

It is good manners to eat at least just a little even if you are full. Refusing completely is considered being impolite.


Zambians shake hands when greeting (right hands), kneeling if greeting an elderly or someone of a higher standing. But, it is very disrespectful to shake hands with your in-laws.

When greeting an elder, you use your right hand while supporting the elbow with the left hand.

Traditionally, physical contact with the opposite sex during greetings is not acceptable.

It is considered disrespectful to address an adult using his/her first name.

Social etiquette And Modern Zambia

Zambian social etiquette is also part of Zambian customs. These are simple rules that have kept Zambia and her traditions intact for ages. However due to the influence of western culture, most of the above are rarely adhered to or followed by some Zambians especially in urban areas. 

Youths in modern Zambia do not behave according to the Zambian social etiquette. Western music, movies and dressing have taken a toll on the lifestyle of most urban residents. 

Their role models are their favourite musicians and actors. They talk, live, drink and eat like their idols on the screen or in their favourite songs. Sadly, modern Zambia is seeing the end of social etiquette Zambia.

Let’s preserve our customs and culture!

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