Key points about this information item UGANDAN CULTUREInformation Description:
Ugandans are considered some of the friendliest people in all of Africa – their gracious and courteous ways are some of the nicest you will find anywhere, yet culturally we may have very different values and the best way to find those differences and to see what we have in common is done by meeting Ugandans, asking questions and listening. As a visitor to Uganda, not knowing the Ugandan culture – you probably will make some cultural mistakes- not even knowing that you have made such since the gracious Ugandan will never tell you about you making that mistake.
Uganda has a very strong culture heritage. Many regions in Uganda have kingdoms including Buganda, Busoga, Bunyoro and Toro. Ugandan are remarkable hospitable and hails from a diversity of rich cultures and life styles Each tribe has its own traditional dance ; The banyankole perform their Kitaguriro dance , the Banyoro have their Runyege , Acholi have the Bwila and Otole dances . The Alur people from the West Nile have the traditional Agwal dance, Bagisu have the Imbalu dance during circumcision ceremonies.
Uganda’s official language is English which also doubles as our language mode of education. It is widely spoken and many Ugandan people – especially those that have attended at least primary education will comprehend the Basic English.
Swahili – by law prescribed in the constitution of Uganda is the second official language.
Much as Uganda is in the East African Community were Swahili is widely spoken (in particular Kenya and Tanzania), not many Ugandans are able to comprehend it, let alone being able to speak it.
It is commonly spoken though in some parts of the country – especially the border areas with Kenya and Tanzania and some parts of the north and parts of Bunyoro region. It is also widely used by the army and police. There are many other tribal languages that are spoken throughout the country
Be flexible, not up tight. Go with the flow of the culture and ministry you're involved in. The people of East Africa are event oriented rather than time oriented. The key in all of this is the event, not whether or not the event started and/or ended on time. This should not give you an excuse to be late. Try to set a good example by being on time (or early).
Ugandans, both men and women, greet each other with a handshake. The people of Uganda are generally very friendly so do not be surprised if strangers come up to shake your hand. You will be taught special greetings for special circumstances.
Usually older people greet younger people first. Men greet women first. If you are not in a position to shake hands, acknowledge others with a wave. Friendship between two men or two women is often expressed by holding hands. It does not mean that they are gay.
Ladies generally wear dresses/skirts but loose fitting slacks or Capri's are acceptable in Kampala and the game parks. Pants/slacks on women are not recommended in rural areas.
Since Ugandans consider it offensive for a woman to expose her knees and shoulders (although you may see less modest wear on the young adults and in the city), the most acceptable thing to wear is a dress/skirt covering the knees with a modest top - short tops that show your stomach or your back are not acceptable. A tank or T-shirt which exposes your bra - or more - is definitely not acceptable. A loose fitting tank top which is at least 4 inches wide at the shoulders is acceptable, but nothing less. And these are only acceptable in Kampala. However, if you are wearing a loose-fitting shirt over the tank, such as a "camp shirt" (meaning button up short-sleeved shirt), this is acceptable.
Also keep in mind that the thigh and knee of a woman is considered very sensual so keep them covered in public. It is absolutely necessary for ladies to wear an underskirt or lining underneath their dress/skirt, unless it is denim or of a similar heavy weight material!
Please note that it is culturally inappropriate for ladies to wear trousers or shorts in many areas of Uganda, especially in the villages. In such places longer skirts/dresses should be worn. However, for beach holidays, school activities and trips, one may wear trousers. Children are not required to wear special clothes although most schools require uniforms that conform to school standards.
In most rural areas women will most likely be housewives. They will be expected to cook, clean, do they laundry and take care of the children, as well as work their land. Once married, the woman is transferred from her original family to the man’s and takes on his clan. Marriage can be at a very young (early teens), but seems most common in the late teens. Also there is a transfer of “bride wealth” from the man to the woman’s family. Polygamy is generally acceptable as well. Polygamous marriages have reinforced some aspects of male dominance but also have given women an arena for cooperating to oppose male dominance. A man may grant his senior wife “male” status, allowing her to behave as an equal toward men and as a superior toward his other wives. However, polygamous marriages have left some wives without legal rights to inheritance after divorce or widowhood.
Uganda is relational
In Uganda – it takes a village to raise a child and in that village there is the family and during the holidays you find the urban, the middle class all returning to their roots, their village, their family, their parents, grandparents – life is relational here – Westerners are seen of being alone, whereas Ugandans are related – have ties, family, church, mosque. Bring some family pictures, some pictures of how and where you live and a Ugandan will love it and they will see you in a different light- the light of relationships which they so much treasure.
The Drum being the common instrument in Africa, also dominates Uganda in symbolism to African culture. A drum is made from animal skin of Cows, goats, and other animals.
Uses of the drum
For sending particular messages to the intended audience.
In ritual ceremonies, drums are used for the last funeral rites, traditional worship, king installation, exorcism, circumcision and others.
Drums are used for entertainment, different drumming techniques are used by each tribe or culture”
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