- Saying good morning to someone takes a while. It’s quite a ceremony. And you’re doing it with all acquaintances and colleagues you encounter. (There goes half your morning if you’re (un-)lucky).
- When in conversation with somebody, do not look him other directly into the eyes to often. This seems to be very rude. Look away every now and then.
- In the office there is a shortage of almost everything. There are no paper, pens, markers or other office items. Also there is no internet, no business phones, no network, no organograms, no list of people who actually work here (let alone what they do), no e-mail addresses (everybody uses a private account) and no coffee or tea. Well, you get the picture I guess.
- In Malawi there is more demand for electricity than there is production. The Malawian solution? Well, just rotate power cuts between areas a few hours at a time.
- If somebody in de village passes away, everybody goes to the funeral. This could easily take a day. You’ll have to go to (this hasn’t happend during my stay so far).
- People are more important than things. For example; if you’re in need of money, just ask somebody. You’ll pay it back when the other persons really needs the money. Why? Well, money is just a thing, it’s not important. If he doesn’t need it, then why give it back?
- People are very curious about you. If you encounter some total stranger on the street the conversation goes something like this: What’s your name? Where do you live? Where do you come from? How long will you stay here? Where do you work? Which church are you attending? Are you married? How many children do you have? Why don’t you have children? How’s your family? etc.
- If you get ill, everybody will come and visit you. Friends, acquaintances, family and colleagues. Fortunately they won’t expect a lot attention from you. And you will get a lot of food (no flowers, for they are useless).
- “What breasts are for the European man, are thighs for the African man”. So a décolleté is not a big deal, but do cover up your legs.
- Furthermore the offices are not that clean (at all), with rags acting as curtains, and if you have glass in your window, it probably is broken. There are plenty of lizards on the walls and lots of grasshoppers, spiders and baby mosquitos, as well as the inevitable portrait of President Joyce Banda hanging above the main desk. Welcome to a Malawian office!
I think I will be able to go on for a while with this list. And I’m sure I will get more surprises every day. It keeps me on my toes I guess, and I surely will have something to laugh about. Or more likely: the Malawian people and especially my colleagues will have plenty to laugh about. Unfortunately that will probably be me.
Tasalani bwino! (goodbye/stay well) Marije
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