Did You Know?

In light of my upcoming trip, I thought I would give you some interesting Do's and Don'ts of Burkinabe etiquette.  (Given to me in a pamphlet from the organization I'm going on the trip with.)

  • The person arriving on the scene should initiate the greetings.  Eye contact is not direct.  Greet the older or more respected persons of the group first.  Always greet first, before business or chit-chat.
  • Burkinabes like to shake hands.  Women should not offer their hand first when shaking hands with men.  In general, women should wait for men to offer their hand first.  If hands are soiled or wet when shaking hands, one offers his forearm or wrist instead
  • Men and women will usually eat separately.  Wash your hands before eating.  Older more respected persons begin.  Eat in front of yourself.  Eat only with your right hand.  Wash hands again after eating and say thank you by saying "barika" to each person beginning with the host.
  • Greet people before beginning to bargain.  Bargaining is a game so have fun with it. (I hope to bargain for some gifts, we'll see how I do.)
  • Always give and receive with right hand or both hands.  It is a serious insult to use your left hand for anything such as giving money or food to someone. (A friend going on the trip is left handed and will need to be very conscious of this.)
  • The left hand is considered "unclean".
  • Women, when you are in public do not look men directly in the eyes when on the street, in greeting or in casual conversation.  Looking someone in the eye can be seen as aggressiveness.
  • Couples do not show affection to each other in public and rarely even touch.
  • Men hold hands with male friends and women with women friends.  It is not a sexual gesture, it is a compliment.
  • Burkinabe culture is very conservative.  Shorts are not appropriate for men or women in public.  Although times are changing, respectable women in Burkina Faso do not wear pants.  Dresses and skirts calf-length or longer are best.
  • Photos can be taken IF you ask the people first.  Photos are not to be taken of or near any government or public structures.  Never take a photo of or near anybody in uniform.  Ask before taking a picture of people.  (I better make sure I remember how to ask for a picture!)
Burkinabe are all about relationships and put them above anything else!  For example, if you have an appointment and are engaged in a conversation with someone, the appointment will wait.... relationship first.

Now if I can just be sensitive to the culture without a spirit of timidity!  Wish me luck.


  1. Such a difference from the US. Should be quite an interesting trip


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Thanks for taking the time to comment. I always enjoy hearing from you. ~Kim