Upon a visit to Namibia it is important to understand culture and etiquette in order to know exactly how to not offend the locals. Familiarize yourself with Namibian gender roles and what is appropriate dress and what is not. Knowing this simple knowledge will take you to greater experiences.
In traditional Namibian societies the elders are treated with deference. Priests, nurses, and teachers are also treated with the same respect amongst the local population since few professions were allowed during the apartheid years, and these three were among them. Thus, the communities held these professionals on a pedestal of the utmost importance, and still do today. The same goes for people with authority (remember respect is given when respect is taken).
Do you plan to explore village life when you visit Namibia?
Village life in Namibia is still very much a patriarchal society. Men get the best seats on buses and at home, while the women and children stand or sit on the ground. Men take first dibs at meals, and rarely do their own laundry or cook meals for themselves. However, in the post independence era gender equality is a main component of the Namibian government and as a result more and more women are being hired and taking leadership positions in government as well as the private sector. The urban centers are much more gender equal, however traditional customs are generally followed when around family or while visiting villages.
How should you dress when you visit Namibia?
Namibians value the way they dress. At home they dress down, however once leaving for town or work they always dress ‘smart,’ meaning they look good and portray a certain level of intellect. Men often wear slacks and a nice collared shirt while women wear long dresses or trousers with a conservative top. Shorts are acceptable but should be limited to casual environments. Visitors may unknowingly offend many locals when foreign women choose to wear skimpy, revealing clothing, which Namibians view as a sign of promiscuity; wearing revealing outfits may bring unwanted negative attention. Windhoek and Swakopmund may be more accepting to such clothes, but if you are visiting rural villages, conservative clothing should be worn. Familiarize yourself with the areas you plan to visit and respect the local culture by dressing accordingly.
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