1.) Greet people ALWAYS- Greetings are huge in Botswana. They mean the world to people and are a significant part of any relationship. I also like how it is expected to greet people before you ask for help or ask them to do something for you. This does not always happen but it is considered impolite to not first recognize the individual as a person (and not a means to an end). On days when I am not super busy at work, I love to go and “check” all my coworkers and friends in the community just to let them know I care about them and recognize their importance in my life. Every time I travel to the capitol city where such extended greetings are not common, I always experience a bit of culture shock.
2.) Sing or dance whenever you want and wherever you want- Tswana culture is full of the celebration of life with its continual expression and rhythm. People are not afraid to randomly break into song or dance and love it when you do, too! Songs are used to open school assemblies, work meetings, casual community meetings and about everything else in between. And when you ask people what they enjoy doing they will often say dancing and singing. They will then proceed to break into song and dance for you.
3.) Share your food- Food is also a huge part of building relationships with people. At first I found it difficult to openly share my food especially with the limited volunteer allowance we are given and the expense of food in our village of Tsabong where a bag of apples costs 29 pula and only costs 9 pula in villages closer to the capitol. However, once you see how it brings people together your heart is opened and it is a nice experience. There are times where you are offered food you don’t really want like gemsbok liver or cow intestine and there are times where it’s a delightful experience like honey sucked straight out of a freshly gathered honey comb. Recently on the bus home from the capitol, I witnessed my seatmate (a 25 year old woman) share her bag of chips with a snotty-nosed little girl standing next to us in the aisle. The girl was obviously starving and very sick with some sort of bad chest cold. The little girl couldn’t have been more than 4 and was traveling with her mother and two younger siblings. I can’t imagine trying to take three small children on a crowded 7 hour bus ride but the mother was helped by the women around her who took turns holding them.
4.) Hold or Clap someone’s hand when you talk- Even grown men will be seen walking down the road holding hands and chatting it up. When I first arrived here, I found it awkward and weird but now I even do it to others and find it to be quite pleasant. When you are really excited to see people, you usually give them a hug and then hold their hand for a few seconds while you chat. It’s also very common for people to do what I would equate to a fist bump in the states during the middle of a conversation. You do it after you or they say something funny or after something you agree on. The hand slap is just a clap of the hands with a little thumb touch at the end. It’s hard to put into words but it’s like doing a secret handshake with your best friend growing up except you regularly do it in mid-conversation with everyone from your closest friends to complete strangers.