Zambia Culture and Customs

© Traditional tribal dancing

Zambia has a vast collection of cultures, language dialects and customs. While travelling in the country there are some very basic ones which are applicable. The population is largely made up of over 70 indigenous tribal groups. The rest of the population is made up of Asians, Europeans and other.


With the cities of Zambia growing at the rate they are, most of the tribal customs are only applied in the rural areas.

Some of the common customs are: always greet before starting a conversation, and if a person approaches you, offer the initial greeting. Men should withhold their hands when greeting a woman, until the woman offers her hands. Gifts are presented as a sign of honour, friendship or appreciation. Gifts should not be refused and accepted with both hands while saying thank you.

'Lobola' - the bride price is still a common practice as a sign of appreciation to the parents of the bride. In most tribes, the bride is taken to the village of the groom before the wedding. Large amounts of food and homemade beer are prepared for the celebration of the marriage. This follows with singing and drum beating. The bride and groom then meet with the elders and talk about the importance of their union.


A matter of importance in Zambian villages is the passing away of loved ones. All members of the village put money, time and effort together for the burial of the deceased. Grief is expressed with wailing, singing and dancing, making it a very emotional ceremony. During the mourning period; men stay outside the house and the women stay inside the house of the deceased. After talking about the deceased, the village walks to the place of burial to say their last goodbyes.

Music and dance is a very important aspect of the Zambian culture. The various tribal units have their own dance forms; however, makishi is common amongst all tribes. While dance is usually done for initiation ceremonies, it is used for celebrations as well. When it comes to music, drums are used the most, with a variety of drumming ceremonies.


In Zambia, majority of the people are Christian; Protestant and Roman Catholic. There are small groups of Muslims and Hindus, with the remainder following local native tribal beliefs.

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