If you are visiting Botswana for the first time, best believe just like any new place you are pretty much going to experience some culture shock. Having traveled to a few SADC countries and from what I have read and seen in the media, I like to call Botswana ‘The Comfort Zone’.
Botswana is literally your home away from home. Your ideal holiday destination. If you are from a busy and buzzing country, you will definitely feel what I am talking about as soon as you land in Botswana.
There is absolutely no hurry in Botswana and adding the fact that we are sparsely populated, a breath of fresh air is guaranteed. You might have read somewhere that wild animals roam freely in Africa. Well, that’s so true.
Here are a few interesting things to know about Botswana before your trip:
1. Languages in Botswana
Botswana has 2 official languages. English and Setswana. Even though we have a lot of native languages amongst our different tribes, the majority of Batswana speak both English and Setswana. Most written communication and official business texts are in English.
Depending on the District of Botswana you will be traveling to, you might want to learn a few basics of the native language mostly spoken in the region. Batswana are very friendly and welcoming so learning some basics is an absolute Love Language, no kidding.
Apart from English and Setswana, we have Sekgalagadi, Kalanga, Sesubiya, Seyei, Seherero, Sesarwa ( a collective label for different dialects spoken by The San), etc.
2. Currency in Botswana
Pula is the Botswana Currency.1 Pula is divided into 100 Thebe. Pula means Rain whereas Thebe means shield. If you have US Dollars, UK Pounds, Euros, and South African Rands you will definitely exchange without a hustle with the local regulated Bureau de Change.
You will also find ATMs across major towns and villages so you do not need to carry large amounts of cash around.
3. Cultures in Botswana
Botswana has diverse cultures and a range of ethnic groups. If you are into Cultural Tourism, I’d advise you to get a hold of The official Botswana Calendar of Events to guide you on where and when to travel to Botswana.
The culture of Botswana is prominent in the Setswana language, traditional music, local food, dance, traditional attire, rituals, and other ceremonies like wedding celebrations. Botswana culture is celebrated every year in a commemorative festival called ‘Letsatsi la Ngwao’ – Botswana Culture Day.
4. Dress Code in Botswana
Another thing you should know before visiting Botswana is the dress code. Dress – We do not have extremely strict dress code regulations in Botswana but depending on occasions and specific locations you might have to abide by set rules out of respect for our Culture and Traditions. For instance, at the Kgotla.
This is a traditional law court of a Botswana village. It is headed by the village chief or headman, and that’s where crucial community decisions are taken or delivered. Anyone at all has the right to air their views.
At the Kgotla it is totally disrespectful to interrupt while someone is still expressing their opinion. Batswana are the biggest believers in solving conflicts through dialogue and mutual respect. Because of this tradition, Botswana has always been deemed a Beacon of Democracy.
While on safari in Botswana, We suggest keeping to light, neutral colors; khaki, green and brown, but not white as it will get dirty and dusty very quickly. Also note it is very important to avoid camouflage or military clothing, as this is illegal in Botswana.
5. Food in Botswana
Food – Botswana has adapted a lot of different dishes from across the world, especially from the West, but we do have a variety of our tantalizing native cuisine. It will be amazing to try something new here. But if you are a picky eater, you will surely have a lot of safer options to stick by.
In many countries around the world, Botswana’s cuisine is known as the Rainbow’s Gastronomy, which is heavily influenced by Botswana’s ethnic wealth and vibrant culture.
6. Songs and Dances in Botswana
Song and Dance – Batswana love to sing and dance. The chances of us singing for you as a welcome gesture to Botswana are extremely high. Just do not randomly ask people to sing for you. We love free will so we might interpret that as rudeness even if your intentions are pure.
Folk music of Botswana is mostly based on vocals and performance (dance). The traditional music of indigenous people is a vocal song accompanied by clapping hands with nice and complicated rhythmic lines. Botswana folk music in many cases accompanied by traditional instruments such as Segaba/Segankure (a kind of bowed string instrument), Phala (a kind of whistle instrument), and Moropa (a kind of drum).
Popular and modern music today in Botswana are strongly influenced by this folk music although it is mainly mixed with Western instruments. Music has a strong part in the Education system in Botswana and children of all ages are taught traditional songs, dances, and music.
7. Religion and Believes in Botswana
Christianity is the dominant religion in Botswana. However, we have a lot of other religions such as Islam, African Traditional Religion, Bahai Faith, Hinduism, etc. We also have Irreligion.
The official religion is Christianity, but in actuality, only 20% are practicing Christians (including the United Congregational Church of Southern Africa) while 80% follow various indigenous beliefs.
Botswana is generally an easy-going country with freedom of religious practice as long as your beliefs do not endanger anyone’s life or against humanity.
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