The Colors of Ethiopians: Where Are You From? at Tadias Magazine
Everyone has his/her own name and also uses his/her father's name, which comes after Now when they have settled in the US, most Ethiopians use their fathers' name as their .. Many work two jobs in order to meet their financial needs. Ethiopians generally pride themselves as a culture of hospitality (ie., the . It would be quite understandable that a parent needed to miss a meeting due to a. When I am introduced to other Ethiopians, the majority are uncertain whether they should speak to me in Where did your parents meet?.
A woman who cannot provide the customary gifts is at a disadvantage. If her family is poor, a woman will be sequestered in her home for three months. During this time she will undergo extensive beauty rituals, such as henna decoration and herb saunas, while other women in her family and community lavishly pamper and attend to her.
At the end of the three months, she will be presented to the community and her future husband's family. The woman's striking beauty is considered to be her gift. It is common for a young couple to begin their marriage by living in either the husband or the wife's family's home. The woman's mother or mother-in-law, depending on where the newlyweds reside, will instruct her about homemaking and caring for her husband during this time.
Gender Roles Women are considered to be subordinate to their husbands and girls receive less education than boys. Families tend to be large seven or eight children. Knowledge and use of family planning is extremely limited. Extended Families Family structure typically includes the extended family.
Family ties are strong. Households in the Ethiopian community include from one to six persons, half of whom are children under age In times of crisis, the family will take full responsibility for the family member's problems, whether it is financial, health or social. Disputes are settled by elders of the community. The society respects elders and accepts their admonitions or advice. Interaction is personal, informal and intimate; a great deal of interdependence is needed to accomplish a task or solve a problem.
Pregnancy Pregnancy is usually not discussed until it is noticeable. In Ethiopia, women are helped through pregnancy by their mothers and other female family members, friends and neighbors. Women do household chores and work as usual until they give birth. There is a belief that keeping active will quicken labor.
If the baby is a woman's first, she will go to her parents' home in the eighth month to relax and prepare for the birth. Rural and urban women observe this custom. It is considered bad luck to buy items for the baby until it is born.
It is also considered impractical to buy clothes for the baby before the gender is known. Urban women have recently started taking vitamins during pregnancy. Only a small percentage of rural women take vitamins. It is not culturally acceptable for a woman to be pregnant and unmarried, because it will bring shame to the family.
Hot mustard is avoided during pregnancy, as it is rumored to cause miscarriage. During pregnancy and postpartum, warm foods are eaten as they are believed to aid in healing after birth. The expectant mother is entertained and cooked for by her friends. In particular, the women will cook and then sample the porridge genfo.
This celebration is akin to a baby shower without gifts. Child Birth During labor, friends and family of the mother-to-be ritually roast and drink coffee and burn incense.
Men are not present during labor. If a woman is in labor she might notify her mother or a female friend, but not her husband. Men aren't involved in the delivery process. In rural areas, babies are born with the assistance of a midwife, who is a member of the mother's community. Other women can be present up until the point of labor, when it is just the woman, her mother, the midwife, and her helpers - such as neighbors who are especially experienced with childbirth.
In the cities, women may have prenatal care if affordable, provided by a clinic or a hospital. Caesarean sections are done in the cities, but are not common and are never performed by a midwife. In Orthodox Christian communities, women will gather outside the home to pray. When the mother's painful screams are heard, the women begin to say special prayers to the Virgin Mary. When the baby is born these women will make a series of loud sounds to broadcast the arrival and gender of the baby: Experience in the U.
In-hospital treatment and physician interactions have generally been well received. Ethiopian husbands generally attend childbirth classes with their wives and are usually present during labor. Immigrants may experience homesickness because practices can be drastically different than those back home, and physicians should be aware that mothers may need more emotional support.
It is helpful to explain to patients that residents are licensed physicians and work under supervision from specialists in their field. In addition, most women are afraid of C-section delivery, as it is perceived to be an unsafe procedure.
Many think that American doctors are too quick to perform Cesarean sections for what Ethiopians consider to be normal variations. For this reason, they may wait at home until well into labor in order to avoid unwanted procedures. Postpartum Practices Activity The mother rests in the house for 40 days after the birth. She is usually separated from her husband and is sexually inactive during this period. The husband, family, friends and neighbors are in charge of making sure that there is sufficient food and comfort for the mother during this time.
In some regions, mothers are encouraged to take cold showers after giving birth, as it is believed to help strengthen the body and aid the healing process. Food After birth, a thick, hot porridge called genfo is eaten by the new mother. It is believed to help her gain back strength and heal quickly. Friends and family make the genfo. It is made with barley, whole wheat flour, and spiced ghee clarified butter. A drink made with flax seed, oats, and honey is also given to the mother.
This drink is believed to produce breast milk quickly and help with constipation resulting from pregnancy. Rituals On either the seventh or the twelfth day, depending on the region, the mother and child go outside to be in the sun. This is done for the baby's health.
Neighbors come on this day to clean the house. It is common to see women kissing women, women kissing men, and men kissing men on the check in public including in the office. This does not mean they hug and kiss a person whom they have never met before. Greeting people is an important and somewhat lengthy many variations of how are you ritual. Not only is it important to ask, "How are you?
One way in which respect is demonstrated is to address people with a title—for example, Woizero Mrs. Solomon; Doctor Tesfaye; Engineer Gebreyes etc. Most foreigners do make a modest attempt to learn some Amharic.
Very few are successful in speaking any of the local languages fluently. This is unfortunate as it does tend to limit the level of engagement with people and understanding of the culture —especially in the rural areas.
Fortunately, most Ethiopians in the urban areas do speak quite good English—however, one does have to appreciate that English will be their second language. Everyone shakes hands—it becomes automatic.
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If you know someone, kissing 3 times on the cheeks is common. In some areas and especially with me—a shoulder-to-shoulder kind of greeting is common. Physical space is quite close—no need to keep a certain distance from people. Touching in normal, friendly ways is fine. Canadian children may find everyone wants to kiss them. Parents must decide what they want their children to do, explain it to them and then support them.
It is considered especially comical if a foreigner loses their temper in a public place; it is not at all appropriate.
Also, enduring the bureaucracy, for example, to get your drivers licence can test ones patience. Getting angry will only slow down the process. Try to use the opportunity to engage in a little conversation with the person next to you It can be a way to meet interesting people. Chances are they feel sorry for you because they know foreigners get very frustrated with such idle waiting! Cultural Information - Display of Emotion Question: Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?
It is not common to see lovers kissing in a sexual manner in public. Most people are shy about expressing their love to each other even in family circles.RANT: HABESHA PARENTS - Helen Haile
Sex is one topic that is still considered personal and private. On the other hand, people express their anger in a loud and emotional way on business or personal matters.
Most people use their hands and other body language to express approval, disapproval, satisfaction, consent etc. It is good to watch their body language. Ethiopians are not shy about expressing their opinion on matter of their expertise. Most like to argue and at times they can be stubborn. Controlled affection is fine—kissing on the cheeks, hugging, being happy to see others are all common. Public demonstration of romantic affection is not that common not that acceptable.
However, one may see young people walking with their arms around each other. Men often walk hand in hand if they are friends. Homosexuality is culturally not accepted—some think that it is against the law Overt homosexual behaviour would probably not be tolerated. What should I know about the workplace environment deadlines, dress, formality, etc. What you wear depends on where you work.
In an office environment, bureaucrats are expected to wear formal attire, i. Women can wear pair of pants at the office and are not expected to cover their head unless their religion dictates it. It is common to see young women with a short skirt and a dress that shows the upper part of the body any time of the day.
Casual wear in the office is not regarded positively. Ethiopians are a proud people with a sense of history and culture. This pride of person and a grounded sense of self, is also evident in the workplace. Western styles of dress are known through out all of Ethiopia.
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Given that Ethiopians are a conservative society in general, dress also tends to the conservative and modest. It would NOT be appropriate to go to an office job in jeans or something so casual. Greetings are important—as noted above. In a work context, it would be very important to address another person with their title Ato for man or Weziro for woman. Once you get to know them better—you may feel it is time to drop the title but whether or not this would be appropriate or not needs to be assessed.
Some elders really prefer to be addressed by their title. For example, bringing in a cake to celebrate a local holiday that is important to staff would be very appreciated. Attitudes to time can be quite variable and context specific.
When meeting times and reporting deadlines are agreed to, it is usually understood to be precisely at that time or on that date. However, one does also need to appreciate the difficult circumstances that most people live under and that there has to be some understanding of their circumstances lack of transport, sickness in the family. It would be quite understandable that a parent needed to miss a meeting due to a funeral, sick relative, etc.
On the other hand, people love it when your children come in the office so they can meet them; everyone loves children! It is important to note that Ethiopia operates on the Gregorian calendar 13 months to the year and that the day is divided into 12 hours of daylight and 12 hours of night.
This does from time to time create confusion and a need to double check the agreed-to time. How will I know how my staff view me? Ethiopians give high value to education, work experience and inter-personal skills. They appreciate hard working, smart or intelligent coworkers.
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Good leaders who are keen in delegating responsibility and promoting teamwork are highly regarded by their colleagues. Most of the bureaucrats have at least some college education and are hardworking, highly dedicated to their work, open to new ideas and are eager to learn but there is a limitation to what they can implement. Their effectiveness depends on their power to make decisions, their access to the power of the day, financial and human resources.
A significant portion of the Ethiopian economy is dependent on foreign aid and expatriates are associated with the continuity of the aid. Because of that, they are regarded highly, but not feared. In most cases, expatriates come as advisors and experts to fill a gap and they are expected to be more knowledgeable and productive. They are also expected to lead in the area of their expertise. People express their dissatisfaction in variety of ways—some speak out if and when they get an opportunity.
In general, you can see change of attitude if they are dissatisfied with a decision, performance or personal actions. Acceptance of instruction does not necessarily mean approval. If approval is sought one has to ask for it in clear terms. Ethiopians respect and to some degree fear authority figures and will consent even though they do not agree. Management is often associated with power and abuse of power is not uncommon.
However, the leader that is admired is one that leads by example. Expatriates tend to be put into a separate category. Although Ethiopians might readily express an idea or opinion on some technical matter, they would be much more reserved in expressing an opinion about a person—especially if it was a negative opinion.
Ethiopians tend is to hide their true feelings. If a staff person feels a need to express an opinion about someone else, he or she would share it with others—not directly with you. Alternatively, the staff person might make some cryptic remark that could be interpreted in various ways—hence ensuring that no offence is taken.
Foreigners often do not have a real sense of the office intrigues that go on—partly because it is deliberately hidden—partly because as foreigners we neither speak the language nor REALLY understand the culture. However, personal characteristics are just as important—being friendly, understanding, listening, and showing you care about the country and its people. Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making Question: In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom?
Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback? This is a very hard question and the answer depends on the type of the workplace and the political and economic impact of the decision.
In general, in government circles, most decisions are made by people at the upper the echelons with the major factor of consideration being politics. What does that mean politically? Priority is given to political allies. In the small-scale business sector, as is the case in other societies, owners have the final say and decisions affecting profit and long-term benefits are theirs to make.
In both sectors technical ideas can be generated by the technocrats but implementation of the ideas depends on their access to the people at the top and the resources they command.
Most Ethiopians, I can say, are quick in pointing out errors and are reserved in expressing their appreciation. Generally it is acceptable to go to immediate supervisors for answers or feedback but at times decisions are made by people who are too high up and immediate supervisors may not have the answer.
In this regard, the dynamics of the workplace can be significantly altered when an expatriate is inserted into the staff—especially into a management position. Top-down decision-making is considered the normal, expected practice. Nevertheless, many people who have been exposed to other means of decision-making would probably foster some resentment by this autocratic approach. Nurturing a collegial work environment is a challenge, but it is understood and welcomed.
Be aware though of the traditional ways of thinking can put up roadblocks. Lower level staff may have ideas but they would feel awkward in expressing them for fear that their ideas may be misinterpreted seen as a threat by people at higher levels in the organization.
In smaller organizations where people know each other it is easier to approach each other for answers and feedback. Larger organizations tend to be very bureaucratic and officials will revert to using cumbersome policies and guidelines that do not lend themselves to quick decision-making.
Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?
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Ethiopian women are fully engaged in the production and distribution of goods and services of the economy but the majority of them are not fully compensated for their contribution to the economic development and social welfare of the society. In the workplace, Ethiopian women are paid equal amount for equal work, experience and education but when it comes to promotion to a higher position, men seem to be favoured. Women are seen as soft and delicate and are not seen as capable of making tough decisions and carrying hazardous duties.
Ethiopia is a multi-religious country with the domination of the two religions: Ethiopian Orthodox Church and Islam. So far, there have been no major religious conflict within major cities, though incidents of orthodox thinking and ultra right tendencies being influenced by external forces are being observed in some localities.
It is hard to say that class exists in Ethiopia society and more so after the fall of the land tenure system and the Ethiopian revolution. However, Ethiopian society is a very hierarchical society and wealth brings respect and recognition.
The role of community leader and elders, in the urban areas, had diminished but is still very relevant in rural areas.
Ethiopia is a multi-ethnic society. The present structure of the government—a federation of ethnic based states—has created more tension. It is public knowledge that those who belong to ruling ethnic group have better access to services and can get things done or decisions made in a relatively shorter period of time than others.
Gender and religion have very limited influence in workplace. On the other hand, ethnicity could affect the work environment, in particular, when it is used as means of associating with a manager or supervisor. This could limit interaction and openness among co-workers and isolates those who belong to other ethnic groups. Ethnicity is causing a significant problem in the present-day Ethiopia and it is being used as a means of gaining power and privilege.
Ethiopia is a traditional patriarchal society. Women exhibit strong character and make a significant contribution to the welfare of the household and community.