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DRC Refugee Cultural Considerations
- There are more than 200 distinct African ethnic groups in Congo. The Bantu group account for the majority (80%).
- Congolese are considered courteous and friendly and careful not to offend.
- In the Congolese culture, time is elastic. Lingala – the Congolese language – uses the same word for both “yesterday” and “tomorrow.” People are considered more important than schedules and appointments.
- Upon entering a room for the first time, a person shakes hands with each individual. Friends great each other with a handshake, followed by a hug and three alternating kisses to the cheek. Men and women generally shake hands, smile and greet each other verbally. Some rural women greet men by clapping their hands a few times and bowing slightly.
- Pointing directly at a person with the index finger is considered impolite.
- Objects are heldwith the right hand or with both hands, never with the left hand alone. The left hand is reserved for hygiene purposes.
- Family and friends often stop by to visit with each other unannounced. However, strangers are expected to make arrangements prior to visiting. A visitor must never enter a home or sit down unless invited.
- Guests are expected to initially decline an offer of food or sharing a meal but should ultimately accept the invite. Declining an invitation, especially the offer of food, is considered rude. The Congolese often judge guests’ sincerity by the way they eat.
- In western Congo, families are mostly matriarchal; the mother’s brother, rather than her husband, is the male with the greatest authority in the family.
- In other areas families are patriarchal and may be polygamous.
- Children take on chores early in life and older girls help their mother with most daily tasks.
- The Congolese value education and work hard to find a way to pay for their children’s schooling. However, the education system lost facilities and staff in the civil wars, and cureent enrollment levels are low.
- Political chaos and neglect have left Congo’s economy in ruin. Most of the population lives in dire poverty.
- In some areas, adequate supplies of food are hard to find. Malnutrition affects large segments of the population.
- Inadequate health care is a serious problem, especially in rural areas where supplies and physicians are few. Disease epidemics are common. Due to limited resources patients are often required to pay for treatment and medicines.
- The Congolese do not usually consult specialists in the field of psychiatry.