10 Things You Should Know About Angola and the Angolans

Every country has its own quirks that make them unique, and sometimes only the people who live in the country understand them. Angola is no exception. Thus, if you are planning to visit Angola, to move to Angola, or to work in Angola, there are things you should know about Angola and the Angolans – some are funny others are just different or weird!

Language is important to understand things, so it is important to know some words. We are Portuguese, we speak the same language, but even speaking the same language sometimes we don’t understand jokes, local expressions or when they speak very fast with a strong accent.

Things you want to know about Angolan and the Angolans

#1 Men’s Day

Every Friday is “men’s day” – “dia do Homem“, according to them it’s a day to go crazy and party. Angolan men go out, drink with their friends, while their girlfriends or wife’s stay at home. Sometimes they even leave work early, at 16h00, seldom only returning home by Sunday.

things you need to know about Angolan and the Angolans

#2 Dancing

The Angolan are crazy about music and dancing. Kizomba, tarraxinha, semba, and kuduro are the main music genres in Angola. There is a whole culture around kizomba in Angola – kids learn to dance since they start walking. You see the street sellers dancing in the middle of the road… Dancing is part of being Angolan.

Semba is a high tempo, very energetic, fast-paced and upbeat music. It’s a dance that gets its name from “Masemba”, a word which means “a touch of the bellies”, the motion that characterizes this type of dancing. Semba is primarily Carnival Music, some people even say that the Brazilian dance “Samba” is a derivation of Semba.

Kizomba is a slower and more sensual derivation of Semba. The word Kizomba in Kimbundu language, one of the most spoken languages in Angola means “party.” Kizomba was also influenced by Son Cubano, Milonga and Tango, during the presence of Cubans during the Civil War. Therefore, Kizomba has been described as the “African Tango”.

Sometimes Kizomba is combined with tarraxinha, a sensual (almost sexual) and slow movement. Tarraxinha dancing partners are locked in a rather tight, sensual embrace and dance in a very slow manner, almost not moving.

Kuduro is an Angolan music genre and that combines Caribbean music like zouk and soca with Africa percussion sounds. The name of the dance refers to a peculiar movement in which the dancers seem to have hard buttocks. The history of kuduro has come about in a time of Angolan civil unrest and provided a means of coping with hardship and positivity for the younger generation.

#3 Street Sellers

In Angola there are thousands of street sellers, they are everywhere even between the cars in the middle of the street. From food and drinks to car spares, from school manuals to toilet paper, from toilet seats to cell phones, from suits to invoice books, you can buy anything.

Are planning a visit to Angola? Check here the 50 things you should know before traveling to Angola

#4 The Business

Angola has a lot of traffic, so it’s easy to do your shopping along the road on your way home/work. Besides this, Angolan often have some sort of side business, which they actually call “business”. This business often means buying stuff overseas and selling them in Angola.

10 Things You Should Know About Angola

#5 Big Mother – Mãe Grande

In a sign of respect, they call the elderly “big daddy” or “big mother”, “mãe grande” and “pai grande” in Portuguese. Even if you aren’t an elderly, but just a person they cherish and respect they’ll call you mother.

Everyone is called aunty (tia) or uncle (tio) by the kids. Some people when asking you for something will call you godfather (padrinho) or godmother (madrinha).

Angola facts

#6 Vanity

Angolan man and women are very very vain. Women often go to the hairdresser every week and change their visual nearly every weekend. And when we say change visual we mean change it radically!! Sometimes you don’t even recognize the same person from one week to another. From short hair to long, from brown to any other color.

Men like to have their shoes spotless. Through the street, you can find shoeshiners so you can have your shoes always shiny. Women like polished nails, and the bigger the better. Man likewise fix the nails, but they just use transparent nail polish.

Normally it’s street boys that have a basket and offer the service who paints the nails. The Chinese also provide this service but they usually have nail salons.

#7 Funerals

Even if you are distant family, like an uncle of your uncle, your presence is mandatory. A funeral can last 7 days, with several rituals, but it usually includes a big feast with a lot of food and drinks.

They have to provide food for all the family that comes and visits during the funeral. The concept of the funeral is a feast or a party which is a very unusual way of grieving for our Western / European ways.

#8 Proposing day or Alambamento

The Proposing day or “Alambamento” is a huge thing!! There is a big party with the whole family where the boyfriend asks for the hand of his girlfriend. The groom goes to the bride’s house, asks for the hand of his girlfriend to the family and he must get the bride’s family approval.

Before the proposing day, he is given a list of what he must be able to obtain until the day. The groom-to-be is expected to offer a huge variety of gifts, depending on what the family of the bride stipulates.

The gifts usually include money, the bride height in beer boxes, bride’s height in juice pallets or cokes (If you want to marry an Angolan woman make sure you choose a short one), one goat, one gold necklace, a suit for fathers and shoes for the mother… But the gifts can vary from family to family, the richer/more important the family of the bride, the bigger the requests will be.

#9 Taxi Vans – Candongueiros

Candongueiros (private shared taxis) is the name given to the vans (usually a Toyota Hiace) painted in blue and white serving as taxis, transporting people between different spots. They are the true public transport in Angola, there are no stipulated stops, normally they stop anywhere and everywhere, advertising through the window where they are going to. Frequently candongueiros have very bad driving habits, doing the weirdest and unimaginable things (like driving on the sidewalk).

10 Things You Should Know About Angola

#10 Funny Angolan expressions

There are some funny Angolan expressions, probably funnier for Portuguese speaking people, but we will try to explain them. Some of these are really strange at first sight but then they become familiar and we start using them…

  • First of all, saying good morning and a good night is vital, people expect you to say it even if you don’t know them, and the Angolan always reply “obrigado, sim” which means “thank you, yes”.
  • When wanting to say “no” Angolan people usually don’t say “NO” when you ask them a question, they say “ainda” which means “yet”;
  • When something is cool, they say “es cuiar” and my friend is “meu kamba“, when they are surprised they say “ché”.
  • The word qué (which means What) is used for literally everything. Sometimes you are told things like the “what” is near the…”what”
  • They like to use “só” (which means “only”) after the verb, every verb…For example, “give only”, “call only”. It’s as weird in Portuguese as it sounds in English 🙂
What to do in Angola

Have you ever been to Angola? What do you think about these facts? Do you know any other interesting facts?

Note: after the huge success of this post we decided to make 10 other things you should know about Angola.

25 thoughts on “10 Things You Should Know About Angola and the Angolans”

  1. Very interesting read! I’ve been wondering about the kuduro dance ever since the Don Omar song came out. Sadly, your video for it seems to have been removed? I’d love to see what kuduro actually is though!

    • Thank you, I will change the video. There are a lot of videos in you tube, it is quite funky. Check it out 🙂

  2. This article is inacurrated…

    1. I don’t know of friend that goes to party at friday and comes back by sunday… not even close… This is just an expression based on local music here… just like TGIF

    2. I don’t know of friend of mine that does his nails… The shoes is not about the “LIKE” to have theis shoes spotless… Luanda or most of Angola is dusty…
    3. About verbs and stuff… We’re Angolans and portuguese isn’t our language… we were colonised and it was and OBLIGATION to speak portuguese that’s why younger Angolans don’t speak any local language. The Elders with less education barely speak portuguese and most never went further than 4th Grade(That’s the class they were allowed to have)…
    4. Alambamento isn’t a proposing day… that’s a BFL… Alambamento is a Marriage itself… but not valid on modern society… but it’s valid under our constitution…
    5. I’m Angolan… Original… I’m an Bantu… But I can’t dance… I can’t sing… G… my kids can’t dance… Angolans like to dance.. ? Yes… Africans have rhythm… but stating that can dance since younger age is a BFL…
    Don’t know what kind of Angolan’s you have been dealing with… but this is clearly an very uninformed point of view…

    • The fact that you don’t know about something, doesn’t mean it’s inaccurate.
      The dance is obviously a generalization and something so clear that I don’t even understand your argument… The shoes is something so clear to a foreigner…
      About alambamento, check this: http://www.welcometoangola.co.ao/_the_alambamento We simplified for obvious reasons, but it’s a correct explanation… Anyway, as important as it is, I can see as it can be considered a marriage in itself.

  3. Hey! Cool post!

    About nr. 10:
    – The use of the word “só” (only) is often times meant as a synonym for “por favor” (please). E.g.: “Essa caneta aí, dá só!” (Hand me that pen over there, please!)

    • Because it’s possible that he had an incorrect understanding of it, didn’t know that, and did his best to explain his understanding of it with good intentions. You seem to be under the impression that he has willingly tired to mislead people here, but seeing as you’ve got so much to so on the subject, how about having an attempt at giving a correct explanation instead of attacking him?

  4. Very interesting in that I’ve never thought about researching Angola and now I’m so intrigued! Thank you for sharing this info!

  5. I think the funerals and hairdresser thing are typical for all the African countries….recently got back from West Africa and there was a hairdresser shop literally at every corner (sometimes 3 of them)!

    • yes, I also think it’s an African thing, I heard that in South Africa funerals are also a big thing, and a there is big business around funerals

  6. Aww, I love the idea of calling people “Aunty” or “Uncle” as a sign of respect. Angola looks like a really interesting place.

  7. Faltou uma expressão muito usada pelos angolanos “estou à tua trás”, como quem diz “tenho andado à tua procura”!
    It missed an expression that angolans use a lot “I am at your back – estou à tua trás”, as if to say “I’ve been looking for you!”

  8. Nobody ever writes anything about Angola so I found this interesting. I spent a few years in neighboring Zambia as a kid and I remember the place was a mess at the time (along with most of Zambia’s neighbors).
    Men’s day. Hey, I like that. Go out Friday, come home Sunday (maybe). I wonder how Spanky will react if I propose that idea to her…
    NIce post,
    Frank (bbqboy)

    • Thank you 🙂 It’s nice to know that people are interested. We are living in Luanda so we have some insights to continue to share

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