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.
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.
#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.
#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).
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.
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 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 “está 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 🙂
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.