10 more things about Angola you need to know
After the huge success of the previous post (thank you for all the kind words 🙂 ) we decided to make a follow-up post about another 10 things about Angola & the Angolan. Again, these are things that to the foreigner seem interesting, weird or simply funny.
In Angola the steering wheel is on the left and you drive on the right (not weird or interesting we know, but bear with us…) except when you have two or more lanes… then you drive on the left lane and overtake through the right!! This is obviously not the formal rule, but it’s how everyone actually drives and I have never seen anyone been pull over by the police for this. It’s actually funny to see newcomers trying to drive on the right lane and being frustrated that everyone else is driving “wrong”, only to give in after a few days and doing like everybody else.
Buildings aren’t always what they look like from the outside. Luanda only has two kind of buildings: the new shiny and design buildings, like the new headquarters of Total and Sonangol; and the really old, war survivor buildings. These buildings suffered from time going by, the civil war and a complete lack of maintenance, at least on the outside and common areas. When you look at these buildings you think: “there’s no way I’m gonna live in there!”, “How can they charge 3000 USD for this!?”, “There’s no way I’m even getting in there to check it out”. The interesting part is that sometimes if you get past this, you’ll see that in the inside the apartments are as new, completely restored by the owners and usually with very stylish furniture and the latest TV’s, sound systems, fridges and so on…
There are only 2 seasons in the year, summer and “cacimbo“. Cacimbo is more or less like winter, slightly colder, and grey you can’t see the sun, it’s the dry season, because it doesn’t rain. It starts from May to August, in this period there occurs often an intense fog, also called “cacimba”, which gives the name to the season. Summer is very hot and humid, usually it rains in summer, and when it rains it’s a tropical storm!
In Luanda there are fantastic restaurants where you can eat very well, usually having to pay way too much. But no matter how expensive or good the restaurant is, there is one thing that is similar in all of them. The service is so slow, it can be exasperating! The waiting staff seems to take soooo muuuuuch time to meet any of your requests… whether if it is the drinks, the starters, desert or coffee or even the bill! But there’s one exception, there’s one thing that barely every waiter is really fast: removing your plate from the table! sometimes so fast that you barely have finished eating. More than once we (and our friends) have asked the waiter to not remove the plate because we hadn’t even finished…
Angolan have the unusual costume of liking weird and complicated names. Sometimes it looks as a competition of who can create the most difficult or unique name… some people seem to over-complicate the name by adding letters or substituting the usual letter by another, c for K or an i for y. Example: A girl named Catia, would be Katya or even Katyana. There’s even people who name their child with the beginning of mother’s name and the end of the father and vice-versa.
In Angola the breakfast is truly the most important meal of day! Forget about everything you read about healthy eating and great breakfast… After a few years here I’m still amazed both by: the huge portions than Angolan eat for the breakfast; and by the kind of food they eat. while I’m used to have coffee, milk or tea, eat bread or cheese, even eat a yogurt or scrambled eggs. Every day we see Angolan have a full meal with beef or fish sided with beans and funge.
7. Transit / Traffic Jam
if there is one thing that no one will ever miss about Luanda is its traffic. The city of Luanda was planned to have 600 000 people, nowadays has 6 000 000 so you can imagine what happened. There are so many cars, so many taxi vans that you just cannot drive inside the city without traffic. The six millions don’t live in the old town, but most of them work there, so the morning and evening commute is insane. If you live in the suburbs, you have two solutions, you put up with between 1:30 to 3:00 every morning and every night; or you wake up early… and when we say early we mean 4 to 5 am… and only get marginal (but still) traffic. As we usually say, Luanda is the true city that never sleeps, there’s always traffic! Finally, there are those weird jams that no one understands, we once took roughly 3 hours to make 300 meters… I just couldn’t move, there were cars everywhere. We were literally trapped. Good old times 🙂
In Angolan culture, and most of African cultures, having children defines the social status of a person. An Angolan man isn’t really a man if he isn’t able to have kids, his masculinity is measured by the number of children he has. On the other hand a woman needs to have children to feel fulfilled and to please her husband. The more, the better! I admit it took me a while to understand how important this is to them. I really thought it was a generalization, or in other words a biased prejudice from foreigners. The fertility rate is decreasing in the last years but it’s still one of the biggest in the world, each woman has an average of 5.9 births!
There are two things that I really avoid discussion in Angola, politics and religion especially in the workplace. I kind of make these topics a taboo and make sure that are avoided. I will make an exception just to note how many religions, churches, sects and cults there are in Angola. As per Wikipedia, there are over 1000 religions in Angola… I have met Baptists, Methodists, Congregational, Adventists, Pentecostals, Jehovah witness, Neopentecostals (IURD, who came from Brazil), Muslims, etc… It’s such a huge pot of different beliefs!! And we are excluding from this the African ones, but we have to be honest, I haven’t really met Angolan that truly believe in these religions, although they may know and use some rites.
10. Money management
OK, you may think of this as prejudice and generalization, but after more that 2 years in Angola, and working daily for 5 years with Angolans, most of Angolans have huge problems with saving money!! This has been told to me many times, by Angolan themselves. At first I couldn’t understand, “if you know that you should save… why don’t you”? Then after several explanations over time from very different people I understood, most of the times It’s not that they can’t or don’t want to. There’s just too much pressure from family they help out. It’s expected that the leader of the family provides for all the family, even distant relatives. I had a close co-worker telling me that she preferred to ask for a loan to buy a car, than to save for a year and to buy it “cheaper”. Just because she knew she wouldn’t be able to save if she didn’t have the bank obligation. She would give in to the peers and family pressure. I have had suppliers not wanting to be paid because they preferred to be paid later to save easier…