Cultural Tips for Traveling to Ethiopia

Cultural Tips for Traveling to Ethiopia

The inside scoop on the country’s coffee culture, time zone, table manners and more By: David DiGregorio
<p>Before visiting Ethiopia, become familiar with some of its cultural norms. // © 2017 Getty Images</p><p>Feature image (above): Meals are typically...

Before visiting Ethiopia, become familiar with some of its cultural norms. // © 2017 Getty Images

Feature image (above): Meals are typically eaten with one's hands, using flat, porous injera bread. // © 2017 David DiGregorio?


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Eight hours ahead, yet seven years behind, Ethiopia is a land where coffee is king and good manners may not mean what you think. Master these tips before chatting with clients about this East African country.

A Time Zone All Its Own
Ethiopia’s official time zone is Greenwich Mean Time (GMT) +3, making it eight hours ahead of American Eastern Standard Time. However, Ethiopians consider the day to begin with sunrise rather than at midnight. Since Ethiopia sits on the equator, sunrise is at 6 a.m., and sunset falls at 6 p.m. all year. What the rest of the world would consider 7 a.m. GMT+3, Ethiopia considers 1:00 (The counting goes all the way to 6 p.m., which Ethiopians consider 12:00). 

Although the tourism industry will work in both times, locals exclusively use the Ethiopian standard.

Seven Years Ago
Ethiopia uses a solar calendar, which features 12 months of 30 days each, plus a 13th month of just five or six days. Due to an alternate calculation in determining the date of the birth of Christ, the calendar is seven to eight years behind the Gregorian calendar. On Sept. 11, 2016, Ethiopia rang in the start of 2009.

Heavy Handed
Ethiopian meals are typically eaten exclusively with your hands using flat, porous injera bread as a conveyance for other food. The custom of gursha takes this one step further — allowing hosts to honor their guest by placing a morsel of food directly into his or her mouth.

Coffee Ceremonies
Ethiopian coffee ceremonies are a timeless tradition honoring the origin of coffee itself. A ceremony usually lasts a minimum of 90 minutes, and sometimes much longer. Use this as a time to connect with others, share news and gossip. Whatever you do, don’t refuse the coffee.

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