Customs and traditions
Regardless of class affiliation, Congolese take pride in acting properly and being well-dressed.
In the urban areas, Congolese usually greet each other by shaking hands and saying hello. In the countryside, some women can greet men by clapping their hands a few times and bowing easily. Children are expected to greet each adult in the company by shaking hands and sometimes even with a kiss on the cheek.
- Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of Republic of the Congo, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.
When people meet, whether in cities or in the countryside, it is a good idea to first ask the person you meet about the person’s health and about his or her family. Anyone who does not run the risk of being disrespected. The elderly are shown special respect.
Punctuality is not so important, but for a foreigner it is still good to be on time for meetings. Many Congolese themselves wait patiently for delayed transport or for important people to show up at the meeting. Often you can wait for at least an hour for these people, but when they arrive they usually stay committed and give of their time. Meetings often begin only when a sufficient number of those considered important for the meeting have arrived.
Bringing small gifts with you when you are invited to a home is an African custom that a foreigner should also follow. This applies to business acquaintances as well as the host or hostess as well as the children in the family at private invitations.
When you hand over one thing to another, you do it with your right hand or with both hands.
Eating habits and meals
According to Abbreviationfinder, Congolese often eat with their hands and then only with their right hand. The left hand is used for toilet visits and as a foreign guest it is best to avoid eating with the left hand just like the Congolese. Only the oldest person in the company can distribute food with both hands to those who eat.
Everyday, the Congolese eat mostly cassava, rice, potatoes, cassava, jams, bread, taro (the stem of a plant), corn and peanuts. Common fruits are bananas, pineapple, mango, papaya, coconuts and oranges. Many people also eat fish if they have access to it. Meat – often imported – is expensive and therefore consumed in smaller quantities, depending on how much income the family has.
At festivals and feasts, the Congolese eat meat, usually chicken. For the food you drink plum wine and beer on festive occasions.
When it comes to food, there may be different taboos among Congolese living in the traditional way. Which taboo it depends on which clan you belong to. Each clan has a protective spirit. It can be an animal, a plant or something else from nature. The guardian spirit or clan symbol represents a band of unity within the group. If the protector of the clan is an animal, then everyone in the group avoids eating that animal.
According to Countryaah, the most important holidays are Christmas, New Year, Easter, May 1, All Saints Day, National Day of Atonement (June 10), Tree Day (March 6) and Independence Day (August 15).
Congo-Brazzaville rivers are important transport routes, while railways and roads have long been neglected, partly as a result of the civil war in 1997 ̶ 2000. Improving infrastructure, financed by oil money, among other things, is a high priority for the government.
There is over 500 km of navigable river road. The Congo and Ubangi rivers play an important role in the transport system that links Chad and the Central African Republic in the north with, for example, Gabon and Cameroon on the Atlantic in the southwest. For example, the Congo River is an important transport route for freight and passenger transport between the country’s capital, Brazzaville and the capital of Bangui, where it is only navigable during the rainy season from April to October. In the port city of Pointe-Noire on the coast is one of West Africa’s best natural deep-water ports. The country’s second most important port is at Brazzaville on the Congo River. An oil port is located in Djéno, just south of Pointe-Noire.
Another important transport route is the more than 50 km long railway between Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire. The railroad is in miserable condition since the Civil War and it was closed occasionally during the war and the years immediately afterwards. Extensive renovation is ongoing.
There is only about 180 km of paved road and over half of the road network is in poor condition. In many parts of the north, roads are completely missing. The World Bank has assisted the country with road maintenance money to improve communication between rural villages and important markets. Several other roads have been repaired with EU money.
Aviation is important for transport within the country. International airports are located in Brazzaville and Pointe-Noire, but only Air France has direct flights to Europe. There are also five regional airports and twelve smaller airports in the country.