Burkina Faso Culture
These notes are gathered from a number of websites and notes from people visiting and working in Burkina Faso.
Adapted from www.culturecrossing.net/basics_business_student_details.php?Id=12&CID=33
- Gifts are not expected but appreciated in business situations.
- It's best to give and receive gifts with both hands.
- If invited over for dinner or a drink to a Burkinabe home, you should always bring the host/hostess a gift. Flowers and/or chocolate are acceptable gifts.
- Between members of the same social class, direct eye contact is generally acceptable. However, overly direct eye contact may be viewed as rude and possibly a threat.
- Kids don’t generally look elders in the eye, and very few people are allowed to (or are expected to) look a village chief or respected elder in the eye when speaking to them.
- Students don't generally feel comfortable looking their teachers in the eye.
- Most Burkinabe are very indirect communicators. If someone is unhappy with what is said or doesn’t want to answer a question, they just kind of say “uh-hum…” and then there’s awkward silence because they’ll just not speak any more.
- In problem solving & conflict resolution, there is often a 3rd party system. For instance, if there is an argument between 2 people, one may grab a 3rd party who knows the other person well to ask forgiveness.
Treatment of Women
- At the village level women are generally treated like second-class citizens. Their opinion about things are not asked or wanted. If there is only enough money to send one or two kids to school, the boys will be chosen before the girls, even if the boys do not have a desire to go to school.
- Women tend to the children at home, get the well water, wash clothes, cook, clean, plant the crops and harvest them. Women in the village are not to drink alcohol or coffee or smoke.
- In the city, there’s more equality between men and women, but not quite like the more egalitarian western countries.
- Foreign women are called the “3rd sex” – not like men or women. It is generally accepted that they drink and hang out in town although many people may not consider them as physically strong as Burkinabe women or capable of doing the same tasks.