Mission Zambia Cultural Guidelines

 Perhaps the most obvious, yet important things to realize as a team or an individual in Zambia is that you are a guest in a foreign country. You are the one who do things quite different. Some things that are thought innocent or normal at home are quite offensive in Zambia and may hinder people from hearing the message of salvation. We want to be very careful of the impression we create as representative of Christ.

An excellent rule of thumb to keep in mind is the question of trust “Is what I ‘m thinking, saying, or doing in this situation building or undermining trust?’ Use this question, along with the cultural guidelines we have developed, and you will just fine culturally.

That said, the following suggestions are offered to help you understand the people of Zambia and help you have a positive experience while on outreach.

1 Relationship is the most important thing in Zambia. Use your time to get to know the people here as much as possible. Step out of your comfort zone and try to learn some of the language and communicate. Zambians love to talk about family, the weather, soccer, current affairs and their culture. It is very difficult for North Americans to think of hanging out as ministry, but relationship evangelism is much more important than any program or work project we could do. Love the people you came to serve; don’t just focus on accomplishing a project.

2 Refrain from making too many comparisons between Zambia and home. Comparisons that make Zambia seem inferior will eventually lead to resentment. Avoid comments like, “That’s not how to do that” or These are much cheaper where we’re from” or We could this a lot faster at home.Recognise cultural difference and accept them without passing judgement.

3Be flexible concerning time, and go with the flow of the culture and the ministry you‘re involved into. Don’t count on sticking to a rigid schedule of events or starting everyday program exactly on time. Welcome Flexi! Learn to be patient.

4 Shake hands (gently) and greet everyone! In Zambia, you can offend a person by not doing a simple thing such as saying hello and shaking hands when you enter or leave a room.

5When offered something to eat, receive it and b grateful. Zambians may go a lot of trouble to buy soft drinks, or prepare an entire meal for us, and it is very offensive if we do not enjoy it. Never give food to animals, throw it way, or give it to other people. Food and drinks are how this culture bonds, and to refuse it amounts to refusing friendship-the very thing you came to build.

During outreach in the villages, only one camera per ministry team will be allowed. Its best for the photographer to be someone with a digital camera who can quickly distribute or upload the photos. The photographer must always ask a person first if it is Okay to take his/her picture.

By taking photos, you commit to send us a physical (not digital) print of every photo you take with a Zambian in it for us to give to the people you ministered to. Culturally it is improper to take someone’s photo here with giving them a copy, and this affords us a good follow-up opportunity.


We ask you to ADJUST to the following:

Language barrier

Lack of mobility/readily available


Formality and Rank (Respect for elders)

Protocol (Learning culturally appropriate channels of communication before action)

Slow pace of life

Lack of conveniences

Social customs

Frequent and/or unexpected changes in schedules.


(Formal)- Dialogue  
Mutozi chwani/ Kibusiwu Good morning/ day/ evening
Mutozi chwani /Kibusiwu ima Good morning/ day/ evening madam
Mutozi/utozi chwani? How are you?
Ni tozi hande.Wena utozi chwani?Lit. means how have you risen?) I am fine and how are you?
Ni inzi fela hande I am well
Greeting a group  
Mulumele Basali ni Bana Good day ladies and gentlemen
Mulumele ime Good day madam
Enisha Mulumela How are you (pl)?
Lu wiinzi hande.Ulumele/Mulumele? We are well and how are you?
Ni nzi Hande I am well
Luitumezi Thank you
(Informal)- Dialogue  
Mulumela Ndate Good day sir
Mulumela  Ima Good day madam
Mutozi/utozi chwani? How are you? (Formal/informal)
Ni tozi hande chwale wena utozi chwani? I am fine and how are you?
Ni inzi fela Hande I am fine
“Mulumela” is not specific to any time of the day. Men are expected to take off their hats/ caps when greeting elders.


: Introducing Self/ Someone  

Libizo laka kina Ashley

My name is Ashley
Libizo laka lamafelelezo kina Jones My Last name is Jones
Kiwe na mang? What is your name?
Ni zwa kwa Amerika I am from America
Uzwa kakayi? Where are you from?
Libizo la yo ki Martin His name is Martin
Libizo lahae lamafelelezo ki Daniel His last name is Daniel
Uzwa kwa Amerika? Are you from America?
Ni tusa bathu I am a volunteer


Leave- Taking Expression  

Na nami siya Good-bye
Nimi siyile See you
Mutola hande Have a good day
Mulobale/Ulobale hande Good night
Kakubona kamuso See you tomorrow
Kakubona ape See you later



Lesson 5: Vocabulary 1 (Verbs)

Go- ( To-
Kona Able,
kuhupulitsa remind
Nisabile Afraid of,
Alaba Answer
Utile Arrive
Kupa Ask
Na Kupa Ask for (polite way)
Uza maile Away, go ; travel
Ubile Be, become
Kala ku Begin
Nalumela Believe, agree
Bilisa Boil
Nakupa nika kufa Borrow
Tisa Kwanu Bring
   Chisa                                                  Burn                                                   
Pumbeka Bury
Leka Buy
Biza Mutu usili Call another person
Nanula Carry
Pahama Climb
Kwala Close
Taha Come
Kena Come in
Zwa Come out (emerge)
Apeha Cook
Lila Cry
Bina Dance
Kuliyeya Delay
Sinya Destroy


Yeza Do
Nwa Drink
phakela Early,
Cha Eat
Kena Enter
Inga Take it
Utwa Feel; Hear; Taste
Felize Finish
Fumana Find
  Fix, prepare
Swalela Forgive
Bona To see
Zuha Get up/ wake up
Fa Give
Ya Go
 Kutwa hande Happy, be
Thusa  Help
Swala Hold
Kwiyi yeza Injure
Beya Keep
Ema Stand
Kuziba Know
Seya Laugh
Thuta Learn ; study
Kuhutwa Listen
Lata Like/ love
Wapila Live
Ubata Need
Kwalula Open
Fita Pass
Lifa Pay
Nanula Pick up
Beya Place
Hana Refuse
Kutisa Return
Bulela Say
Lekisa Sell
Kula Sick,
Ina fafasi Sit down
Lobala   Sleep
Hoha Smoke
Bulela Speak
Lobala Spend the night
Siyala Stay behind
Inga Take


Luta Teach
Bulela Tell
Mabote Tired, become
Lika Try
Kuwutwa Understand
Belekisa Use
Mata Ran
Bataa Want
Litino Wash (clothes)
Tapa bathe
Bonisisa Watch
Beleka Work
gola Write



Lesson 6: Some Useful Expressions

Ni utwa mabote I am tired
Ni utwa buloko I am sleepy
Ni twa tala I am hungry
Ani si ka utwa tala I am not hungry
Uya  kae? Where are you going?
Niya Kwandu I am going home
Utaya Lilii When are you coming?
Uyina  kae? Where is your home?
Andrew unzii kae? Where is Andrew?
Edward uyile kwa Post office Edward is going to the post office
Aniyi kwa shopo I don’t go to the shop
Nayituta Silozi I am learning Silozi ; I study
Ani nwi kofi I don’t take coffee
Nibata kupumula I need some rest
Na cha,Niseli ku cha I eat ; I am eating
Achi He doesn’t eat
Ai Tuti She doesn’t study
Nitapa kakusasana I bathe in the morning
Napakela kuzuha I wake up very early
Kuseli kwaba busiwu It’s becoming late (night fall)
Ki Nako It’s time up
Ki bata mezi I am thirsty
Ani yitwi I don’t understand
Bulela Ayiyani Speak slowly
Hape Again
Uni swalela Excuse me
Bulela Kamapile Speak quickly
Una ni butata? Do you have a problem (s)?
Eni ni na ni butata Yes, I have a problem


Ani na butata No, I don’t have a problem
Au na puzo Do you have any questions?
Utwa wena Listen
Buza Ask
Lumelisa Greet
Niyitumezi Thank you



Lesson 7: Vocabulary 2 (Nouns)

tafule Table
sipula Chair
Mukeke Plate
komoki Cup
Luswana Spoon
Tipa Knife
Lufiyelo Broom
Mumbeta Bed
Kubo Blanket
Li yapalo Clothes
Bulukwe Pants
Likatulo Shoes
General items
Potoloto Pencil
Buka Book
Bêkê Bag
pênê Pen
Maali Money
Muyako Door


Lesson 8: Pronouns

nna I
Wena You
Ene She/ he
Luna We/ us
Kina It’s me
Bone Them



Lesson 9: Connecting words

Ni and
Kono But
Nebi Or
ke Is
Inge As/like
Ekaba therefore
Ka kuli because


Lesson 12: Questions and Commands

 Ki eng?

What is it?
Utille Lilii? When did you come?
Uzwa kae? Where are you from?
Mutozi/Utozi chwani? How are you?
 O mang? Who are you?
Ki efi? Which one?
Ki afi? Which ones?
Kingi? Why?

Commanding expressions

Kwalula muyakoTaha kwanu

What your name

Open the doorCome here

Kiwe na mang

Kwala muyako Close the door
Ema ni kubulela Stand and talk
êma   Stand


Kena mwahali Get inside
Taha kwano Come here
Utwisisa Keep quiet/Listen
Kuta Go back
Taha kwa pili Come to the front
Ina fafasi Sit down


Lesson 13: Expressing Needs

Ubata eng? What do you want?
Nibata Candle I want a candle
Utokwa eng What do you need?
Ni tokwa mali I need money
Ubata kuya Kakayi? Where do you want to go?
Nibata kuya kwa Kwandu I want to go home
Ubata kuyeza eng? What do you want to do now?
Ani zibi I do not know
Ui kutwa chwang? How do you feel?
Toho yaka esa opa My head still aches
Ubatela eng mali amagata? Why does she need a lot of money?
Ubata kuleka licho ni liyapalo She needs to buy food and clothes
Ulata kofi? Do you like coffee?
 Ani rati kofi No. I don’t like coffee
 Kamoso; kamoso o ya kae? Where are you going tomorrow?
Ni Ka phakela  kuya kwa Shops I want to go to the shops in the morning

Lesson 14: Food Items

Licho Food
Mabele Sorghum
Bupi Mealie-meal
sukiri Sugar
Sauti Salt
metsi Water
Mabisi Milk
Tamatisi Tomatoes
Makwili Potatoes
mae Eggs


Sinkwa Bread
kofi Coffee
tee Tea
 Litapi Fish
Yayisi Onions
namunê Orange
apole Apple
Ndongo Peanuts
Manawa Beans

Nama                                                                     Meat



Bokuku ba bana Grand father
Bokuku ba basali Grand mother
Bo ndate Father
 Bo mme Mother
Likezeli (said only to pers. of opposite gender) Sister ; Brother
Mulwani (to either elder sister/ brother) Older sibling
Muyani (to either younger sister/ brother) Younger sibling
Malumaho Uncle (paternal)
Malume Uncle (maternal)
Ante wakuba Ndate Aunt (paternal)
Ante waku bo mme Aunt (maternal)
Mwana wa bo Malume nebi bo Ante cousin
Bashemi Parents
Ba nana   Child/Children
Lusika Family



Lesson 16: Adverbs of Time

Kachenu Today
maabane Yesterday
kamuso Tomorrow
maloba a maabane The day before yesterday
maloba Few days ago
 Sunda ye This week
 Sunda yeyi felile     (lit. the week that passed) Last week
 Sunda yetaha      (lit. the week that is still to come) Next week
Silimo se This year
Silimo sesi felile Last year
Silimo sesi taha Next year
kweli  ye This month


Nako ye At the moment
Kanako yetaha Later on; earlier on (depending on context)
Busihu At night
phakêla In the morning
Musiyali At noon (till sunset)
Manzi bwana Around sunset

Lesson 17: Days Activities

Nizuile ka 6 phakela I wake up at 6am
Neni ta pile I bathed
Ape nani chile And then I eat.
Seniya kwa sikolo Then I go to school

Nanzi kwa sikolo nako kaufela

I spent the day at school
Luyeza zezigata kachenu we were doing a lot of things today
Ne kutile ba polisa kulu potela there were visitors from the Police
Nenuwutwile hande kachenu I was excited today
Ani kakuta kwa sikolo When I come back from school



Lesson 18: Vocabulary 3 (Names of Places)

Places English


Mwasikolo Classroom
Simbuzi Toilet
Kwa ba pehela kitchen
 sikolo School
Sipatela Hospital
Sipatela Clinic
shopo Shop
Kwa mwag’olo Post office
nuka River
siimu Field
Kêrêkê Church
Banka Bank
Kuta Customary court


Lesson 20: Asking for Prices

Ki  bo kae? How much is a bag of oranges?
ki bokae? How much is it?
ki K4000 It’s K4000
Orange ye ki bokae? How much is each orange?
Elilimu  ki K1000 They are K1000 each
Kaufela ona ki bokae? What’s the total price?
Mali  kaufela ki K8000 The total price is K8000


Lesson 21: Weather

Kachenu ku batile Today it is cold
Kachenu ku chisize Today it is hot
Kufutumalile It is warm
Kuna Lizazi It is sunny
Kuna ni Moya It is windy
Kachenu kwiinzi hande Today it is better
Akuchisa Summer
Akubata Winter


Lesson 22: Health Expressions

Anihi  kutwi hande I am not well
Nini toha I have a head ache
Mwamba muna nibutuku My tummy hurts
Meto ani ni butuku His eyes are sore
Franco o  ya kwa sipatela Franco is going to the clinic
Nayile kubona Dokota She/ he went to see the doctor
Mauwutu aluluyile Her leg is swollen
Uchile  zezimaswe Seems he ate something bad
Ba bata kuya kwa sipatela They want to go to the clinic


Lesson 23: Safety Expressions

Nitu se Help me
Nibata unitu se I need help
Nebaninetile,Bani nata I have been attacked, I am being attacked.
Ba uzwize mwandu yaka My house has been broken into.
Ba uzwiza mwandu There has been theft in my house.
Bani amuyi likaTaha Kwanu I have been robbedCome here