Rwanda

Cultural Information

Answers to your intercultural questions from a Canadian and a local point of view.

Cultural Information - Conversations

Question:

I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to make a good impression. What would be good discussion topics?

Local Perspective:

When meeting a Rwandan for the first time, it is best to talk about general interest topics. As we say, discuss "rain and sunshine". You can, for example, talk about the picturesque aspects of this "country of one million hills", the weather, and people’s habits. Avoid discussing topics that are too personal and that have to do with the private life of the person with whom you are speaking. The average Rwandan believes that his personal life is private and that speaking about it would demonstrate a lack of good judgement. When they speak about their private life, most people remain vague and anyone wanting more details will arouse suspicion. This does not mean that you can not discuss people’s personal lives at all, but you must simply do so with a great deal of tact, without going into details.

At all costs avoid asking questions about ethnic origin: this is practically a taboo subject, even if every Rwandan is aware of his ethnic origin. Ethnicity was at the heart of serious crises in the country (including the 1994 genocide), and anyone who brings up the subject without knowing about the risks and complexities of the situation may offend others or arouse suspicion.

Sexual relations as a topic are taboo, and they are only discussed in private or are quite simply entirely avoided.

You can certainly show that you have a sense of humour. Rwandans appreciate irony or mockery, but in order for it to work, you should know how people think and be familiar with the wordplay used in the local language. Moreover, humour is used with people you know, otherwise it may not be perceived to be in good taste.

Canadian Perspective:

Upon meeting new people in Rwanda, the topic of family is often discussed. Whether or not you are married and have children is often one of the first questions asked. It is acceptable to ask the same questions in return, but be prepared to hear that someone has lost many members and sometimes all members of their family in the war / genocide. An acceptable response to that would be to say "I`m very sorry". Talking about where you are from is also a good discussion starter. Rwandans are often curious as to how foreigners find their country and if asked you can reply in generalities and be more specific about the positives. Religion is often one of the first topics of conversation initiated by Rwandans. If you are not comfortable with this topic try to be diplomatic. It may be best to say what religion you were brought up in if you are non-practicing.

Taboo topics include politics, ethnicity about Hutu and Tutsi, war and sex. National politics is rarely discussed and if it is, it’s done in hushed tones in privacy. This is understandable when you consider people were killed for their politics in the genocide. People also don’t want to be asked about their ethnicity as Rwanda is attempting to unify the country as one people and one culture. As the Rwandan troops are only recently moving out of the Congo, war is a sensitive issue. People may have opinions but are reluctant to express them because of the political implication. Sex is not considered an appropriate topic of conversation at any time.

Regarding humour, sarcasm is taken seriously so avoid using it. Small innocent jokes can be made when you know the other person on an informal basis and the language you are using is well understood by both of you. The safest jokes to make are those made about yourself.

Cultural Information - Communication Styles

Question:

What do I need to know about verbal and non-verbal communications?

Local Perspective:

The acceptable distance to keep when speaking with someone obviously depends on how well you know the person with whom you are speaking. For everyday communication, the acceptable distance would let you touch the person to whom you are speaking with your fingertips. Being too close would become embarrassing. As for eye contact, for most Rwandans looking directly in someone’s eyes is seen as impolite or brash, especially if you do it to your superior. If the speakers" gazes meet when talking, usually one of them will look away and from then on eye contact is rare. In general, people do not touch each other when they speak, unless they have reached a certain degree of familiarity. Even if this is the case, Rwandans do not attach importance to public displays of affection. It is not well perceived to raise your voice or lose your composure no matter the situation. In their social relations, Rwandans generally will avoid telling the truth if it might hurt or upset the person with whom they are speaking (or their superior), even if it means leaving out "a touch" of reality. This may be seen as a lack of honesty, but by reacting in this way Rwandans are convinced that they are being sensitive.

Canadian Perspective:

Almost every contact is initiated with a handshake and holding hands is maintained through the greetings and sometimes the entire conversation. If you are speaking while walking it is common to hold hands. This usually occurs within the same sex, but occasionally happens between men and women. People make eye contact but it is not constant. Facial expressions and gestures of happiness are acceptable but those of anger are not. It is best to never raise your voice when speaking, especially if arguing. It is better to point out a mistake than to accuse anyone specifically. Subtlety is key.

To greet someone: When entering a room it is common courtesy to shake hands with everyone present. If sitting when a new person enters you should stand when shaking the new person’s hand. When greeting a closer friend or family member you hug (and kiss on the cheek if you are female) three times, alternating sides. It is also a show of respect to grasp your right forearm with your left hand when shaking hands or accepting or giving something (e.g. business card or drink).

Cultural Information - Display of Emotion

Question:

Are public displays of affection, anger or other emotions acceptable?

Local Perspective:

Rwandans believe that tact and restraint demonstrate a sense of wisdom. Displaying feelings of joy, affection, or sadness in public is not acceptable.

Canadian Perspective:

Public displays of affection among the same sex are acceptable. Men often hold hands and embrace when familiar. Women will do the same, but less frequently. Affection between men and women is usually limited to greetings.

Public displays of anger are rare. Rwandans, generally, remain calm and talk extensively when in disagreement (i.e. staff meetings tend to be long when controversial topics are discussed). Sadness is rarely demonstrated except at funerals. Public displays of happiness are acceptable (i.e. after sharing a joke with someone you may clap/shake hands with them).

Cultural Information - Dress, Punctuality & Formality

Question:

What should I know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?

Local Perspective:

As a general rule, you should dress well at work, especially when you hold a position of power. You do not necessarily always need to wear a jacket and tie, but an unkempt appearance is often poorly regarded. Relations between superiors and their subordinates are more or less formal: use the French formal form of you (vous), call people by their titles (Director, Secretary-General, Prefect, etc.) and go through the secretary for a contact. Rwandans are indiscriminate in their use of peoples’ first or last name. The choice depends on which is easiest to say or what is common practise in the workplace. Moreover, it is to your advantage to note that most Rwandan last names are given to individuals and are not "family names" as in the West, where a child inherits his father’s name. Therefore, you will meet brothers and sisters (who have the same father) who have different last names. On the other hand, having the same "family name" does not mean that people are in any way related. Certain last names are popular.

People are not used to working under pressure and what is not finished today can be done tomorrow. Individuals also ask for days off for social events (burials, weddings, or family illness).

Canadian Perspective:

Dress is semi-formal or business dress. Women can wear pants in Kigali or Butare but if working in the rural area, a skirt or dress is necessary. The hemline should not be above the knee. A skirt and nice fitted shirt and sandals is the most relaxed I would recommend for work situations.

Men usually wear dress pants and a dress shirt while a tie is optional but often worn. Dress shoes should be polished or, at the very least, dusted off when you get to work. Rwandans dress smart but not very conventionally. Very bright colours and varied patterns are acceptable. Clothes are always clean and pressed.

In conversation you may initially address people as Madame or Monsieur, unless they have a title such as Director or Father. When you are more familiar with people, you may address them by one name, which is usually their non-Kinyarwanda name. Use of "vous" is the norm when speaking French.

One Rwandan associate once stated that here time is elastic. Deadlines are often changed, usually extended, and things are frequently rushed at the last minute. If you are working independently on a project, it is best to have it completed for the initial deadline because often you as an expatriate are expected to work in a timely fashion. Lateness at work is only acceptable with good reason, but you may want to set an example as a foreigner. Many of your colleagues will be punctual anyways. Again, absenteeism is only acceptable if you have a good reason for it. An example of this would be illness. If at all possible contact a colleague or superior ahead of time to inform them if you know you will be late or absent. If it is not possible to do so in advance, inform then as soon as possible.

Productivity ebbs and flows. Without needing to account for time, employees will often do personal tasks during work hours such as telephoning friends or reading the Bible. When a project needs to be completed, employees will often stay late and work weekends to complete it!

Cultural Information - Preferred Managerial Qualities

Question:

What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will I know how my staff view me?

Local Perspective:

Generally, it is expected that the superior has expertise in a key area of the organization, treats his junior employees fairly (especially if he is an expatriate), and reassures others about their job security. People also appreciate a director "who respects himself", and this may be judged by his dress, his acquaintances, and the example that he sets at work. People also appreciate a director who establishes clear work guidelines. As well they appreciate the superior getting involved in extra-professional activities, especially by organizing them and contributing financially. It is not always easy for a superior to know how his staff perceives him. Some establish special ties with members of the organization in order to get feedback, but generally lose out since they may be manipulated and annoy the rest of the staff. The best way is probably to establish regular contact with people through extra-professional and social activities, thereby building trust.

Canadian Perspective:

Qualities highly regarded in a local manager include: transparency, honesty, willingness to listen to new ideas, presenting oneself professionally (i.e. sharp dress, punctuality), being available and recognizing the hard work of employees.

Qualities highly regarded in an expat manager include: originality of ideas, respecting Rwandan culture, being able to speak some Kinyarwanda, and dedication to his/her work.

Because Rwandans are not particularly demonstrative or verbal regarding their thoughts and feelings, it may be difficult for an expat to judge how they are being perceived by their Rwandan colleagues. You may have to ask how things are going in the department (from their point of view) as I don’t think Rwandans would generally offer that information without prodding. But, on departure, if you are well respected, you will be lavished with gifts and praise.

Cultural Information - Hierarchy and Decision-making

Question:

In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to my immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?

Local Perspective:

Decisions are usually made on a hierarchical basis. Frequently, the pride of many Rwandans prevents them from publicly expressing their ideas if they unsure that they are good ones or if they doubt that they will be approved by their superior. During meetings held in French (or English), especially those chaired by expatriates, some people will not speak, simply because they are afraid of speaking poorly in French or English and being the laughing stock of their colleagues.

People readily consult their direct supervisor when he is known for his skill and assistance. Consulting a direct supervisor is also an occasion to make him aware of what is happening and, in general, he will appreciate it.

Canadian Perspective:

In the workplace, many decisions are handed down by the administration. But, within your own department, decision-making is a more group effort. Any member of the team can generate the ideas, but it’s usually best to discuss it with the department head prior to introducing it to the remaining team members. It is acceptable to go to your immediate supervisor for answers or feedback if needed. There is definitely a "system" of hierarchy and the proper people need to be consulted in the proper order. If you are unsure, ask a close Rwandan colleague.

Cultural Information - Religion, Class, Ethnicity, & Gender

Question:

Briefly describe the local culture’s attitudes regarding the following: Gender, Class, Religion and Ethnicity. What impact would the above attitudes have on the workplace?

Local Perspective:


Gender:
In organizations, men hold most of the higher-level positions even if more and more women are being promoted to them. Society is generally stricter with women’s deviant behaviour than with men’s. In the workplace, women in positions of responsibility must be twice as careful as their male colleagues since their junior employees (including women employees, even perhaps especially women) may attribute their errors to the fact they are female.

Religion:
Most Rwandans have a religious faith, but religion does not interfere with professional life (although there are a few exceptions). Most people are Christian (Catholic, Protestant, Adventist) and others are Muslim (particularly city-dwellers).

Class:
Social classes, as we traditionally think of them, do not exist. However, it may be said that economic standing may define class: people acquire a certain status from their wealth.

Ethnicity:
A taboo subject. People only discuss their ethnic origin with people they know very well and do not feel comfortable discussing it with a "stranger". Even if it is a taboo subject, people who work together know the ethnic origins of all of their colleagues. However, there is always the risk that favours granted to someone of one’s own ethnic group be interpreted as ethnic favouritism.

Canadian Perspective:


Gender:
Although the sexes are not "equal" in Rwanda (as they are not in Canada, either), Rwandese women in the urban centres often work outside the home and are active in politics and business. Men are still considered the head of the household, but since the war, many homes have women as the heads. Just recently, women have received the right to own land.

Religion:
Religion is very important to Rwandans and almost everyone subscribes to one denomination of Christianity or Islam. Since the genocide, there appears to be an upsurge in "new" Christian sects from outside of the country (i.e. Born Again, Adventists) – one explanation for this might be the common perception that the Catholic Church was not there for people during the recent crisis. If you are a non-believer, be prepared for many persuasive discussions and invitations to church. Rwandans often use religion in their greetings (i.e. "Praise Jesus" may be used instead of "Good Morning"). You may often be asked if you are "saved" (i.e. Born Again). A simple answer may be, "I have been baptized."

Class:
Different classes generally do not socialize together but are courteous and greet each other. A person of a lower class will show respect to a superior by shaking hands with the left hand grasping the right forearm and, generally, speaking only when spoken to. In an atmosphere where people know each other, people will actively show respect. This is not the case in a public situation. (for instance, on a staff transport vehicle, an employee will give up his seat for a superior. On public transport, when people do not necessarily know each other, this would usually not occur.

Ethnicity:
Ethnicity is, officially, not supposed to be identified and therefore should not impact the workplace. In reality though, one ethnic group is seen to be dominant and is sometimes resented by others.

Cultural Information - Relationship-building

Question:

How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?

Local Perspective:

It is not always important to establish close personal relationships with colleagues or business partners. However, in Rwanda, certain social gestures that, in North America, could be considered to be signs of a personal relationship, are not interpreted as such, but are not any less significant. When, for example, a close relative of a colleague or business partner dies, it is customary to go to the funeral. When he or a close relative gets married, it is essential for colleagues and/or business partners to attend the wedding. There is no fixed rule when establishing personal relationships with Rwandans, but generally such relationships begin by both individuals visiting one another’s families on a more or less regular basis.

Canadian Perspective:

It is important to establish a relationship with someone before getting to business. It is considered rude to jump into a business transaction before properly greeting someone and having some sort of connection besides the business or work at hand. If this is skipped, people may be less cooperative and your task may be less fruitful. To establish the relationship, be sure to properly greet the person and make some small talk (i.e. "How is your family?", "Did you experience the power cut last night?", "How was your evening?")

Cultural Information - Privileges and Favouritism

Question:

Would a colleague or employee expect special privileges or considerations given our personal relationship or friendship

Local Perspective:

In Rwanda, it seems obvious that you should receive certain privileges as a result of friendship. This is particularly true when it comes to hiring family members. Having connections allows colleagues to demand things that they would not have been able to ask for in other circumstances. For example, if a person takes advantage of his connections to ask for a raise he generally will justify his request by stating that it will correct a situation that he deems to be detrimental to him.

Canadian Perspective:

A colleague or friend may ask for special considerations (i.e. assisting in securing employment for a relative), but it is not mandatory that you give it. It is important to listen to the request and empathize with the need. A straight "no" may be too harsh. An answer like "I will try to talk to the people who make those decisions, but cannot promise anything" may be suitably diplomatic.

I would recommend granting special consideration for employees with a salary advance or extra time off to allow for travel to their rural home if you count them as reliable employees. In special circumstances such as weddings and funerals, there may be a work policy on time allowed off and this may need to be flexible depending on the situation.

Cultural Information - Conflicts in the Workplace

Question:

I have a work-related problem with a colleague. Do I confront him or her directly? Privately or publicly?

Local Perspective:

As a general rule, Rwandans do not like direct confrontation and they avoid it as much as possible. They do not like their problems to be displayed in public, even if they are insignificant work-related problems. Most Rwandans are proud, or even arrogant. If a problem arises, it is best to confront it at the appropriate time, which means in a way that will not make the individual in question lose face in front of his colleagues. When a colleague is truly offended and, if he considers the insult to be serious, he will generally show it by changing his attitude toward the person who upset him by putting some distance between them, for instance. He will also talk about it with his other colleagues and meanwhile will avoid confronting the person who offended him. This avoidance means that most interpersonal problems in the organization remain dormant and continue to negatively affect teamwork until those involved officially recognize that a problem exists.

Canadian Perspective:

It is more common to discuss your problem with a third party in private and to ask that person to discuss the problem with your colleague. Alternately, one could bring up the topic in a staff meeting using very general terms. It may be best to ask the chair of the meeting to add it to the agenda beforehand.

If you have offended someone at work, you may hear about it second hand from another colleague. Or, you may hear about something you may have had a part in during a staff meeting.

Cultural Information - Motivating Local Colleagues

Question:

What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?

Local Perspective:

People are especially motivated by good working conditions. If it will get them a better salary, people will put forth the necessary effort to improve their performance. Job security is an important motivation considering how difficult it is to find a job.

Canadian Perspective:

Advancement to a better position for higher pay and a greater social standing is a strong motivator for many Rwandans.

Often walking into a business you will see employees sitting and not doing anything. So, if these people can be trained so that they see a direct benefit of the work they do it may be a better motivator. Employees or colleagues can become unmotivated when they see that their work goes unrecognized or is not adequately remunerated.

While working with teachers, I noticed they were motivated when they were recognized for the work they did. They would have liked to have had monetary recognition but this is not always possible. Verbal recognition kept the teachers going. Another motivation was when the employees saw that their superior also was working hard and doing something.

Cultural Information - Recommended Books, Films & Foods

Question:

To help me learn more about the local culture(s), please recommend: books, films, television shows, foods and web sites.

Local Perspective:

Unfortunately, there are not many influential works written about Rwandan culture and nor are there many authors who writing in French or English who are highly regarded. However, recommended literature includes the Abbé Alexis KAGAME’s writing about Rwandan history, culture, and philosophy. The Abbé is not related in any way to the current president, even though they have the same last name.) He has written a number of books and, even if he is currently highly criticized, his works are considered to be essential reading.

As for music, typical Rwandan music can be heard in Cécile KAYIREBWA’s ballads, INTORE’s folkloric dances, and songs that are accompanied by the zither.

Traditional dishes are generally made with beans and tubers (sweet potatoes, manioc, plantains). A hearty meal may be made with plantains and beans with peanut soup on the side.

Additionally, it is necessary to note that everyone who plans on working in Rwanda should know the truth about the genocide that devastated the country in 1994. There are many works of varying importance on the topic, but two authors are recommended for the depth of their analysis, their balanced and impartial approach to what happened and their detailed knowledge of the region’s socio-political issues. They are Gérard PRUNIER and Philip REYNTJENS.

Most useful Internet links: Official sites: For general information: The Government’s official site: http://www.rwanda1.com/government; For economic information: The central bank site (Banque National du Rwanda): http://www.bnr.rw; The Finance Minister’s site: http://www.minecofinl.gov.rw; The World Bank site: http://www.worldbank.org/afr/rw2.htm. Other sites: Site about the Rwandan genocide: http://www.perso.wanadoo.fr/rwanda94/; Unofficial site with general information and news about Rwandan culture: http://www.iwacu1.com.

Canadian Perspective:

Books: We Wish to Inform You that Tomorrow We Will be Killed With Our Families by Philip Gourevitch; A People Betrayed by Linda Melvern (I think); The Rwanda Crisis by Prunier. All of these selections are about the genocide with a slightly different slant. It gives you an appreciation of how little the rest of the world did for Rwanda during this time. For something totally different you could read Land of a Thousand Hillsby Rosamond Halsey Carr with Ann Howard, about the expat lifestyle before the war.

Films: "100 Days"; several NFB documentaries (I can’t remember the titles but they were available from my local library). Again, these are all about the genocide. "Gorillas In The Mist" may be of interest if you’re working in the Ruhengeri area, especially if you are interested in gorilla conservation.

Places to visit: Many Rwandans reside in Canada and you may be able to contact someone to visit and get an insider’s view prior to your departure.

Cultural Information - In-country Activities

Question:

When in this country, I want to learn more about the culture(s) and people. What activities can you recommend?

Local Perspective:

Rwandan journalism is still in its infancy and, by and large, good newspapers or television and radio shows about the local culture are difficult to find. Knowledge about the culture may be acquired by having constant contact with people. Possibly the best way to do this is to occasionally go to some bars (coffee houses) to have a drink with others. This helps you make casual social acquaintances that will enable you to have more frank exchanges about the society and local culture. It is also interesting to participate in some ceremonies—particularly weddings or naming ceremonies for newborns. Comedy shows that are common in Quebec do not exist in Rwanda. For example, the Rwandan comedian Michel MPAMBARA who is well known in Quebec is virtually unknown in his own country.

Canadian Perspective:

When in Rwanda: The National Museum in Butare (very good exhibit, but mostly in French); French Cultural Centre in Kigali (often have concerts, plays and art exhibits); a Rwandan home (accept any invitation to visit a neighbour/colleague) or invite a local friend in to your house for tea and a visit; Chez Lando in Kigali (live Rwandan music on Saturday night).

Food to eat: Local restaurants selling traditional meals have similar food. Few local restaurants are open for meals after late afternoon. The food offered is similar to what you would be offered in a Rwanda home—chips (french fries), rice, spaghetti, sweet potatoes, stewed green bananas, cooked greens, green beans, beans, peas, coleslaw, fish, chicken and stewed meat. (Or a combination of the above.) Often prices are higher if you take meat. In the evening, the food most readily available is brochettes (kebabs of goat, beef, organ meat or fish), whole cooked chicken or fish and chips. Beer and "fanta" (soda) are always available but should be ordered cold ("ikonje") if that is what you prefer. (Note: Rwandan women rarely drink alcohol. Expat women do, but care should be taken by those single women in rural areas, as it may not be as acceptable as in the larger centres.) When socializing, brochettes and drinks are usually purchased by the person who invited the others out.

Music to listen to: One of the most widely known and listened to Rwandan musicians is Cecile (other name forgotten, but everyone knows "Cecile"). ("Africa’s Enya" in my opinion.) But, there are many other Rwandan artists available from the cassette sellers in the country. R & B (Craig David, Shaggy), Congolese (Koffie Olemeada) and reggae (Lucky Dube) are also commonly heard.

To learn about Rwandan culture, it is good to accept all invitations you might receive for weddings, funerals, and christenings. Concerts occur at the stadiums and French Cultural Centre. At the latter, there are also art displays by local artists. Keep your eyes open at the round-abouts (traffic circles) where things are often advertised only one day before the events.

English, French and Kinyarwanda newspapers are available. But, ask your colleagues what’s happening in the news as coverage in different languages often varies. Television is broadcast in all three languages as well. Many Rwandans listen to the radio for their news. It is more frequently in Kinyarwanda or Swahili, but there are reports in French and English as well.

Sporting events, such as soccer matches, are often played at the stadiums. If you enjoy sports, you may wish to join a volleyball team and get to know people in a less formal environment. There are also choirs in every church and you would be welcome to join one if you have interest in doing so. (Great way to practice that Kinyarwanda!)

One venue, The Turtle Café in Kigali, has interesting art displays and live music on weekends. Every Friday and Saturday evening a Congolese/Rwandan band plays.

If you are interested in cultural events, tell people and they will probably invite you to some.

Cultural Information - National Heroes

Question:

Who are this country's national heroes?

Local Perspective:

The topic of national heroes has been officially discussed by the country’s political authorities and the debates that ensued proved that it is not easy to reach a consensus on the matter. Even if some names were brought forth, the choices were influenced more by politics than by popular consensus.

Canadian Perspective:

Fred Rwigema is one of the national heroes of Rwanda. He was a leader of the RPF but was killed on the first day of the fighting, which started in 1990. Agathe (forgot her Kinyarwanda name) was the last prime minister under the Habyarimana regime. She was a Hutu moderate and was killed early on in the genocide in 1994. King Charles Rudahigwa Mutara III was thought to have been murdered by his Belgian doctor when he expressed opposition to Belgian colonial policies.

Cultural Information - Shared Historical Events with Canada

Question:

Are there shared historical events between this country and Canada that could affect work or social relations?

Local Perspective:

Not in theory. Canada does not have a colonialist past in Africa, which for most African countries gives it a neutral status. In Rwanda’s case in particular, the fact that Canadian officers were in charge of UNAMIR (United Nations Assistance Mission for Rwanda) slightly before, during and after the 1994 genocide may be why some Rwandans have formed certain opinions about Canadians. Some accuse UNAMIR of being "passively compliant" regarding the Rwandan genocide. It is a feeling that is not very predominant.

Canadian Perspective:

Romeo Dallaire was a Canadian who headed UNAMIR, the peace-keeping force in Rwanda before and during the genocide. Many Rwandans respect him for doing his best with the limited resources he was given by the UN, but others think he should have done more. Canada has also received many refugees from Rwanda throughout the years of insecurity and is respected for this.

Cultural Information - Stereotypes

Question:

What stereotypes do Canadians have about the local culture that might be harmful to effective relations?

Local Perspective:

Stereotypes that Rwandans have about Canadians are generally the same as those they have about all Westerners. The average Rwandan believes that a Westerner is rich (implying that he shouldn’t be stingy), punctual, meticulous, impartial, but not even-tempered (implying that it is difficult to trust him) and that he usually has poor taste or does not show any interest in the way he dresses. They are normally quite idealistic, to the point that when they are confronted by the reality of the field they may be disappointed.

Even if the stereotypes held by Canadians cannot be generalized, the ones that we hear about often relate to people working slowly with no regard for deadlines and concerns about the quality of their work.

Canadian Perspective:

Canadians may wonder to themselves when they are meeting people, "Who is what ethnicity and what part did he/she have in the genocide?" (But, it is important to remember that both ethnicities were victims in the genocide and the majority of people are innocent of the crimes committed at the time.) Many people still think that the country is not secure and that it is dangerous to be there. It may also be thought that Africans in general, and Rwandans specifically, are not impacted by war, disease and death as much as Westerners because they "are used to it".

Cultural Information - About the Cultural Interpreters

Local Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born in 1967, and is the eldest of 10 children. He grew up in the city and in the country in a village near Kigali. He went to school in Kibungo to study Humanities and specialize in Economics, studying also at the University of Butare. His studies took him to Canada in 1989. In 1993, he returned to Rwanda, where he worked from until 2001. He subsequently returned to Canada to study Business Administration and to work as a researcher and instructor. He has been living in Trois-Rivières for the past year and works as in Management. He is married and has no children.

Canadian Interpreter:

Your cultural interpreter was born and raised in Yorkton, Saskatchewan, the youngest of four children. She studied physiotherapy in Edmonton at the University of Alberta. Her volunteer work sent her abroad for the first time in 1998 to Swaziland with Canadian Crossroads International. There she did physiotherapy at the Mbabane Government Hospital and administrative work with an NGO. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter went to Rwanda, where she lived for two years. There she volunteered with Volunteer Service Overseas (VSO) and taught physiotherapy at the Kigali Health Institute. She is currently traveling in Africa and is looking forward to resuming her work with the Regina Health District in Saskatchewan in early 2003. She is married and has no children.

Disclaimer

Country Insights - Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.