Expats moving to Mozambique should prepare themselves for some culture shock. The country suffers from crippling poverty, and expats may be shocked by how most of the population lives. The roads and state of driving in Mozambique are also atrocious. This may take expats some getting used to, depending on where expats are from.
Language in Mozambique
The official language of Mozambique is Portuguese, and one of the biggest struggles expats moving to Mozambique face is not being able to speak it. The inability to communicate thoughts and feelings or even simple requests can complicate everyday life. English is not widely spoken outside the capital city, and although there are various translation and interpreting services available, the language barrier can become quite frustrating.
The language barrier can also make things such as banking and renting accommodation extremely difficult. New arrivals will need to speak and understand some Portuguese. Learning the language or just useful phrases can make assimilation easier.
Cultural differences in Mozambique
Mozambicans are not strict on punctuality, which may cause frustration for expats. This can impact expats' lives, especially in the case of doing business or expat children attending school. Mozambicans also favour family above work. This leads to high levels of absenteeism in schools and workplaces.
Public displays of affection are uncommon. It is typical for people to shake hands upon meeting, and for women to kiss other women on the cheek, but only in familiar settings. Women do not touch men in public. It is especially taboo for a single woman to touch a man she doesn’t know. Touching can often be mistaken for romantic interest.
Women in Mozambique
Mozambique still has a very traditional view of women. This may be quite jarring for expats relocating from Western countries. Women are expected to get married and start a family at a young age. This leads to low levels of education for girls and young women. Most women tend to stay home and take care of their families. Women also aren’t treated equal to men. This is more true in rural areas of Mozambique.
In recent years there has been more of a push to get women into the working world, though this applies mostly to the capital city, Maputo.
Poverty in Mozambique
Poverty has been a major challenge for Mozambique since gaining independence in 1975. At that time, the country was listed as one of the world’s poorest. Even today, the country ranks among the lowest in human development, life expectancy and inequality.
This level of poverty is probably the biggest culture shock expats will experience. The country has made great strides in reducing poverty, but the vast majority of the population still lives in below-standard circumstances. Due to extreme poverty, many locals live in informal housing with little to no access to basic services such as water and sanitation.
►Education and Schools in Mozambique is a must-read for expats with kids.
►See Healthcare in Mozambique for all health-related queries
"Being from SA, I had no particular elements of culture shock, though certain medical needs were very difficult to find when I first arrived. But now we can see and notice so much progress – it takes time but, importantly, you do feel that it is coming."
Read more about South African expat Eddie's experiences in Inhambane, Mozambique.
Are you an expat living in Mozambique?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Mozambique. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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