While I was in Uganda, I observed some cultural idiosyncrasies that I made a note of and thought that it would be helpful for me to pass them along to others.
I have thought about and put together some Do’s and Don’ts of what to wear and what not to wear for your next mission trip. One thing to be cautious of is wearing scented perfumes including scented shampoos and lotions can attract mosquitoes and other bugs which can cause malaria. You will not want to wear any heavily scented items just to be safe.
There are many cultural differences in foreign countries which we are not always aware of here in America. I was riding on a “Boda Boda,” (which is more commonly known as a motorcycle) in Uganda, Africa where I was told that I need to make sure I wear a small purse because if my purse is too large, someone may think that I am very wealthy and will try to steal my purse!
I was also told that women need to wear long skirts and not pants. This was partly based upon our individual missions base, however, this was a more widely accepted way of dress for women. Someone mentioned to me that it is not considered “lady-like” for a woman to be riding a bicycle! This seemed a little strange to me due to our cultural differences here in the United States. From what I understand, this is a bit degrading for women in Ugandan culture to be riding a bicycle.
Also you will want to make sure that you pack the lightest weight clothing as possible, based upon the weather in your destination of choice. This will help you to avoid baggage fees for your baggage being too heavy to check in at the airport. Universally, a fifty pound baggage limit is standard, so packing too much can cost you extra cash.
As a woman, I am finding that dressing modestly is very important. Many people have differences in opinion regarding this topic. However, to keep it simple, modest dress will cause less problems than dressing in a more revealing way.
I was surprised that the people in Uganda were dressed very nice. The word that I learned was a very British sounding word that is used to imply that a person looks very classy. If a Ugandan says, “You are very smart today!” (Smart pronounced “Smaat”)
This means, you look very classy and well put together! I loved hearing this from them!
It still makes me smile thinking about it.
If you are visiting an African country for your missions trip, you can expect that people will not be dressed shabby no matter how much or how little money they have for that matter. For church, you will want to dress up with nicely ironed clothes, looking neat and clean. This will help you to feel comfortable and feel like you fit with the way others are dressed, especially in Uganda.
So, what do you do with all of your gold and silver necklaces? What about your wedding ring for that matter? Well, you leave all the valuable jewels at home! Flashy jewelry and flashy hairstyles will need to be deescalated. You will want to downsize some of the “Bling” so to speak. Careful attention must be taken to avoid any unnecessary or problematic attention being drawn to yourself.
In fact, the attention should be focused upon the Lord and not on us, so we will want to deflect some of the attention away from us if possible. I suggest purchasing wooden jewelry to replace your gold and silver or precious jewelry. Many jewels and beads can be purchased while in the foreign country you are visiting. This can be an economic stimulus to the economy of the country you are visiting as well! This is just another reason to leave the expensive jewelry at home.
Ok, now for shoes!!! You will want to make sure your shoes are appropriate for the nature of your trip. If you are going to a very hot place, you may want to pack some sandals or buy them there in that country. Also, tennis shoes are very valuable in the airports for comfort when walking long distances.
I hope this information was helpful to you in planning your next missions trip! Please feel free to visit our website where you can find out about the benefits of missionary airfare for your next missions trip.
Tabitha Lovell, International Travel Specialist