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Social Customs & Etiquettes in Haiti


One thing a visitor to Haiti learns very quickly is that the Haitians are a very dignified people. They have their pride despite all they have had to endure.

People feel very strongly about greetings, whose importance is particularly strong in rural areas, where people who meet along a path or in a village often say hello several times before engaging in further conversation or continuing on their way. Men shake hands on meeting and departing, men and women kiss on the cheek when greeting, women kiss each other on the cheek, and rural women kiss female friends on the lips as a display of friendship.

When entering a yard Haitians shout out "onè" ("honour"), and the host is expected to reply "respè" ("respect"). Visitors to a household never leave empty-handed or without drinking coffee, or at least not without an apology. Failure to announce a departure, is considered rude.

Young women do not smoke or drink alcohol of any kind except on festive occasions. Men typically smoke and drink at cockfights, funerals and festivities but are not excessive in the consumption of alcohol. As women age and become involved in itinerant marketing, they often begin to drink kleren (rum) and use snuff and/or smoke tobacco in a pipe or cigar. Men are more prone to smoke tobacco, particularly cigarettes, than to use snuff.

Men and especially women are expected to sit in modest postures. Even people who are intimate with one another consider it extremely rude to pass gas in the presence of others. Haitians say "excuse me" ("eskize-m") when entering another person's space. Brushing the teeth is a universal practice. People also go to great lengths to bathe before boarding public buses, and it is considered proper to bathe before making a journey, even if this is to be made in the hot sun.

Women and especially men commonly hold hands in public as a display of friendship; this is commonly mistaken by outsiders as homosexuality. Women and men seldom show public affection toward the opposite sex but are affectionate in private.

People haggle over anything that has to do with money, even if money is not a problem and the price has already been decided or is known. A mercurial demeanour is considered normal, and arguments are common, animated, and loud. People of higher class or means are expected to treat those beneath them with a degree of impatience and contempt. In interacting with individuals of lower status or even equal social rank, people tend to be candid in referring to appearance, shortcomings, or handicaps.

In it is very common for people to have to wait for services, appointments, etc. Most accept it as a norm and give freely of their time regardless of the situation. Punctuality is not highly valued and being late is usually not considered rude.

Meeting & Greeting

Men usually shake hands when greeting one another and maintain direct eye contact. At a first meeting, a warm handshake will suffice. At a first meeting, women generally shake hands with one another. Friends and close acquaintances usually kiss each other once on the cheek. As for greetings between the sexes, at a first meeting a regular handshake will do. Friends, family and close acquaintances usually share a light kiss on the cheek.

Communication Style

Haitians tend to be very indirect in communicating. Often times points are made with stories and parables as many people take the long way around to get to the point.

A good conversation starter is to talk or ask about one’s family. Humour and laughter play a big role in communicating. It’s best to avoid talking about politics until you have established a strong relationship with someone.

Haitians tend to prefer standing about an arm’s length from one another while conversing. This space may be less between goof friends and family. There is usually a fair amount of touching between men and men, and women and women and men and women while conversing. Light touching on the arms, hands, and shoulders is common. It is common to see people holding hands in public but kissing or hugging in a romantic sense is not usually appropriate.

Haitians tend to favour direct eye contact over indirect. During conversations direct eye contact is commonplace rather than sporadic as it shows a sign of interest and respect towards the speaker.

Staring is not usually considered rude, especially if people are looking at foreigners. Be prepared to be stared at non stop.





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