Mozambique, a linguistically diverse country in east Africa, is home to over 33,435,539 people. This number comprises the different ethnic groups and races in the country, with indigenous Africans making up 98% of the population (shared between Makhuwa, Tsonga, Lomwe, Sena, and others). In comparison, the Mestiço only make up about 0.8%, and European, Indian, Pakistani, and Chinese, account for 0.2% of the population. The least populated regions in the country are the northwest and southeast, while the most populated regions are the southern coast, the central region, Nampula, Cidade de Nacala, and Pemba regions. As you read further, this article will serve as a localization guide to the Mozambican language and culture.
National and Local Languages of Mozambique
While Portuguese is Mozambique’s lingua franca and the official language in families and homes, Makhuwa is the most spoken language. This language is spoken in 11 out of 15 provinces in Mozambique.
All languages spoken in Mozambique are of Bantu origin, which is not surprising because Bantu migrants from different parts of Africa, comprise approximately all the tribes of the country. Below is a list of local and national languages spoken in Mozambique:
Makhuwa is the most widely spoken local language in Mozambique, with over 7 million speakers. It is a Bantu language and is the dominant language in the northern and central regions of the country.
Xichangana is another Bantu language spoken in Mozambique, primarily in the southern and southwestern regions of the country.
Sena is a Bantu language spoken by the Tsonga people in Mozambique’s south and southeastern regions.
Lomwe is a Bantu language in Mozambique’s southern and southwestern regions. It is spoken by approximately 2 million people and is closely related to Xichangana and other Lomwe languages.
Xichangana is a Bantu language spoken in Mozambique’s southern and southwestern regions. It is closely related to other Lomwe languages spoken in the area, such as Chichewa, Chitumbuka, and Chisena, spoken by approximately 2 million people in Mozambique and is used in the media, schools, and government. It is written in the Latin alphabet and has a rich oral tradition, including folktales, proverbs, and traditional songs.
These languages play a crucial role in the cultural identity of the communities which speak them and are essential to Mozambique’s linguistic diversity.
Mozambican Culture and Values
Culturally diverse with a unique group of people, Mozambique is primarily known for its beautiful beaches, vibrant music, dance, and delicious seafood.
One of the favorite traditions in Mozambique is Marrabenta, a type of music that originated in the cities of Maputo and Matola in the 1920s. Marrabenta combines African and Portuguese influences and is characterized by its fast tempo and energetic percussion.
Another critical aspect of Mozambican culture is its art. The country is home to a thriving arts scene, with many talented artists working in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, and textiles. Many artists in Mozambique use their work to convey important social and political messages.
Mozambique is also known for its cuisine, which is heavily influenced by Portuguese and African flavors. The country is famous for its seafood, particularly its prawns and lobster. Other popular dishes include xima (a type of porridge made from cornmeal), matapa (a dish made with cassava leaves and peanuts), and Piri-Piri chicken.
Religion and Family Life in Mozambique
Christians make up 59.2% of Mozambique’s population (divided between Roman Catholic 27.2%, Zionist Christians, 15.6%, Evangelical/Pentecostal 15.3%, Anglican 1.7%), Muslims comprise 18.9% of the population, 7.3% of the people held other beliefs, mainly animism, and 13.9% have no religious beliefs.
In Mozambique, the family unit is typically very close-knit; extended family members often live together in the same household. It is common for multiple generations to live under one roof, with grandparents, parents, and children all living together. Respect for elders is an essential value in Mozambican society, and children are expected to show respect and obedience to their parents and other elders in the community. Parents and grandparents are expected to guide and support their children and grandchildren.
The extended family also plays a vital role in decision-making, and it is common for families to consult with one another on essential matters such as marriage, education, and career choices.
In addition to the extended family, the community is also an essential aspect of Mozambican culture. Many Mozambicans belong to community organizations such as churches, social clubs, and neighborhood associations, which provide a sense of belonging and support.
In every functioning society, there are always basic etiquettes everyone needs to follow, and the same applies to Mozambican communities. Below is some example of Mozambique’s rules of etiquette:
- Greet people with a handshake and make eye contact.
- Respect personal space: in Mozambique, it is uncommon to stand too close to someone. Be mindful of personal space and avoid standing too close or touching people without consent.
- Dress modestly: avoid wearing revealing clothing or clothing with offensive graphics or slogans.
- Remove your shoes before entering someone’s home: in Mozambique, it is customary to remove your shoes before entering someone’s home. This is a sign of respect and helps to keep the house clean.
- Be mindful of religious customs: Mozambique is predominantly Christian, but there are also Muslims, Hindus, and followers of other religions living in the country. Be aware of religious traditions and avoid wearing clothing or displaying symbols that may be offensive to others.
Food in Mozambique is influenced by Portuguese and African flavors and is known for its seafood, particularly its prawns and lobster. Other popular dishes include:
This is a type of porridge made from cornmeal that is the staple food in Mozambique and is an integral part of the country’s culinary heritage. It is a simple, nutritious, and flavorful dish that many people in the country enjoy.
A dish made with cassava leaves and peanuts, typically served with rice or bread and often accompanied by grilled meats or fish. It is a popular dish in Mozambique and is usually prepared for special occasions and celebrations.
Piri-Piri chicken is usually made from chicken marinated in a spicy sauce overnight and fried. The spicy flavor of the Piri-Piri sauce is a vital characteristic of the dish and gives it its unique taste. Many dishes are served with a spicy sauce called Piri-Piri.
Prego is a sandwich with grilled beef, onions, and a spicy sauce. Prego sandwiches are often sold by street vendors and are a popular snack or lunch option.
Caldo Verde is a soup made with collard greens, potatoes, and sausage. The ingredients are combined and pureed to create a thick, flavorful soup.
Fashion in Mozambique is a mix of traditional and modern styles. Traditional clothing includes brightly colored dresses and skirts for women and patterned shirts and pants for men. In urban areas, it is common to see people wearing more modern clothing, such as jeans, t-shirts, and dresses.
Traditional Mozambican dresses, or “capulanas,” are a distinctive and vibrant aspect of the country’s culture. Capulanas are brightly colored, printed clothes that both men and women wear in Mozambique.
Traditionally, capulanas were worn as wraps or shawls, but they are now worn as skirts. The patterns and colors of capulanas are often significant and can convey cultural or personal meanings.
Capulanas are made from various materials, including cotton, silk, and synthetic fabrics, and are often adorned with intricate embroidery or beadwork. They are usually worn on special occasions, such as weddings and traditional festivals, and symbolize cultural pride and identity.
In addition to capulanas, traditional Mozambican dress includes elaborate headdresses for women.
Arts and Architecture in Mozambique
Mozambique has a rich and diverse arts scene, with many talented artists working in various mediums, including painting, sculpture, and textiles. The arts in Mozambique are influenced by both traditional and modern influences and often convey important social and political messages.
One of Mozambique’s most well-known art forms is sculpture, which has a long history in the country. Traditional Mozambican sculpture often portrays daily life and nature themes and is typically made from wood, clay, and stone.
In addition to traditional sculpture, Mozambique is home to many contemporary artists known for their innovative and modern approaches to art. These artists often use a variety of mediums and styles, including abstract, realism, and surrealism.
Mozambique is also known for its vibrant and colorful textiles, often used to make clothing and household items. Traditional fabrics in Mozambique are made using various techniques, including weaving, dyeing, and embroidery, and are often adorned with intricate patterns and designs.
In terms of architecture, Mozambique has a mix of traditional and modern styles. The country is home to many historic buildings and landmarks, including the historic city center of Maputo, known for its Portuguese colonial architecture. In addition to historic buildings, Mozambique has many modern buildings and structures, including skyscrapers, shopping malls, and public parks.
Round or square thatched cottages and houses with flat roofs are the main features of Mozambique’s traditional architecture. Portuguese rule introduced European and Indian influences to the construction process and decorative elements. Ilha de Moçambique, a 400-year-old village in Nampula Province, features brick structures with Euro-Indian architectural influences and traditional palm-covered homes. The city is listed as a World Cultural and Natural Heritage by UNESCO.
Common Expression and Translation
As Portuguese is the lingua franca, if one has a basic understanding of it, one should have no problems integrating it into the rare Mozambican Portuguese, and for complete beginners, here are a few phrases that would be of huge help to you:
- Ola: Hello
- Como vai? How are you?
- Bem, Obrigado(a): Fine, thank you.
- Obrigado(a): Thank you.
- Desculpe: Excuse me.
- Por favor: Please.
- Sim: Yes
- Não: No
- Qual é o seu nome? What’s your name?
- Meu nome é…: My name is…
For people conducting official business in formal environments, here are a few words that can be used to break the ice:
- Quanto Custa? How much does it cost?
- Qual é o horário de Abertura? What are the opening hours?
- Qual é o endereço? What is the address?
- Qual é o Telefone? What is the phone number?
- Qual é o seu e-mail? What’s your email address?
- Fale mais devagar, por favor: Speak more slowly, please
- Eu não entendi: I didn’t understand.
- Eu não falo português: I don’t speak Portuguese.
Mozambique Holidays and Celebrations
There are some government-recognized holidays apart from the regular New Year’s, Christmas, and worldwide recognized holidays, and they include:
It is celebrated on June 25th and commemorates the day in 1975 when Mozambique gained independence from Portugal; ceremonies, parades, and other celebrations honoring the nation’s sovereignty and cultural identity are held on this day.
Mozambican Heroes’ Day:
Mozambican Heroes’ Day is celebrated on Feb 3rd, this day is set apart to celebrate and commemorate the country’s national heroes who fought for independence from Portugal.
International Women’s Day:
it is celebrated on March 8th to celebrate the achievements and contributions of women. In Mozambique, International Women’s Day is marked with events, speeches, and other activities highlighting the importance of gender equality and women’s empowerment.
Afonso Dhlakama Day:
It is a national holiday commemorating the life and contributions of Afonso Dhlakama, a Mozambican politician and leader of the Mozambican National Resistance (RENAMO).
International Day of Peace:
International day of peace is celebrated on October 4th this day encourages nonviolence and peace worldwide and is observed with events, initiatives, and campaigns.
All Saints’ Day:
It is observed on November 1 and is celebrated with church services and other religious observances to honor and remember the Saints and Martyrs of the Christian religion.
Translating for the Mozambique Market
For every market, it is a recommended standard practice to understand the primary language in the target markets and the most spoken amongst the population that does business in the country.
Below are the statistics for Mozambique:
Emakhuwa is the most widely spoken indigenous language in Mozambique and is spoken by about 25% of the population (about 8 million people).
Xichangana is another widely spoken indigenous language in Mozambique and is spoken by about 15% of the population (about 5 million people).
Portuguese is the official language of Mozambique and is spoken by many people in the country, particularly in urban areas. It is estimated that about 50% of the population (about 16 million people) speaks Portuguese as a first or second language.
Elomwe is a Bantu language spoken by about 10% of the population in Mozambique (about 3 million people). It is closely related to the Emakhuwa and Xichangana languages.
Sena is a Bantu language spoken by about 10% of the population in Mozambique (about 3 million people).
The cost for translation varies by language, number of words, topic, type of translation, and platform. If you are not savvy in the languages of your target market in Mozambique, it is suggested that you enlist the services of an experienced, professional language service provider.
Doing Business in Mozambique
For doing business in Mozambique, below are some factors entrepreneurs should take note of:
- Mutual respect is at the heart of Mozambican business culture. This is especially true when dealing with elders, as Mozambicans strongly emphasize building relationships.
- When greeting, you should avoid using a person’s first name without having a prior relationship with them.
- January is usually the main holiday month for the country, so business should not be scheduled during that period.
Apart from these important courtesy rules, major business guidelines are:
- Name reservations must be made at the Conservatória do Registo de Pessoas Jurídicas (Legal Entities Registry) or at Balcão de Atendimeno Único (One Stop Shops)
After this registration, the next step is to address a license request to the Provincial Governor and file it with the appropriate Provincial Directorate of Industry and Commerce. The application must include the following information: the company’s name, the registered office’s address, and the commercial activity to be carried out per the Classification of Economic Activities (CAE).
After these steps, you can create your organization and run the business.
Mozambique is a small country, but one filled with a good level of potential, most especially due to the impact of colonization and how they have been underdeveloped since then.
The people learn about Mozambique, their unique culture, and the plethora of languages in the country; there is a huge possibility that the government will experience massive growth in the coming years.
Knowing that the primary language spoken by both first and second speakers is Portuguese, there might be a massive opening for European investors and organizations to engage the citizens easily.
Due to the low level of urbanization in the country, it is wise to translate and localize everything properly before entering the Mozambican market to avoid losses.