Kristin’s List of “Beauty Signs”: Zambian-Style

I’m sure, over the course of history, there have been countless ways for defining what beauty is…especially, in relation to women. Zambia is no different.

So, after talking with people, careful observation, and even some personal experience, here is Kristin’s List of “Beauty Signs” that Zambians traditionally look for in their women:

  • Fat. As in, not skinny or bony. It is better to be a bit plump. This is seen when someone eagerly gives the compliment, “You look fat!” And the response is not a slap or a snarl but a smile and “Thank you!”
  • Rough hands. When a man shakes a woman’s hand, he doesn’t want to feel soft and smooth skin. Roughness shows that she works hard with her hands.
  • Callous knees. A man generally wouldn’t see a woman’s knees, since exposing one’s knees and thighs is traditionally very immodest. But if a lady lifted her skirt a tad, those callous knees would prove that she also works hard on her knees. In older generations, callous knees would also point to the submissiveness of a wife. As a sign of respect, women would only approach their husbands on their knees.
  • Strong arms. Again, she’s a hard worker and has cooked a lot of nshima.
  • Big bums. Like men in other cultures, Zambian men also love curves…big curves.
  • Light brown. This is genetic mostly, but lighter-skinned women are viewed as more beautiful.
  • “Foxy scruffs.” Many women have those pesky hairs on their chin or upper lip, but they are always plucked right away in America. Not in Zambia. Apparently, those are a real sign of beauty here.
Many of these “beauty signs” are changing, as Zambia is more and more influenced by Western values. But some values die hard, so don’t be offended if you come for a visit and receive many…uh…compliments.

3 responses to “Kristin’s List of “Beauty Signs”: Zambian-Style

  1. Good thing you are not married to a Zambian man!! You fit too many of the criteria for a beautiful American woman.

  2. It’s okay friend, I’ll be “fat” with you and cry on the inside and smile on the outside. 🙂

  3. This is funny! In Senegal, we have many of these also. Another one here, that Joe particularly loves (because he has), is gaps in the teeth. People actually have that done. I think it’s refreshing that not everyone has the same standard of beauty. And, whenever I show my friends pictures of myself in the States, they ALWAYS say, “You are so fat there,” to which I reply, “Well, thank you!”

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