Life In Zambia – Language, Food And Recreation

Life in Zambia shows a big difference between the rich and the poor, and it varies depending on which angle you take. Although more than a third of the Zambian population lives in urban areas, the type of accommodation/residential area varies from planned settlements to the unplanned settlements in the shanties.

Zambians who are relatively well off or middle class usually live in modern houses, however, many other residents live in shantytowns or other inexpensive types of housing on the edge of most towns and cities.


English is the official language, but there are about 70 ethnic languages spoken all over the country. Of notable importance are Bemba, Tonga, Lozi, Luvale, Kaonde and Nsenga. Combined, these languages are the most widely spoken.

However, despite the large diversity in ethnicity, these languages are not a barrier to communication among the locals.

Local Foods/Delicacies

ChikandaZambian Chikanda

‘Nshima’ is the Zambian staple food. It is always taken with a side dish known as relish. On average, Zambians take two meals of ‘Nshima’ a day, at noon and in the evening.

Markets are a source of a wide range of local Zambian traditional food stuffs. At these markets, one can find vegetables like chikanda (African polony), Kalembula (Sweet Potato Leaves), Kanunka (Black Jack), Chibwabwa (Pumpkin Leaves), Bondwe (Amaranthus), Ingolyolyo (Pigeon Peas) and many others.

Also in abundance are foods like fresh/dried Isabi (Fish), Katapa (Cassava leaves), Kapenta, Mice (Imbeba), Ifishimu/Vinkubala (Caterpillars), Inkoko (Village Chicken) and Ikanga (Guinea Fowl)

Edible Insects such as grasshoppers, caterpillars (Ifinkubala), cicadas (Nyenye) and termites (Inswa) are also found. These make a tasty relish for many Zambian households especially when they are in season.

Daily life in Zambia

In the morning, you can see people going to various places of work to earn their bread and butter. Most Zambians not in the formal sector run small businesses.

Soweto Market In ZambiaSoweto Market In Lusaka

Trading and vending are the usual economic activities undertaken by the majority of the people in the informal sector. ‘Tutembas’ (small shops) are scattered along the major streets of the towns.

In the rural communities, life revolves around agriculture, livestock and fishing. These activities are not only a source of food but also help in contributing to the household income when there’s extra for sale.


Games are an important part of the Zambian society. Most Zambians engage in games for recreation purposes or simply to pass time. This is especially true in the rural areas which lack recreational facilities.

You don't need expensive materials for traditional games like ‘insolo' or 'ichiyenga',  just some smooth pebbles and an empty piece of ground is sufficient for the game.

For 'insolo', small shallow pits on an empty piece of ground with sufficient number of pebbles are all that is necessary. You may find a crowd gathered around a game of 'Insolo', this is not only a way of passing time but also of socializing as well.

'Ichiyenga' is a game usually played by females and 'insolo' is mostly a man's game, although it's not rare to find females playing it as well.

In urban areas, soccer is the most popular sport and it has a huge following, but the effect is now trickling down to the rural areas. Boxing is also another sport with a huge following. Rugby, golf, tennis and car racing are among other sports with a sizable following in urban areas.

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