Malawi features ethnicities and cultures that are patriarchal and matriarchal. Men are more revered in cities than women, although this may not be the case in rural areas, depending on ethnicity. Whites are often respected, which is a remnant from colonial days, although it is more a Malawian way of being polite. Accept their kindness. They are a really nice group of individuals.
When Malawians come across a white visitor, particularly those from extremely remote regions where they don’t encounter many whites, they may be very inquisitive. To a Western mentality, this might be perceived as gazing at you or talking about you in front of you needlessly. Expect to be welcomed by children shouting mzungu, mzungu! and to be asked many questions about yourself. Even seemingly insignificant things like mechanical pens may attract a throng.
Malawians are polite in general, and part of that civility includes shaking hands, speaking quietly, and addressing visitors and others with respect. Malawians try to avoid being impolite. When Malawian men come together to talk, it’s normal for them to hold hands, and this should not be misinterpreted as a sexual gesture.
Shorts and miniskirts are not acceptable in the culture, particularly when traveling outside the lodge/camp. Shorts or a short skirt on a lady is regarded provocative as well as impolite. Many female tourists wear wraps, which are readily available in large city shops and marketplaces. These are usually made up of bright, colorful patterns and may be very appealing. Women’s low-cut shirts, although frowned upon, aren’t quite as suggestive. Men in the cities prefer to wear slacks rather than shorts, since shorts are usually reserved for school-aged children, and when a guy wears shorts, Malawians may find it amusing.
Finally, whenever you encounter a Malawian, even if it’s only to ask a question, you should always greet them and inquire about their well-being. It is critical to welcome a Malawian properly. They don’t like the idea of just “going to the point” as it is practiced in the West. Courtesy is required at all times, since being impolite is a sign of contempt.