Respecting the Flag

One of the things that no one really learns except for the hard way is how serious the Congolese take lowering their flag at the end of the day.
We found ourselves standing around the commercial district at 6PM and I started noticing everything stopping. The hustle and bustle ground to a halt. The traffic slowed. Cars were turned off. Everyone was facing west and standing rigid, not talking. It was like the scenes in Dark City where the entire city would freeze in a state suspended animation. Surreal doesn’t really even begin to explain it.
The only problem in this is that as an outsider, you have no clue what is going on. Maybe you try to ask someone, but you’ll only get a nasty reply telling you to shut up. If you keep going about your business, people will really take offense at your doing this. You just have to know that this is the custom and that you need to respect it or be in an area with expats where everyone ignores it.
This is apparently another holdover from Mobutu times that people stick to. It’s rather surprising that there have been seven different flags for DR Congo in it’s relatively brief history with the latest one that everyone respects so dearly being brought in to effect just two years ago. I guess in the end, it has more to do with the act of respect rather than the object that the respect is being directed at.
In case you’re wondering, the flag is raised at 7AM each day with people singing the national anthem.
Respecting the Flag