"You leave home to come home," pretty much sums up the hospitality of the Malian people. A smile and conviviality quickly become the norm. If there is one tradition on Malian soil that stands out above the rest, it has to be laughing at one's self. The art of joking is one of the more pleasant ways of life here. It allows the defusing of tensions that can exist between neighbours and ethnicities, which usually live side by side in perfect harmony on a territory which numbers 20 of them. The largest group is that of the Bambaras (around 35%), followed by the Fula people. Even though the welcome in Mali can be incredibly warm, you should still make sure you are familiar with the ways and customs. If you don't lend yourself to tradition, not only will you find things a whole lot more difficult, but perhaps more unforgivably, you will allow some unforgettable moments to slip by. For example, as soon as you arrive in a village, it is advisable before visiting it to go and make yourself known to the chief, introduce yourself, sit down when invited, listen to him and ask his permission to get to know the area. You'll find that things will happen for you this way. If you are expected, he will don traditional costume to receive you. Exchanging, observing and appreciating the time that goes by is unavoidable if your encounters are to run smoothly. Being welcomed into a village may well involve music, an art inseparable from Mali, accompanied by dance. You'll almost certainly come across the sounds of the tam tam, the calabash (actually a fruit, but hollowed and dried to make a percussion instrument very present in the north of the country), the balafon and the kora (the instrument of the Maninkan griots).