Published: July 12th 2012July 12th 2012
Market Shopping in the Big Cities
Going market shopping requires preparation, stamina and determination as well knowledge of local customs, language and prices. First of all, you must take only small notes and coins and have them readily available in zipped pockets. Tanzanians don’t carry change. They will always get it for you but it make take an hour until they find someone who can break your 500 shilling bill. Paper notes in Tanzania require delicate handling. Besides being tattered, torn, taped and glued, notes may carry note-born germs. Hint: check that you aren’t being passed a note so tattered that no one else will take it. Secondly, you need a basket large enough to carry your purchases. Tanzanians hire lads at the markets to do this for them. Give it a try! Thirdly, you will need good body language and some essential Swahili. Review your vocabulary before entering the fray and get ready for bartering. It’s expected. Have fun and don’t be too serious.
Shilingi ngapi? How Much?
Bei ghali, Bwana. Too much!
Funguzo kidogo. Lower it a little, please.
Ongeza kinondogo or zawadi kwa mimi?
Achaaa! Absolutely ridiculous.
None of this will help, however, unless you have an idea of the approximate real cost of your purchase, the cost for the region, that season, that harvest. In villages you might want to commiserate with the state of the harvest, how the kids are and how things are going at home. Shopping in your village where you are known is a whole lot different from the touristy towns of Arusha and Dar es Salaam. In the big cities you need to bargain hard and guestimate that those souvenir batiks, tinga tinga paintings and wooden masks are inflated two thirds their real value. Bargaining has certain protocols. Wazungus should try not to look too stupid nor lose face. Present yourself as a person who knows what they are doing even if you don’t. Never pay the asking price. Always smile. You shouldn’t carry wallets and large bills. Do not show any wads of bills you may be foolishly carrying (remember your passport is safely locked in your hotel and you are carrying only a photocopy). Be leery of helpers. Arusha town is full of persistent touts. Be firm about not wanting their help. If stuck with an entourage of helpers, duck into a shop and exit through the back door. It works.
Tanzanians love to talk
Learn quickly that you will be spending lengthy periods of time exchanging greetings and welcomes. In the morning, start with habari za asubuhi.
Elders are well respected I Tanzania. To a person older than you, you should begin your greeting with Shikamoo.
You may have some address you with Shikamoo.
Shikamooing requires that you answer with marahaba
. It is a fine way of showing respect to an elder or viazi kubwa. (big potato /important person).
Since over 35% of Tanzanians are Muslim, you might want to learn to say assalamualaikum and the r
esponse alekum salaam
. This is accompanied by the Tanzanian handshake where you grasp with your right hand the other’s right hand between thumb and fingers, then grasp the thumb, and then again, between fingers and thumb. Depending upon the relationship, age, locale and time of day, you will then enquire or have inquired about, news of home, family, work, safari, chickens, cows and any other interest area. You can go back and forth several times until you run out of ideas or vocabulary. Your response to each inquiry is always nzuri or nzuri sana (just fine!).
Even if you are suffering from malaria, diarrhea, depressed or confused, you will always be well. Tanzanians who appear to have little and for whom everything has just gone wrong will always tell you that everything is just fine and mean it.
Tanzanians are everywhere
Don’t expect privacy. If you stop in the middle of a lonely, deserted countryside path, people will appear from nowhere in minutes. People are everywhere in the streets, on the roadways, in the fields, at the dukas. they are up before you in the morning and are up when you go to bed. they are everywhere at all times.
If you are found alone, people will want to keep you company. Being alone is seen as unusual and it is not understood why you wouldn’t want to be surrounded by friends, family and visitors. Tanzanians will want to visit you in your home. The typical call is hodi, hodi, hodi
when approaching your house. Of course, you welcome them with karibuni ndani.
Tanzanians love forms
Memorize your passport name and number, where it was issued and date, your address at home and in country, the date you entered Tanzania, your vehicle registration number, where you last slept, where you will be next, the date of your yellow fever vaccination and if you have any communicable diseases. You will be given forms which request detailed information at the most unusual circumstances. There are forms for everything. You might as well be prepared.
And, as you exit Tanzania by air, as of July 1, 2012, you will be charged a $UD10.00 exit fee. No forms.
If you become lost, disoriented or confused about your whereabouts as you are driving, which you will undoubtedly do as there are few road signs or directional signs, you may be tempted to ask directions. Don’t.
Tanzanians like to please. If you ask if Magugu is this way, it is. If you ask if is that way, it is. In Tanzania it is considered extremely rude to give a negative answer. Tanzanians would never want to disappoint you by giving you an answer you don’t want to hear.
Sometimes when driving and you have stopped when the road appears to end, you might encounter a helpful person noticing your confusion. If you respond to their offer for help, you may find yourself with several visitors accompanying you in your vehicle also providing you with helpful directions. This may be their first time in a vehicle. They may develop motion sickness. When they get to their destination, they will be helpful in pointing out the direction they think you might want to go. Tanzanians like to believe they know best what you are thinking.
When you buy your absolutely essential cell phone, ensure you have contact numbers of people who can help you with interpretation and advice. Since not everyone can charge their phone regularly or pay for vouchers when needed, have at least half a dozen helpful contacts.
At the post office
Other questions you may be tempted to ask include how to mail a parcel. This undertaking is not recommended. However, if you decide to do so, you must come prepared and with considerable time and patience. Do not wrap parcels but brig wrapping material. You can buy it at Stationery stores. Your parcel will be inspected by numerous clerks and their supervisors who will stamp a variety of forms which must accompany your parcel. Once duly inspected and appropriately stamped, your parcel is ready for wrapping. First the clerk will measure it. The clerk may assist y you with the gluing. All parcels must be glued. Only post office glue is allowed. You must then wrap it with string. Only post office string is allowed. Once your gluing and stringing is approved, take your addressed parcel, your stamped forms and line up to buy stamps. Make sure you have somewhere near the correct change to avoid waiting for change from large bills. The stamps may obliterate the mailing address so make sure you use a large box in which to wrap your parcel or you will have to go through the process again. Should you consider registering your parcel, allow for further time to meet the registration clerk, complete the registration forms and visit a different lineup. Remember that relationship building is important, so smile and practice your habari ganis. It is very rude to show any signs of impatience.
If you are staying in Tanzania for a while, you may be tempted to request magazines from home. Advise your friends to wrap them in brown paper; they have been known to be nationalized. Suggest they send them through a postal meter rather than use sought after foreign stamps. These procedures may increase your chances of receiving them.