One of my favorite parts of moving to a new country is hearing, “Welcome to Uganda! …Oh, you live here too?” and then they see me for what I really am: a clueless, pregnant, vulnerable newb. As these new acquaintances gaze at me, I’m sure they’re experiencing flashbacks of their own dreamy yet dreary tale of their first arrival to Africa. Expats here have extra thick skin but their hearts are as soft as the red earth after a full night’s rain. They gush wisdom and openly share their Ugandan street smarts. Their sentences begin with, “I wish I had known this when I first came to Uganda…” or their eyebrows narrow in concern, “How are you doing? Would you like to grab some coffee later this week? I can introduce you to some friends.” I seriously cling to every word because I don’t want to get mugged or tick off another waiter; sorry, I didn’t know that foreigners are expected to tip! And yes, I would love a coffee date because I’m lonely and you probably know that too.
The locals are equally graceful. The market lady waits patiently for me to buy her mangos. She watches me study the colorful bills (they’re called “notes” here) and slowly count out each shilling until I’m certain I’ve passed primary math class. Later, I ask the plumber to buy a garden “hose” while he’s at the warehouse store and he comes back with a “hoe.” We both apologize for the miscommunication and just laugh.
Uganda is a whole new world and there’s no way John and I would survive without the helpful, strange, yet oh so sincere advice from all the people we’ve met. Below is a little sample of Entebbe expats and Ugandan wisdom:
- If you get bitten by a snake, do not fear the snake because it has already bitten you. Kill the snake and then take it with you to the hospital for the proper treatment.
- If you haven’t heard any reviews of the restaurant, do not order any fruits or veggies because they might not be washed properly. Order tea (boiled water kills typhoid) or bottled water. Then pray you don’t get sick. Or just eat somewhere else.
- Do not eat meat or cheese from said supermarket because there’s a rumor that they turn off their refrigerators at night.
- Do not get offended when locals call you “Mzungu.” It’s a playful nickname for all foreigners. Also, get used to hearing, “you people” and other derogatory terms. The intent is completely harmless (usually).
- Do not offer Ugandans cold water. They do not like it. Cold water is a western thing, yah weirdo.
- Women are seen as second in authority which can work in our favor when communication gets tough. “I need to speak with my husband first” can easily simmer down the conversation.
- When you go back to the States, stock up on bras, good knives, and chocolate chips.
- “Pants” in Uganda means “underwear.” The correct term is “trousers.” Trousers trousers trousers, I keep telling my brain.
- The dinner table conversation can turn sour if you ask, “Please pass me a nappy.” A “nappy” is not a napkin. It’s a diaper. The correct term for a napkin is a “serviette.”
- Do not give your guards, gardener, or house help a money bonus for Christmas. Instead, give them a chicken. It’s the most meaningful gift to express your gratitude.
- Entebbe might as well be ANTebbe. Get used to them in your kitchen. They adore chicken, sugar, and carbs, but they won’t make the climb for veggies. They’re just like us (:
What strange advice have you encountered upon traveling?
Webale (thank you) for reading ❤