This week I am going to write about some of the different cultural norms or aspects of everyday living in Uganda which have needed a little getting used to.
Ps and Qs
Over the past three weeks I have realised that I am very British in my ways. One of the most prevalent things I have had to get used to is the difference in what we consider to be traditionally ‘good manners’ here in Uganda. I learned very quickly that in the Ugandan culture people don’t often say please and thank you (well, as much as us anyway), are unapologetic, conversation is very direct and honest and apparently, queuing just isn’t a thing that people do here.
Often, when someone asked for something, they just dictate ‘Give me that’. As much as I know that it’s not a case of being rude, it has been a hard pill for me to swallow. However, people can still be very polite – for example my little host brother greets me every day with a cheery ‘welcome home!’
People really tell you what they think – but not because they’re being rude, but because they are interested in you, want to know about you, want you to know about what they think and are unconcerned with avoiding that classic stifling awkwardness that often occurs in very British conversation.
Not-So Desperate Housewives
It has been interesting to learn about one of the preconceptions that many Ugandans have about us Brits – that we pretty much can’t / don’t do most things for ourselves.
My host mother couldn’t believe that I washed my own clothes, that I am able to cook, iron, I clean at home and that everyone doesn’t have a maid. My counterpart nearly had a heart attack when I showed her that I could peel a potato.
I am glad that I can dispel some of these stereotypes but of course things are very different at home, where we have appliances that pretty much do the work for you. We do rely on convenience and comfort, things that aren’t / can’t be a priority here. Yes, it might take four hours to prepare dinner, but I love sitting and chatting with host mum in the evenings, watching her take her time in preparing dinner. Making sure that her flock is well watered and fed is her main priority, and she puts so much care and attention into making sure she does it well.
The traditional Ugandan diet is mainly made up of carbs, beans and meat. Although vegetables and especially fruit are easy to come by and relatively inexpensive, sticking to the five a day rule is not something that most people here follow. However, a starchy banana-like fruit called ‘matooke’ / ‘matoke’ which streamed and mashed is a staple element of most meals.
Yet last Friday evening I achieved the ultimate commingling of culinary cultures, as I made some Welsh cakes Ugandan style for my host family.
I quickly learned that Ugandans don’t keep animals as pets – keeping animals for anything other than economic benefit just doesn’t make sense here. I showed my Host Mum a picture of my little sister with her pet rabbit, and my host mum just nonchalantly asked ‘Is she going to eat it?’
Animals are also free to roam the streets as they please – chickens, goats, and I have even seen cows and bulls walking around among the cars, boda-bodas (vehicles similar to mopeds), and taxis is morning like nobody’s business.
My big host brother also told me that pigs ride on boda-bodas, though I am yet to see and therefore believe this.
How many people can you fit into a seven person people carrier? Well, seven of course! Nope, in Uganda it’s at least 11. Most days I am hot and squished… enough said about that one, really.
Word of the Week
My Word of the Week is ‘mukano gwange’, which means ‘my friend’ – which is what my host mum now calls me (I’m sure because she still can’t remember / pronounce Heini).
Until next time my mukano gwanges.