Tuesday, October 18, 2011


 There are certain things that Ugandans do which seem normal to us, but to foreigners, they come off as bizarre. In no particular order, here the 10 most popular things that will remind you that you are in Uganda 

Most kiosks selling meat have glass display windows while many are simply open. Most times the meat is hanging above these windows while the hooves and offal’s are placed on the table below the meat. The meat is usually outside while the butcher is confortable seated inside waiting for the customers. 
Isn't the meat supposed to be inside so that it doesn’t come into contact with dust and flies? But if that was the case, it would not be in Uganda.                                                                                                                                                           

Go anywhere in Uganda and you will see loads of signs ‘reading not for sale’ accompanied with the owners telephone number. Mostly these are acres or plots of land that are not yet developed. In most countries you don’t see ‘Not for sale’ signs but rather for sale
The question is; if you are not selling then why are you informing us? If you read ‘Not for sale’, know that certainly you are in Uganda.                                                                  

To eliminate fraud, Bank of Uganda made a decree that nobody should issue a cheque beyond sh20m. if you are paying somebody more than Sh20m, you should just do an EFT (Electronic Fund Transfer). Unlike a cheque where you are you can be certain that you will have your money within 4 days, with an EFT transaction, you entirely depend on the payer’s bank. Even when you go to your bank with a document from the payer, your bank is not interested.
 EFT is supposed to be a one day job, but the banks such as the former peoples’ bank take their time.  As usual, a Ugandan who owes you money has found this to be a great excuse, ‘’ you know am waiting for the EFT’’ has become standard for those who don’t want to pay you as agreed.  If this was not an excuse you would know that you are not in Uganda.

Excuses are given during this back to school time. Even somebody who doesn’t pay fees will claim the children are going back to school or inflation is biting hard, though that person has just been paid.

If you have access to email and you regularly deal with the so called corporates, you must have seen a sentence that reads, ‘Greetings. This is to confirm receipt of your email. I will get back to you by C.O.B tomorrow’’.  C.O.B stands for close of business and don’t get excited when you see the phrase because by close of business tomorrow, your friend in the corporate sector will not have replied your email with the answer you expect.
 When they say ‘’C.B.O ‘’ask them to be specific; which day is tomorrow? And if they got back to you by C.B.O as they promised, then you are not in Uganda.
Nothing wastes more time like taxis in Kampala. It may take you 2hours to move from Seeta to Kampala a journey of about 30 minutes. When the taxi is half full and the driver sees someone going to the nearby market, he reverse only, only to realize that the presumed passenger doesn’t need the taxi services. 
Taxis are always are reversing and waiting to fill up and when they do they stop at fuel station to buy fuel of sh3000, only to run out of fuel a few kilometers later. But if a taxi doesn’t reverse a lot or wait for a presumed traveller, then you are not in Uganda.                                                                                                             

Nobody does anything because it rained or perhaps most interesting, because it is about to rain. Am told the best time to sleep is when it’s raining, mbu sleep is so sweet during the downpour! No worker shows up on time because of the early morning rain, but have you noticed that when it rains in the evening at about 4:00pm, nobody stays in the office. 
If it rained at 4:00pm and somebody stayed in office or in the morning and everybody came on time, then you are not in Uganda.

There is no country that likes the ‘’you don’t have to invent the wheel’’ phrase like Uganda. If something works, why not copy? When one telecom company says get kawa at sh750 another says kika at sh750. And of course nobody forgets the ‘’terms and conditions apply’’ line. 
But the winner is Turkish Airlines; of recent they placed an AD in the press that all flights to Europe were USD240. When I went there to book a ticket, I found out that the price didn’t include VAT and fuel. The actual price was over USD 1000 and booking had to be done in a particular week though flights were available the following month.
Can’t there be products where there are no terms and conditions apply- which means you inform your customers every detail before they buy than say this costs sh1000, and then in the smallest fonts you indicate that the price excludes VAT? If somebody sold anything without ‘’terms and conditions apply or while stock lasts’’ and creativity is the order of the day, we would not be living in Uganda.
Rarely do you come across salespeople who know what they are selling. Many waiters don’t know what is on the menu. They always have to go back and forth to find out whether what is displayed on the menu is available. Some even convince you that since the beef you requested for is not available, chicken would not be such a bad idea. When you tell them it’s ok, they come back and say, chicken is also finished. 
Brokers are the same, they sell what they don’t know is available. They want you to drive to a certain place near Seeta for a wonderful acre of land. But when you get there, they inform you that a chap who is an aide to a famous politician paid for it the previous night. 
Even those who market bank loans are like that. Even after telling them that you want let’s say sh20m; they promise to give it to you in a week but in vain, after five months they will ask whether you still need the money. And if you are still interested and ask them the interest rate, they say ‘’let’s confirm with the boss’’. But if they come back on the same day with the rates, then you must be somewhere outside Uganda.
I am an outgoing person, so I come into close contact with Ugandan couples quite often. A Ugandan couple is bemusing to watch. The husband, boyfriend or fiancée drives into the car park. They give a demeanour of sophistication until they step out of the limo. The man walks a few meters ahead as the woman follows. You rarely see a couple walking in together holding hands, unless they are teens; and these other patrons will say ‘’puppy love’’ in reference to their public affection. 
So why can’t a mature Ugandan couple walk in or out together rather than a woman sheepishly following her man? If you meet such couples- know you are in Uganda.