Excuse me?

Just don't expect him to know where he's going

It took me a while to realise this but when Tanzanians say “Yes?”, they don’t mean yes. Obviously. They actually mean “pardon”, as in, they haven’t understood what you said.

Considering I work in communications I’m finding actually communicating mighty hard. A big part of that is the language, especially outside the capital where few people speak English. But even with the educated ones who do – like my colleagues, or like the secondary school teacher I met yesterday – it takes me about three times as long to get an answer and even then I’m not totally sure we’ve really understood each other or that they’ve told me what they really think.

More experienced expats tell me Tanzanians tend to simply say what you they think you want to hear.  “Never ask: does this road lead to X, because they will always say yes, rather than saying they don’t know”, said one. Lately I realised that there’s no point asking a bajaj (tuktuk) driver if he knows where your destinations is. He’ll inevitably say yes, and then you’ll spend half an hour driving round in circles.

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