Ugandan culture and way of living is so different from what I was used to coming from Europe. I got again confirmed how fascinating it is to travel and live in different countries. You learn and develop yourself so much. This time I would like to share with you 10 highlights from my Ugandan experience which I found quite interesting and different compared to what I was used to.
Ugandan families eat warm food only
I was very surprised that in the families where I stayed, they eat only warm and cooked food. This means women prepare food at least three times per day and cook it on stone stoves. So forget about a fresh salad. Even though they grow so many delicious vegetables that would be suitable for a nice salad, everything goes into a pot to be boiled. Many were somewhat surprised seeing me eating fresh tomato or cabbage without any pre-boiling.
Twins have standard names
Twins in Uganda are called “a gift of God” and even more interestingly have standard names. If it’s an older boy usually he is named Singoma, whereas the younger one is called Kato. If it’s a girl they add “Na” in front of the name, so it becomes Nangoma for the older girl and Nakato for the younger sibling.
Every white person is called “Muzungu”
This word was one of the first I learnt. I heard it so many times. I need to admit it often felt weird that they don’t ask my name, but instead just call me “muzungu” (i.e. white person). In Europe this could be considered racist, here it is however accepted and common. So, if you are visiting Uganda, get used to that “muzungu” name. It will follow you around in the country.
Uganda is economically poor but they have many “Rolex’es”
Well, I am not talking about expensive Swiss timepieces here. What I do mean is the stands that sell Rolex’es; wraps with fried eggs and some veggies. They can be found on just about every street corner. Why is it called a Rolex? Because the wraps are rolled! It was my favourite Ugandan meal and believe me; it’s super tasty, especially for breakfast.
More than half of the world’s mountain gorillas live in Uganda
Mountain gorillas are endangered and there are only 950 left in three countries: Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Uganda. Over half of them are living in Uganda. They are extremely similar to humans because we share 97% of the same DNA. An encounter with these beautiful animals truly is life changing.
I personally encountered the gorillas in Bwindi forest. Though life changing, it is not for everyone as the activity is quite expensive. As a foreign visitor you pay 600$ for the permit alone, but most of the money is reinvested into communities and protection programmes of gorillas. If you have the funds, this is an absolute must.
Drink extremely sweet tea
Uganda grow lots of sugar cane, which also reflects in the amount of local consumption. I was shocked to see how many table spoons they put into their cup of tea. I’ve seen as much as three big table spoons for one cup and keeping in mind most drink tea at least twice per day, it adds up.
I am a heavy tea drinker, but always skip sugar to taste the real flavour of tea. They were very surprised with this logic. “How can you drink this tea without sugar?”
White Nile starts in Uganda
Whenever I thought of the longest African river Nile, I had that image of Egypt from my history classes. I never knew before that the White Nile actually starts at Lake Victoria, Jinja in Uganda and then goes up north. At the source of Nile (i.e. Jinja) they offer amazing rafting activities, which I wholeheartedly recommend to anyone who likes an active activity whilst traveling.
In Karamoja man pays a bride price
I was hiking Moroto mountain with a porter from a local Karamoja tribe. In the evening while we were sitting near a bonfire, he started to talk about life in Europe compared to Karamoja in Northern Uganda. John was very proud to tell me that he paid ten cows to his wife’s parents as a bride price.
John was obviously very surprised that men don’t pay anything in Europe. He said “What? They don’t show any appreciation for the bride’s family? Not good…” What a different world.
It’s believed women will loose virginity if they ride a bicycle
My tour guide Arnold asked me whether I have ever seen a woman cycling in the area where I stayed. I never thought about it before, but when I tried to visualize, I realized my answer was NO. Arnold told me that in Buganda Kingdom it’s believed that women cannot ride bicycles, as this will cause them to lose their virginity. I found it a bit weird and asked him how about women who already have kids. He told it’s still a tradition, so most women simply don’t ride bikes. Interesting!
Most women have short hair because long hair is expensive
I was always curious and amazed with African women hair. They looked so pretty and exotic. I always wondered how they make their hair so pretty. I learnt that most women, especially in rural areas, have extremely short hair and use extensions to make those beautiful braids. Apparently having long hair is expensive! Think of shampoo, hassle to wash it and requiring more effort and water. After learning this, I went ahead and got my hair done the Ugandan way.