trusting . resting . following


April 28, 2012

I remember as a teenager, for one of our family vacations we traveled south to New Mexico, parked our car in El Paso, TX, then crossed over the Mexican border by foot into Juarez (when it was still relatively safe to do so).

Just a few feet outside the U.S. and yet how different everything was!  There were people everywhere and beggars.  We went souvenir shopping in an indoor mall of sorts.  My brother didn’t mind the bartering, he seemed to kind of enjoy it.  He bought a marble chess set.   I, on the other hand, was a  shy teenager.  To be in a totally new environment was overwhelming enough, then to have to argue over the price of the something?  No way!  With dad’s help I did end up getting a Mexican rug.

And now, here I am in Mwanza, where to place a fixed price on anything is a fairly new concept.   We have a few grocery stores in town where everything has a price sticker.  Government services are always non-negotiable as well as gas at the pump.

Other than that… every thing is pretty much fair game!

 If you find yourself at a local Mwanza market, here are some things to remember:

typical clothes shop
*The best guideline I’m learning is to keep in mind the PERSON who is selling the item.  In this culture people are always more important than things.  People are always more important than getting the best price for something.  Don’t belittle the shopowner by pointing out all the defects of a certain item you want to buy, (although it helps a little as a last resort).  Bartering is not emotionally-charged arguing.  But it is a bit of a game and they will respect you more if you join in the “fun.”  Show respect by not laughing off his offer as ridiculous.
*Decide on your final offer before even starting the discussion with the shop owner.
*The more you frequent the market the more you’ll learn typical prices for things.  If you are a tourist, buying souvenirs… as a general rule, offer HALF of what the owner’s first price is.  Tourists are always ripped off!
*And finally, locals always get a better price than foreigners.  These days I’ve discovered the joy of paying someone else to do my weekly market shopping. :-)  They get better deals, so in the end the cost is about the same.  

I would love to hear tips from others living cross-culturally.  What tips for the "game" have you picked up along the way?

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