This little piggy went to the market

Posted on September 25th, 2009 by

One of the first orders of business after arriving in Mweka was to go shopping. Although we were provided with furniture, plates and cups, we had no towels, silverware and other such household items. So off we went to Arusha.

In Tanzania you won’t find any department stores or shopping malls. Shopping is done, for the most part, in large open air marketplaces. Stalls packed with merchandise fill the streets and people come from all around to sell their wares. At the market you can find everything from fruit and vegetables to pillows and Tupperware.

In comparison with the States, some things are very expensive and some things are very cheap. For instance, at the market you can buy ten oranges for only 1000/: (one thousand shillings is about 77 cents). And they are very good, fresh oranges too! On the other hand, electronics like computers are much more expensive than they are in the States.

Unlike in the States, shopping in Tanzania requires bargaining. Vendors quote a high price (especially to foreigners) initially and bartering is required. Haggling is found even in stores like the ones found in the States. For example when we went to a store to buy a cooker (a sort of mini oven with burners) the price was negotiated down from the initial price tag. In Tanzania there are few fixed prices. Luckily for us mzungu (white person, tourist) we had someone from the college with us to help. Since we don’t know general prices or Swahili yet, Betsy was very helpful in assisting us.

The one exception to the bargaining rule is grocery stores. There, prices are fixed like they are in the States. But a Tanzanian Shop Rite is still different than a St. Peterian Econo Foods. There is not near the selection in Tanzania as there is in the States and the shelves are not packed and fully in stock. Another noticeable difference is milk. Here it comes in small rectangular containers and is not refrigerated. Also, some items (like bread) are not as fresh as they would be in the States.

Although I do like the Tanzanian markets it will take some time to get used to the bartering.


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