It is believed that every country has a spirit; something that defines the people and the nation. But what is the spirit of Uganda? It is hard to tell.
Apart from the national emblems, nothing is profound in nature about Ugandans or their country. But if you care to notice certain habits, you will tell who a Ugandan is within seconds of meeting them.
Shifting at night
There is a weird nocturnal behaviour in the Pearl of Africa. It is not bar-hopping or night-dancing. It is shifting from one house to another.
Ideally shifting from one house to another should be done during daytime so that one gets enough time to settle in.
For some suspicious reasons, Ugandans do it at night! It is only in Uganda where you will see a caravan of trucks loaded with old blankets, furniture and other household items on transit to mysterious destinations at dusk.
Are people embarrassed of their modest possessions or could they be hiding property stolen from their neighbourhood?
Drinking beer using a straw
However disgusting, this habit has been accepted by society. It has fitted in so well, Ugandans will act shocked to hear anyone scorn it!
If you asked anyone to pull out the straw from his or her beer, you would be asking for a fight.
But if drinking beer using a straw puzzles Kenyans, then there is something terribly wrong with it. It is bad manners!
Jumping the queue
It is the worst social transgression Ugandans have managed to pull off. Can every Ugandan receive a pat on the back for this one? It is annoying, irritating and egotistical, plus the other adjectives women like using in reference to men, put together.
In hospitals, banks and cafeterias, any place where there is a queue being followed, a Ugandan will try to create ‘short cuts’.
It is civil to follow a line in other places, but to a Ugandan, especially one working in a corporate organisation, it means you have been patronised or ‘undermined’!
When you see someone jumping a queue, it is their way of saying, “Look, I am the boss at my work place. Surely, you do not expect me to stand in this line with all you less mortals.”
And the rest of us who are not ‘bosses’ are simply telling the world, “Look, I was raised in a kennel.” It is really, really bad manners!
Clinging on to old/worn out items
What is this bondage between Ugandans and their property? It is easier here to store than get rid of old obsolete items.
From visibly torn or stained clothes to rusty charcoal stoves, each property that a Ugandan buys is treated with sentimental attachment.
When you return home, check in your stores, you will be surprised at the amount of antiques you need to get rid of. You could actually establish a mini museum! Picture this: If Europeans and Americans behaved this way, we would have no St Balikuddembe Market. It’s frightening, isn’t it?
Whoever introduced haggling in Uganda must be wondering why they did it. Ugandans even haggle in supermarkets where prices are fixed.
The habit is steadily rubbing on to tourists perhaps as an intangible souvenir from their travels to Uganda.
Carrying pocket radios to parties/ceremonies
Most Ugandans may rant calling this an accusation. You are right, it is not urban but a rural habit and that still qualifies it to be Ugandan.
It is a ‘fashionable’ habit rampant among the Iteso and the Karimojong. For fear of having it spread to the urban areas, we feel obligated to prevent this potential social scourge.
Psychologists, however, are still investigating why Iteso and Karimojong men and boys take pocket radios to functions where music is blaring on large speakers.
The rich find doing house chores shameful
Being rich in Uganda means not to be seen mowing your compound, polishing shoes, washing car, drawing the curtain, walking on foot, ironing your clothes, changing your car tyre or tidying up the house. Someone must do it for you.
Society has been a proponent of this unwritten social code of conduct.
If people see a rich person doing any of the above things, they will considered them to be misers!
Beeping has never been part of a mobile phone manual, but since the mobile revolution hit this nation, every Ugandan has been guilty of beeping.
Why do we beep when we can communicate using an sms or take sh300 and call from a phone booth?
Showing off in bars and public places
‘Do you know who I am?’ This is often a threat, not a question.
If you are a bar addict, you have encountered this threat either being issued across the counter (when the waitress is informing a patron to pay before getting a drink) or during a midnight bar brawl.
When you hear this, you know the person probably has some links/relation (could even be distant) with either Mayombo or a member of the State House/regime.
Sometimes you find he is an Internal Security Organisation operative. Others just take advantage of their western twang to create an impression that they have ‘connections’ with State House.
Other funny habits include; owning pirated dvds/vcds/video and audiotapes; 'detoothing' and acquiring the most expensive/ latest model of mobile phones every year.
- Geoffrey T. Muhoozi is a Ugandan trained Public Relations Practitioner and Journalist. He Studied at Makerere University Kampala and read Mass Communication with a bias in Public Relations. In between the course, he studied the Art of Public Speaking. He joined Uganda’s Leading Daily, The New Vision during his second year and practiced journalism till he left for The United Kingdom.In the UK, he persued an NCC International Diploma in Computing at London College of Business Studies and Computing. He went on to do a Masters Degree in Business Administration [MBA]specialsing in Marketing. In spite of being in The United Kingdom, he still contributes for The New Vision and The Sunday Vision newspapers when time allows.