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It’s good to talk…

January 21, 2013

I just had a conversation on the phone that went like this (she called me):

Me: Hello?

Her: Thanks for your message – it’s ok.

me: Ah OK thanky……..(beep beep beep…call has finished)

Most Ugandans don’t have a lot of spare cash, and there’s no free minutes or such like here. So, a phone-etiquette has developed that says it’s perfectly allowable to speak for as few a seconds as possible (charges here are by the second). There’s rarely any platitudes at the start (no “How are you doing? How’s the family?”) and I don’t think I’ve once had a Ugandan say to me ‘Bye’ or such like at the end. You say what you have to say, and then hang up.

I’ve no doubt I innocently make mistakes that Ugandans find incredibly rude every single day. This is one of those areas where I have to remind myself they’re not being rude to me.

What I’ve learnt is how NOT to dilly-dally on the phone. If you want the call to proceed to a second point, even a second sentence, don’t pause to take a breath…if you do, the other person’s gone. Often I’ve been tempted to phone back and say ‘Hang on, I wasn’t finished’ but usually I leave it a few hours out of embarrassment.

File this under the ‘must adapt quickly to British culture when back in the UK’ category (along with ‘driving laws apply’ and ‘brutally picking at your teeth with a toothpick after a meal is not polite’). And please don’t be offended if I put the phone down on you before you’ve finished. I might just have saved you a penny…


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