Shopping in Uganda can be a confusing, even unnerving, experience for someone new to the task. You expect some of the products on display to vary from those at home, and to find vegetables and fruits that you can't name, but the way you shop will probably be a new experience too.
Strike all you know about your local supermarket from your mind, and be open to a way of shopping that requires you to haggle, or negotiate the price...
Shops in much of Africa come in two basic varieties.
Firstly there are those which you are probably familiar; medium and large department stores and supermarkets that have clearly marked, non-negotiable prices on the goods they sell. Large settlements like Kampala have this type of shop where negotiating a price is neither required nor expected.
Secondly, and far more common, are the smaller rural stalls and family shops where nothing has a name or price marked on it and you are expected to negotiate a price, or 'haggle' until you and the shop keeper arrive at a price that suits you both. It's a little like a cross between a good humoured argument and an acting class.
So what exactly is haggling?
You are probably familiar with shops and stalls where everything has a fixed price and probably a sticker on it to show the price to potential customers. In Uganda you will find this only in the larger supermarket type shops that are frequented by richer Ugandans and foreign visitors. Most of your purchases will be made from smaller shops, roadside stalls and town markets where there are no price labels and the final price is a compromise between what the seller would ideally like to get, and what you would ideally like to pay. You reach the final price through a process of offer and counter offer, the seller starting high and you starting low, both of you slowly giving ground until you finally agree on a value somewhere between your starting points. Whether the final price is nearer your ideal price or the sellers' depends on your skills as a haggler. You can see the wikipedia definition of haggling here.
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