Bodanomics: The Ethics of Expat Negotiation

Boda Boda

Of all the strange experiences that expats share – the all-too-graphic conversations about bodily functions, the one-upping contest of the most dangerous areas visited, the most embarrassing mistranslations – one that seems near-universal is the moment when you realise you’re arguing over small amounts with the tuk tuk, moto, or boda boda driver. It’s a rite of passage.

For me, this happened during my second week in Mbale, Uganda, when, rather than take a 2,000 UGX ride into town – for easy rounding, about $0.80, and about twice what I would normally pay – I walked away. Negotiation 101, right? Ten seconds later, the boda boda driver sidled up to me a few feet down the street, said ‘1,000 is OK’ and off we went.

We can all laugh about it later over a Tusker Lager (3,500 UGX, here, by the way) – arguing over pennies! But it’s worth thinking through the issue a bit and not just dismissing it as one of frugality.

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