5 Addis Ababan quirks I never noticed, and some I never knew

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Three and a half years abroad is not a long time, especially when compared to people who have called the western world home for 30 something years. That being said, I never expected any surprises when I landed under a scorching African sun a few weeks ago. But I guess even three years held a few surprises for me in Addis.  I have made a list, and I am hoping it won’t grow.

  1. Hugging is not an Ethiopian thing

After the third person who resisted my hug, I have come to the conclusion that hugging is a little awkward here. People usually expect the polite handshake or the two pecks on each cheek, they don’t expect you to climb on them the second you meet them.

  1. When taxi attendants hand you your change, you are not expected to say thank you.

People hold a door open for you; you mutter a quick thank you. The Starbucks cashier hands you back your card, you say thank you. But in Addis, you are not really expected to say thank you when the taxi attendant (more commonly known as weyala) hands you your change. I did that a few times; I guess out of pure habit. Only after a few of them paused and gave me a look I can’t really explain, I figured out why.  I now just pocket my change and leave.

  1. The size of the Injera here is huge,

The second day I was back, I was in the Kushina (kitchen) helping my mom prepare lunch, and then I happened to open the messob. I gasped and exclaimed on the size of the Injera. My mother pretended not to hear, but my sister did not take too kindly to my comment.  Incidentally, I am happy to announce that I am now used to the size already and in fact appreciate its hearty round shape.

  1. Suk bederetes have a new name.

The young men and women who walk around with a makeshift container slung on their chests are not called Suk Bederetes anymore. The literal name is directly translated as shop on a chest. They are now called Jubulani. If you need chewing gum or napkins, just yell ‘Jubulew!’, and one will come running to you faster than Haile.  As some of the young people around Edna Mall would tell you: ‘oh my gosh Suk Bederete is sooo 2004.’

  1. If you want food to go, please don’t confuse your server by saying, well, to go.

The correct term in Addis Ababa is take- away.

What are some of the things that surprised you after coming back to Addis? Share your thoughts!


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Author: Makeda Yasenlul

If you’re reading this thank you for allowing me to steal a few minutes of your day to introduce you to me- the eccentric author of this blog. My name is Makeda Yasenlul and I’m a 20 something (let your imagination run wild) year old immigrant living in Los Angeles, California. This site was birthed from the longing I had of my birthplace Ethiopia, so I utilize this medium to express said thoughts, ideas, and feelings to you my readers. I surely have no filter, so anything that strikes me as worthy of sharing I will do so without hesitation, you have been warned. My thoughts are just those, MY THOUGHTS. I will not sugarcoat or whitewash the content I post on here, because then I would be doing you a disservice by not giving you my honest opinion. I also encourage other people to contribute in the form of comments or even as fellow authors (after passing my rigorous test of course). Thank you again and Enjoy.

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