Swahili in Tanzania

Food Shopping

A market sign

Every city and town has a central market with fresh fruits, vegetables, and spices. Generally, these markets are open every day from 6:30 a.m. until dark. The produce is always from within the country (local). It is customary to go marketing every three days or so. The customer brings a basket and goes from vendor to vendor buying foods. Over time, the customer develops a relationship with the various vendors and returns to the same vendor every time for the same product; for example, one might always buy carrots from vendor A and potatoes from vendor B. There are marked prices and certain prices are fixed, but bargaining is an acceptable practice. The final price really has to do with the quantity of the product purchased.

Either the customer or the seller may place the items in the market basket; for foodstuff that needs to be weighed, the seller weighs the produce and the customer pays before continuing to shop. Recently it has become more common to find a kilogram of produce already weighed out and wrapped in plastic for quick purchase, but in most places, bringing a basket is still recommended. There is also ample opportunity to buy fruit and nuts from street vendors who literally spread their wares out on the street. The selection depends on the season. The customer may always taste these products before buying. All of the vendors will have bags available but at a price; if you are desperate for a bag, you can usually find a child who will run and buy you one. Mills are available for purchase/milling of rice and maize. It is cheaper to get these staples at a mill than at a market. Again, remember to bring a basket and plan to buy a month's supply.

Beverages are available from special beverage shops (called "kioski"). Most people have only water, tea or occasionally coffee at their houses. When guests arrive, the host will ask what the guest wants to drink and then will go out (or send someone out) to purchase beverages - soda or beer. The beverage shops are close to houses and are open until the wee hours of the morning (around 3 a.m.). The beverages may or may not be cold depending on the vendor. The host will have empty bottles at home which s/he will take to trade for the new bottles. If you have to purchase more new drinks than you have old bottles to trade, the additional bottles will cost more. Basically, you purchase the bottles and then continually exchange them.


  • "Buying Cold Drinks"
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  • "At the Market"
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  • "At the Rice Mill"
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  • "Buying Fruit"
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  • "Buying Rice at the Market"
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