“Mambo!” “Poa!”

Learn to talk like a local!

I went to a souvenir market yesterday. It was very touristy, and so the people there were constantly shouting at us “Hello, my friend, come to my shop, I will make you good price, Rafiki price!”
The would follow us around, would not stop talking for even a second. The only thing that kind of helped was this.

When approaching a shop I smiled at the people there and said a loud and clear “Mambo!” (“What’s up?”) To which they’d reply the customary “Poa!” (“I’m cool!”)
Then they’d say “Karibu!” (“Welcome!”) to which I would reply “Asante.” (“Thank you.”)
If they’d continue with a “Habari.” (“What’s new?” Again, I know.) I’d throw in my last conversational piece and say “Salama.” (“I’m fine.”)

Then sometimes I had them convinced that I’m fluent in Swahili, so when they’d continue to talk to me in Swahili I’d just laugh, embarrassed, shake my head and tell them “Sorry, I don’t understand.” in English.
After that the people were generally a bit more quiet, left us mostly in peace and were a tad friendlier. At least that’s how it seemed to me. Greeting is super important in this culture, and replying is also a must, even if you do not stop and just keep walking. Say “Poa.” and go your merry way.

I’m continuing to pick up new words and sentences but I find it quite hard. My dyslexic side seems to be shining through more than ever with this language!