The Zambezi Hustle: Zambia

With no awkward hesitation the man says “Hello” and I of course reply back with “what are you selling?”  I have been jaded by life in Kenya where everyone wants to sell you something “for a really good price”.  He ignores my reply and says “where are you from my friend” and instead of getting into the story of where I was actually born and how I was raised into an identity crisis I simply said the United States.  His face lights up and says “oh, the United States of Obama, what state are you from my friend?”

What state am I from?

 Anytime I meet a local in the country I am visiting they never specifically ask what state I am from.  They might ask where I am from in the United States (which they won’t know the answer too) but no one has ever asked me what state I am from. Zambians are very curious people.

 After I reply they usually talk about how they have been to the states or what their plans are to get to America.  Once the Zambezi hustler warms me up a bit I do the courteous thing and ask him if he is Zambian.  They always reply “yes please”.  One of the cool things about Zambia is anytime they reply with yes, they always say yes please.  I love it.

Kilamanjaro Cafe in Livingstone, Zambia

May I have a coffee? Please? Anyone?

After we continue our conversation he asks me what I do for a living.  This brings another conundrum since many people don’t know what a day trader is, they don’t know how you can walk cheetahs and lions in Zambia for that matter, but I will get into that story later.

I hesitate and debate whether telling him I travel for a living or that I day trade in the stock market.  I usually always say day trader on instinct because that’s what goes on my TSA hassle every American that tries to enter the United States “customs” form.  Surprisingly, everyone knows what a day trader is and they ask what stocks they should buy.  Even the guy at customs who asked for my email because he wants to “expand his financial opportunities” knows what a day trader is.  Its funny when you get into these conversations,

the next question is when you indirectly say “come hustle me”

It’s a natural flow of a conversation since you don’t want to be an ass hole to the person who has been so nice to you.  “What do you do in Zambia” I asked, “well, I own a tour company and I give tours here in Livingstone”, and there it is.

I’m surely going to get a brochure and a tour for “a good price”

He doesn’t ask whether I want a tour or even if I am available for a tour, he simply answers the question.  After we finish our conversation he gives me a small paper with his information on it in case I’m free to walk with Rhino’s and Giraffes inside the national park.  I simply am way too busy updating my Facebook status to walk with Rhinos, who does this guy think he is?

Zambian Hospitality during visit to Devil's Pool

Zambian Hospitality during visit to Devil’s Pool

Coming from a kid who used to sell fake purses in beauty salons in the worst parts of the city and even had his own bakery on the sidewalk in high school:

Zambians really know how to hustle.

I honestly don’t think that a person from Zambia even instinctively is trying to hustle a tourist.  They genuinely care about how you are enjoying your stay in their country.  They never ask you to buy something first; they always ask your name, shake your hand, and ask you what state you are from.

The people of Zambia are very smart and they realize their economy, at least in the city of Livingstone, revolves around the tourists.  Everyone that I have met always strikes up a conversation in the middle of a busy street or even in the back of a pickup truck when I was given a free ride to town.

“I love white women” says the man “I’m glad one of us does” I replied

After that he invited me to his house to try typical Zambian food.  This is a guy that I just met in the back of a pickup truck.  Zambians are definitely a different breed of people.  It’s so refreshing to be in a place where people are more interested in who you are and where you come from instead of how many wooden crafts you can afford.

You know the crafts I’m talking about right?  The wooden piece that supposedly took them 2 days to finely craft out of the magic wood that they got from the farthest place in the universe.  Be advised that the Zambezi hustle doesn’t always turn out so nice and friendly.  If you make the mistake of walking around a Zambezi hustler a second or third time, that’s when you start to hear the classic lines.

Still doesn’t explain how I got that wooden charm from the farthest place in the universe for free.  Maybe they haven’t experienced the Spanish hustle yet.


  1. Aww, I LOVE this! It is always refreshing to hear great stories and encounters of tourists with locals, especially when they were expecting a totally different outcome. These kind of memories make trips memorable =)

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