Show Me The Money

Currency is a reflection of culture, and culture helps to reflect the values of the country. As far as Mozambique is concerned, it has an expansive history and cultural variety from Makua to Changana. However, Mozambique tends to be a country looking toward the future, and this future thinking is shown in their money. With only one person on all the bills and a concentration of animals on all of the currency, Mozambique does not want to reflect on the violent history of the revolution or the civil war.

The man on the money: Samora Moisés Machel. The first of the few presidents since the time of the war. His claim to fame began when he expelled the Portuguese from Mozambique to relieve the country from colonization and oppression. Although Mozambique dropped to one of the poorest country in the world under his reign, he is revered as a hero in the hearts of many Mozambicans.

The 20 MT ($0.57) is the smallest bill on the Mozambican market. On the back sits a picture of a rhino. However, the rinho is now ironic; with the last rhino in Mozambique killed in 2013, this current photo reflects a better time.

Disclaimer: This was not the original purpose of the picture. The currency came out in 2006 when there were still rhinos.

The animal represented on the 50 MT ($1.43) banknote is the kudus. The kudu is similar to an antelope and roams around Mozambique. Traditionally the horns of the animal have been used to make a musical instrument. This instrument has inspired any other types of noise makers. More recently it has inspired the vuvuzela; the vuvuzela was the noise maker during the South African World Cup that continually was blaring.

Giraffes! Giraffes are represented on the 100 MT ($2.86) banknote and are all around Mozambique. Well maybe not roaming in my back yard, but if you really want to find a giraffe, you can go out into the middle of the bush to see one; someone in your community may be willing to help you out. If going out into the middle of nowhere is not your cup of tea, you can go to any one of the national parks and see giraffes in their natural habitat.

The 200 MT ($5.71) banknote shows the lions that roam around Mozambique. People in my community tell stories of lions that would turn anybody’s ear. Lions are revered and feared throughout Mozambique, and Mozambicans respect the danger that comes with them.

Located on the back of the 500 MT ($14.29) banknote is the mighty buffalo. The buffalo are one of the four Big 5 animals located on the Mozambican bills. Can you name the others?

The powerful elephant is located on the 1000 MT ($28.57) banknote. The elephants are definitely a sight worth seeing in Mozambique. Unfortunately as Mozambique has slowly started to develop, it has displaced some elephants from where they have roamed for many years. However if you go up to the Niassa Reserve, you are surely not to be disappointed with the ones roaming around up there.

Coins

Coins of Mozambique

Coins are nothing to scoff at in Mozambique; unlike pennies, nickels, or dimes in American, coins have purchasing power in Mozambique. On top of being able to buy things with coins, it is often necessary for change. Also some restaurants or other establishments do not have the proper change on hand. Therefore, in order to save a little bit here and there, it is always necessary to have a little jingle in your pocket.

The 50 Centavos coin equates to $0.01. This coin is used so little that I forgot to include it in the original draft. On the front is the kingfisher bird; one of the many birds that sour above Mozambique. The diversity of birds in Mozambique has inspired some Peace Corps Volunteers to take up a bit of ornithology. Maybe looking at the coin long enough will inspire others as well.

The 1 Meticail ($0.03) shows a female student studying. Long before Michelle Obama’s Let Girls Learn initiative, Mozambique has been aiming for more equality in the education system. Although this process is slow coming and has much more work to go, the constant reminder on the coin is valuable for all people around.

The 2 Meticais ($0.06) coin reflects on the fishing industry; it is one of the biggest industries in Mozambique. Although the Chinese bought most of the fishing rights, Mozambique still stands beside the fact that it produces a good catch.

The 5 Meticais ($0.14) coin displays a xylophone. Music is constant in Mozambique. From waking people up in the morning to keeping them up at night, music does not stop here. People gather around, laugh, and dance all throughout the day. In towns with power, most of the music is now played on speakers. However, most traditional music played during ceremonies is almost always exclusively xylophone and drums.

The 10 Meticais ($0.29) coin gives a picture of the headquarters of the Banco de Moçambique. Mozambicans take pride in their infrastructure, and Mozambican currency wouldn’t be the same unless it showed off its bank’s infrastructure.

Mozambique is a growing country, and the currency will begin to diverse with time. In the meantime, I’m doing fine with my multi-colored Samora Micheles in my pocket and couple of coins rattling around.

Culture Quiz

Pop quiz time! How culturally adept are you in Mozambican culture? Grab a pen and paper, and you will probably end up surprising yourself.

Next to each number write down if you think you the action would be considered rude or not rude in Mozambican culture. Tally them up in the end, and we will see how you offensive or cultured you truly are. Remember, no cheating.

  1. Spitting
  2. Showing the sole of your shoe
  3. Asking for money
  4. Asking for a phone number from a stranger
  5. Telling someone he/she is fat
  6. Throwing rocks
  7. Picking your nose
  8. Answering your phone during a meeting
  9. Being late
  10. Showing your knees (women only)
  11. Showing cleavage
  12. Breastfeeding in public
  13. Whistling
  14. Hissing at someone
  15. Calling and hanging up
  16. Refusing food
  17. Asking someone’s age
  18. Asking someone’s religion
  19. Eating with your hands
  20. Licking your fingers
  21. Taking pictures of strangers
  22. Eating on the run
  23. Dancing in public
  24. Snapping at the waiter
  25. Wearing wrinkled clothes

You got all that? Here comes the big reveal… drum role please… Let’s see how you did!

1. Spitting

Not Rude. If you’ve got something in your mouth feel free to let it loose. The world is your oyster. People spit everywhere – inside and outside.

2. Showing the sole of your shoe

Not Rude. Unlike other African countries, Mozambicans could care less about seeing the bottoms of your feet. Also, they love to kick back and relax, so don’t be afraid to join them.

3. Asking for money

Not Rude. Everything is very communal, and everyone shares everything with each other. This includes money. However, as a foreigner you will definitely be likely to get asked more. Sometimes the only things kids know in Portuguese or English is “Give me money”.

4. Asking for a phone number from a stranger

Not Rude. After the initial introductions, it could easily be the next thing you’re asked. People are proud of their phones and having a phone. Just beware that giving your phone number to someone puts you in the position to potentially receive relentless phone calls.

5. Telling someone they’re fat

Not Rude. It is actually a complement. It traditionally shows wealth and health in the community. However, most PCVs still don’t take very kindly to it.

6. Throwing rocks

Rude. However, there is an exception if you happen to be a dog. Mozambicans are terrified of dogs and will do anything to keep them away. Keep an eye on your dog if you have one in Mozambique.

7. Picking your nose

Not Rude. Mozambicans must get deeper into their nasal cavity than anyone I have ever seen before. Walking around town or in the middle of the conversation, don’t be surprised if someone goes knuckle deep up their nostrils searching for gold.

8. Answering your phone during a meeting

Not Rude. No matter how serious the matter, the phone call always takes priority. No need to get upset; they probably weren’t listening anyways.

9. Being late

Not Rude. Nothing starts on time! Being 30 minutes to an hour late is on time in Mozambique. Get used to Mozambique time.

10. Showing your knees (women only)

Rude. Those knees apparently really get people going here. Knees and above are the most sexualized part of the body according to Mozambicans. Most women just wrap around a capalana to be culturally appropriate.

11. Showing some cleavage

Not Rude. Breasts are non-sexualized objects in Mozambique. Sometimes tops are even optional for women. The amount of breasts that people in see in Mozambique rivals the amount of breasts in the mind of a pubescent boy.

12. Breastfeeding in public

Not Rude. As a 23 year male graduate fresh out of college, I was pretty ignorant to breastfeeding. However, you learn fast here; everywhere you turn you’re likely to see someone breastfeeding.

13. Whistling

Not Rude. There is not as much whistling tunes here as there is to get someone’s attention. You hear a whistle, and someone is a calling.

14. Hissing at someone

Not Rude. One of the most common ways to call someone over. When you first arrive in country, it feels dirty; however, with time it the disgust begins to fade.

15. Calling and hanging up

Not Rude. Referred to as beeping someone in Mozambique. This tactic is used so that the other person uses their airtime phone credit, and you don’t have to use any. It is wise, but incredibly frustrating.

16. Refusing food

Rude. If someone offers you food then they have probably worked all day preparing it for you. People take pride in their food here, so no matter what it looks like (maggots, rat, or grub) you better eat up.

17. Asking someone’s age

Rude. Exception being children and foreigners. People are blown away by my age. One of my students guessed 45 years old… I’m 23. Not even close.

18. Asking someone’s religion

Not Rude. It is often one of the first questions that you are asked after if you are married and how many kids you have. Mozambique is fairly split with Christian dominance in the South and Muslim dominance in the North. Don’t take it as invasive; they are just looking for some way to relate.

19. Eating with your hands

Not Rude. Most people can’t afford silverware, so hand is the best step. Also, they cut out the middle man and have less work to do afterwards.

20. Licking your fingers

Rude. You would think that would be the most logical step after eating with your hands. Wrong. Someone will come around with a bucket of water for you to wash your hands after the meal. Just wait and don’t touch anything.

21. Taking pictures of strangers

Not Rude. I don’t even know the number of pictures there of me on Mozambican phones. Instead of being creeped on, I’ve turned it into a game of getting as many random other people in the picture with me as possible. The best part is when another PCV spots you on a random Mozambican’s Facebook. It’s like Where’s Waldo Peace Corps edition.

22. Eating on the run

Rude. Americans are horrible about this; everything is go go go back in the States. However if you do not sit down, enjoy, and digest, it is an insult to whoever made the food.

23. Dancing in public

Not Rude. Dancing in public is encouraged. With music blaring around the clock, everyone is dancing everywhere – in the street, outside the classroom, and in the middle of a store. Join on in; Mozambicans will love it.

24. Snapping at a waiter

Not Rude. This snap is usually followed by the person shouting “you, hey you” in the local language. It’s in common practice around the country. If you feel like getting out of your comfort zone and seem even more Mozambican, you can try hissing at them; hissing at people is a Mozambican pastime (see number 14).

25. Wearing wrinkled clothes

Rude. Looks are the highest priority in Mozambique. On the first day at site, I went to do some work at the school during the holidays. Before I arrived, one of my colleagues told me I needed to go home to iron my shirt. After I explained that I didn’t have an iron yet, she told me to take off my shirt. She took my shirt, walked to her house, ironed the shirt, returned, and told me that I looked presentable now. Needless to say, an iron was bought the following day.

 

So how did you turn out? How many did you get correct? Let me know in the comment box.

0-5 – You’re lost. Check out other posts and take it again.

6-10 – Remember a thing or two from world history class?

11-15 – Maybe you’ve read Things Fall Apart.

16-20 – You just arrived in Mozambique. You’re picking this up quickly.

21-25 – You must be from Mozambique.