John Hock of Smith County, Tennessee, recently took a dream vacation to Africa, which was inspired by a visit to Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park nearly 10 years ago. However, the Tennessee native discovered shortly after arriving in Tanzania that all of the time he spent preparing for the trip was useless.
“Jambo!,” he exuberantly greeted everyone he met. He had learned from his time in Harambe Village that this is how you begin a conversation. But he was puzzled when the primary response was “Jambo Bwana!” What’s Bwana??? His confusion at their formal response often ending up in him buying goods and wares off the many polite street sellers, causing his trip to go way over budget.
John’s confusing two-week trip to Mt. Kilimanjaro is something he never wants to go through again, which is why he asked me to share a list of words in Swahili that Disney fans likely think they know, but may find they’re wrong about:
- Asante Sana Squash Banana – “Asante Sana” means a number of things depending on how it’s used, including “thank you very much my friend, take your time.” Squash banana in Swahili simply means squash banana. And it certainly doesn’t mean “You are a baboon and I am not,” which is why John was laughed at mercilessly when he threw this out as an insult to a particularly rude villager.
- Kwaharini – John had been told that “Kwaharini” means “Go well,” but frustrated locals would say it sharply to end their conversation when they grew frustrated with John’s attempts to speak their language. Disney lied to you and John, this word is simply “Goodbye.” So they do in fact say goodbye when you get off Kilimanjaro Safari at Animal Kingdom.
- Zuka Zama – John’s four-year-old son watches The Lion Guard and John was under the impression that “Zuka Zama” is something you say when you’re awed or impressed by something. Like a Swahili version of “OMG” or “Yaaaaas.” When reacting to a herd of elephants on his safari, he exclaimed “Zuka Zama!,” to which his guide asked him to please stay in the vehicle. It, unfortunately, translates to “Pop up, dive in” and his guide was legitimately afraid John was going to flee the safety of the safari Jeep. On a related note, nothing John experienced was “UnBungaLievable.”
- Nahtazu – John fondly remembered the original 1998 TV commercial for Disney’s Animal Kingdom, in which multiple Cast Members greeted the camera by saying “Nahtazu” and he naturally assumed this was another version of “Jambo.” After experiencing the aforementioned struggles with that word, he decided to try “Nahtazu” and was always met with puzzled expressions. Maybe it didn’t mean hello, but was something you say out of excitement? After finding a herd of Thompson’s Gazelle on safari in a reservation, he exclaimed it again. “Nahtazu!,” to which his guide said, “It sort of is, my friend.” John still hasn’t figured out what “Nahtazu” means.
- Tom – Throughout his travels, anytime John would happen upon a streak of particularly good luck, he would shout with joy, “Tom!” Again, strange looks from all who witnessed the occurrence. A villager who spoke English approached him and asked if he was looking for somebody. “No, I’m just very lucky. Isn’t ‘Tom’ Swahili for ‘It’s my lucky day?’” John asked. It isn’t.
John hopes that Laughing Place readers can learn from his mistakes. He plans to follow up with his travel agent, April Fahouls, to make sure she’s more attentive the next time she helps someone book an international trip. John hopes that all fans of Disney’s Animal Kingdom get to take a real trip to Africa some day, but just wants to make sure they are well prepared for it.
Alex has been blogging about Disney films since 2009 after a lifetime of fandom. He joined the Laughing Place team in 2014 and covers films across all of Disney’s brands, including Star Wars, Marvel, and Fox, in addition to books, music, toys, consumer products, and food. You can hear his voice as a member of the Laughing Place Podcast and his face can be seen on Laughing Place’s YouTube channel where he unboxes stuff.