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Living with Foreigners: Part 5 – “Ethiopian Google”

November 10, 2016

Mechanics. Hairdressers. Babysitters. Electricians. All things that a normal person would simply search on Google or Angie’s List to find. Not so with foreigners (or more particularly my wife.) No, they rely on a much simpler search engine which I like to call “Ethiopian Google.”

Ethiopian Google operates much like regular Google except that it is much slower, is much less accurate and has no actual verifiable reviews. The basic premise is that why you and I may simply search for a contractor that has good reviews and a decent price on Google, Ethiopians rely on asking an acquaintance for the best ______________ they know.

It doesn’t matter that the person being questioned has never dealt firsthand with the service provider. Usually, the response is something more akin to “I had a cousin* that knew a friend that went there and they had a really good experience. You should go there too!”

Much like regular Google searches, being listed on Ethiopian Google can also be financially rewarding as well. Once securing a spot on the coveted “Trusted Providers” list, our wedding florist has done well over six more Ethiopian weddings- with more planned in the future.

I have heard the same from realtors and tailors. Breaking into a market can be hard, but once established by word of mouth, Ethiopian Google can be a real boon to your business. I recently chatted with a gentleman that had a realtor wife that had been working with scores of Nepalese after one house sale that had gone especially well.

And just like when your shopping for drapes and have to search for the absolute lowest price, Ethiopian Google is all about marketing. It seems like no matter what you need, someone knows someone that charges at least 35% lower than you legitimately quoted price by an actual professional. Never mind that your car service that was promised to be ready in three days took seven days to actually complete- you got a deal!

So all that to say, I won’t be using Ethiopian Google to research the best painters for my entryway anytime soon. Or  remodel my guest bathroom. Call my old-fashioned but I think I’ll stick with regular Google and Angie’s List for now. At least they provide near instantaneous results. With Ethiopian Google, you have to plan ahead. Me, I’m not planning on painting my entryway or remodeling my guest bathroom until 2018.

* Cousin is not a technical term within the Ethiopian community. Cousin could mean anything from step-brother to “a guy I knew that grew up in my village.” Such are the vagaries of life.

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