Cultural Notes I: Tanzania

Inesha and I love to travel– in part because, as Inesha says, traveling is the best way to grow yourself as a person. Sometimes I think she’s on to something. We both feel ourselves being stretched and challenged when we are forced to do things outside of our natural context, our inherent comfort zone. And– for me and Inesha at least– traveling forces us to observe and learn from other people. So we thought we’d do a little round-up of all the little cultural notes from our travels this summer. You can catch my list below and come back tomorrow to see what Inesha has to share about Argentina :) She’s the people-watching type, so get ready!


  • Dessert is not typically considered a post-meal affair. Instead, you’ll probably enjoy some sweet watermelon or banana to wash down your walki kuku (or any other main course)
  • “Tea time” occurs at about 11 am every day. I absolutely love this tradition and it definitely makes me think about Sri Lankan tea time. Your tea will come with a serving of chapati, egg, or perhaps a pastry/bread item (or a combination of these!)
  • Introductions are very important and not saying “hello” or greeting someone might be construed as a serious insult. So, when you walk into a room, its best to greet everyone and give them a polite handshake
  • Best soda: Pineapple Fanta :) yummm
  • Cell phones. Many Tanzanians have 2 cell phones—1 for Vodacom calls and the other for Airtel (these are the 2 major network providers) because otherwise charges are very high for receiving a Vodacom call on an Airtel phone and vice versa…and to think I have difficulty keeping up with just one phone!
  • The Internet Modem. Deodata asked me how we get internet in the U.S. and I said that in most cases, I use Wifi. She was shocked. To be honest, I’ve never seen an internet modem or used one before coming here
  • President Obama. Dr. Henry W. was talking to us at dinner one night and said that Africans had a lot of hope for President Obama but he feels that they have been disappointed…he said, “we realized that Obama is an American, not an African.” Hm, this was definitely an interesting perspective that I haven’t heard before. On the flip side, my general impression is that Tanzanians have a very favorable view of President Obama and it is not uncommon to see Obama t-shirts, stickers, and other marked items around town
  • The Visitors’ Book. Walk into a small hotel, business, or even medical facility and you will most likely be asked to sign the visitors’ book. Usually something I associate with quaint Bed & Breakfasts in the U.S., the visitors’ book is a popular custom that really makes a place feel friendlier
  • Baba wa Taifa. A Swahili phrase meaning “Father of the Nation,” you can see this written under the framed photograph of Julius Nyerere that hangs in many a shop, restaurant and business establishment here. He was the beloved President known for uniting the 129 different tribes of the country peacefully into one independent nation in 1961
  • The Dala-Dala. What a ride—bumpy, crowded, and insanely cheap, this small “bus” will get you where you need to go and more than likely you will have seen a couple chickens, babies, and other sights to behold by the time you arrive
  • The appeal of curvy women. Most apparel stores that we’ve seen here hang their women’s clothing on hangers that are especially wide at the bottom. It’s interesting to think about what a stark contrast this is from the stick-thin manikins that are seen in the typical U.S. clothing store.
  • Here, it’s men first. From our various Tanzanian “mamas” here we learned that traditionally, it is not “ladies first” but men first whether you are waiting in line or waiting to be served a meal.
  • “Dada” and “Mama.” Literally translating as “sister” and “mother,” these are terms of affection and respect. It is not uncommon to be called “Mama” by businessmen, waiters, or those offering a service—say at a restaurant or hotel. I imagine it is comparable to “Mrs.” or “Miss” in the U.S
Thanks for swinging by, sweet readers! I’ll be back soon with some of my latest (and last :/) adventures in Tanzania soon! Happy Wednesday ;)



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s