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Tanzania Cultural Tips

Tanzania is a country famous for its spectacular wildlife and landscapes, but in reality there is so much more to see and do than the classic Kilimanjaro climb or the jungle safari trips. The nation is a colorful mix of cultures with more than 120 different tribes providing travelers with supreme variety of cultural experiences during their trip to Tanzania. The people of Tanzania tend to be very conservative, polite as well as humble. Doing your best to follow their examples when unfolding your interactions leading to an openness that will add greatly to your trip, whether it is a safari trip on the Serengeti, trek to Kilimanjaro or beach-surfing in Zanzibar.

Tanzania is known to be one of the most hospitable countries in Africa while it offers opportunities to observe various strange Tanzanian traditions and customs. With respect to the multi-cultural customs and taboos prevalent in the country, foreign tourists are encouraged to observe few cultural admirations to gain personal respect in return.

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 In an effort to examine and be attentive of a complex mentality and worldview, here are a few Tanzanian cultural values to be aware while traveling to Tanzania:

  1. Greeting people in Tanzania is an important thing a tourist can do. A quick hello along with curt handshake is an adequate way to make a positive first impression with anyone.
  2. Greet in the proper order. In rural areas of Tanzania, who you greet first matters. Make sure that you greet those in a position of seniority first, and then only greet others to greet women at last.
  3. Elders are so well respected in Tanzania, so always acknowledge an elderly person and let them ask questions.
  4. Pointing at something or someone with the index finger is generally considered rude or plainly offensive – try to avoid doing it!
  5. Call someone over with the palm faced down and pulling the fingers inwards instead of motioning to call a person with an upwards palm.
  6. The sole of your foot is considered to be the dirtiest part of your body, so always avoid directly pointing your foot sole towards any person.
  7. Eat with right hand as Tanzanians believe that the left hand is reserved for the unsanitary task.
  8. Hissing or kissing sounds might come as a surprise to you, but it is alright and acceptable to do it to call the attention of someone.
  9. Do not feel uneasy, alarmed or nervous during a long period of silence during any African conversation. Silence is perfectly fine when there is nothing to be said.
  10. Learn to be flexible. If a plan gets rescheduled or changed, there is not always something you can do about it besides accepting it and continuing with a positive attitude.
  11. Do not publicly show anger, frustration or impatience.
  12. Don’t talk too much during a meal.
  13. Receive a gift with both hands, or with just your right hand while touching your left land to your right elbow. This is a sign of courtesy and respect.
  14. Dress well. Tanzanians respect those who dress well. Business women are expected to wear suits in urban areas, while a long skirt is okay in rural areas.
  15. Always be punctual. Tanzanians are aware that most foreigners abide by strict time schedules, so they make an effort to be punctual expecting you to do the same.
  16. As far as possible try not to schedule any meeting during lunchtime.
  17. If you are invited to someone’s home, make sure to bring a gift for them except flowers as they are offered only as condolences.
  18. Don’t be direct as Tanzanians interpret someone being direct as being rude. Don’t offer help unless you hear their story.
  19. Play nice and cool with the police.
  20. The government of Tanzania considers it illegal to take photos of structures such as bridges, government buildings and military officers. We recommend that you ask before taking another person’s picture.
  21. People in Tanzania eat food from common plates with their fingers. If you are invited to a local’s house for a meal, don’t forget to wash your hands before and after meals. You are also expected to touch the food only with your right hand.
  22. Smelling your food before you eat is considered an insult to the chef in Tanzania unless you find something wrong with the offered dish.
  23. Tanzanians often hold hands throughout their entire conversation. As with eating, make sure to offer your right hand first.
  24. Modesty in public. Wearing revealing clothes is a sign of disrespect in Tanzania. Dress modestly to respect the cultural beliefs of Muslims, especially in Zanzibar.
  25. Public display of affection on sidewalks and public beaches are highly frowned upon. Since lot of Tanzanians are Muslims who believe that affection between opposite sex should be in private, you should avoid any physical signs of public affection.

 

 
 

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