Observations- Tanzania

Tanzania: Greetings are important in Tanzania and it’s common to ask how people are doing when passing on the street or sitting down and meeting people.

Typical exchange:

Me: Jambo (hi)

Them: Jambo, Mambo or Vipi? (HI, what’s up?)

Me:Poa, Mambo? (cool)

Them: Haberi? (How are you/things?)

respond? Mzuri or Salama or Safia (good, great, fine )

There are many variations on the theme and it seems to be different upon location and whom is speaking. Keeps me on my toes. Finally have some Swahili under my belt- and wham. Saying more words than I can understand!

The friendliness is nice but sometimes I can’t be bothered. I find in Kenya it’s not so friendly with greetings. Kenyans have said Tanzanians are more gentle and friendly in manner of speaking.

Smells: Walking in the streets, esepcially in outdoor markets can be quite an intense experience. Its easy to smell 3 different flavors at once, all incredibly potent- fish, poop, urine, rotting food, exhaust, kerosene (if at night in some places). My poor nose. But it’s all part of the experience!

Washing: Washer and dryers don’t exist in Tanzania or Kenya, so that means I do all my washing by hand. Usually in the sink. Fun. I never cared for it much at home but here I have no choice. When I arrive in a new room I always figure out creative ways to hang my clothes. Some times it’s easy to hang over the wood frame for the mosquito net but not all rooms set up the mosquite nets the same way. So far, I haven’t had a problem but creativity is key. Gaining skills without knowing it!

Often hotels/hostels will provide a service but it’s not always cheap. You can find others to do it as well but I like knowing how my clothes are being treated.

Swahili– Knowing some Swahili is important. At local restaurants or at the bus station more often than not, peoples English is very limited. Patience becomes a virtue.

In towns or villages- I’ve seen cows and goats on leashes or roam freely. Chickens and roosters roam around and wake me up at god forsaken hours- 6am!

Bagamoyo-I even had the unfortunate experience of seeing a chicken killed. Their were 2 chickens sitting on top of each other and neither looked like they were in good shape. a young man picked one up, walked a few feet with it but still clearly within my eye distance. I know what was too come. I tried looking away. Slit the throat. set it down. walked away. THen a woman picked it up 10 minutes later and put it in a pot of hot water and started taking the feathers off. How nice.

However, if I’m eating chicken I may as well know how it’s killed. I’d imagine the death in Africa is much better than how their slaughtered in America. And the chickens roam freely here rather than 30 to a small cage.

Toilets: in hotels they’re are western toilets but many lack toilet seats. In public areas, they’re often squat toilets. Very smelly but otherwise not too bad.  Bring your own toilet paper because it’s not available in the stalls. There’s always a bucket of water in the toilet room to use for flushing. Sometimes they have automatic flushing, others require pouring water in the squat toilet.

There is always a water sprayer in the toilet room. It’s used instead of toilet paper. You use your left hand for wiping, your right hand for eating and greeting.

Affection: I have yet to see any public displays of affection. I imagine it’s done in private but who knows.

Tanzania-Good friends (or if they think of you-muzungo- as a good friend) they will hold your hand. It’s very common to see two men holding hands or two  woman holding hands but after 2 months of being in Tanzania, I have yet to see a man and a woman holding hands.

Food: Ugali is a Tanzanian staple. It looks like mashed potatoes but is more firm and not so tasty. It’s an acquired taste made of flour/maize meal. They eat it with Mchicha-type of spinach and mchizuzi- a light tomato sauce often with small chunks of beef. I usually have this but opt for rice (wali) instead of Ugali.

Use your right hand for eating. Most eat Ugali with their hand. It’s disrespecful to eat with your left hand as that’s used for cleansing yourself after using the toilet.

Touts/Hawkers: Touts bombard you when you get off the bus wanting to take you to a hotel, sell you safari, or anything touristy related to the region.

hawkers often will hassle you trying to sell their batik paintings, jewelry, knives etc.

Sellers: in many areas i’ll see woman selling fruits and vegetables by the roadside or mainstreets in a town. They often buy it from the cheap market in town and sell at a higher price.

Peanut and cigarette men- He sells single cigarettes and will offer a light for you or peanuts. You can hear them a mile away jingling their change. I find the jingle annoying but it’s their way of letting you know peanuts and cigarettes are for sale.

Water: hotels and apartments have huge black containers on top of the roof where water for showers, toilets and sinks is stored. African men carry the water in jerry cans and pump the water up to the big container.

Kilimanjaro bottled drinking water is everywhere. in moshi, it’s the only brand. Elsewhere in the country, there is a variety. Kilimanjaro water is bottled by the coca-cola company.

Sodas: Coca-cola has a huge monopoly on the soda market here. Signs for Coke are everywhere. Coke signs with the name of the store or local restaurant or worse, the name of the local primary or secondary school. I find it dispicable.

All the types of sodas and brands within coke: Sprite, Coke, Coke Light (not so common), Fanta-orange, passion. pineapple, Sparletta-citrus (my favorite), pineapple, Stoney Tangawizi (strong gingerale, perfect for a funny tummy), Krest-gingerale, tonic water, soda water, bitter lemon

You can also get pepsi, 7-up and Miranda, a purply drink sometimes

Beers: Tusker, Kilimanjaro, Serengeti, Safari Guiness, Guiness vita malt (non-alcoholic) Castle (south african)

Konyagi- is a Tanzanian rum. It’s firewater. Very common for Tanzanians to drink straight or mix with soda.


There are no traffic lights.

Crossing the street is at your leisure/whenever you can cross the road

They drive on the opposite side of the road, like the UK and Japan


Malls don’t exist in Tanzania.

There are several mini stores catering to specificsm ie: pharmacy, lighting, music, speakers/electronics, housewares, grocery, cosmetics, hardware, clothing, kitenge/kanga(fabric), books for secondary school. It’s difficult to find a bookshop selling novels unless you’re in Dar.

TV: A lot of stations from Dubai and India. Have CNN and SABC (south african station),. Often Dubai or SA station have commericals for products you can’t buy in Tanzania.

Have seen soap opera, Days of Our Lives, on TV and a few Asian soap operas.


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