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Learn Tanzanian Cultures

 

TANZANIA CULTURE.

Tanzania is formerly known as Tanganyika, a name that was given to the country by a British civil servant in the early 1920’s (Tanga meaning sail and Nyika meaning arid plain). The previously known German East Africa was then became known as Tanganyika Territory. In 1964, Tanganyika was joined with Zanzibar and other offshore islands to become what is known as today: United Republic of Tanzania.

Being a former colony of both Germany and Britain, architectural styles in Tanzania reflect Arab, German, and British influence and occupation. There is also a long rich history of slave trade and other goods that can be seen in the architectural remains and buildings, as well as culture of the coastal towns and offshore Zanzibar Island (The Portuguese, Arabs and Indians and Chinese were also involved in this trade). For instance, ruins of Arab mosques as well as nineteenth-century stone houses on narrow streets can be seen in Bagamoyo, which was one of the main endpoints of the East African slave trade. There are also tombs embedded with Chinese ceramics dating to the twelfth century. Suburban dwellings, most of which are built along a grid pattern, include the Swahili house, a rectangular structure made of either stone with a corrugated roof or earth on a wooden frame with a thatch roof. This type of house is found all along the coast.

NATIONAL IDENTITY.
There are many factors that have contributed to the national identity of Tanzanians. Kiswahili – This is the lingua-franca of the nation, is spoken and revered by all, and is a compulsory subject in schools. The unification of Tanganyika and Zanzibar to form a United Republic.
Development of Tanzanian socialism as endorsed by first president Mwalimu Julius Nyerere and sanctioned in the Arusha Declaration of 1967. As an expression of social collectivity, ujamaa villages were created – whose core structure was based on mutual assistance and cooperation. National Resources such as Mt Kilimanjaro and other natural attractions such as the Serengeti and the world’s largest caldera, Ngorongoro crater as well as Lake Victoria, the second largest freshwater lake in the world, contribute to the Nations sense of national identity.

WHAT ARE THE LANGUAGE OF TANZANIA.

There are more than 120 ethnic tribes in Tanzania. The largest ethnic groups include the Sukuma (over three million), Chagga, Haya, and Nyamwezi (over one million each). Despite the numerous cultural diversity represented by all these tribes, they are all united by use of Swahili or Kiswahili – a coastal Bantu language with Arabic influence. In his quest for his people to find identity in themselves as one people, the first president Julius Nyerere encouraged all Tanzanians to communicate in Swahili. The use of Swahili as a single common language has facilitated trade, political debate, nationalism and information dissemination. The Tanzanians have strong feelings of national pride and cohesion, and this strong sense of nationalism backed up with the use of a common language has enabled Tanzanians to resolve most internal conflicts without resorting to violence keeping the country at peace for over two decades, in comparison to most of its neighbors. English is also spoken by most of the Tanzanians of post-secondary education in addition to their tribal languages. When traveling it’s always a good idea to go with a little local language knowledge. Here is a list of helpful Swahili phrases.

WHAT IS THE FOOD LIKE IN TANZANIA.

The staple food in Tanzania depends on the region that one is coming from. The people from the North West prefer plantains, those from the South West prefer Ugali and those along the coast prefer rice. – these staple carbohydrates that are unique in each region are accompanied by a fish, beef, goat, chicken, or mutton stew or fried pieces of meat, along with several types of vegetables or condiments, such as beans and sukuma wiki pumpkin or sweet potatoes. Walking along the streets especially in urban market areas, many delicacies are sold such as fried plantains, sweet potatoes, charcoal roasted maize on the cob, pieces of dried or fried fish, mshikaki, grilled pieces of meat, samosas, chapatis among many other finger foods. It is also common to find local brews sold in local bars such as the Konyagi a popular spirit.

WHAT IS DAILY LIFE LIKE IN TANZANIA.

Politeness, respect and modesty are virtues that highly valued by Tanzanians. The country has harmonious national culture that is based on subtle but strong social code of courtesy and respect. Take the time to greet people before you ask them for directions. The ability to keep control of one’s temper and emotions in public is highly valued. Young men and women in rural areas are not supposed to show mutual affection in public in daylight, although this rule is often broken in urban centers. Boys and men, and however, are commonly seen in public holding hands as a sign of friendship or comradeship. In many rural areas, women are not supposed to smoke, be seen in a drunken stupor in public talk in a raised voice in an uncontrolled manner.

WHAT ARE COMMON GREETINGS IN TANZANIA.

Handshakes are very important in social etiquette. Handshakes are required, regardless of how many people you are greeting. For example, if you enter a room with 30 people gathered for a meeting, it is usually expected that you will take the time to greet each individual with a handshake. Always greet the oldest person first, and then proceed to the rest of the people finishing with the youngest, children. To skip or rush this element in the greeting process is the height of poor manners.
Tanzanians frequently continue holding hands throughout a conversation. Note that the right hand is usually used for eating, while the left is traditionally used for toilet duties. You should try not to pass items to others with your left hand. When receiving items from others, do so with both hands, or with the right hand while touching the left hand to your right elbow as a sign of respect and courtesy. People are generally addressed by their academic, professional or honorific title followed by their surname. If the person is unknown to you, then to call them by their most distinguished title is appropriate – Mr., Mrs., Dr., etc. Tanzanians may also be addressed as mother of so and so, or father of so and so. For instance, the mother and father of Mary may be referred to as ‘Mama Mary’ and ‘Baba Mary’ respectively. Referring to your friends’ parents in such a manner shows respect.

HOW SHOULD I DRESS IN TANZANIA.

It is important to dress modestly In Tanzania. Wearing clothes that are too revealing shows a sign of disrespect. In Zanzibar especially, it is important to dress modestly out of respect for Muslim cultural beliefs. Women should be covered above the elbow and knees. No midriffs should be showing.

TRADITIONAL MEDICINE IN TANZANIA.

Tanzania is popular for its sophisticated indigenous healing systems found in almost all Tanzanian ethnic groups. Healing can cure almost anything ranging from barrenness and infertility, as well as love matters, psychological problems, social problems such as finding a job, a lover, or even financial breakthrough to complicated chronic and infectious illnesses. All these are facilitated by the mganga (medicine man/ traditional healer). Predicated on a holistic approach to health, traditional healers treat body, mind, and spirit as an integrated system, often in the communal sense of the ‘social body.

WHAT IS HOSPITALITY LIKE IN TANZANIA.

When invited for a meal, you should accept the meal that is offered to show that you accept their hospitality. The best course of action is to behave formally. When in doubt, watch what others are doing and follow their lead. It is considered polite to finish everything on your plate, although it is not mandatory. Tanzanians, like other African countries are generally social, and visiting a friend or relative does not require any serious prior plans or schedules. It is common for people to visit each other impromptu and normally, a meal is offered. Neighborliness is common, and many Tanzanians in the same community look out for each other, assisting each other where need be even in trivial things such as neighbors borrowing cooking items from each other, and children all play together in the same neighborhood.

WHAT IS THE RELIGION OF TANZANIA.

Christianity and Islam are the predominant religions in Tanzania where over 40% practice Christianity and over 35% practice Islam. Islam is the major religion of the coastal areas but is also practiced further inland. There are also those who follow traditional beliefs and there are also the Asian minority: the Hindus, Sikh’s and Ismailis.  Religion plays a big role in Tanzania, and many Christian families dress their best to attend church services together. There are charismatic services and people sing and dance and their voices can be heard in the streets. Easter and Christmas are major religious events that are observed by Christian faithful in the country by attending church and celebrating together with their extended families often by feasting together. Ramadhan is also a month that is observed by the Muslims and many across the nation fast in the holy lunar month. Thereafter comes Eid, a time of feasting and festivity for the whole community.