I learned many things during my time living in Tanzania. Some were major life lessons about cultural differences and philosophical issues. But these aren’t them. Here I give you 20 little tidbits and quirks I learned through day to day life in this interesting part of the world.
1. The best way to avoid uninvited company in a bar is to say you’re in a “business meeting”.
It is common for uninvited guys to sit down at your table, start talking and never leave. Sometimes you don’t mind. And sometimes you do. This trick works like a charm; so much so, I even considered carrying around a file folder as a prop.
2. Everyone loves Celine Dion. Even the men.
I heard about this early on and had doubts. But, it’s very true. You’ll hear her “magical” voice in bars, over at the neighbor’s house, and even on public transportation.
3. Public transportation will always be cheap, but never comfortable.
And three people will indeed fit into one seat. Buying an extra ticket for more space is totally worth it.
4. Never believe the statement “I’m on my way.”
People will say anything to keep you happy in the short term. This generally applies to most situations. I learned to follow up with “Really, or are you just telling me that?”
5. Children think all white people carry candy with them all the time.
“Hello, Pipi, Hello Pipi, Hello Pipi”… (Pipi = Candy)
This is chanted over and over again by little children everywhere you go. Yet I never actually had any candy.
6. Glass bottles are valuable commodities.
Both beer and soft drinks come in glass bottles, but don’t even think about keeping them. Staff will keep a serious eye on you until returned. And they never forget.
7. Speaking of Coca-Cola, it tastes better in Tanzania.
I’m usually not a Coke drinker, but here it’s made with sugarcane, not corn syrup.
8. Never leave the house without toilet paper.
9. (For females) There are two tricks to using a squat toilet without peeing on your shoes:
Start out sitting a little further back than you think you need to and lean forward just a bit.
10. Women are stronger than men and carry all the heavy objects.
The whole concept of men carrying things for women to be gentlemen…yea, that’s a western idea.
11. Finding salty crackers is like finding gold.
In any given store you will find 8-15 types of sweet biscuits (cookies), but not a single cracker. What’s up with that?
12. Everyone must eat rice and ugali every day.
Ugali is a local staple made out of cornmeal. People here believe a meal is not a meal if it doesn’t come with a very large serving of it or rice. I never took a liking to ugali so for me, it was all rice all the time.
13. You must greet everyone you see on the street.
Greetings are super important and the first thing you must learn to live here. No exaggeration, but people may actually die if you don’t acknowledge them when you walk by. Or at least it seems that way!
14. At some point, everyday, someone will try to sell you a Maasai blanket.
15. And you can get pretty much anything made with Barak Obama’s picture on it.
Skirts, blankets, backpacks, purses, you name it.
16. Football (soccer) is the only sport that matters.
Nothing else exists.
17. Always remember – two beers really equal three.
The bottles are larger and it’s easy to forget.
18. The best Swahili words use two of the same word.
Examples: Pili pili (spicy pepper),Pili pili hoho (bell pepper), Piki Piki (motorcycle), Boda Boda (public transportation by motorcycle), Pole Pole (slowly), Tiki Tiki Maji (watermelon). The list goes on. They are so fun to say, I’m not going back to the English versions.
19. The best way to say “No” is to say “Labda”.
It basically means “maybe, but probably not”. Saying “no” doesn’t work, but “labda” is usually accepted.
20. Always use mosquito repellent at night.
I know you don’t feel them, but they’re there.