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Tanzania cultural insights

The following cultural insights are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. The content in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.

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Local and Canadian perspectives for the following subjects:


Local perspective

Starting point for a good discussion with an unfamiliar or a new face will stem from sport events, new events as reported by magazines, especially by tabloids and popular cartoons. Reported issues are likely to be about witchdoctors or strange (miracles unbelievable) events and even war in other countries.

Political discussion is very common for people who know each other well. People don’t like to show their political orientation openly due to fear of repercussion. On other hand, people are very open to discuss government policies and taxes and publicly known scandals or public money embezzlement as long as they already reported in media.

Making jokes is quite common. Most people are not offended by jokes as long as they do not refer to their immediate family, especially their mother, sister or wife.

Canadian perspective

When first meeting, Tanzanians will shake hands and ask how you are. This can cover topics such as your family, your children, your home, your work, the last few days. Sometimes even when you meet someone for the first time, they will ask "Habari ya siku nyingi". This can be confusing at first, as it means "how have you been all this time?". This greeting can last between 3 to 15 minutes under normal circumstances.

It is not normally acceptable to discuss money issues with Tanzanians. It is also not appropriate for a man to discuss a pregnancy with a pregnant woman, women may discuss it if they are good friends. Tanzanians do not normally ask each other during the first meeting, what they do for a living. However, they are likely to ask you what part of town you live in, what your religion is (Christian or Muslim?), and since you are a foreigner you will also be asked how long you have been in the country, where you are from, and what you think of Tanzania, however long you have been there.

Laughter permeates the air, and people enjoy a good joke, often at the expense of their friends, even if they are foreigners. This is a good time to learn how to laugh at one’s follies. If a person is sharing something that they know will produce laughter they will have their right hand upturned waiting for a slap from you. If for some reason their or your right hand is unavailable, it is expected to put forward their wrist, lower arm, shoulder or upper arm.

Communication styles

Local perspective

In most working places people tend to talk at close range without putting too much significance into the space between them with friends or strangers. Standing away from someone is a sign that they are not welcome. If one cracks a joke during the talk or chat on unofficial matters and people laugh then it’s normal for other partners or even strangers to stretch a hand for the talker to clap/tap, as a sign to salute the story. Talk and touching hands among friends even office workers who are not necessarily friends is not strange thing. This is not limited to gender; it can be male-to-male or female to male and vice versa.

Eye contact is very important and necessary if it’s official conversation or anything involving trust. Avoiding eye contact implies that you are not telling the whole truth or not committed to what you are talking about. But fixed eye contact with a person of the opposite sex, especially with a female friend or stranger is an unwelcome gesture and regarded as intrusion of privacy or being rude. Most women find that gazing upon them embarrassing.

Facial expression, body language and tone of voice are key in conversation. Sometimes people do not talk but every one will interpret you according to the body and facial expression. Speaking in public or with group of people can result in different interpretations of what being said. The meaning of any word spoken is carefully associated with facial expression or tone of voice. It is through such kind of interpretation one can be liked or hated by fellow workers or neighbours.

The most common gestures are not annoying especially in a friendly environment; although over doing it can get you a nickname. The nickname does not intend to offend the person even though it may sound offensive. Offending gestures are those used to insult other people or to show them they are useless; although very few people give interpretation or philosophical meaning to hand gesture under normal circumstances.

Canadian perspective

In general, Tanzanian people will greet each other with a handshake, sometimes even between husband and wife. During a conversation a Tanzanian is likely to touch your shoulder, your hand and look you in the eye or in the general direction of your face. Among Tanzanians, the person with less social ranking is not expected to look at the person with higher social ranking in the eye. Foreigners are not normally expected to avert their eyes, as there seems to be an understanding that a foreigner will not do this, possibly a leftover from colonization. However, people will often avert their eyes when speaking with a foreigner, especially if they are women and from rural areas. As a measure of deference some people might speak to you directly in the third person.

In general, Tanzanians have a smaller requirement for space. Distance between people is closer than Canadians are generally accustomed to, and people will tend to stand closer to you when having a dialogue. Also, in a crowd such as in the market or a bus stop (or in the bus itself), people are not uncomfortable with standing very close to others and may often bump on you. Unlike Canadians, they are not likely to say sorry right away, which may be a source of frustration for Canadians.

When handing people something, eating or touching a friend, do so with the right hand. Using the left hand is frowned upon and discouraged. If your right hand is busy, wet or dirty when about to do a handshake you are expected to offer the wrist or any other part of the right arm. When eating, Tanzanians will always wash their hands and eat with only their right hand, often from communal plates. The left hand can be used to bring a drink to the lips and if it must absolutely be used, Tanzanians will cross it on top with their right hand.

Tanzanians can be very animated when listening to a story and will make reassuring sounds that are different from those in Canada; for example a fast sigh similar to that which a Canadian might make when they forget something is often used while listening to another person to mean "uhuh" (yes I hear you).

Tanzanians are very conscious of status and people of higher status will usually speak very firmly and directly to people of lower status.

Display of emotion

Local perspective

Public display of affection, anger, or other displays of emotion in general are not acceptable. Most Tanzanians think that to show affection with some one you love or anything you love is being boastful and showing-off. They don’t expect to see two lovers kissing in public!!!!

Most Tanzanians try to hide their anger in presence of their colleagues to avoid being seen as cowardly and intolerant. Thus many people will tend to paint smile on their face keep quiet but in reality they are really hurt in their hearts.

On emotional issues most people, especially men, don’t shed tears in public, and if it happens, it should be a very short instance. Women are allowed to show their emotions to certain extent.

Canadian perspective

Tanzanians will express affection quite openly to each other among colleagues, friends, or family. However, amorous displays between couples are generally frowned upon though they are becoming more common. Men will often hold hands with each other (particularly in muslim dominated areas such as the coast, Dar es Salaam and Zanzibar) and so will women, but it is still rare to see a man and a woman holding hands. Husband and wife will usually greet each other with a regular "habari yako" ("how are you?") and/or a handshake.

Sadness within a context where it is expected is expected, in fact encouraged. People attending a funeral will cry, sometimes at a very high pitch and long periods of time, even if they do not know the dead person. Random bouts of crying when not in a funeral or the like are seen as unusual but not worrying.

As for expressing anger, it is not unusual to see people having an argument with raised voices on the street, though it is not encouraged. When people are trying to deal with a conflict they are more likely to send subtle messages rather than confront the problem head-on and openly. Often people will send messages to each other by the message written on a khanga (two identical rectangular pieces of cloth that have a colourful design, a border and a saying in Swahili written on one of the long sides). Women may wear a particular khanga to send a message to someone else (for example wearing a khanga that says "if gossip was money, some would be rich" as she passes by a gossiping neighbour). Khangas are often given as gifts and chosen specifically for their message to fit the occasion, such as "wishing you all the best" for someone who is departing.

Dress, punctuality & formality

Local perspective

Tanzania has a tropical climate. This means that light clothes are needed. Most people wear formal dress, or sometimes, nice outfits like slacks but not blue jeans. It is very rare to find people wearing casual clothing on the working days or when attending official meetings.

In work places most people are addressed by their surname or married names. For those who are acquainted or familiar, or of the same age group, the first name is sometimes used, especially among women.

The term "punctuality" is a foreign term to most Tanzanians. There is no habit of being punctual with their schedule, deadline or to keep time. However, rate of productivity is very high due to commitment made to their assignment.

Canadian perspective

Dressing for an office workplace will normally imply a collar shirt and skirt for women and a collar shirt (or if you like a guayabera) and slacks for men, both with dress shoes. In the cooler areas, around the North (Moshi, Arusha) and the south (Mbeya, Songea), a jacket may be expected. If you are in a rural area, you will still be expected to look sharp though the standard will be relaxed (jeans/cotton slacks). On the coast, men will often wear a short-sleeve jacket/shirt with matching pants. In general, men do not wear shorts (normally only primary school aged boys) and women wear clothing that covers both their knees and their shoulders. Though Tanzanian women do not normally wear slacks, this is becoming more and more common with the younger generation. However, each workplace is different so you may want to start with rather conservative clothing until you decide what you feel comfortable with.

Tanzanians address each other with the family denomination that would correspond to them according to their age: adult women will be "mama" (mother), older women "bibi" (grandmother), younger women "dada" (sister), adult men "baba" (father) or "mzee" (old man). When addressing someone by name it is best to use the surname, normally, they will say what they would like to be called (by the first name, or Mama X for example). People may also address a server at a restaurant as "rafiki" (friend).

Tanzanians, even from lower classes, will make every effort to wear clean clothing, though it may be modest. It is important for them to look sharp. As for shoes, Tanzanians frown upon the use of flip-flops outside of the house as they are normally used in the bathroom only. Low-income people do wear flip-flops normally though.

Time keeping is more relaxed than in Canada, and even Tanzanians joke about "swahili time", which may be related to the 6-hour time difference between Greenwich time and Swahili time. Swahili time is also based on two 12-hour sets during a 24-hour period, however, each set goes from 6 o’clock to 6 o’clock, where 6 am is "saa kumi na mbili asubuhi" (12 o’clock in the morning), 7 am is "saa moja" (1 o’clock), 12 noon is "saa sita" (6 o’clock), 6 pm is "saa kumi na mbili jioni" (12 o’clock in the evening) and so on. Given that Tanzania is located around the Equator and daylight is usually from 6 am to 6 pm, this system is in fact quite sensible.

The best way to learn Swahili time is to add 6 hours to conventional time. To keep track of both, you can get a watch with hands and simply look to the opposite side of the clock to tell Swahili time. Normally, Tanzanians will use Swahili time when speaking in Swahili and English time when speaking in English. However, things can get lost in the translation and confusions often arise. For example, you will arrange a meeting for 10 o’clock only to find out, after much waiting, that it was not for 10 am but rather for 4 pm. It is important to always clarify whether an appointment is in the morning ("asubuhi"), afternoon ("mchana") or evening ("jioni").

Tanzanians don’t like to say "no". In many offices, businesses or government services, this will be translated into "tomorrow" ("kesho"). This can be a delay tactic or a subdued way of asking for something extra (a bribe).

Preferred managerial qualities

Local perspective

Qualities that are most highly regarded in a local supervision/manager are education, experience, people skills, and being hard working. The most successful managers are those who are open to new ideas and are ready to show their leadership skills when it really matters. Most Tanzanians regard highly leaders who can make difficult decisions and stand by those decisions.

For the non-local manager/supervisor, unfortunately they are regarded as incompetent unless they prove beyond doubt that they are capable of doing that job. It is assumed that it is only money that guarantees their position and decision making powers. It has happened many times that local staff, especially subordinates, are highly qualified and experienced but poorly paid. Whereas non –local managers don’t have that much expertise and education compared to their local counterpart. So local staff do not take them seriously. Thus, whenever they make obvious mistakes it becomes a laughing matter and no one will come forward to advise or redeem the situation. It is only expatriate’s personal relationship with local staff will help the person to carry out his or her duties successfully.

It is very hard and tricky for a non-local manager to know how their staff views them. Being close to your local staff especially subordinate can help to avoid misunderstandings in the first six months. After being familiar with local staff and learning some of the local language and behaviour, it will be easier to understand who is genuine and honest and who is cynical. In my experience I have seen many competent and hard working expatriates find assistance from most of local staff; that is good indication that you are trusted and respected.

Canadian perspective

A person is highly regarded for her/his personality, ability to get along with others, flexibility and ability to carry through. Status is also very important to Tanzanians. Managers will often invite their employees to their homes for a dinner or other social events and it is polite to always accept and attend even if one does not stay for long. Staff will send subtle coded messages if they are discontented, but are likely to be more effusive if they are contented with a manager or a colleague.

Foreigners, particularly a person with experience, may be regarded as an "expert" much to the chagrin of Canadians who often want to just be "one of the gang". Most of the above applies to foreigners as well, though it will change from one workplace to another. You will normally get a sense of how things work after a few weeks with your new colleagues.

Foreigners are particularly appreciated when they make an effort to learn and use Swahili in their conversations. Tanzanians have a particular pride about Swahili, their national language, since it is the lingua franca of the country and is not a European language left as a legacy of colonisation. In general, Tanzanians will appreciate this legacy of the time when Julius Nyerere was president whether or not they agree with his philosophies or his government.

Hierarchy and decision-making

Local perspective

In the Tanzanian context, the decision making structure it is still a nightmare. Public institutions still follow British orientation from colonial era, which is full of bureaucracy and hierarchy. New models of decision-making are also being introduced and they cause a lot of problems because some of them are originating from socialist-communist ideologies and now from free-market philosophy. In short, it all depends on individual organisation and conduct.

It is expected to approach your immediate supervisor for answers and feedback. It is regarded as unprofessional to seek answers from your supervisors without your immediate supervisor’s knowledge or permission. In many cases it is perceived as insubordination and will spoil your relationship with your supervisor possibly to the point of creating considerable long-term resentment.

Canadian perspective

Tanzanian organisations often have a clearly defined hierarchical structure that usually involves the Director (or highest ranking officer) as the centralized decision maker. The Director is often the founder of the organisation, who drives and directs the organisation. Staff are accustomed to receiving orders/directives from the Director and will not usually be very vocal about an initiative they are interested in undertaking. They will either abandon it or proceed without first checking with their supervisor.

Tanzanians will check with their supervisors on their activities. However, for more direct information and guidance, they will often turn to their colleagues, as they may be concerned that their checking back repeatedly with their supervisor may be seen as a sign of bad performance. If they believe that a proposal runs the risk of not being accepted, they will often try to first convince their colleagues to back them up.

A foreigner will often upset the balance of power, which may allow space for others with less ranking to be more open about their opinions and their vision for the workplace. This will be even more evident in organisations where the staff has not worked with a foreigner in the past.

Religion, class, ethnicity, & gender

Local perspective


Tanzania society is a male-dominated society. Men occupy most of the high positions and are in charge of social decision-making as well. Men are still regarded as head of the families and main providers. However, the number of women in working places has increased greatly and it is very possible it has surpassed the men workforce. It is uncommon to discriminate against women at working places. The government has introduced laws, rules and has set different institutions to defend and protect women rights in working places.


In Tanzania there four groups of believers, Muslim who are said to be 55 %, Christian 35%, and the rest is Hindu (Singh, Budhaa) and traditional religious groups e.g. Masai. In mainland Tanzania the government has ties religious groups, although it is independent. Thus, individuals have rights to believe in anything, as long they don’t break the state laws. Most cultures have found themselves in dilemma between these foreign imported religions (Muslim and Christian), which don’t fit exactly to their way of living. Sometimes, followers of those religions find it difficult to abide by those religions. For example, some Christians have more than one wife whereas Muslims drink beer during some of their cultural ceremonies, i.e. wedding, funerals etc.

Most of mainlanders take their religious beliefs seriously but only at an individual level. During religious festival such as Eid –el-fitr or Christmas it is hard to know who is Muslim or Christian because everyone celebrates. Intermarriage between Christians and Muslims is quite normal. Thus one family can have believers from different religious group.


In the Tanzanian context, classes are a very new and complex phenomenon, especially in urban areas. There are businessmen/women, workers and politicians. Workers are of three categories as well: Highly skilled government and private institution employees; middle class civil servants; and low paid workers. It should be noted that the Government was the main job provider for most Tanzanians until recent years. It is very hard to differentiate those classes because most of the Tanzania urbanites are living in unplanned settlements. Thus most people live or squat in those areas without identifying themselves with the kind of class they belong. It is only politician class who tend mostly to live in planned areas of the city.


Tanzania has more than 120 tribes residing in 20 regions. Tribal nepotism is practised although not openly and it is very hard to crack it down. To large extent, Tanzania is the only country in Africa where most of its people identify themselves as Tanzanian first and not with their affiliated tribes. Having one indigenous national language brought a sense of unity and belonging. Thus, regardless one’s tribe or cultural background, we all share in the urban culture mosaic.

Canadian perspective


Under statutory law, women and men are considered to be equal. However, within the other co-existing legal systems of the country, customary law (according to the tribe), Indian law (for people of Indian descent), and Islamic Shari’a law (for Muslims), women are considered to be under the power and control of men. A different set of laws will be applied to different people according to their ethnicity, their religion and after death, the way they lived their life. However, for most Tanzanians, customary law will be most important and relevant in their lives.

In the workplace, women will often have a lower status than men and are more likely to be asked to take care of tasks that are not part of their jobs. They are also more likely to feel more intimidated by their supervisors, and sometimes their colleagues.


There are four major religious groups in Tanzania: Christian, Muslim, Hindu and traditional religions. However, Tanzanians will ask if you are Christian or Muslim, largely because Tanzanians follow a symbiotic mix that involves one of these two as well as the traditional beliefs of their society. Tanzanians usually don’t ask each other these questions, as they are able to deduce someone’s religion by their name and place of origin.

There is a careful balance maintained between Christians and Muslims, which can sometimes threaten to boil over. The religion issue also separates the mainland with the Zanzibar archipelago, which is Muslim in its near majority.


Belonging to a lower class is not necessarily seen as a source of shame; it is just how it is and Tanzanians are not ashamed to recognize the fact that someone who is poorer or richer than them. There is however, an expectation that those with means will support those who have a lesser income, a customary way of ensuring that everyone is cared for. Such expectations however, can impose on families with means, to the point where a second or third cousin may show up without notice to a house asking to be lodged until he is able to find a job, which can sometimes take months.

Upper and lower class people may mix in different situations, but it will be clear to them that they belong to different groups, and act accordingly. For example, middle or upper class people will not normally frequent the same eateries as their lower class colleagues, though they may in fact eat the same food (by sending out a colleague with a container to fetch the day’s lunch).


For Tanzanians, tribal origin is an important though not a determining factor. As opposed to other countries where tribal origin and tribal language are a primary source of information, in Tanzania it is probably secondary. This is probably due to the fact that all people identify as "Tanzanians" united by Swahili, their national language. People from the same ethnicity, and especially from the same village, will address each other as if they were family using the adjective to family ranking they would have were they to be in the same family (brother, sister, mother, grandmother, etc.). Knowing the reputation ascribed to each tribe (for example, the Chagga are perceived as business savvy, meat-eaters who like to drink beer, while the Sukuma are perceived as gentle, soft-spoken people) can help a foreigner understand some of the underlying factors to a relationship among Tanzanians in the workplace though they should not be applied as a definition to those you meet.

Arabs are considered as very different, which may explain the cultural distance between the mainland and Zanzibar. Indians are not often well regarded; they form a large part of the business-owning population in the country and can be perceived as taking advantage of the Africans. They are not ill-treated however and were never expelled like their counterparts in Uganda.

I would add here that age is another very important factor in Tanzanian culture. There is well-entrenched social structure that is based on one’s age. Greetings to each other depend on the age of the two people greeting. This structure can be very difficult to understand and accept by Canadians but one’s age is an important determinant of social ranking in general and in the workplace. A new employee who is younger than anyone else, regardless of actual age and whether foreigner or not, will often be addressed as "mtoto" (child), while an older one will be a "mama" (mother). Younger employees may also be asked to do the type of tasks that children are asked to do, such as running errands.


Local perspective

It will seem obvious to your Tanzanian colleagues or clients that one establishes a personal relationship before getting to business because in their eyes, business by itself is a secondary issue. One’s humanity character/behaviour is the most important thing; business comes only when it means dealing with someone whom they regard as a friend and they can trust and respect.

Signing contracts and other papers is not important to Tanzanians because their commitment to the business at hand is not based on paper. An agreement will be made in front of the people they respect most i.e. wife, lineage, friends. They tend to respect that commitment or promise because everyone who was there is regarded as a witness to the occasion.

One of the best tools to establish a relationship with the Tanzanian people is to listen to their stories and hardships. They will also appreciate it if you show signs of sympathy and understanding of their misfortunes. One can contribute on how to alleviate or lessen the calamity to certain extent. They know for sure that you can’t solve their problems overnight or by miracles but trying to understand their problems in their context and perspective provides an opportunity to gain trust and establish a personal friendship.

Canadian perspective

Tanzanians value the moment during which you greet and you catch up on the last few days, and recent events. It is important to always use adequate time to do this with colleagues, clients or civil servants. Relationships are established through continued contact and maintaining a reasonable amount of time greeting. Failure to go through the greetings can result in Tanzanians perceiving the other person as rude and thus decreasing their desire to collaborate with you.

Tanzanians feel that it is important to set the context of something that will be talked about though they will often take longer than a Canadian would. It is not polite to interrupt a person even they have been speaking for some time.

Privileges and favouritism

Local perspective

Due to high rate of unemployment in the country, most employees would expect personal relationship/friendship to influence hiring process or to get them high priority on consideration. However, this is not advisable because every staff person will come forward at their own time to ask for similar favour.

Hiring is very tricky business; loyalty and commitment can be of equal importance as experience especially for scheduled projects. Some candidates are good and qualified but not committed to the projects. Caution: don’t employ all the staff from the same tribe or area even if they are highly competent!!

Canadian perspective

Possibly yes. The social structure is such that a person is obliged to help a family member, a friend, or a person who grew up in their same village (even if they were not close growing up). Tanzanians may be pressured to take in people to live with them, pay their studies or find them a job. This same informal structure can also transferred to the workplace.

Foreigners often get approached to hire a family member whether in their workplace or home. Such relationships can be complicated, but need not be so. You are not obliged to keep the person should it not work out though you will need to handle it delicately. Tanzanians do not normally use "no" and rather prefer to delay things. Low-paid employees may sometimes be told that there is no work for a few days and they will be called when there is more work rather than being explicitly fired.

Given the fact that most Tanzanians earn very small salaries or none at all, people may decline an invitation to a social event if it is not clear that someone else will take care of the costs. Because of the social structure it is not considered shameful to expect and to be "sponsored" by a friend or colleague. Tanzanians call this "an offer".

Conflicts in the workplace

Local perspective

Work related problems are usually solved as a private issue. You can summon someone in personal or arrange a meeting with her/his immediate supervisor and solve all relevant problems. The meeting should be in private place, any public confrontation is being regarded as humiliation.

In the Tanzanian context, it is very difficult to know if a colleague is having problems with you unless you have studied how that person behaves in a normal situation. Many people tend to hide their feelings, especially in presence of foreigners or their supervisors. There are a few things or gestures that can provide you with a clue to such a situation. For example, people will tend to stop talking or avoid your presence or make themselves busy. Normal conversations may tend to turn into arguments or hot debate more frequently.

Canadian perspective

Tanzanians do not like to discuss conflict in public, unless it involves a strictly public or political person. In the workplace, difficulties may be approached using subtle language in private. If a person has a difficulty with a superior, they may involve a colleague, so that they feel more comfortable broaching the subject. Even in this case, it will still be discussed using very circuitous language. It is important to hear to what is not being said, as well as to what is being said.

Motivating local colleagues

Local perspective

It all depends on profession and nature of the work but in most cases loyalty, fear of failure, money and working conditions.

Canadian perspective

Tanzanians are primarily motivated to perform well to earn a salary so that they fulfill their family obligations, which can be very heavy. In Tanzania, the family structure is large and complex. Those with higher education and in a job where their education and experience is used will also be motivated by job satisfaction and commitment to the issues they work on. Prestige is based on the position they hold, the organisation they work with or their affairs with the public, which is also very important.

Recommended books, films & foods

Local perspective



In order to learn about Tanzanian people and their culture, the foremost thing to do is to break language barrier—that means to learn Swahili. Learning Swahili will free you from depending on a cultural interpreter and widen your scope of interaction with local people. You have to understand that in Tanzania there more than 120 ethnic groups and people live together share a lot stuff together as if they belong to the same ethnic group.

Canadian perspective

See the response to the next question.

In-country activities

Local perspective

While in Tanzania you can learn a lot about cultures through media spectrum. Try to follow popular programs on television, radio and magazines. Also, try to get involved in discussions or conversation on events from those programs.

Interaction with local people will assist your endeavour to get to know Tanzanian people and their cultures. The first step in that quest is to gain confidence and trust from those people. Start with your co-workers and neighbours. Attending local events such as weddings or funeral ceremonies will help in building such confidence. Try to participate by doing some work during such events. I would encourage to contact any Tanzanian who lives nearby to take you some places where you might want to go or visit.

Lastly, concerning a cultural interpreter, it is very hard to tell how to pick one. In most cases this person should speak more than three languages i.e. English, Swahili, and local/tribal language of that particular area. The person should not know exactly what you looking for, or your intentions or objectives. If you let him/her know or guess what are your primary objectives, then he will tend to influence you with his/her ideas.

A cultural interpreter should be a respectable and a likeable person in that community you are living in. Association with someone who seemed as an outcast or feared person or manipulative will not be helpful for your research. You can start by selecting or choosing a temporary cultural interpreter for a period of time while you are still new at the place. Then you can select the second one for the remaining period of your research when you have tough questions to tackle on the study.

Canadian perspective

Please note that many of these activities may have changed. There is a tourism guide published every two months with up-to-date information. Look for it at the major hotels such as the Sheraton, the Sea Cliff or the Peacock Hotels.


Bagamoyo Arts Festival, usually every September in Bagamoyo, a town north of Dar es Salaam and Music Festival of the Dhow Countries in Stone Town, Zanzibar—a must every year.


Acacia Gallery, Gallery Bamayu, Karibu Arts and Crafts, Miembeni Art Gallery, Mwarikas Art Gallery, National Arts Council Gallery, Nyumba ya Sanaa, Raza Art Gallery, Tanzania Tourist Corporation, Zanzibar Rout.


National Museum of Tanzania, National Museum of Zanzibar, National village Museum.

Cultural institutions

Arusha Cultural Heritage Center, Bagamoyo College of Arts, Nyumba ya sanaa, Tanganyika Library, The National Arts Council, The National Arts Council, Ministry of Labour, Culture and Social Welfare, University of Dar es Salaam, National Arts Council (Basata), The National Museum of Dar es Salaam, Bagamoyo College of Art, Butimba Teachers College, Zanzibar Cultural Centre (At the old fort), Stone Town Cultural Centre.

If you are in Dar es Salaam, see the British Council for art exhibits, concerts, film and video showing. The best way to learn about the culture and the people is to take up at least some of the many invitations you are likely to receive to go to someone’s house for dinner, to send their daughter/cousin/niece (if you are female) to show you around, to visit a friend, to go to a wedding.


Join the British Council Library and take advantage of their vast collection of books showcasing national and regional authors. One good author is Abdulrazak Gurna.


Some of the better newspapers are The Guardian and The East African (regional).


The Mozart Café at the Oysterbay Hotel and Shops—good salads and coffee and hanging space; and the Sea Cliff Hotel—nice bar/restaurant overlooking the Indian Ocean


The US Marine House show more or less current movies on Wednesday nights. Bring your passport or similar ID. The British Council has movies from time to time. Local movie theatres show kung fu, action or Indian films.

Everyone around you can be a "cultural interpreter" if you pay attention and listen closely. Tanzanians are happy to help and explain things if you ask or simply listen. You can also ask a friend or colleague to tell you whenever you say something odd or to explain what you may have trouble understanding around you.

National heroes

Local perspective

Our first President, the late Julius Nyerere and former Prime Minister, the late Edward Sokoine. These are the only leaders who worked very hard for the sake of our poor peasants and for the country as a whole without being involved in dubious or questionable deals.

Canadian perspective

Julius "Mwalimu" Nyerere, who brought the country to independence and was the first president of the country, is a very important person. National mourning over a period of days marked his death and his legacy continues to be an important influence on the country. However, he is not everybody’s national hero, as some Tanzanians - now in exile - were subject to repression because they did not agree with his government.

Shared historical events with Canada

Local perspective

Not to my understanding, but I know that our first President Nyerere was an avid, friend and admirer of your former late Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau.

Canadian perspective

No events that I can think of. Canadians may sometimes be identified as Americans, so information on current perception of Americans is important to keep in mind. The American Embassy in Dar es Salaam and Nairobi were both bombed in 1999, leaving some tension in its wake.


Local perspective

Canadians are regarded as honest and good people as far as I understand. CIDA being one of the popular foreign aid donors makes Canadians more popular in Tanzania.

Canadian perspective

Tanzanians do not appreciate being compared or confused with Kenyans, much like Canadians do not like to be amalgamated with people from the United States. Such a situation might create difficulties in establishing rapport with a new acquaintance.

About the cultural interpreters

Local interpreter

Your cultural interpreter was born in Shinyanga, Tanzania, the second of 10 children. He was raised in the towns of Dodoma and Mwanza in the central and North west of Tanzania until the age of 17. He then moved to Dar es Salaam to continue his studies, and later to Belgium. There he graduated with Masters of Architecture from the Catholic University of Leuven. Afterwards, your cultural interpreter immigrated to Canada to live and work in Toronto. He is currently living in Toronto and working as a software quality assurance analyst. He is married with one child.

Canadian interpreter

Your cultural interpreter was born and raised in Guatemala until age 15. She then completed an International Baccalaureate at the United World College of the American West in New Mexico, USA. She immigrated to Canada in 1992 and completed a BA in Comparative Development Studies and Women's Studies at Trent University in Peterborough, Ontario. A year later, after travelling to Asia and working in Eastern Europe, she moved to Dar es Salaam, Tanzania to work with Women Advancement Trust, a Tanzanian non-governmental organisation. She was the first foreigner that the organisation had worked closely with, which proved to be an exciting challenge for all of them. She currently works in international development, managing projects on peace, democracy and governance. She lives in Ottawa currently and continues to travel and work in Africa.

Related information


Intercultural Issues are intended to provide snapshots of the overall social and cultural norms as well as the workplace environment that a Canadian might face working in a specific country. For each country, two perspectives are provided: one by a Canadian and the other by a person born in the selected country. By comparing the "local point of view" with the "Canadian point of view", you will begin to form a picture of that country's culture. We encourage you to continue your research using a variety of other sources and to use Triangulation as an evaluation process. Although cultural informants were asked to draw on as broad a base of experience as possible in formulating their answers, these should be understood as one perspective that reflects the particular context and life experiences of that person; they are not intended to be a comment on any particular group or society.

You may disagree with or object to the content of some responses. This is to be expected given the complexity of the subject and the problems associated with speaking generally about an entire country and its people. We would encourage you to share your experiences; your contributions will help to make Country Insights a richer environment for learning.

The content of Country Insights in no way reflects official policy or opinions of the Government of Canada, Global Affairs Canada or the Centre for Intercultural Learning.

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