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Do's & Don'ts

There are cultural values which differ form one society to another and sometimes within the society itself. In order for a foreigner or visitor to live comfortably in the host society, he should be aware of these values. Listed below are some of the Tanzanian cultural values.


1. Greeting people

Greeting is one of the most important cultural aspects in Tanzania the foreigner should be aware of, since it might enhance or distort good relationship. If someone greets you, he means he respects you and he is ready to begin conversation at any time. If you need any help from someone, it is very important to greet him first or else you won't get help. If you don't greet your neighbors, it means you are not in good terms with them and if you are in a problem they won't help you.

2. Respecting elders
Tanzanians are very much age conscious. They try to respect their elders as much as they can. This is due to the fact that,, elders are considered to be wise and having a lot of knowledge. Also Tanzanians believe that elders have the power to curse any young person who shows misbehavior to them. For that reason Tanzanians try hard not to annoy the elders in anyway. They tend to give them first priorities in various situations i.e. giving them their seats in public transport, greet them, remove hat when talking to them, etc.

3. Shopping

DO bargain at the market and at the shop before paying for an item, you will have fun doing it. But modern shops have fixed prices.

BE tolerant when people come late to the meetings, it is not only because they have a lot of work but also the different concept they have on time and indicators of time they use.



1. Smelling food

Tanzanians value and respect those who cook food. And to the Tanzanian culture, women /wives cook food. Smelling food indicates that the food is bad and so the cook is. Therefore it is considered rude to sniff food. Sniffing anything implies that it is rotten or it smells bad. Most of the foreigners smell various things at the market when buying them. This is not common in our culture. In case you want to know if a fruit is ripe or not, you have to press on the fruit and if it is easily pressed in, then it is ripe and vice versa.


2. Index finger
In Tanzania people value and respect each other. The index finger is used to call dogs as dogs are not valued and from the Islamic religion, dogs are not allowed to get into a mosque because they are dirty. For that matter, calling a person using the index finger, is like calling him a dog. Also calling a person using the index finger shows arrogance or superior attitude. This is mainly because the colonialists used to call the natives by using the index finger. Not to be considered having the colonial mentality which people hate, better not use the index finger when calling people in Tanzania. Instead use the palm of your hand or if the one you want to call is far and cannot see you, use your hand to call him/her.

3. Public affection

Love is very much valued, respected as it is within love the African families have been brought up. And as love is related to sex, it is considered a private and very secret issue and it is not something to be displayed in public. Kissing and hugging in public is not common. However holding hands between two people of the same sex is considered proper as it signifies close relationship.




The following are some of the cross-culture topics KIU provides so as to help foreigners and visitors to Tanzania:

To work successfully in Tanzania, to know the difference from their own culture,to minimize their cultural shock, to have fun and to practice a different culture.


KIU cross culture orientation has been divided into two main areas:

Class room sessions e.g. Do's and Don'ts; How to Say 'No'; and gestures.

Secondly: Outings and Assignments eg. to attend local entertainment, activities and shopping.

Topics and Objectives

1. Do's and Don'ts:

The aim is to enable a trainees to understand the acceptable and unacceptable behaviors according to the culture.

2. Relationship:

Aims at making a trainees to be able to have good relationship with Tanzanian people.

3. Body language/gestures:

This will help them to recognize the body language, facial expression and hand gestures applied and later practice them.

4. Personal safety:

To enable the trainee to be aware of different circumstances during travelling in Tanzania eg. to be aware of thieves (presented by a role-play, followed by a discussion).

5. An introduction to cultures of Tanzania:

Here a trainee will get some ideas on Tanzanian culture and compare them with his/her customs

6. Traditional beliefs:
Trainees will be able to recognize different forms of superstitions due to cultural diversities (mainly beliefs and superstitions exist in the following forms: witchcraft and curse.

7. Traditional religions:

This will enable the trainees to understand how people used to worship different idols before the coming of Christianity and Islam.

8. Dressing /Clothing:
Since the trainees will live in Tanzania this session is very important to them , as they will learn the way to dress decently in our culture. The trainees will avoid dressing indecently while being together with Tanzanians, though in their culture that might be a decent cloth. So they will learn different types of clothes like "Khanga", "Kanzu" etc. also by "whom" and at what occasions should these cloth be worn.

9. Concept of Time:

Identify ways in which cultures differ in how people conceive and handle time. Tell how their concept of time affects their interactions with each other.

10. Attitudes towards work in Tanzania (workplace values and norms)
As foreigners will be working deligently with the Tanzanian communities in their workplaces, they need to be aware of the host country positions on key dimensions of culture that affect the workplace, e.g. personal and professional lives. In Tanzania workplaces it is impossible to separate personal and family matters from work. You may have to interrupt your work to take care of personal business. Personal and professional lives inevitably overlap. People will understand if you plead a family emergency. Relationships are given a higher priority than work itself. One can leave doing work and go to do something else either personal or not related to work.