Local traditions and culture in Tanzania

  • A Maasai woman Ngorongoro crater
    A Maasai woman Ngorongoro crater
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    Maasai herder
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Most Viewed Local Customs in Tanzania

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo

    Water

    by MalenaN Updated Jun 11, 2003

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    Many people in Tanzania don't have running water in taps at home. They get the water from a diggged well or from a hole digged in a dry riverbed.
    It's incredible how the women can carry a bucket full of water on the head.
    So much hard work to get something that many of us take for granted.

    Asunta and Veronica  are fetching water

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    Peoples - Languages - Religions

    by Rawicz Updated Mar 25, 2003

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    East Africa - it is a land of tremendous variety. The 150 million people who live there are divided into more than 350 ethnic groups. Tanzania alone has about 125 such groups. In Kenya, there are about 40 different groups, ranging from the Kikuyu, well represented in Nairobi’s modern business district, to the Masai, a pastoral people who feed primarily on the milk and blood of their herds.
    Not surprisingly, the languages of Eastern Africa are also numerous. While they basically fall into several major language families, the subfamilies and local tongues boost the number into the hundreds.
    The Masai of southeastern Africa believe in a creator called ’Ng ai, who places a guardian angel by each Masai as a protection. At the moment of death, the angel takes the warrior’s soul to the hereafter.

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    Children are watching you!

    by queenminka Written Jan 24, 2003

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    The people are extremely friendly. In regions with less tourism they are still not used to see white people, so you become a lot of interest. Especially for the children it is very exciting to see white people, and so you get proclaimed over the streets before you see yourself anybody or the village. On the photo, the guys presented us fresh young coconut directly from the palm.

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    This is a photo of a girl I...

    by Jacksprat Written Sep 13, 2002

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    This is a photo of a girl I met in Iringa in October 1999. I spent a lot of time with her family....collecting water with the children and cooking meals with the mum. One evening I went to visit, and the father had just returned from being away looking after his cattle for a few weeks. He brought back 3 eggs and about 1 pint of milk. The mother insisted on cooking the eggs for me, it was so awkward...Numani (3) started crying because she wanted to have some egg. I wanted to share it with them, but the mother insisted I don't. I appreciated it, but in the back of my mind I was thinking - 'I could go back to SA and eat as many eggs as I want, and here I am'.
    Basically if you eat the food they offer you, it means that eyes you have accepted them.

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  • You will see notices...

    by judiasalsera Written Sep 8, 2002

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    You will see notices everywhere asking tourists to dress modestly. This is not enforced but will be appreciated. Most of the population of Zanzibar is Muslim but they are Ismailia, i.e. quite liberal. Sunbathing topless or nude is a no-no.

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    Swahili is the common language...

    by AJ_Vancouver Updated Aug 26, 2002

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    Swahili is the common language and there are more than 50 or more local tribal languages, Here are some e.g in the national language swahili---
    Kwanza= first (also African American new year)
    Jambo=Hello,Hi.
    habari gani=what's up or how are you.
    Shillingi gapi=How much?
    Kwaheri=Bye
    etc,etc.

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    What intrigues me the most in...

    by jaybird199 Written Aug 25, 2002

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    What intrigues me the most in my travels is the difference in culture. Obviously,being American,the Tanzanian culture was WAY different than my own! But isn't that the beauty of traveling? While I found some things to be frustrating,others were just wonderful. The biggest things I noticed were that the Tanzanian in general are the most generous and kind people you'll ever meet. Learn some words in Swahili and they will love you! Of course they will laugh,but oh well! Simple phrases can come in handy like: 'Choo iko wapi?'=Where is the bathroom. 'Habari!'=basic greeting for hello,which means what is the news? (Jambo is a phrase not really used by locals,only tourists. I personally wouldn't use it! But thats me!) 'Nzuri sana'=very good 'Karibu'=welcome 'Safari njema'=safe trip. 'Maji'=water(a HUGE necessity in TZ). Other things I noticed were that women in general shouldn't wear shorts unless in a resort. There is a large Muslim population here and that is offensive to them. So respect them. When shaking a Tanzanian's hand,shake ONLY with the right hand,not the left.(I think that is how it goes!) The left(?) hand is reserved for personal...usages! Also,when asked for money or chocolate,don't think they are rude,its their culture to be forward. I was told that some honestly think that money grows on trees in America and Europe! So don't be alarmed if you are stolen from. They would never think of stealing from their own,but they feel that you owe them money. Anyways,also,I was called Mzungu,or when in a group of people Wazungu. They mean white person,or white people respectively. I am not sure how rude they consider this,but many of the missionaries and the friends I had that lived there told me to respnd by saying Waafrika to them,which means Africans. And also,if in a remote are...get used to being stared at-especially by young children! I had some that wanted to touch my hair and my skin all the time! Here is a picture that my friend took(I was behind him) of children and their cars. They make these magnificent cars and trucks and bicycles out of wood! Some even have suspension! I really admire certain aspects of Tanzanian ingenuity!

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  • Imbri's Profile Photo

    This goes anywhere in the...

    by Imbri Written Aug 25, 2002

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    This goes anywhere in the world, so I’m going to mention it under every country. Never
    photograph people without asking them first. It’s rude and disrespectful. By all means
    photograph your friends, and get to know local people, but remember that people are not tourist
    attractions. They don’t exist solely to give you a more “authentic experience” and provide
    excellent photo opportunities.

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  • Imbri's Profile Photo

    Tanzania has a very strong...

    by Imbri Written Aug 25, 2002

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    Tanzania has a very strong Muslim presence, especially on the Island of Zanzibar. Although veils
    are not required, and local women often don’t wear them, it’s still important to dress
    conservatively. In Stone Town, Zanzibar, they receive a huge amount of tourists every year, so
    they may be used to seeing girls wander around in tank tops and shorts. But being used to
    something isn’t the same as appreciating it. Women will find that dressing in sarongs or light
    loose trousers will bring less negative attention, and will also make local people more likely to
    engage with them in genuine conversation. Whether you’re male or female, watch what other
    people wear, and try to model your own clothes on them.

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  • Imbri's Profile Photo

    Tanzanian women, like most...

    by Imbri Updated Aug 25, 2002

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    Tanzanian women, like most African women, work extremely hard, long hours. It isn’t unusual to
    see a heavily pregnant woman with an infant tied to her back and an enormous bundle balanced on
    her head; sometimes she is accompanied by a man who carries nothing. Nothing frustrates me
    more than the old racist adage, “Africans are lazy”. I don’t know how anyone could say
    something so irrational after seeing a Tanzanian woman. Now, to get back to the cultural tip in
    this story... A Canadian woman I met was in a bus that broke down in Tanzania - not an unusual
    occurrence! Being a strong and healthy person, she stood up to join her husband and the rest of
    the men preparing to push the bus. Her arm was gripped by a woman and she was pulled back
    into her seat. When she tried to protest, the women around her frowned and shook their heads.
    When the men were no longer in the bus, her neighbour explained to her: “Women already have
    to do everything around here. If they know we can push busses, we’ll be doing that by ourselves
    too”. Something to think about! If you’re a woman in a broken-down bus, you may be doing a
    disservice to your sisters by helping out.

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    If someone should steal...

    by Imbri Written Aug 25, 2002

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    If someone should steal something from you on the street, think for a moment before you yell out 'thief'. In some places local people, frustrated with crime levels, have been known to attack the thief and beat him. Some thieves in Nairobi have been beaten to death. It's an ugly thought, but it happens. The upside to this is that your stuff is pretty safe in public areas in daylight; generally speaking, most would not dare snatch your bag (although pickpocketing might be a different story).

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  • Imbri's Profile Photo

    When greeting elders, try to...

    by Imbri Written Aug 25, 2002

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    When greeting elders, try to adopt the local custom, and say “shikamoo” (I respectfully greet
    you). I have found that elders really appreciate this, and will usually answer with an enthusiastic
    “Marahaba!” (I am delighted). Likewise, if a child says shikamoo to you, you should respond
    with marahaba.

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    In Swahili culture, it isn’t...

    by Imbri Written Aug 25, 2002

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    In Swahili culture, it isn’t rude to ask for something outright. It also isn’t rude to refuse a
    person’s request. If someone asks you for money or your camera, they will do so without
    embarassment; you should answer in the same way.

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  • be very careful and respectful...

    by chipeuno Written Aug 25, 2002

    be very careful and respectful when photographing any natives--always best to ask them 1st, most didn't seem to mind, it seemed to give them a kick--some, not so 'user-friendly' and would agree only if you give them something...money, or gift, or something

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  • Don't lose your temper. It...

    by mchangamfu Written Aug 25, 2002

    Don't lose your temper. It looks really bad and just reinforces stereotypes. Accept things (even change) with your right hand. Learn how to say 'Shikamoo' and use it to greet elders. Keep your legs covered, just like everyone else does, especially in Zanzibar, which is very conservatively Muslim despite its phenomenal beaches. Stripping down is OK on the beach, but walking through town in shorts will get you lots of nasty looks.

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Tanzania Local Customs

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