Tanzanian habits part two

Tanzanian habits part two

tanzanian habits


As I explained in the previous article, a child has a certain number of ‘mamas’, inside and outside the family group. Looking things from this angle, the biological mama is in need of being recognized from the others.

The Tanzanian way to do this is very simple, although very effective.

They put the name of the first son/daughter after the word mama and it’s done.

When I go to visit Moody’s mother, I greet her with ‘Shikamoo, Mama Moody’, giving her the information that I respect her (shikamoo means more or less ‘I am at your feet’ and is a greeting reserved to older people) and that I perfectly know she is Moody’s mum.

During these meetings I also have the opportunity of creating new acquaintances with people from the neighborhood: friends, relatives and so on. This is quite an occasion in Tanzania, the occasion of asking personal details, of sharing something to eat and to drink, of coming in contact with a very complicated set of rules which regulate all kinds of relationships.

Very curious is the matter involving presents.

If you are invited for a dinner, for example, nobody obliges you to bring a present, as well as nobody obliges you NOT to bring it. Don’t be offended, though, if your host will not open it. Tanzanians consider very rude to show curiosity: this doesn’t mean they don’t appreciate your kindness. On the contrary, they do and are very grateful.

For what concerns families, eating all together doesn’t have so much importance.

It’s not a ‘must’, so to say, but if it happens it’s appropriate to activate Tanzanian good manners. First of all, as you eat with your hands in Tanzania, wash them before and after the meal. In fact, you use your right hand, the one employed for ‘clean’ things. Secondly, the food is often positioned in the center of the table so that everybody can reach it and share it.

tanzanian habits

Tanzanian house main entrance

tanzanian habits

Bathrooms and showers in the backyard

Eating much has the meaning of appreciating and burping that of satisfaction and nobody can leave the table before everyone has finished: it would be considered really rude.

Two among the most famous Tanzanian dishes are PILAU and BIRIANI.

Of Indian origin, they are made with meat, rice and many spices, but while Pilau has become a common dish, Biriani is usually prepared for special occasions.

On the coast, during meals, it is possible to taste a very good kind of tea, made with cardamom, ginger and, sometimes, vanilla.

Usually, in East Africa, tea is with sugar and a cup of tea with some bread and the leftovers from the lunch are the usual dinner.

Let’s finish this roundup of Tanzanian habits with a brief description of the ordinary Tanzanian house.

It consists of a main body divided into several small units, each one for a different family. Behind this building, at the end of the courtyard, there are the common shower and the toilet. It’s for this reason that everybody has a special pair of shoes, vyatu vya chooni, the shoes for the bathroom.

As you can see, even houses are thought to be shared in some way. Once again the community is central.

(… to be continued…)