Cultural Differences: Delights and Frustrations

There are of course an endless amount of cultural differences between here and the States, but there are some that make their appearance more often than others.

Delight: Tanzanians like to fill your cup of tea up to the very, very brim. One of my friends here actually made fun of me when I filled up my own cup, laughing about how Americans only fill their cups up halfway. Here, you have to take your first sip very carefully, preferably without even picking up the cup, because you will almost definitely spill some if you attempt to lift it. Tea is so delicious here though that I am more than happy about this cultural difference.

Frustration: This also tends to happen with plates of food. You will literally be served a mountain of food, and if you do not finish it and get seconds, they will often think that you didn’t like it and be a little offended. I spend a lot of my time saying, “Kilikuwa kitamu sana, lakini nimeshiba sana, siwezi kuongeza tena!” Translation: Oh it was so delicious but I am extremely full, I cannot add more food again.

Delight: Tanzanians often refer to one another as “Mama” or “Baba” and then tack on the name of their first born child, or you can pick any of their kids really, like “Mama Happy” or “Baba Luka”. This was a little confusing at first in the village because people would introduce themselves using their first name, but then we would never hear that name again. In fact, we have come to realize that many people do not know the real names of their friends and neighbors because they have always referred to them as Mama whoever, or Baba whoever.

Frustration: Lines. Oh, how I have come to miss the American respect for ‘the line’. At the stores, at the bus, at parties, where ever, there is very little respect for the line here. If you are waiting to pay for something at a duka (a small shop), people will just step right on in front of you to make their requests or to pay for their things. And they aren’t being rude, they are just doing what makes sense to them. But it is very, very frustrating. Often times, when we are getting off a bus, people start getting on the bus before letting everyone off. This makes absolutely no sense to me and drives me crazy, but there it is. ‘The idea of ‘cutting’ just isn’t a concept here. Maybe I will introduce it.

Delight: There is always time. People do not rush, because there is always more time. Oh you can’t come today? No problem, come another day. Oh you didn’t finish today? You can finish tomorrow.

Frustration: There is always more time, so there is no need to be on time, or even show up.

There are many more delights and frustrations that we encounter every day. But really, even the frustrations are delightful, if that makes any sense. We enjoy the differences between our cultures and have a lot of respect for the way Tanzanians live and their attitude towards life.

In other news, I had a little party at our house last week for the girls in our weekly class. We played charades, had a scavenger hunt, and played several other games all including some English vocab. I also made ‘American food’ for them, popcorn, sandwiches, lemonade and cake balls, which I think they enjoyed. I had about 18 girls come, which was a little overwhelming, but I think the party went well overall.

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Until next time!!