Top Ten Tanzanian quirks

25 Jan

The drunken priest in Mbalizi talked with great gestures about the united Tanzania. “The student in the far north of Tanzania can study in the south. And the student in the far south of Tanzania can study in the north.”

He leaned back and clenched his podgy fist, and told us about how he noticed a pickpocket pinching his mobile, bided his time, then smashed 9 of his teeth out with a single punch.

Regardless of this epic left hook, the Tanzanian national character, I’ve been told, is primarily peaceful. The 120 tribes united under the Tanzanian flag are still getting to know each other, because clearly the Tanzanians have a more complex national character than simply ‘peaceful’. And after just over 4 weeks here, I’ve noticed some particularly Tanzanian quirks:

Tanzanians love:

1. Greetings. Constantly wondering how everybody is doing, every time you see them? And their business/family/football team? Can’t resist the urge to check? Then you’re Tanzanian, my friendly friendly friend.

2. Listening to their own ringtones. If you’re Tanzanian: Don’t answer your phone, Enjoy the ringtone!

3. Warm beer or soda. Don’t ask me why. Sadists if you ask me.

4. Blaring the top 2 tunes on repeat into the streets, regardless of damaged speakers reducing the song to thumping white noise, or your neighbour doing the same thing 5 ft away. A national pasttime.

5. The Premier League. There’s more Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Arsenal, Tottenham and Liverpool graffiti, emblems and shirt wearing supporters here than there are wildebeest in the Serengeti migration.

6. Mishikaki. 3 pieces of anonymous meat or liver barbequed on a stick. 500Tsh (20p). Lahvely. You can find it anywhere and everywhere. P.S. What do you call 3 people on a motorbike?

7. Konyagi. ‘The spirit of the nation’. The non-muslim Tanzanians love a few packets of the 35% proof sugar cane spirit, sold in 100ml sachets (1000TSh / 40p). It’s great with Stoney Tangawizi, a decent bottle of ginger beer you can buy in most places.

8. Hiring Masai as security. It makes sense. They carry heavy topped sticks and big knives and when they fight, they use them. Also, like many of us, all they ask for in return is enough money to play pool and drink Konyagi in their time off.

9. Trotting around Dar es Salaam with a big plate of squid like a sommalier carrying hors d’euvres. Splendid it is too. You take a toothpick, prod around until you find a big bit, skewer your calamari and dip it in spicy tomato sauce. One piece is 200TSh (8p).

10. Getting annoyed with foreigners who don’t know Kiswahili. Tanzanians can be like the French in this respect. If you don’t at least attempt to speak Kiswahili, then you’ll cause offence. I can respect that. Although, often enough, a man will approach you and hold your hand for 5 minutes while telling you, in Kiswahili, why you should improve your Kiswahili (if, like me, you still haven’t learnt the Kiswahili for ‘give me a break, mate. I’m doing my best’, it’s best to nod and say ‘ndio’ (yes), ‘poa’ (cool), ‘kuku’ (chicken), ‘asante’ (thanks) and then ‘badaaye’ (see you later).


One Response to “Top Ten Tanzanian quirks”

  1. luke January 26, 2012 at 3:37 pm #


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