Cultural Norms and Respect: Tanzanian Style

At Global Basecamps we are major advocates of knowing before you go, as evidenced here and here. In order to truly understand and appreciate another country’s culture it is important to learn about their social norms and the proper etiquette there. As you start your journey to explore another country, don’t you think it would be nice to know a little about where and what you are diving into? When you are packing for your much needed vacation I urge you to take some time to research the cultural expectations and norms common to your host country.

Over the next couple of weeks I will give you some extra helpful information on what to know before you go, starting with Tanzania cultural norms and expectations. I will give you some advice on how to be a green and respectable tourist.


Disregarding the cultural norms and customs of the country you are visiting is extremely offensive to the local people. Your waiter, taxi driver, tour guide, and the local people will be greatly appreciative of you making the extra effort to understand their culture and demonstrating this. Even if you think you have already read about the culture, make the extra effort and learn about a certain cultural tradition that they have to make your experience that much better, and gain a deeper understanding of the local people and customs. There are plenty of dos and don'ts that people should know about before taking their excursions across the world. Simply being respectful to the local people and showing that you want to learn about their culture and day to day way of life will go a long way in enhancing your cultural experience.

Tanzanian Culture Norms:

Tanzania is a harmonious culture that’s mostly based on a subtle but strong social code of respect and courtesy. Tanzania is a country that is extremely rich in traditions and culture and they treasure their heritage and pride. The official language in Tanzania is Swahili but many people speak English. Tanzanian people are known to be extremely friendly and polite.

Some important things to know before making your journey to Tanzania are:

Greeting People: In Tanzania, handshakes are extremely important in social etiquette. Most Tanzanians continue to hold hands throughout the entire conversation. Something to keep in mind is that the right hand is mostly used for eating where as your left hand is usually used for toilet duties. Try your best not to pass things with your left hand if possible. Lastly, when receiving an item from someone, receive the item in your right hand only or both hands.

Food: Tanzanians greatly value and respect the person who cooks the food. One rule to keep in mind is to not smell your food. Smelling your food indicates that the food is bad and so is the cook. In general, smelling anything implies that it is rotten or smells unpleasant. When offered food or drink in someone’s home don’t refuse, as this is considered rude. Take a small portion of it even if you are not hungry.


Clothing: The way you are dressed is highly valued in Tanzania. To respect the culture it is recommended to keep most of your body covered. You are able to dress much more casual while you are at home, but when going out in public you are expected to dress professionally. Tanzanians do not approve of tank tops, short shorts, ripped or dirty clothing.


Respect for elders: Tanzanian people are extremely conscious of age. Respect for their elders is very important within their culture. Tanzanians feel as if the older you are the more knowledgeable you are. Elders expect those younger than them to treat them with a high level of respect and appreciation.

Public affection: Public display of affections also known as PDA is frowned upon due to the fact that love is related to sex, which Tanzanians believe should be kept in private. Hugging and kissing in public is seen as offensive and rude, and should be done “behind closed doors”.


Tanzania has many amazing things to offer, including the beautiful snowy mountains of Kilimanjaro, the endless plains of the Serengeti and the flawless white beaches of Zanzibar. The country of Tanzania has the most wildlife of all of Africa and plenty of breathtaking experiences. The more time you take to respect the Tanzanian culture the better experience you will have overall.

Global Basecamps and our Tanzania inbound tour operating partner acknowledges the importance of sustainable tourism and cultural respect. Would you like to take part in one of our Tanzania eco tours? If you would like to book an independent tour in Africa and learn more about our eco friendly hotels and lodges, please fill out a custom tour form or call us at (866) 577-2462.

Can't get enough Africa? Are you in the very beginning planning stages of your trip? Great! We published an absolutely free travel guide to picking your perfect safari destination. Click below to download!

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Tags: Travel Tips, Know Before You Go, Tanzania, Sustainable Travel

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