Tanzania Culture Club

I have to be honest here.  I love Tanzania culture.  Every time I go I get this feeling of coming home after a long time away.  The warmth of the welcome, the breadth of the smiles I see on people faces always seems to amaze me.   Tanzanian culture combines the warmth you might expect from Hawaii, the family feeling of Italy and the sense of humor of Ireland all rolled up into one.  I've never met a group more open and welcoming to new members, more eager to laugh and more happy to see you. Now that I'm doing more talks about Kilimanjaro and Tanzania I thought I should study the culture in a bit more detail.  So I picked up Tanzania Culture Smart: the essential guide to customers & culture by Quintin Winks. The book outlines a number of big cultural ideas and customs and even explores how those customs have evolved over time and affected the country's history.  One aspect I found most fascinating is the cultural idea of undugu.  Wink points out that Undugu means "brotherhood,"  and includes the notion of extended family, generosity, consideration and compassion toward family and the community.   Most visitors to Tanzania can immediately feel this warm, community feeling and it has become one of the most treasured parts of any time spent in the country. But Winks goes on to explore how this idea of a community family also led to the creation of many socialist policies by Tanzania's first president after independence, Julius Nyerere.   Unfortunately,  the policies were a terrible failure and today Tanzania is still fighting to dig its way out of the hole it dug for itself in the 60s and 70s.  But the story isn't all bad.  In 1985 when it was clear his policies weren't working Nyerere voluntarily stepped down as president and peaceful elections were held (you don't see much coverage on TV for peaceful elections in Africa).  Also, Tanzania today is a relatively harmonious society with a mix of christians, muslims and others like the Maasai living together in relative peace. If you're planning to go to Tanzania I highly recommend you pick up a copy of Tanzania Culture Smart: the essential guide to customers & culture.  It's a relatively short book and can be read in chunks (I read it on the bus to work in the morning).  And now that I've read it I really want to see other parts of the country I missed while too focused on the mountain or safari.  He makes a great case for visiting Dar es Salaam as well as almost any smaller village you can.  Take a look.  You may find it altering your travel plans.
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