What I have missed about living in Tanzania

When you live in Africa, many people from the West assume there must be so many things you miss about ________ (in my case, Canada) while you live overseas. And yes, while I’ll admit I do miss some things, other than PEOPLE (family, friends etc.) most of them are just small conveniences that make life a little easier (nicely paved roads, fast internet, very few power outages, etc.). Living in Tanzania I learn on a  daily basis what I really “need” to live a happy and full life – and it’s not that much. I am incredibly blessed for what I have and I am reminded of that every day.

I lived in Tanzania for two years, then we went back to Canada for 7 months and now we’re back in Tanzania for who knows how long – the foreseeable future for sure. Coming back for the second time after spending an extended time in Canada has caused me to see some things with fresh eyes again and appreciate them more. Here’s my list of what I have missed about living in Tanzania and am now enjoying since moving back here.

1. The food.

I do NOT miss all the fast food, quick fix, microwavable food in Canada. While I may have enjoyed eating some of it, mostly it made me feel bloated and yucky all the time. I always say – there is just TOO MUCH FOOD in Canada. Too many choices, endless options – most of them bad for my health. I am enjoying eating much simpler here in Tanzania. Very few processed foods, more natural choices, less variety but more consistency which is serving my health much better. I’m sure my body thanks me. I feel a lot better by the way too! And my wallet feels better too – as many of the natural fruits and vegetables and staple foods here are found in markets and are inexpensive, compared to trying to “eat healthy” in Canada where it can cost you a small fortune for fresh produce. 😉

2. A culture of Respect.

Respect is very important here. It is built right into the language. “Shikamo” is a common Swahili greeting here that shows respect. It is used when you are speaking to anyone in authority, or anyone who is older than you, or anyone whom you respect. It literally means, “I hold your feet.” Showing respect here is a valued part of daily life and I actually quite admire it. Children are taught from a very young age about respect because it’s just such an innate part of this culture. Respect is always a good idea; everyone has a need to feel respected and valued. I admire Tanzanian culture because of the way they place so much value on respect.

3. The Climate.

This is an obvious one. The weather! Can I say it loud and clear– I DEFINITELY do NOT miss WINTER! At all. Not even a little bit. You say, “not even at Christmas?!” And I say, I can look at pictures of beautiful snowy landscapes around Christmas Time. 🙂 I am loving the weather especially here in Mwanza. Dar es Salaam was quite humid and hot which was not ideal (though preferred to winter). However, Mwanza is just right. Warm, but not nearly so humid, cool in the mornings and evenings especially now during the raining season. It’s literally my ideal climate here. And it is just beautiful – Mwanza is right on Lake Victoria and there are such gorgeous views.

Sunset on Lake Victoria

Sunset on Lake Victoria

Beautiful Lake View

Beautiful Lake View


4. The “Slower” Pace.

I say, “slower” because the longer I live over here the more I think our crazy, busy, pack every minute, pace in the West is just a bit too much! So while the pace here might be viewed by outsiders as “slow” I think maybe it’s a more natural, healthy pace to life. I’ll admit – at first, coming from Canada to here, the change of pace can be frustrating. But once you have gotten used to it and changed your expectations accordingly, it’s really quite nice. Instead of being frustrated by how long seemingly simple tasks can take, I choose to be thankful and to relax; it’s a bit relieving actually. It takes the pressure off. No one is expecting you to accomplish 10 tasks a day from your “To Do List” (or even 3 for that matter). No one will care if you are half an hour (or 2 hours) late for a meeting or event – that’s just life. There’s traffic and unforeseen obstacles that eat up time and everyone is ok with that. You will only be frustrated if you expect to accomplish everything you would do in a typical day in Canada, here. But if you expect to just do what you can and move at the pace everyone else is moving, you’ll enjoy!

5. The Sense of Community.

I do love the sense of being part of a bigger community here. Everyone looks out for one another. Children are everyone’s responsibility, babies get passed around to everyone, you’re expected to help others, but they are also expected to help you when you’re in need. The idea is, “It’s not me in need of help today, but it could be me tomorrow – so I’ll lend a helping hand.” Coming from a much more individualistic culture (which of course has its advantages too), I find this refreshing.

6. The Singing.

Music and singing and dancing are a big part of most African cultures and I personally really enjoy it. People here sing all the time – when they’re working, when they’re walking down the street, when they meet in groups, at church, in homes. And you don’t have to be a great singer – no one judges you. EVERYONE sings. 🙂

7. Learning a new Language.

I am enjoying being submersed in Swahili again and continuing to learn. Learning a new language is challenging, but it’s also very rewarding – and being able to communicate with people here in THEIR language is wonderful! People appreciate that you have taken time to learn how to communicate in a way they can understand, and you in turn get to know people on a different level when you can communicate directly with them in their own language. In Mwanza there is very little English used, so I am learning quickly and I am thankful for that. The best way to learn is just to jump right in!

8. Bartering.

I have missed bartering at the markets, in shops and on the streets here. Very few items here have a set or firm price. You can almost always barter. I think this is great. And it’s expected that you will barter here for most items, so why not get the best price you can? 🙂

9. The Hospitality.

I am thankful that I also come from a pretty hospitable culture in Canada – I would say most Canadians are quite welcoming. But I do love and enjoy the hospitality of Tanzanians. They do their best to make you feel most welcome.  If you visit someone’s house you can’t leave without at least drinking some chai (tea). (Or a whole meal). Tanzanians love visitors and you can tell.

10. The greetings.

I have missed the extended greetings! Tanzanians take time to greet one another. It’s not unusual to spend at least 5 minutes when you first meet someone just on greetings. “How are you?” “How has your day been?” “How are you children?” How is your work going” “Did you wake up well?”….the list goes on and on.  I think it’s great. It’s wonderful to take time with people instead of saying a rushed “Hey, How’s it going” as you quickly hurry on to finish the next item on your “To Do List.” (Don’t get me wrong, I’m still a huge fan of “To Do Lists” I just don’t really make them too time sensitive anymore ;)).

11. The Celebrations.

Finally, Tanzanians know how to throw a PARTY! “Sharehe” as they are called here, are super popular. Any excuse to celebrate with food and music and they’re on it! I won’t even get into what weddings are like here! 🙂 (That’s for another blog). I just like that attitude of being quick to get together and have a good time. Celebrations are wonderful and I think they should be a frequent occurrence.

Well, there’s my list of the things I’ve missed and the things I love about living in Tanzania. 11 – just because. 🙂


Have you ever lived in another culture? What did you love most? What do you miss? 


7 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. kmizen
    Oct 21, 2014 @ 16:46:12

    Love this Jade! Thanks for sharing. So glad that you are all settling in well!


  2. Evelyn Kenna
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 00:33:31

    So happy to read this today. I have been thinking about you lately and am in many ways somewhat envious of your adventures. I keep you in my prayers and I am sure that the very important work you are doing there at Village of Hope will be multiplied a thousand times over, for both you, your family and for the country you serve in. Blessings to you all!


  3. Claire Cormier.
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 02:57:57

    So happy for you & I think that from what I read, I would love it there too.


  4. jadekenya
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 09:55:36

    Thanks everyone for the comments. Appreciate your prayers for us 🙂


  5. Crispin Rugemalira
    Oct 22, 2014 @ 10:00:15

    I enjoyed reading more on The “Slower” Pace 🙂


    Oct 22, 2014 @ 13:04:01

    I honestly enjoyed reading this piece. I must say that you have a keen eye on your surroundings. You description of the the Tanzanian culture is so spot on and enticing too. it makes one think of coming to visit soon.


  7. jadekenya
    Oct 23, 2014 @ 09:01:13

    Karibu Sana Tanzania Gilbert 🙂


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