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A lesson about thinking flexibly from the baby clinic

Instead of learning about babies in Tanzania at the baby clinics yesterday, I learnt a lot about Tanzanian culture and myself.

For a start, I learnt the difference between wazungu treatment and wageni treatment. The first is for white people and it’s about making Tanzania look good to westerners; the second is for any visitor and it’s about hospitality. We got wazungu treatment at the first clinic we went to and were out in 5 mins; we got wageni treatment at the second one we went to.

being weighed

At the second one, we had more opportunity for interaction, but because I was feeling out of place and unsure, I read the situation negatively. Later, our language tutor explained that it wasn’t nearly as bad as I was thinking!

I thought: These other women who have to wait while I go straight in must resent me.
They were thinking: It’s polite to let this visitor go first, and I don’t mind waiting.

I thought: Why don’t the other mamas smile back? Are they trying to tell me they don’t want me here?
They were thinking: Don’t make eye contact; what if she speaks to me in English and I’m embarrassed because I can’t understand or respond?

I thought: Why won’t the nurse let me join the information class? Do they think I’m being a pain?
They were thinking: What if one of us says something this educated mzungu knows is wrong?

I thought: Why does the head nurse keep asking me if I want anything else? Is she trying to get rid of me?
She was thinking: If this mzungu doesn’t get everything she wants, I might get in trouble!

Categories: Tanzania Written by Tamie

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Tamie Davis

Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at

6 replies

  1. Ahhhh! Elliot has lovely red socks to keep his sweaty feet warm! Very culturally sesitive!


  2. Just thought I’d say how much I’m enjoying reading both your and Arthur’s posts. Your language seems to be making rapid progress. So interesting to read about how you’re experiencing Tanzania with all its differences. Communication is often a minefield even where language and culture is in common. You have many challenges, but such adventure and interest. Thanks for sharing and making it easier to pray.

  3. Naomi from CMS Australia suggested I read your blog and I love it. Praise God for you and your ministry. xx Sarah (CMS NSW & ACT)

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