During our language classes, our tutor acted as cultural interpreter as well. One piece of advice he gave us was to think about what Australians do and then assume the opposite. Here are some ‘opposites’ we’ve been told about or discovered:
- if you want to protest your innocence, indignance or anger will get you nowhere. To the Tanzanian, people who are accused falsely remain calm because they know they have done nothing wrong.
- at a birthday party, don’t open presents publicly. Do it later. On the other hand, if you’re thanking a visiting speaker, make sure the presentation of the gift is public. Possibly include a dance to draw attention to the occasion.
- serve chai/tea at the start of the meal, not at the end.
- if you’re a bloke, holding hands with another man is a statement about heterosexuality – in the Tanzanian mind, you clearly are comfortable enough in your sexuality that you don’t have to be defensive.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.