Dar es Salaam

Habari? How is the news? My time in Tanzania so far has been exciting and jam-packed. We’ve established partnerships; learned some Swahili; collected survey data; met people from different parts of Tanzania and people from Senegal, Malawi, Botswana, Uganda, and South Africa; and we still have so much left to do in the coming weeks. A single summer is not nearly enough time to fully learn and understand a culture, but it has been great to get a glimpse.

One thing that you hear before coming to Tanzania is that greetings here are of the utmost importance. This one is true. If you take the time to go through a couple rounds of greetings with strangers—habari?—you are not wasting people’s time; you are showing that you care about them. Greetings are just one of many aspects of life here that shows Tanzania has a more collectivist culture than the United States. I am treated warmly here by total strangers.

Before I came here I was told that Dar es Salaam is a bustling international city. I knew that there was a strong Indian presence that dates back hundreds of years, and that the coastal language Swahili borrows heavily from Arabic. I knew to expect a lot of Americans and Europeans in the wealthier parts of town, such as the Masaki Peninsula, and that these areas would be quite different from the ones we would be studying. I knew that despite the impressive economic growth rates, there are stark economic disparities in Tanzania, as is the case in many developing countries. But I wasn’t shocked to learn that income inequality is higher in the United States than it is here. I didn’t expect that I would never go a day here without hearing Mandarin in public.

It’s an exciting time to be in Tanzania. One important component of our research is the rapidly-approaching presidential and parliamentary elections. Tanzania’s opposition parties will be uniting to field a single candidate for the first time to challenge the party that has been in power since the country gained independence in the 1960s. People will have a number of important items to consider when they go to the polls in October.

So this is the context in which our research is taking place. More on the research soon.

Comments

  1. This sounds like such an awesome experience. I am really integrated by the idea of greetings and their importance. Are there other customs that come along with these greetings? In addition to saying hi is it important to share a certain experience with the person like a beverage?