Culture Shock in Tanzania

I have only ever travelled within the Western hemisphere. So, I knew before I went to Tanzania that being there, I would experience some sense of culture shock. I didn’t quite feel it until the second day we were there but as I woke up to bird sounds I had never felt before, I could tell that this trip would be unlike anything I had ever experienced before. There were countless things about Tanzania that were different than what I am used to here in the United States. First of all, water. Water is so much more precious of a commodity in Tanzania than here because Tanzanians don’t have easy access to clean water. We couldn’t use tap water to brush our teeth and we had to boil tap water before washing our hands or our faces. Also, the host family I was staying with didn’t have any running water in their house. So, we learned how to take a bucket bath! Bucket baths are actually very fun. You have one big bucket full of water and a smaller cup that you use to scoop with. You stand, bare naked and freezing, and wash yourself one cup at a time. Other people weren’t as enthusiastic but I really did enjoy bucket baths. Another thing that gave me culture shock was the traffic in Tanzania. In Arusha, the town we were located in, there is one major road that runs straight through the center of town and small dirt roads that break off of it. People in Tanzania DRIVE ON THE LEFT! I had to stop myself so many times from telling our driver he was on the wrong side of the road! Also, there aren’t any traffic lights and people can pass at anytime they want. Countless times, we would pass someone during oncoming traffic and there would be three cars next to each other at one time. There are also motorcycle taxis called Boda Boda that dodge in and out of the cars. It’s like traffic you see in action movies but never truly experience. It was positively fascinating. Because of the spread out nature of the roads, the neighborhood I lived in was far away from school and my family didn’t have a car. Therefore, we walked to school! I was completely unused to this because at OU I lived right on campus, under 10 minutes away from any place I could possibly need to be. Our walk was 45 minutes and it wove on dirt roads through shops and homes and schools. I really enjoyed this aspect of the Tanzania that I got to experience as well. It was refreshing and gave me the opportunity to observe daily Tanzanian life. There are hundreds of other parts of Tanzanian culture that I had to learn to adapt to. However, many of them are subconcious so I can’t put them into words. My entire experience in Tanzania was a learning experience and I can’t wait to go back and experience it all again!

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