From Finland to Tanzania

A nursing adventure

Cultural differences

No exchange blog would be complete without saying something about the cultural differences between Finland and Tanzania.

I’ve been here long enough now to get over the culture shock and go with the flow.  If you come to Tanzania, you will realize a few things:

1. Everything is ‘pole pole’ (slowly slowly) – Time management goes out of the window somehow.  If you arrange a meeting at 9am, it won’t actually be 9am.  You might get there before lunch, though.  So, I have spent a looot of time waiting for things to happen.  Then everything else is late for the rest of the day. Even small things like going to the atm or taking a bus to  work seems to take five times longer than at home.

In the beginning, it bothered me so much as in Finland, we are very punctual and it is a big no-no to be late for work or to anywhere, actually.  Now, I quite enjoy knowing that wherever I go, i will get there…..eventually 🙂 You never know where you’ll end up or when!

Also, when someone says ”I’m coming’, they’re not actually coming.  They mean that they might just be leaving their house and they might stop by somewhere then come.  It means between 20 minutes and 1 hour 🙂  On rare occasions, I get into trouble when someone actually turns up on time as I just assume I still have maybe half an hour!

2. Everything is ‘pole pole’, except for traffic (in Dar)

Maybe I have mentioned this before, but the traffic is crazy, dangerous and and fast.  There are traffic jams all the time and people drive as fast as they can and will do just about anything to get a bit ahead in the queue.

Also, sadly, drink driving is quite normal here and I have seen accidents on the roads and patients in the hospitals so many times. The police are not good at enforcing the rules (I don’t even know what the rules are)

3. People are so inviting, friendly and warm…….

In the beginning, this confused me a lot!  Living in Finland, people can be distant and not so inviting to strangers.  Here in Tanzania, everyone will say hello, shake your hands (for a very long time), share their food with you and offer drinks.

4. ……But be prepared to be called ‘mzungu'(white person/foreigner). All the time.

No matter where you are, at work, in a bar, at the beach or just walking down the street, people of all ages will shout ‘mzungu’ at you.  In the beginning, it was a bit unnerving and annoying and it didn’t feel so good.  But it is  almost always people being friendly and just distinguishing you from all the Tanzanians around 🙂

5. There is so much inequality

Everywhere you look there is inequality in wealth and in terms of health.  Tanzania has a lot of positive things about it, tourism etc but it feels like the money doesn’t get to normal people. There can be a large expensive hotel with beautiful beaches and expensive food and next door to it is a village where people literally have nothing.  Being in Bahari Beach which is located outside the city centre and not in any real tourist areas really gives you the chance to see how people live.  I think that tourists are sheltered from how life is really like here when they spend their time in nice hotels, being on safari or in Zanzibar and don’t meet many Tanzanian people.