The largest country in eastern Africa, Tanzania consists of the famed Spice Islands, 15 awe-inspiring national parks, and over 120 ethnic groups coexisting peacefully. The national persona embodies that hakuna matata—no worries—mentality and will give you a sense of warmth and tranquility from the moment you arrive.

Learn About Tanzania

Widely considered the birthplace of mankind, Tanzania has since been home to a wide variety of cultural and ethnic groups. The country’s borders were formed in 1890 when the European powers divided east Africa into ‘spheres of influence.’ The name “Tanzania” came about when Tanganyika merged with Zanzibar after independence. If you’re a history buff, check out everything you’ll need to know about Tanzania’s ancient & modern-day history.

About 80% of Tanzania’s work force is employed in the agriculture industry. Coffee is Tanzania’s largest export, but they also grow tea, cotton, cashews, and other cash crops. Tanzania is also known for the precious gemstone, tanzanite, which is only found within its borders.

The largest tree in the world, the Baobob tree, is one of the most common sites on the Tanzanian landscape. This incredible giant succulent has also been dubbed the “Tree of Life” because approximately 80% of its trunk is made of water, a source that communities used rely on heavily during Tanzania’s dry season. To this day, the Baobab tree still has many uses. Its wood is soft and fire–resistant and can be used to make soap, rubber, glue, and various medicines. The fruit it produces contains tons of Vitamin C, Vitamin A, calcium, and antioxidants such as iron and potassium. In the UK, its flesh is now being added to gin. With its many uses, it truly is the “Tree of Life!”

Literally translated, Bagamoyo means “lay down your heart.” You might think that it is a sleepy little beach town, but don’t be fooled! Originally the capital of German East Africa, this bustling little beach oasis has all of the makings of a wonderful and welcoming city. The kindhearted community, fascinating history, and beautiful scenery all add to Bagamoyo’s appeal, but this little gem won’t remain a local secret for long!

Cultural Do’s and Don’ts

Entering a new culture is an exciting and challenging experience. And just as you bring your own culture to share, it’s important to be open and respectful to the culture of those you’ll meet during your travels. You’ll often find that you have a much more positive experience if you are aware of and take into account cultural norms when meeting new people and getting to know your new community.

  • Learn some basic Swahili phrases
  • Address people using the familial Swahili terms
  • Bow when greeting your elders
  • Embrace the hakuna matata lifestyle
  • Take yourself too seriously
  • Forget to bargain in the markets
  • Use the local buses, called Dala Dalas
  • Wear clothing that is culturally insensitive

For Disney fans! Whether you watched it when you were little or just last week, none of us could forget Disney’s beautiful coming-of-age story about Simba, a young lion, who saves his kingdom from his evil uncle, Scar. From the Swahili language to the breathtaking landscape, almost all of the inspiration for the movie came from East Africa.

Culture Shock

Picture this: You’re living in a country far from home. You can’t understand the language, and you’re trying to order food, but everything seems to be moving so slowly! Why can’t it just be like in your home country: fast and efficient?

Sometimes, these and other frustrations can build up, and you may even become angry or annoyed at with this new and unfamiliar place, its cultural norms, and its people. If this happens to you, you might be experiencing culture shock.

Culture shock can be a normal part of traveling to a new country, but it might surprise you that you can also encounter reverse culture shock when you return home. While everyone experiences some degree of culture shock, the impact that it has on your experience depends on how well prepared you are to handle its different phases. Here are some tips and tricks to get you assimilated (and re-assimilated once you’re back home) so you can enjoy every moment of your journey.

"I - I hardly know, Sir, just at the present," Alice replied rather shyly, "at least I know who I was when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then."
- Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland

  • Have a sense humor.
    Try to see something of value in every new experience you have. While it can be challenging in the moment, try to keep it all in perspective. The ability to laugh and go with the flow are two key tools to coping with initial culture shock.
  • Expect differences.
    In any new culture, there will be some differences. If you’re prepared for there to be challenges and differences before you arrive in-country, it can make a world of difference in how you adjust.
  • ...but look for what’s the same.
    You will likely encounter differences in cultures, but you might not immediately realize the similarities. Take a moment to appreciate those attributes that make us more alike than different.
  • Keep learning.
    Immersing yourself in a new culture is a constant education. So continue making an effort to learn and understand what you’re experiencing.

Language Skills

Living and working within your new community is a great way to learn the local language. Whether you’re an advanced speaker or just learning a few key phrases, you’ll enjoy CCS-organized language lessons during your time in-country to help you through your journey. Here are a few important phrases to learn before you depart for your volunteer program. Even if your pronunciation isn’t perfect (yet), give it a try! Your attempts to connect with new friends in the local language will always be appreciated.

Here are a few key phrases to get you started:
JamboHelloMambo?What’s up?
Habari gani?How are you?Lala fofofoSleep like a log
NzuriGoodPoa kickizi kama ndiziCool, crazy like a banana
TafadhaliPleaseHakuna MatataNo worries
AsanteThank youNipe tano!High five!
Familial Terms*:
*You can use these terms at any time, but they are especially useful if you don’t know someone’s name!

Intro to Swahili:
Basic Level

As with learning any new language, reading phrases is helpful. But listening is one of the best ways to grasp sounds and vocabulary. Click below to hear Country Director Mama Thea begin your first Swahili language lesson.

Ready for the next level? Practice your Swahili with these online sites: » »

Recommended Reading and Films

We believe that travel and firsthand encounters are the BEST education. But there are also plenty of resources to help you learn more about the history, travel opportunities, culture, stories, and language of Tanzania so you can begin to immerse yourself even before you arrive. Here are just a few of our favorites to get you started:

Travel & Leisure: Tanzania »
CCS Blog: Tanzania »
YouTube: Tanzania »

Free Time

Between volunteering, cultural activities, navigating a new language, and immersing yourself in a brand-new culture, you’ll still have plenty of time to explore the local area and even the country during evenings and weekends. Free time is an important part of your experience for independent exploration and self-reflection, and our in-country staff will always have some great, local tips to share.

Start your planning with a few of our favorite suggestions, but also remember that you can plan most of your trips once you arrive in-country (especially if flights aren’t required) with your fellow volunteers.

Travel into the desert and get to know one of Tanzania’s best-known tribes, the Maasai. This fascinating community is one of the few to still practice many of its original customs and traditions.

Tanzania is a great place to see Africa’s Big Five; the elephant, rhino, leopard, lion, and buffalo. Hop into a safari jeep and head to one of Tanzania’s 15 national parks to view the incredible wildlife that Tanzania has to offer.

For hiking buffs, a visit to Tanzania wouldn’t be complete without at least a day hike up the famous roof of Africa, Mount Kilimanjaro.

Whether you’re visiting the Spice Islands or one of the beautiful beachside towns on the mainland, the Indian Ocean is teeming with incredible marine and coastal wildlife. Wander around the beach or dive into the water and explore!

Training Sessions

If you’re ready to start learning more, review your online Training Sessions below (these are required – so make sure you allocate enough time to review each of these trainings, each under 30-minutes). About two weeks before your program begins, you’ll join your final pre-departure call with your group. We can’t wait for you to join us, meet your fellow volunteers, and explore all that CCS has to offer.

Training Call 1:
How to be a Successful Volunteer »

Training Call 2:
Savvy Street Smarts »

Training Call 3:
Volunteer Work Assignments »

GO TO: Volunteering in Bagamoyo

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