Before writing this post I happened to open a fortune cookie that read: “Good fortune takes preparation.” That was true for my recent photographic safari to Tanzania during the Great Migration (the clockwise migration of animals across parts of Tanzania and Kenya.) The four of us traveling together prepared for this adventure not only by updating our inoculations, packing the right clothing, cameras and binoculars, but by taking into account the following:
- Language: Several weeks before arriving in Kilimanjaro we emailed each other short phrases in the language, Ki-Swahili, which we learned in order to engage with these kind and friendly people and show respect for their culture and customs. Just knowing a few phrases like Jambo-Jambo (hello); Asante-sana (thank you very much), and Karibu-sana (you are very welcome) resulted in many smiles.
- Questions: Instead of talking among ourselves about U.S. topics, we asked our Tanzanian tour guide questions about his culture, like: How is it that Tanzania has remained such a calm, stable country? He was delighted to share this fascinating tidbit: That from the time they’re old enough, Tanzanians from the south are sent to school in the north, and vice versa. Students may then go to college in the east before starting work in the west. By meeting and making friends all over the country, Tanzanians are comfortable with people from different regions, and therefore disinclined to engage in tribal disputes.
- Country Culture: As animal lovers, we’d read about and we were blessed to be observing and photographing the “Big Five”: Buffalo, Elephant, Leopard, Lion and Rhino. I was interested to know whether there was a “Little Five,” among Africa’s fauna. Our tour guide’s face lit up with a big smile upon hearing that—obviously thrilled with the question. He happily informed us that there were indeed, namely: the Ant Lion, Buffalo Weaver, Elephant Shrew, Leopard Tortoise, and Rhinoceros Beetle. I then used this culture-specific knowledge in conversations with other Tanzanians.
- Attire: Tanzanians dress conservatively and wear Western-style clothing. Women may wear pantsuits; skirts and dresses should be modest, particularly in rural areas. Shorts or revealing attire are not appropriate, unless a specific situation requires them. Ironing your clothes, including T-shirts, is important as those who don’t are considered ill-bred.
- Dining & Etiquette: Jackfruit, passion fruit, guavas, red bananas, mangoes, pineapples and oranges were organic and delicious. We enjoyed barbequed meats (Nyama choma), Indian inspired dishes with spices (curry, cinnamon, cumin, peppers), rice, samosas and sticky toffee pudding. A dining etiquette tip: it’s considered rude to smell or comment on the fragrance of food.
- Relationship Building: Tanzania was not at all what I expected, but this trip embedded one thing I’ve long believed and emphasize with clients: The relationships you build, and the actions you take with people in mind, will determine the experience you have. For example, this safari was a personal trip, scheduled as the calm-before-the-storm of my Access to Asia book release, with no business planned. However, thanks to the impression I made, I was invited to return to Tanzania to conduct intercultural and international etiquette training in Dar es Salaam and Arusha. You never know where your next piece of business is going to come from!
Africa is predicted to become the world’s new “economic tiger.” As the McKinsey Global Institute’s report Lions on the Move: The progress and potential of African economies points out: “Africa’s economic growth is creating substantial new business opportunities that are often overlooked by global companies.”
Perhaps you will visit Tanzania or one of its neighbors in the months or years to come?
Photo credit: cheetah cub with safari tour guide: Exaud Marandu, Tanzania