Wednesday, 23 March 2011

A Tiny Taste of Culture Shock

Its scary to think that in less than 80 days I'll be the furthest away from home that I've ever been!  It seems like absolutely no time has passed since I first thought of applying to this program, and now I am over halfway through my fundraising. While I've made some excellent progress, I still have  a TONNE of work to do to prepare myself (not to mention finish writing my thesis and eventually defending it!).

While procrastinating the other day, Jessie and I looked over the list of supplies we'll need to bring.  There were a tonne of items on the list (malaria pills, headlamps, water, aspirin, mosquito nets to name a few).  Most of the items I had already thought of, but some of the clothing items gave us a bit of a wake up call.

If I asked you for some advice on what to pack, what would you suggest?

Probably suggest similar things to what I was thinking: T-shirts and shorts.  Our guidelines suggested a  little differently.  While this attire is perfectly normal for someone in Canada or the USA, it may be offensive somewhere else in the world.  I  guess, I am getting my first real (albeit tiny) taste of 'Culture Shock'.

I started to wonder what appropriate attire was in Tanzania,and a quick search on Google led me to this picture:

Realizing that someone visiting Canada for the first time and searching the Internet might find this picture and assume that is how we all dress:

So while keeping in mind the context of the situations shown in the pictures, I tried another few searches:

Spot any differences in how we dress?  Somewhat similar, but maybe a bit more conservative (especially given the climate).

While reading the packing guidelines sent out by the YCI,  I've learned that Tanzanians take great pride in their attire and that by dressing sloppy you can give the give the wrong impression about lacking respect for others and for yourself.

While participating in this project I am not allowed to wear: 

Tank Tops - These aren't acceptable to wear in public places but can be worn at home or when sleeping.  Its suggested that I bring button down T-shirts.  Its suggested that women bring loose shirts
that completely cover their shoulders and cover to at least mid-arm.

Shorts - All pants must be at least mid-calf length.  Shorts are only acceptable on the beach OR on a soccer field.

There are more restrictions for women then men, and I think overall I'll likely have a much easier time packing than Jessie might.

Reading the packing guidelines and list just reminded me that while I'll be living in Arusha Tanzania for 6 weeks, I will be a visitor in a foreign place with customs I'm not used to.  Sure, some differences might seem strange at first (like no shorts on a hot day), but they are there for a reason and  the least I can do is respect them.

This tiny taste of culture shock has only made me more excited about my trip!


  1. Habari Matt,
    I'm glad you are learning to speak Swahili just in case you run into a Simba and need to ask choo ni wapi…unless it is too late and you just need to change your pants, so you will need to ask….where can I wash my pants!!! LOL….

    Aunt Yogi

  2. Aunt Yogi you are so wise or as they say in Swahili, smarty-ass,

    Love BooBoo