I’ll make this a simple review for a simple book. I wasn’t expecting much from Tanzania – Culture Smart! by Quintin Winks, however, I ended up pleasantly surprised by its content. While this guide book doesn’t break any new ground, it serves its purpose and doesn’t include any extraneous information. While I can’t vouch for the rest of the Culture Smart! series, I would be confident in saying that they are a good place to start.
The book is divided into eight different chapters, covering everything from historical background to business transactions. Winks even delves into the different types of common handshakes that Tanzanians use. While the guide gives a basic introduction to the country, it is not a guide to the country. There is very little in terms of things to do and see while in Tanzania, this is only covered when there is some convincing overlap with Tanzania as a country. However, this book is a very helpful guide to customs and culture (as it says on the cover), so there is plenty of information on how to be polite and respectful while visiting Tanzania. I trust that the information is correct, since the author was commissioned to write this book after a lengthy stay in Tanzania. I believe that the content could only be improved by having a native’s take on a guide to his or her own country. However, since the reader will theoretically be exploring the country as an outsider, it’s not the worst thing to have an outsider’s perspective.
I will soon be traveling to Tanzania to begin a 27 month long journey in the Peace Corps. This will be the true test of Tanzania – Culture Smart! There were some valuable takeaways from this book. Even simple practical advice, such as the left hand is considered unclean in Tanzanian culture or Tanzanian time runs from dawn onwards (okay, I may need to read that section again), will be vital when I arrive in-country. I’ll be receiving training in country, but as a simple introduction, I couldn’t really see any other guide doing it as simply and as well. I’m not as nervous about violating taboos or creating awkward situations now that I’ve read this guide, and that is why I bought it. There’s not a lot of color or humor, but that’s not something I was looking for. The writing is simple and clear, and the purpose is served. That’s all that I want from a guide book. However, I could have really used more information on internet connectivity in Tanzania, I’m hoping to finish the Cannonball from across the Atlantic Ocean!