Karibu to Tanzania and the importance to greet


Karibu! With these words of welcome, I was greeted at the airport by the project coordinator, Mr. Kateri, and another board member of KIHO, Mr. Seraphine, at the Kilimanjaro airport in Tanzania. Their words came out of the heart – although it was almost 4am in the morning. They still took the effort to wake up during the night and pick me up at the airport.

After Pauline, the other EU aid volunteer, arrived, we were walking around Moshi and its surroundings for the next two days in order to get familiar with the biggest city in the region before we left for Same, where we will stay the next six months. And right away it was obvious that one thing would be always important for us: to greet. Although I grew up in a small city myself, I am not used to greet people on the street. I would only recall hiking trips in the Alps when I would actually greet strangers. Otherwise it wouldn’t come to my mind at all to greet the person that is passing by. Well, it’s certainly different here in Tanzania! And that’s great, because it is a sign of valuing the other, showing recognition as well as respect to the other. Thus, I feel that greeting as a practice certainly contributes to a common feeling of togetherness.

It has to be said that Tanzanians are some of the friendliest people. As I experienced myself during my first week in Tanzania, I am warmly welcomed by the locals. It is pretty much impossible to walk down the street without being greeted by most of the people. And it wouldn’t matter if it is shop keepers, street vendors or random people passing by in the street, I am supposed to say hello to everyone I make eye contact with and it should be done, of course, in Kiswahili. Thus, greetings are an important part of each day in Tanzania. If one doesn’t want to be considered rude one should definitely reply to the greetings and this should be also done in the proper way. And many Tanzanians make an effort to teach you the right reply as well – so it is easy to catch up.

After the greetings, the next most important phrase is karibu, which means welcome. Many Tanzanians are happy to see foreigners come and visit their country and express that openly to you. They want to feel you welcome in their country and feel like at home. And thanks to these greetings and the welcoming attitude, it has been indeed easy for me to feel at home here in Tanzania. To be sure, it has been a very interesting and colorful first week!

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