Tanzania is a country that cherishes visual arts and the art of good storytelling — two components you see trickle into the way Tanzanians like doing business. Tanzanian business people put an emphasis on formal appearance and prolonged, personal conversation. With that in mind, here are 10 business etiquette tips for foreigners in Tanzania.
Tanzanians respect those who dress well. Business women are expected to wear suits in urban areas, but a long skirt is appropriate in rural areas. For businessmen in urban areas, it’s expected you’ll wear a suit, and in rural areas, pants and a button-up shirt.
Whereas in many African countries, it’s typical for business meetings to begin late, Tanzanians are aware that most foreigners abide by rigid schedules, and locals make an effort to be punctual, so you should be as well.
In rural areas, who you greet first matters in Tanzania. You should greet those in a position of seniority first, followed by the others, and finally you’ll greet the women last. In urban areas, these rules might be more lax.
It’s common in Tanzanian business meetings for someone of seniority to begin and close the meeting with a formal speech, or even a prayer. As in many other parts of Africa, the person hosting the meeting should be the one to open it and close it.
There’s an unspoken understanding in Tanzania that business meetings are not to be scheduled between noon and 2 p.m. This is when most working Tanzanians take their lunch break.
If you are invited to someone’s home for a business meeting, certainly bring a gift. Usually a small token from your home country is much appreciated. But do not bring flowers — these are given in Tanzania only as condolences.
There is often a seating plan at meetings in Tanzania, so wait to be told where to sit before taking a seat at a meeting.
You’ll often be working with Muslims in Tanzania, and within this group there are specific rules for the genders. Among them: Muslim men will bow upon meeting a woman, but a non-Muslim man should wait for a woman to extend her hand.
Tanzanians may interpret someone being direct as being rude. In some situations you shouldn’t directly offer help. If a Tanzanian needs help, wait for the story. He’ll tell you a story of something he’s struggling with, from which you are to infer what sort of help he needs.
You’ll see much more success doing business in Tanzania if you build relationships. It’s advised that you join a local chamber of commerce, Rotary Club or any industrial or trade organization before you attempt to do business.
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