Language & Cultures


The official language is Swahili (Kiswahili), which is generally spoken, and various local languages abound. Kiswahili is the language the primary schools teach in. English is the second official language and the country’s commercial language as well as the main teaching language for all the scientific subjects in secondary schools and higher education institutions. Arabic is widely spoken in the coastal areas, particularly in Zanzibar.


Tanzania’s culture is a result of African, Arab, European and Indian influences. The African people of Tanzania represent about 120 tribal groups. The largest groups are of Bantu origin including Sukuma, Nyamwezi, Makonde, Haya and Chagga. The Maasai are of Nilotic origin, as are the Wa-Arusha and the Samburu of Kenya.
Tanzania is one of the least urbanised countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, but traditional African ideals are being deliberately adapted to modern life. The Tanzanians are friendly people, to foreigners and amongst themselves. Politeness, respect and modesty are highly valued. It is recommended that you learn some Kiswahili greetings (see “Language”). Handshakes are very important and you may continue holding hands during conversation.


Muslim, Christian, Hindu and traditional beliefs.