I’m Gisella. Made in Italy, living in Tanzania, loving Japan.

The World. From a blonde's point of view

Question Marks

22 February 2013 - 5:23pm -- gisella
Coco beach, Dar Es Salaam (Tanzania)

So... sometimes it still happens that any other blogger finds out my stories, and starts... asking me questions. It happened about one year ago, when I had a talk with Aldo of Italians in fuga ("Escaping Italians", sounds like this!).

I never had time to translate that interview. Then, just one week ago, I received a new set of questions to reply. Another blogger, another blog – I'm going to translate and publish it. Anyway, that last interview reminded me about this older one.

So here we are! My interview, done for Italians in fuga. I updated a bit some info, time is running fast on this side of the World...  

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What was your job in Italy? Why did you leave to Tanzania?

I used to work in a publishing company dealing with fashion, mainly as web editor. I did this job for more than three years, after my Master Degree in Mass and Multimedia Communication. I enjoyed. I learnt “on field”, more than expected. Then it came the awareness that experience is never enough, and the will of making more maybe in a completely new environment.

I traveled to Tanzania several times as volunteer, before making my decision. I had a look around  Dar Es Salaam, the city where I actually work and live. I had a sense about something moving in my professional area, the web. So, in July 2010 my adventure in Tanzania started!

How did you get in touch with L.IN.E.A., the no-profit organization which allowed you to try out your first months in Tanzania?

L.IN.E.A. Ngo is the Tanzanian branch of a no-profit organization of my city, Torino. I'm one of the founder members. When I decided to leave to Tanzania, the office in Dar Es Salaam was just opened: long-term volunteers were required to support some activities, such as writing proposals, hunting grants and doing reports about the projects.

Before leaving, I spent lot of nights studying everything possible about the international cooperation, which technically is not my job... but I was very determined to change, seriously!

And how did you find later employment as Web Designer and Digital Media Manager in the local industry?

Straight to the point. The cooperation and development is an amazing job, but I'm definetly not an aid worker. After six months as volunteer, I needed to get back to what I really love.

I looked for vacancies, specific for the Internet field. In a few weeks I found my first employment as webmaster for the Swahili Fashion Week, one of the most important fashion events in East Africa. From March to November 2011, I spent most of my days creating and updating websites... in a taylor's atelier!

Thanks to the Fashion Week and other related events, my name started to circulate among people in the city... Who was the person creating those websites? So, at the end of the Fashion Week, I received an interesting offer as Digital Media Manager in an advertising agency. Gone!

Is work in Tanzania and in Italy somehow comparable?

As first, an important clarification. Here in Tanzania, and most of all in urban areas like Dar Es Salaam, it is possible to find any kind of job opportunities, in any field... exactly as in Italy.

I see that many people who would like to try to come to Tanzania force themselves to look for employment in the international cooperation or in tourism, even if these are not their job; and of course, the market rejects them most of the times. Employers here are looking for very qualified people, professionals with experience and good references, especially if expatriates.

About responsibilities on work? Much more autonomy: for instance, I receive short briefings for new works almost every day, and the deadlines. Then it's up to me to meet the requirements, there's nobody checking time by time what I'm doing. On the technical level, I can talk about the web field, which is developing right in these years: when I started, the setting was similar to what happened in Italy ten years ago - there was the webmaster, able to do a bit of everything, from design and development to marketing and monitoring.

Specialists in specific areas are not yet so many, but the number is increasing. The quality required is every day higher, especially by employers who look for expatriates. About salaries, the situation is quite variable: from very below the European average to very above. 

What type of visa is required to work in Tanzania?

To work as employee in the private sector, a Residence Permit Class B is required. The employer is supposed to sponsor and pay all the (high) expenses, as well as take care of the whole process for the visa request.

There are other two types of visas in Tanzania: the Class C for students and volunteers, and the Class A for entrepreneurs.

Which personal traits are needed to live in Tanzania?

To be open minded. The local culture and way of life is different from the European mindset, both in work and private life. It's better to learn and deal with differences and to respect them, but at the same time it's vital to defend your own national identity.

The most difficult challenge, for me, has been to demonstrate with facts to be a good woman professional, in a field which here is still made of a majority of men.

About the lower level of public services, transports and so on... it's very easy to get used, instead.

Do you have any advice for people who wish to start an adventure like yours?

If you feel like trying, if you are in the position of trying... just do it!

Just a few rules, in my opinion:

  • you shouldn't have family responsibilities, because the time you start working seriously abroad you will have not the chance to get back to your home Country every time you want;
  • you should have some savings, to cover your expenses for some time, because it is not immediate to find a good job... and in the meantime it's good to have an acceptable lifestyle as well;
  • you should have a precise professional qualification, ideally a university degree, and to look for a job in a field where you have effective expertise;
  • you should evaluate carefully the reason why you're going for such a big change... I insist about this, to move because you think that you really can do a big difference with your work is the best gift you can do to yourself; to move looking for an “easy escape” is not a good idea.

Beside the “exotic” side of living in Africa, the needs of getting a regular work permit, paying your rent, eating in a healthy way, taking care of your wellbeing and safety... are a reality as well - such as the need of enjoying your everyday life!

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