I am meeting someone for the first time and I want to ensure I respect their cultural norms?
As a standard practice, along with a strong handshake and a smile, you should start by saying ‘As-Salam Alaykum’ (most of the Sudanese use this greeting regardless of their religion). A reasonable physical distance is important, especially when talking to a superior or a woman (if you are a man). You should keep at least one meter of personal space between you and the other person, especially if the other person is different sex/gender. Contrarily to Western cultures, you do not have to keep eye contact all the time when talking to someone though a short and occasional eye-to-eye contact is preferable. If you are talking to a women, and you are from the opposite sex, you might want to avoid a steady gaze when talking to a woman.
Don’t be offended if your host does not keep eye contact while talking to you, it’s just a sign of respect; especially if they are younger than you. Men can touch each other on the shoulder while talking.
How important is it to establish a personal relationship with a colleague or client before getting to business?
It is not important to establish personal relationships before doing business in Sudan which you might want to start with a casual conversation about the country and Sudanese traditions/culture including food, music, and arts. In some cases because Sudanese are very proud of their home and culture and you will receive an invitation to the person’s place to meet his/her immediate family for supper. You should reciprocate the invitation because it is an important step for a relationship and to develop trust.
What should you know about the workplace environment (deadlines, dress, formality, etc.)?
The dress code is generally formal conservative for both genders at all times. It is very important to look clean and fresh. The usage of perfume is considered nice and gentle. Sudanese normally prefer to be called by their first names. Using a courtesy title like Uztas for male and Uztaza for female with the first names shows respect. Always use the courtesy title Dr. or Professor for the first-time meeting. In general, punctuality and time is very flexible. The employee may come late and leave early as long as the work is done. Even if the work is not done, you may give the boss a reasonable reason and the boss should understand. People in Sudan work for a monthly salary and usually there is no overtime and it is unusual to claim for extra hours worked. Deadlines are usually set without expectation which does not necessarily mean the deadlines will be met; there is flexibility. This also applies to appointments. Please note in Sudan you do not need to make an appointment to visit someone in their office and this includes both the private and public sectors.
In the workplace, how are decisions taken and by whom? Is it acceptable to go to the immediate supervisor for answers or feedback?
In the workplace the manager takes decisions. The ideas can start from the staff, go to the immediate supervisor, and then to management for discussions. It is acceptable to go to the immediate supervisors for answers and feedback. Often, there is an open-door policy as the staff does not expect to have an appointment to see the boss and they appreciate an open-door policy.
What qualities are most highly regarded in a local superior/manager? How will you know how your staff views?
Highly regarded qualities for supervisors/team leaders are experience, education, hard work, and equal treatment. The Sudanese are fast learners and they are willing to learn from their superiors. Overall they expect to be treated with respect and they pay attention to their boss’ attitude. As the boss, the Sudanese expect the boss to be polite and calm at all times. If the staff does not like the boss’ attitude they will address the issue directly. Also, an open-minded manager motivates the staff and encourages them to perform better.
What motivates my local colleagues to perform well on the job?
Loyalty and good working conditions motivate your local colleagues to perform well on the job.
Are public displays of affection, anger, or other emotions acceptable?
Public displays of affection are acceptable and common. During festivities, such as a wedding or a birth, gift-giving demonstrates love and care for the whole family. In difficult times such as a death, a sickness or an accident, your visit is very important but you shouldn’t bring a gift.
When someone experiences a difficult period, it’s important to visit them—especially if you are in the same city. This includes colleagues and the boss as well. A phone call is not enough in difficult times. Sudanese are very social people and it is recommended to have visit exchanges and to accept all invitations.
Are there any entertainment and recreation centers?
There are many places for recreation in the capital and in other parts of the Sudan. Different places for child entertainment exist in the capital including cinemas and theaters for different types of arts. Sudan has public and private parks. There are public and touristic nature reserves, museums for archeology and history, the Nile and it’s different branches. There are places for water ski, restaurants and cafeterias serving different foods and social and cultural, foreign and Sudanese clubs.
Are there any tourist landmarks?
Tourism in Sudan evolved broadly and Sudan is full of rare tourist resources in the Nile attractive beaches and historical heritage which hit in the depths of history in the ancient civilizations the Sudan, making a steady development in tourism in Sudan. There are Sudan natural reserves such as al-Dinder, al-Radom and Gebel Marra in the West, besides ancient civilizations in the North such as Karma, Kush and Merowe, Nebta as well as the national museum and Caliph’s house and other museums scattered in different parts of Sudan. As to what attracts tourists in Sudan is the sophisticated dealing with tourists as they are guests of the country. Sudanese are generally generous and magnanimous in receiving the guests. There are also ethnic pluralities created from different types of census and tribes in Sudan.