Sudan’s business culture has multiple different influences. An Arab republic, it shares borders with seven countries including Egypt, Ethiopia and South Sudan. As such, it’s important to know cultural and business etiquette when traveling there. Once the largest country in Africa, Sudan became the third largest after South Sudan gained independence in 2011. Here are 10 tips on business etiquette in Sudan.
In Sudanese culture, it should be announced clearly in advance if a visitor is going to be a female. So, if you’re a businesswoman planning a meeting over email with an associate in Sudan, let them know that you’re a female in advance — don’t surprise them with this since there are certain preparations made for female visitors.
Whether in business or social settings, the sexes eat separately at meals. Don’t be surprised if you can’t sit at mealtime with the person you’ve come to meet with.
Few people in Sudan speak English and among those who do, few can read or write English so have an Arabic translation printed on the back of your English business cards.
In all situations, women should wear conservative clothing. Shirts should have sleeves and dress or skirt length must be below the knee. Men wear casual business clothing, whether doing business or not, so if you are a man visiting Sudan on business, don’t ditch your business wear just because you don’t have a meeting that day.
It’s customary to shake hands upon greeting and departing, and to tap the other person on the shoulder at the same time. Make eye contact when shaking hands.
Sudanese people stand very close when speaking, however, members of the opposite sex are expected to keep some physical distance when talking.
Sudanese people generally do not stick to rigid schedules, and neither should you when doing business in Sudan. Looking like you’re in a hurry during a business meeting can be perceived as rude. Don’t check your watch.
Whether it’s a business associate, family member or friend, it’s acceptable for a new arrival at a business meeting in Sudan to interrupt the meeting, and for the person you’re speaking with to allow the interruption. Do not appear annoyed.
You will almost always be offered a drink and some snacks. Note: you’ll be offered these, rather than asked if you want them. It’s expected that you’ll accept them.
In Sudan, a nod downward means yes, but a nod upwards means no. Be clear on whether or not someone just agreed to your terms or turned them down!