I used to preach that there are no cultural differences between people coming from different countries. I based my conviction on the fact that since we are all human being we should all feel the same and have the same values. My husband, who grew up in a different country always say: “my wife and I never had any problem because of cultural differences, but we do have differences because of our different gender.” But this is another story….
Living in Sudan definitely made me think twice before saying that cultural differences don’t exist. The Sudanese I met here think that the American culture is not what they aspire to; my co-worker Hamid keeps telling me that his American friends are not close to their family. American families, he believes, are scattered around the U.S. and they hardly visit each other during the holidays or even when one of them is sick. Hamid explained to me: “in Sudan when a member of the family is sick, his relatives take a day off from work and go visit him. If a Sudanese is in the hospital his relatives go the hospital and stay outside his room no matter how long it will take and until he checks out. Sudanese young people never leave the house unless they get married…” and so one, listing a long list of good family manners that seem very nice, but do they work for everybody? I guess this work for some countries, but not for us. Maybe it works in patriarchal societies or in countries with absent governments. I believe that in countries where governments provide security, stability and protection to their citizens the citizens feel confident to be by themselves and don’t have to rely on their family. The pursue of happiness, freedom, and the chance to be able to fulfill what a human being need in order to reach maturity and independence, is a quality of life that very few countries are able to give to their citizens.
It’s 11:00 p.m. and as I try to go to sleep I hear the dogs outside barking, and I say to myself this is maybe going to be their last bark before the police patrol shoots them. Yes, here dogs are terminated on the street, periodically. Sudanese fear that dogs may bring disease.
The special cleaning truck just parked on the street. Cleaning trucks in Sudan come every week to empty the sewage, since there is no sewer system. This is a privilege that middle class families can afford; to hire truck to vacuum out the dirt that builds up in a whole under the houses. Maybe the government could start a pipe line not for oil (for once) but for the sewage.
I have to ignore the barking, and try not to inhale too much of the neighborhood smell filling the air from the truck, and then I can go to sleep, so tomorrow my co-worker Hamid will tell me how much the Sudanese are different because they care about their families. We definitely have cultural differences.