19 January 2018

Introverts in Sudan: struggles and solutions


Mai Mihaimeed gives us an insight into the world of introverts, and their struggles in Sudanese society.

Sudanese people are stereo-typically loud and outspoken. Everyone is our best friend and passing up a party invitation is unheard of. So you can imagine how well an introvert fits in to such a culture.

I realised that I’ve become more aware of my introvert tendencies when I’m in Sudan. This is largely due to that wonderful Sudanese trait where people love to point out your ‘faults’. Being labelled an introvert has always carried negative connotations,  primarily because of prevalent misunderstanding. We’re branded as painfully shy hermits, who lack social skills and hold people in contempt while secretly harbouring the wish to be more extroverted; I think I got them all.

In my experience, that’s essentially the Sudanese understanding of an introvert – that is, if there’s an understanding at all. Coming from such an extroverted culture, this issue is bound to rear its head in one situation or another involving Sudanese people.

To help (some) people better understand why we behave the way we do, I’ve decided to break down these three typical Sudanese scenarios.

Meeting older family who you’ve never met before or haven’t seen for a while: Introverts don’t do small talk. This poses a problem because talking is Sudan’s favourite pastime. But we’re not talking to be rude, I’ve already told you how old I am, what degree I have and what I’m doing now. So when you ask, “Malik mabetat kalimi?” (Why aren’t you talking), there is genuinely nothing I have to say to you. I don’t know you and you’re an elder – I can’t exactly start talking about how disappointing Wrath of Caine was. So I’ll smile politely and shrug my shoulders in response.

Your cousin’s friend’s brother’s wedding: Sudanese weddings – the pinnacle of social events. I enjoy dancing at these events as much as the next extrovert, but only under the right circumstances. It usually has to be a close relation getting wed for me to shake my shoulders and finger snap my way through the party. Otherwise I’m not budging from my seat – regardless of how many people attempt to coax me out of it. See, in my mind I just feel like an overzealous fool if I were to start breaking it down at a wedding of some guy I’ve never met before.

So for you, that one person that just won’t give up – I will get up and stand on the outskirts of the dance floor and clap my hands awkwardly only for your sheer determination. But I’ll do it while resenting you. Next time, just leave me to look like the Grinch of the party, please.

Alone time: Introverts find prolonged social interactions with large groups of people draining. So at the end of a long Karama, Henna or Agid, we need to be alone to re-energise. So when you find us on our own, don’t feel the need to babysit us because you think it’ll be rude otherwise.

And always remember, if we go quiet, just assume nothing is wrong, ever, unless we tell you there is.

2 Comments on this post.

Leave a Reply to Suzanne Sharief Cancel reply

  • Suzanne Sharief
    11 March 2013 at 3:19 am - Reply

    Been there, so many times. It’s painfull. Very refreshing article Mai thank you.

  • Dena A
    28 March 2013 at 2:06 pm - Reply

    I thought I was the only one! I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been asked what’s wrong when I was having some quiet time at a gathering of some sort.
    You hit the nail on the head. Great job!

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