Walk around London, and all you will see are pursed lips, taut faces and eyes wide from stress. On the contrary, in Khartoum people are ALWAYS smiling. It’s really amazing. Is it the weather, I ask myself? But that would be too obvious. Of course the constant sunshine does affects one’s mood. Whatever occurred during the day, stepping outside will give you instant comfort as the sun’s rays penetrate your skin and ultimately, your soul. You also gain more drive and dare I say, more sexual energy too. But I think the contentment of the Sudanese is something deeper and more rooted at the core of their culture.
I have just moved in with a Sudanese girlfriend to spend my final weeks here living with her family. Over the moon, I feel I will finally get a real insight into how the Sudanese live. I have already noticed one thing. Although the practice of living at home until you are married is looked down on by Western culture due to the lack of privacy and independence, I can definitely see the benefits. In Europe, many of us leave home at the age of just 18. We are still kids, and suddenly have to cope with a lot of new responsibilities and pressures, and thus mature very fast. From then on we are also alone; on our own two feet; self-sufficient. For most this means both emotionally, physically and financially. Though it seems exciting at the time, are we really ready to leave the protective bosom of our family? Personally, I envy the support system that the Sudanese have around them. As they tend to have huge families, there is always someone around when you’re in trouble or simply need some social interaction – sisters, brothers, cousins. In the West many people lack this unconditional support of their families, which are smaller, often broken or living far apart from each other. As a result, I often complain of feeling lonely despite having close friends, and I’m sure I am not the only one.
The other key to Sudanese happiness is their outlook on life. In the West, we are constantly fretting about tiny details and have become perfectionists, obsessed with fine-tuning our existence. We feel like it’s the end of the world if something does not go to plan. On the other hand, I believe that the Sudanese do not hold such a self-important view of themselves. They see themselves more as a collective, and will act for the good of the community rather than for self-interest. This is where we have gone wrong in the West; we are selfish and have developed tunnel-vision, placing a distorted amount of significance on our own lives.
Lastly, the Sudanese do not live in fear of things not working out; in fact, they expect them too. Although to an outsider this may seem a depressing view to have, it is actually genius and allows you to avoid disappointment at all costs. Just look at one of the most commonly used phrases: Inshallah. While this can be an aggravating concept to foreigners, it implies that hopefully things will work out and if they don’t, then there’s no use crying over spilt milk. More importantly, they do not blame themselves or spend days analysing what went wrong. They simply accept the reality and carry on with their lives; and the jovial Sudanese music that is blaring everywhere you go plays on.
To conclude, in our constant pursuit of happiness, I think it wouldn’t hurt to take a leaf or two out of Sudan’s book and SMILE :).