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A Crash Course in Chadian Culture

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  1. When communicating a serious matter, foreigners sometimes have the (unconscious) tendency to laugh or smile to ease the tension. This is seen as extremely inappropriate to a Chadian. Both the person communicating a problem and the listener should demonstrate concern by the seriousness of their expression and their intent listening. 
  2. Listening may not and usually does not involve direct eye contact. It is appropriate for the listener to look past you, lean back or cross his arms, especially when listening to a teaching or a sermon. None of this communicates disinterest to the Chadian. It is more a matter of facial expression. In personal sharing, the person listening to a problem will often lean forward and look at the floor. Never talk to a Chadian while staring him or her in the eyes; he might think you are mad at them. 
  3. Conflict resolution: It is usually appropriate to make an appointment to see someone to discuss a serious matter. Mediators are employed in many situations where the foreigner would not necessarily think to invite a third party: marital disputes, disagreements between neighbours, etc. It is only appropriate in business to contact the person of equal status/position to yourself. You do not go "over someone's head" directly, without talking to the person first. If you are Christians, it would be appropriate to follow the Biblical instructions in Matt 18:15-17 of taking a second person with you to confront and discuss a problem.
  4. Business is conducted out of relationship. There can not be an overemphasis of how essential relationship is to any partnership or collaboration. Eating together, visiting each others' places of work or homes... these things are basic to mutual respect and cooperation.
  5. If your hand is dirty or wet from working, you offer your wrist instead of your RIGHT hand (never your left hand-used for after you have gone to the bathroom.) The person will shake your wrist, or, if his hands are also dirty, you will shake wrists instead of hands!
  6. When you want to say, “I’m listening to you carefully” while someone is talking to you, you raise your eyebrows high up once. But not too high-Chadians have said to foreigners who raised their eyebrows way up, “You don’t have to shout at me!”
  7. Try saying “K” with your mouth closed. Several of such K’s in sequence sounds like a good imitation of a pig. But this same sound (one or two clicks only) is another way of showing you are listening to the one speaking to you, that you agree, or that (s)he is right.
  8. When shaking your hand with a Muslim, you touch your hand to your heart after you finish shaking hands. This means, you wish peace to him, and that peace may be on you as well.
  9. When eating with Chadians, the greatest compliment you can give is to remain silent as you eat. Thus you tell the cook you like the food so much that you are concentrating on eating and enjoying it. However, this isn't to say small talk isn't allowed during a meal.
  10. Men should not walk around in shorts in public. Shorts in Chadian culture are worn only by babies.  If a man went out in public in shorts, it would be considered the same as walking around in his underwear!
  11. Women here find that wearing long dresses in public, along with a headscarf over their head and shoulders, increases the respect Chadian men give them.
  12. Be careful not to admire what a Chadian friend owns, or their children, especially if they are babies.  There is a belief that when someone covets something belonging to another, power is released to cause them to lose what is coveted.  This is called the power of the evil eye.
  13. To see if someone is at home, stand a little bit away from the door of the house, and clap your hands together five times, very loudly.  We normally do not knock on the door of houses here.





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