Book Review "Into Africa, A Guide to Sub-Saharan Culture and Diversity" by Yale Richmond and Phyliss Gestrin.
I wish i had gotten this book before i arrived in Africa as it has some much practical advice and explanations for how things are done and why. I guess i can appreciate it now as well as see many of the mistakes i have made after living on the continent for almost two months.
Salient point for me include how important it is for Africans to develop a relationship and learn about each other (and renew those acquaintances) before anything else is done or discussed. As a typical Westerner i haven't allocated enough time to building relationships with the people i see each day and am always in a rush to somewhere.
The book also refers to African Standard Time, where the Africans come from a life controlled by seasons or lunar calendars so their sense of time is different. Coupled with the importance they give to relationships they may be late often as it is important for them to renew their relationship with their friend of family member they encounter along the way. This reminds me of "Hawaiian Time" and how laid back the hawaiians were back on the islands. They also placed a great deal of importance on their relationships with others and would love to stop and chat and were often late for appointments or school. It was a hard adjustment for me to move from Hawaii to the East Coast after three years.
"Into Africa" also has lots of practical advice for business, negotiating, and dealing with the government as well as running meetings and workshops. The book explains the difference between francophone and anglophone Africans and suggests different approaches for dealing with both. It has helped me understand better the diversity of Africans and i hope change my attitudes and behaviors.