Greetings in Senegal have evolved over time to include Arabic and French influence. If you look under my “Senegal” page you will see my break down of local language groups. I’m learning Wolof which is the predominant language. Because of this, almost everyone speaks basic Wolof so they can trade.
Village life and city life are very different. In villages the expectation is that you stop and greet beyond “how are you” whereas in cities you greet as you walk and typically just a “how are you.”
Now I’m going to attempt to teach you some greetings (spelling might be different, I’m tested on speaking not spelling so I never learned how to correctly spell everything):
Always start with
“Asalaam Maalekum” (peace with you)
“Maalekum Salaam” (and peace with you)
“Nanga def?” (how are you?)
“Maangiy fi” (I am fine)
“Yaangiy ci jamm” (are you in peace?)
“Waaw, maangiy ci jamm” (yes, I am in peace)
That’s typically it for city life but with some “Ca va?” “Ca va bien.” Here is the extension for village greetings.
“Naka wa kërr ga?” (How are the people of your house?)
“Nuunga fa” (They are there)
“Naka suba si?” (How is your morning?)
“Suba saangini” (It’s how it always is)
“Nanga fannane?” (How was your evening?)
“Jamm rëkk” (Peace only)
“Noo tudd” (What’s your name?)
“Mary la tudd ci Senegal” (I am called Mary in Senegal)
“Noo sant” (What’s your last name?)
“Diatta” (In training my last name is Diatta, at install I’ll be a Jobe)
Then typically I’ll get a response about my family, for example: “Yaw, sa wa kërr Jola” (You, your family is Jola) (Jolas are a tribe in the South) or “Yaw, war na ñeebe” (You must like beans). So those seem like really weird responses but in Senegal there are certain attributes that people associate with your last name. For example, when I become a Jobe, I will get something like “Yaw, war na cheb” (You must like rice), which yes, it’s true I love rice :). When I am a jobe I will be Wolof (the Wolof group typically lives through the horizontal middle strip of the country), which makes me a little sad because I love that my last name is so unique. I just really quickly want to reiterate the fact that Senegalese culture is huge about joking. If someone throws “Yaw, war na cheb” at me I can respond with something about them and their last name, and it will be funny. It’s also a very easy way to demonstrate cultural understanding and respect.
Even though there are groups of people associated with last names, identity in terms of tribal groups are fluid here. I’m going to do my best to explain this. So basically in the U.S. I’m Chinese and no matter where I grew up, the fact that I am Chinese is stagnant. Here, my CBT family might be Jola, but since my siblings were born and raised in a Wolof area, they are likely to identify as Wolof regardless of where their parents are from (the Cassamance). I hope that makes sense, feel free to write a comment to ask me more if you’re interested.
Since, I’ve started talking about this, I just want to share a couple more things. Also tribal groups an location are not defining for religion identity, however there are strong trends associated with them. The South of Senegal (below the Gambia), has more families identify as Catholic, whereas in the North (above Saint-Louis), families more likely identify as Muslim. So when we talk about areas being conservative the trend moves northward for being more conservative. The same trend happens from cities to rural areas. However, Senegal altogether is definitely a conservative country, and dressing conservatively is a simple way I can demonstrate my cultural respect and understanding.
For now that’s all! Hope that gives you a taste of culture here!