Observation/Explaining Gambian People and Culture, From an Outsider's Perspective
Sunday, May 20, 2012
From an Outsider's Perspective, ‘Explaining’ Gambian People and Culture
Destination Gambia, which calls itself, ‘the trusted travel guide’, says in The Gambia, “finishing off your plate means you are still hungry and not yet satisfied.” It also states: “Goats are absolutely everywhere, yet goat is never on the menu…or is it?”
Destination Gambia’s stab at Gambian culture is perhaps meant to help visitors to The Gambia understand or at least have a clue about various aspects of public life in the country. Viewed from another angle, it is sometimes good to know what outsiders think of your country and people – good or bad.
Read the rest of Destination Gambia’s dish-out on The Gambia taken from its website:
“Variations in Culture in The Gambia…
- It’s often cats, not dogs, that beg for food at the table of a restaurant.
- Cigarettes are less then US$1 per pack, yet rice, being a staple food, is expensive, not to mention mostly imported.
- The thighs are the most erotic part of a woman’s body, not the breasts.
- Friday is ‘dress your best’ day rather than ‘casual’ day due to it being the Muslim holy day.
- Most Gambians live close to the Atlantic ocean or near the River Gambia, yet few have learned to swim.
- When at the end of a conversation on the phone, simply hanging up is sufficient rather than actually saying bye etc.
- Answering anything in the negative is considered impolite as is direct eye contact to someone of higher importance.
- "He" and "she" are used interchangeably when referring to either males or females.
- Hissing "psssst" is a normal way of attracting a stranger's attention, also to waiters in a restaurant.
- It’s perfectly normal for Gambians to yell “toubab” to every tourist they see. “Toubab” meaning white person.
- Goats are absolutely everywhere, yet goat is never on the menu…or is it?
- Local oranges and grapefruits are ripe when they are green.
- Burping after a meal is a positive and welcome sign that the food was good.
- Finishing off your plate means you are still hungry and not yet satisfied.
- A bottle of beer costs the same if not less then the same size bottle of water at a restaurant, about US$1.20
- Breakfast (often the second one) is at 11am, lunch is at 3pm, and dinner is as late as 9 or 10pm.
- If a man wears no shirt, he is deemed crazy, even in 45°C weather.
- Everyone loves Celine Dion.
- Spam, in about a hundred different varieties, is available all over the country and is very, very popular.
- Many Gambian men have the first name Lamin as this is traditionally a name given to the first born son in various Gambian tribe families.
- Many Gambian women have the first name Fatou as this is traditionally a name given to the first born daughter in various Gambian tribe families.
Some Superstitions and Taboos
- Owls are seen as a sign of death (not many owls are left in The Gambia because of this superstition).
- Anything done on a Saturday will be repeated in the future so many Gambians avoid visiting the sick on this day.
- It is considered bad luck to buy or sell soap at night.
- If a pig crosses your path and you don't mention it to anyone, you will have good luck.
- Watching a Gambian eat is considered impolite and sometimes therefore the onlooker is invited to eat with them.
Gambians like to ask others for things such as money and items to 'borrow', though what is actually meant is to take it and keep it without paying it back or giving the item back. Accusing a Gambian of stealing however is seen as extremely serious and rude so be careful and make sure you are certain of who the thief is and that no miscommunications have occurred."