You are so fat. You must have spent all your time eating.

Sovichea Kon - Senegal


September 5, 2018

I have begun my learning exploration at the customs and the culture of Senegal. There are a couple things that I have found very interesting and at the same time very hard to comprehend.
First, Senegal is known for a reputation which is a joking culture. I was not able to understand what that means until I have arrived here. Senegalese make jokes to go about their days and to strengthen the connection and the bond further. An example would be "You are so fat. You must have spent all your time eating." Hearing the first time from our English speaking world perspective, it is really demeaning to describe somebody's physical appearance with such a direct notion. However, this is only common and normal in Senegal. People would approach the joke back in many ways. They could make a similar joke back or they could a completely different joke to return as a sign of friendship. 
Another surprise would be the rule of the joking etiquette. In Senegal, we call it Joking Cousin. What it means is that you can't just make jokes to anyone along the street or you just recently know. You would normally make jokes with someone you know or someone you are related to, but in Senegal, it doesn't have to. There are many ethnicities in Senegal and the last name can generally tell the ethnicity of the person. So from the last name, you can tell that someone who you met a moment ago from which ethnicity. From this, you can either connect by making a joke to connect or you just don't because there is a sort of unstructured rules about which ethnicity can make a joke with another ethnicity. 
My tutor gave me an example that someone may say "You are my slave." (Yep this is a joke) and your response could be like "No you are confused, I am your king."
Another rule you may see is the age. A youngster may not be able to respond to an adult's joke because it could be perceived as being rude. A friend of mine was told not to use "You are lying." to an older person who was kidding about his nationality.
It is interesting to perceive a habit that would definitely get you in trouble in one culture but can bring yourself closer to the community in another.
Donate to my fundraising campaign to fulfill a high school student’s wish with a dream like me to take a gap year by immersing themselves completely in one culture.

Sovichea Kon