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Business Etiquettes in Senegal


As indirect communicators, the Senegalese use a lot of proverbs, sayings, analogies and metaphors when speaking, especially if what they have to say is delicate in nature. It is believed that such a style is more polite and demonstrates greater courtesy than being “straight up”. Passive silence is also employed on occasions in order to avoid conflict. If people go quiet for no apparent reason, raising a non-controversial subject will allow communication to continue.

Communication should remain positive at all times. Conversations generally only begin after extensive inquiries into the health and well-being of the other person and their family members. Even if everything is not going smoothly in your personal life, respond to such polite questions in a positive manner. It is important not to rush the greeting process since your goal is to be considered a friend so that business is a possibility.

Eye contact is not pervasive, in fact making direct eye contact throughout a greeting and conversation may brand you as arrogant. The Senegalese tend to lower their gaze while conversing, especially when speaking with someone senior to themselves in age or position.

When communicating information, the Senegalese tend to start with the overall idea and gradually get into the details, using what may appear to be a circuitous route. Since they think in terms of context, they search for the rationale behind behaviour. They examine behaviour in its total context, not merely what they have observed.

Business Meeting

Business meetings are generally formal, especially at the outset as the relationship building process has yet to commence. As the Senegalese grow to trust and respect you, they will naturally become less formal. It is a good idea to follow their lead and maintain a polite and reserved demeanour at all times.

Using titles is appropriate at initial meetings. “Monsieur”, followed by the last name for men or “Madame”, followed by the last name for women is common. If they’re a doctor, call them “Docteur”.

For a boss or company head it is common to us Mr Director or Director followed by the last name. Avoid using first names until being invited to do so. Once you get to know someone, using a nickname is very common.

Agendas should be broad and flexible. If used, they are viewed as a broad outline of what is to be discussed. Business conversations generally weave their way through all the topics eventually.

Business Negotiation

Most Senegalese dislike confrontation and will avoid it all costs. This may lead to them agreeing to unrealistic time frames and contracts simply to avoid uncomfortable discussions. Talk may go in circles for a while and you may have to be the one to bring up difficult topics.

Avoid any hard selling or high pressure sales tactics. Decisions tend to come from the top down and will most likely take awhile to be reached.

Business Dressing

Senegalese tend to value dressing well. Being well-groomed and having your clothes neatly pressed will go a long way. For men, nice pants, a collared shirt and a tie is acceptable. In many situations a tie is not needed. Do avoid jeans and shorts for the most part.

As for women, conservative dresses, skirts, or pants and blouses are acceptable. Avoid clothes that are too revealing or tight fitting. Short skirts and thin strapped tops should be avoided.

Business Cards

Have one side of your business card translated into French. Make certain your title is prominently displayed. Cards should be presented and received with two hands or the right hand. There is generally no formal ritual when exchanging cards.

Gold embossed cards are always well received. Never write on your or someone else’s business card and make a point of studying any business card you receive before putting it away.





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