I am French, my children are French, many of my friends too, my companion is American and, since a few days in Senegal, I become aware of a way even clearer than ever: the vaaaaaache, it is impressive, us, the French how we are able to moan !!! Frankly, it’s often our dissatisfaction that drives our lives. 80% of job changes are due to the fact that our manager is not to our taste. And this is just an example. As a Frenchman, moaning is elevated to the rank of art! Here, “Teranga” (generosity, hospitality in Wolof) reigns supreme.

I had left to forget the Parisian cold and the snow while taking a dose of sunshine and doing the milk on a beach … and, as soon as I arrived, I crossed the path of Abdoulaye and Bob (no, I swear that it is his name, there are chances that do not invent), two brothers who told me: “No, no way you stay at the hotel, you have to meet real Senegal”. Without hesitation, I did it and … what a slap! Thanks to these two, beyond some tourist places, we visited bush schools, an orphanage, villages, markets, slave houses from which some of the 16 million Africans torn from their land to serve the development of the Americas and European colonies.

 … that smiles, warmth, kindness and positive vision of life. Coming back soon to France, I will try to remember these few Senegalese lessons:

Lesson 1: Sharing

It’s really impressive to see how much Senegalese society is built around sharing. The one who owns shares with the one who has less. I do not know how it goes in Dakar, the capital, but we were in a village that was relatively developed and all its operation revolved around sharing,  Samba, the village chief explained to us at length that wealth has no meaning if it is not shared … so true but so far away what our French society has become. Once a week,

Lesson 2: Smile

For those who know, the Paris metro is not what we can call the kingdom of smiles! Here, everyone smiles, sincerely. And it’s not just because I’m white, a tourist, and potentially a source of income. I can see how Bob and Abdoulaye interact with others … the Senegalese smile should be part of UNESCO’s world heritage! Strangely, in business, pulling the face seems in some structures to be proof of seriousness. We should try management with a smile from time to time!

Lesson 3: Simplicity

 We passed by a bush village, wooden boxes … the hens and goats running in the middle of this tiny village of fewer than 30 people. We came with a few pounds of rice, nothing crazy. And this woman who simply says “thank you” but who says that, frankly, everything is fine, that she loves her life and that she really believes that her children will know a better life because Senegal works on the education of his youth. To be content with what one has, the Dalai Lama also speaks a lot about it. This does not mean to have any ambition but without any doubt not to be mistaken for our ambitions

Lesson 4: Respect

We visited some schools … and each time, the same ceremonial. When adults (but especially the teacher) enter a class, all the students stand up and say “hello” in heart. At the beginning and end of the week, all the students gather around the national flag hoisted in the middle of the schoolyard and sing the national anthem. I do not really regret the time when school teachers had the right to give rules on the fingers of bad students but our society may have gone a little too far in what we allow our younger generations, no? This respect is also important for older generations. Our concept of retirement home visibly shocks Abdoulaye … a lot, he who does not imagine not having his parents by his side until

Some of the codes, as corny as they may seem to us, are important in the context of a society, and it is true that in these times when we talk a lot about gender equality, perhaps the simple notion of respect to each other would be a good starting point.

Lesson 5: knowing how to live together

We went on the island of Goree, one of the hubs of the slave trade. A strange feeling of feeling the heir to a deeply violent story. It is a horror to remember that France first abolished slavery in 1794, then in 1802 Napoleon authorized it again, and finally, in 1848, France abolished it definitively. And during a discussion after this visit, Bob (not the one in my book, the other one), to tell me, “you know, it’s good that your children came to see all that … they have to know what happened in the story but, above all, they must be aware that I, my skin black, they white skin, but if we cut ourselves, our blood is the same “… I know, it’s a little creampie but it’s so true and important in these times when many try to make us believe that communitarianism is a danger. Here, Muslims participate in Christian festivals and Christians at Muslim festivals. They are Senegalese before being believers.

I am rarely pessimistic, you will grant me. But I think that in our society we should relearn how to live together urgently. For too long, it is our differences that have been the driving force (negative energies, of course, but a driving force in spite of everything): religion, sex, skin color, age, etc. etc. To assume that all these adjectives are unimportant details could greatly simplify our lives.


 I have never seen a company operate so strongly on solidarity in a way assumed or even claimed. If in business we could even a little bit import this mindset: sharing knowledge, time-sharing, respect for all and regardless of the hierarchical level, I do not say that we would live in paradise but, without a doubt, the level of pressure that we know sometimes would be lower. OK, some and some

Gaël Chatelain
Speaker – Writer