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Saturday, 05 July 2008

Putting on Your Fayda Face: How to Bargain in Senegal - Page 2

Written by Gwen Hopkins
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We would come to understand that wahauli, bargaining, is a science and an art. It takes calculating and improvisation, but most of all, it takes fayda – courage, pride, and attitude. The bargainer has to demonstrate fayda at all times to keep the respect of the vendor. For Senegalese bargainers, this respect is serious. For us, the students on my study abroad program, we were just trying to amuse the vendors enough so that they would like us and drop their prices.

 



Putting on Your Fayda Face: How to Bargain in Senegal, living in senegal, Dakar, study abroad program, wahauli, bargaining, SenegaleseThe first time I tried to shop, I had not yet mastered this performance. I didn’t look offended when the vendor named his first price; I just smiled apologetically – like a good American woman – and told him I didn’t have that much money with me. Smiling, I would later find out, is considered flirting. It is usually important to smile apologetically as little as possible. Instead, channel all your nervous energy into sassy fayda. Apologetic smiling indicates inferiority, weakness: you have already lost.

 



The vendor smiled widely and told me that though he rarely sold skirts for so little, I could have mine for 6000cfa. (I’m sure he routinely sold skirts for 3-4000cfa.) I thanked him profusely, happy just to have accomplished a successful transaction. He put my skirt in a little black plastic bag and handed it to me. The bags were ubiquitous and said Sénégal on them in little silver script as though the whole country were one big gift store.



When I got home, I showed my host mom the skirt, my single prize after the exhausting afternoon. “Et tu as paié combien?” She asked me how much I had paid. “Quatre mille cfa,” I lied, knocking off four dollars. She looked unimpressed. “Pas mal,” she told me, trying to be kind. Not bad.




©Gwen Hopkins

Gwen Hopkins received a Bachelor of Arts in English Literature from Trinity College in 2008, where she also minored in French and Women, Gender, and Sexuality. She spent her sophomore winter break traveling New Zealand and her junior spring studying abroad in Dakar, Senegal. She is in the process of moving to Washington, DC and dreaming up her next trip.

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Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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