The Village Effect

There is a certain irony in writing a post on the book The Village Effect: How face-to-face contact can make us healthier and happier by Susan Pinker


But I wanted to share the principles that she shares at the end of the book

  1. Live in a community where you know and talk to your neighbors.
  2. Build real human contact into your workday. Save email for logistics. Use phone or face time for more nuanced communication.
  3. Create a village of diverse relationships. Build in social contact with members of this “village” the way you work in meals and exercise.
  4. Everyone needs close human contact. Adjust the ratio of your face-to-face to screen communication according to your temperament, just as you adjust how much and what you eat according to your appetite.
  5. Make parent, teacher, and peer interaction the priority for pre-schoolers and young children. Combine live teaching with online tools for older children and teens.
  6. As more of our interactions migrate to digital platforms, face to face contact in education, medicine, and child care has become a luxury commodity. As a fundamental human need, it should remain accessible to all.

These principles became so apparent to me living in a small Gambian village and I wish more people in developed countries were aware of the importance of face-to-face contact in maintaining a satisfying life. One of the things I miss most about The Gambia is the amount of human interaction you are inundated with on a daily basis. Everyday there is the possibility of talking to hundreds of people. Greeting is a very important part of Gambian culture, and it is considered a serious faux pas not to greet people on meeting them for the first time that day. If you haven’t seen somebody for a while then greetings have to be more extensive. This social norm builds many of the above principles into everyday life. Admittedly sometimes it is a pain having to greet someone when you just want to get to where you are going or are feeling grumpy but in the long run the social norm of greeting makes everyone better off.

A quick guide to greetings in Wolof –
Nanga def? – How are you doing?
Ana war ket? – Where are the people of the compound?
Naka ligey bi? – How is the work?
Naka tanga bi? – How is the heat?
Naka seen jata gi? – How are the family?
Anna boki? – Where are the neighbours?
Naka sa jabar/jeckar? – How is your wife/husband?
Anna xaale yi? – Where are the children?
Gej na la gis – I haven’t seen you (this can be said if you haven’t seen the person for any duration from 1 hour to 10 years)
Namoon na la – I missed you
Repeat each phrase two to three times in a bored mumble whilst not looking the person being greeted in the eye and you will be completely accepted by the elders of any Wolof village.

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