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Gambia Culture, Language & Religion

Published on 7th August 2019
Group of women in The Gambia dressed in bright, traditional African clothing
When living in The Gambia, it’s important for you to fully understand the locals’ way of life. From traditions, values and social conventions to the varying languages, you’ll soon get to grips with The Gambian lifestyle. One of the best things about Gambia culture is that everyone is made to feel welcome here.  Gambians are among the friendliest people you could hope to meet, so there’s no wonder that the country itself is known as “The Smiling Coast of West Africa”. Here we talk about Gambia culture as well as the languages and religion associateds with the smallest country within mainland Africa.

Culture in The Gambia

huts in the gambia

Although it may be small in size, The Gambia is recognised for its diverse multicultural society. There are many ethnic groups in the country, with all of them having their own unique traditions and values. Gambians are acknowledged for being polite, friendly and welcoming to anyone and everyone. When you first arrive in The Gambia, it’s not uncommon to be greeted by locals in a way which will immediately give you an insight into how locals live their lives.
Around 80% of Gambians live in rural villages. However, more and more people who relocate to The Gambia are seeking out properties in varying locations because of work or education. Thanks to this, there has been a greater increase in cultural differences. 

Some popular places to find property in Gambia are:

Kerr Serign

One part of Gambia culture that you may not think of is the dress code. Traditionally, male and female Gambians tend to wear long, free-flowing clothes. These garments are usually a combination of bright colours and vivid designs. As Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country, a modest dress code is advised in all public places. 

Language in The Gambia

As a former British Colony, English is the official language in The Gambia. However, there are also several tribal languages, with Mandinka and Wolof being among the most common. Locals often speak in their tribal language when conversing with each other, but have the ability to switch to English in one smooth transition.
West Africa is known for being one of the most linguistically diverse areas on earth, with there being at least 10 languages spoken in the whole of Gambia. The languages themselves can then be broken down into dialects, offering a great variety to the way in which people speak here.
As part of Gambia culture, it is common for locals to be multilingual. English is usually spoken by all Gambians with their first language being:
Mandingo (38%)
Pulaar (21%)
Wolof ( 18%)
Soninke (9%)
Jola (4.5%)
Serer by (2.4%)
Manjak (1.6%)
Bainouk (1.6%) each
Portuguese Creole (1%)

Religion in The Gambia

busy market stalls in the gambia

The Gambia is a predominantly Muslim country, though it is traditionally very accepting of all religious creeds and beliefs. 90% of the population practise the basic tenets of Islam while the remaining 10% are mainly Christians with a mixture of localised traditional religions too. Many of the localised religions in West Africa - not just The Gambia - are often centred around an idea of animism: where any animal, plant or object has a soul or spirit.

Gambians have been following Islamic culture since early on in the second millennium. Compared to the likes of more strict Islamic countries, The Gambia has no strict adherence to Sharia Law. Other than some principals such as not eating pork or drinking any alcohol, there appears to be no obvious evidence of religious affiliation. Gambians don’t typically follow the same behavioural characteristics or dress sense associated with Islamic nature, so although they are devoted Muslims they tend to follow the tenets of Islam lightly.

Find out more about living in The Gambia.

Here’s everything you need to know about relocating to The Gambia.

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