As I already discussed in the first part of this writing, Beninese French is often used in a different way than European French. Here are some more useful tips for visitors of Villa Karo and Benin.
As words such as “bonsoir” sometimes find new meanings, expressions may also take new forms. That is the case of the exclamation “doucement!”. Literally this means “gently”, but the expression translates perhaps best into “behave yourself“ or “be more careful” in English. Whilst in France the phrase would be most often used by a authoritative figure such as a teacher to give immediate negative feedback to a raging pupil, that is not the case in Benin. Remember, that when you hear that word, it doesn’t mean that you’ve done something wrong. It’s merely something to say when, for instance, your napkin falls down from your knees. “Woops” would perhaps be the best translation. No need to apologize when you here it!
Phrases actually tell a lot about mentality. One of my favourites is the friendship- or deal-sealing “on est ensemble!” (Eng. “we are together!”). This one has multiple uses. It’s almost a substitute for goodbye. It’s a phrase to say when negotiations are going in a bad direction as a reminder that everybody want this deal to happen. It sometimes means “no problem” if you apologize for some harm that you’ve caused.
Another one I personally like very much is “le sang est rouge” meaning literally that blood is red. It has got something in common with “on est ensemble”, but this one is used when white and black people are doing business together. I’ve heard it as I’ve been bargaining at the market, in Grand-Popo, or discussing the rent with the landlord. Sometimes it is wise to state something that has real relevance: human beings come in many colours but blood is always red.