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Marriage / relationship with a West African woman?

edited December 2015 in - West Africa
On a recent visit to an up country Gambian village, I got talking to a young woman who seemed particularly interested in me and seemed to be shocked at the fact that I didn’t have a wife or girlfriend in the UK. She suddenly asked me if I would marry her, which I took as joking around and replied positively, but in an equally jocular manor.

The next day, I found out that she had called our guide, and he had invited her to the lodge as there was a party that night for a tourist’s birthday. She arrived with her brother as chaperon and he was soon telling me what a good family she came from, what a great cook she was and that she would bear me many children. It was a bit overwhelming really. There seemed to be an expectation that I would propose to her there & then, which certainly wasn’t going to happen. We did seem to rather hit it off though, she seemed intelligent and educated (there was mention of training to be an accountant), so I'd be interested in at least staying in touch and seeing where it leads.

I’m not so naive to think that she was solely motivated by my decidedly average looks, and I should add that I'm very much older than her. I know that if this went any further, there would be an expectation of an improvement in lifestyle for her and her family from this arrangement. I made it very clear from the start that I am not wealthy by UK standards and wouldn’t be able to bring her to live in the UK, which they didn’t seem bothered about. From the conversations I had with the lodge manager (himself married to a European woman who has relocated to TG to run the business with him) the sort of “marriage” they were talking about is more of a local ceremony than an official legally binding contract, and they would be looking at small donations to the improvement of the village, gifts for the family etc. They reckon that about 50% of these relationship work out in the long term. There are obviously lots of cultural differences to be negotiated, expectations to be managed, long periods spent apart and some of course (especially in the tourist areas) who are entering into these relationships with the sole intention of rinsing their new partners at every opportunity, or to get an EU passport.

The tabloids (and this forum by the looks of things) are full of stories of African dating scams, but these are usually online and emanate from Nigeria. There’s not much online about men getting into relationships with Gambian women, but lots of references to women “sex tourists” getting involved with younger Gambian men, often with heart-breaking results. However, I did meet a couple of women in TG involved in these types of relationships who seemed quite happy.

The lodge are going to do some detective work for me to find out more about the family and their intentions, but in the meantime, I’d interested in hearing peoples thoughts on this, especially from those who are in or have been in relationships with West African women. How does Gambian/West African courtship usually work? Is it usual for a woman to propose to a man and to expect an answer so quickly? What are the main motivations in West African marriage? Is it love/attraction based, or are issues of financial stability, security and integration with, and care of, the extended family of more importance in poorer communities?

Comments

  • edited December 2015
    Nick, for such an articulate, seemingly common sense guy I honestly can't imagine why you're posting. Surely you know in your heart that this has absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with love. You're a walking ATM machine, that's all.

    If you wish to help out the young woman's family then just give her money. If you wish to help out her village then make a charitable donation through the proper channels.

    To try and somehow imagine that this is anything other than simply a young woman who is desperately poor and trying to gain some economic advantage is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

    (That said, I don't blame her a bit for the effort. Being in a position to meet foreigners - and have the local lodge helping to pimp her out - is a big advantage and I imagine she does quite well with her endless string of foreign "boyfriends.")

    All the best to you.

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • edited December 2015
    Nickyw, Frankly, I find your post offensive.

    You must think all your Christmases and birthdays have come at once, a young nubile nymphet who wants to marry you and you don't have to worry because ...".the sort of “marriage” they were talking about is more of a local ceremony than an official legally binding contract, ".... Disgusting.

    These families pimp their daughters sisters etc to disgusting old men like you for money and a UK, EU, US passport. They don't love you, the girls duty is the economic elevation of herself and her family. It is acceptable in West African culture for there to be large age gaps between husbands and wives any where from ten up to fifty years, with the ability to procure young women considered a source of male pride and satisfaction. The young women have no say in this type of forced marriage. The thought of sexual activity with you probably makes her skin crawl.

    By the way the so called local marriage ceremony is a Nikah which is legally binding in Gambia.
    No fool like an old fool

    http://www.theguardian.com/world/2009/nov/03/african-woman-murdered-british-husband
  • edited December 2015
    Ouch... the truth hurts, but Alethia tells it like it is though.

    I still have a hard time wrapping my head around the fact that you appear to be so honestly naive/dumb in your post.

    Giving you the benefit of the doubt for a moment... is this the first time you've ever travelled?

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Hi Terry / Alethia

    Discussing and dumb! I’ve really made a great first impression here haven’t I?!!!

    I’m sorry to have offended you Alethia. I googled West African Marriage before posting and can’t remember Nikah coming up. I don’t mean to denigrate the relevance and significance of Nikah in the lives of African families and shouldn’t really have even mentioned this anyway as we’re such a long way off from that stage, realistically we’re probably not even going to get to a second date! If things did progress that far, then I’m happy to cement our union in whatever way the young lady and her family are comfortable with. My intentions are honourable and whether we married in her village, a registry office, Gretna Green, Westminster Abbey or a pagan ceremony at Stonehenge, I would treat it as a lifelong commitment.

    Terry, it’s not the first time I’ve travelled. I’ve been to East Africa, India, SE Asia in the past, but nothing like this has happened before. Many years ago, I briefly worked in Tanzania with an English guy who had a “wife” out there who he only visited periodically. I only met her once, but she seemed absolutely devoted to him. I guess there was some similar arrangement in place. I also know of a guy who has had a Thai girlfriend for many years. As far as I know she has never been to the UK, he doesn’t earn a great deal and spends most of it on flying out to see her at every opportunity. It seems to work.

    My thoughts are this:
    • There will be financial expectations of any “suitor”, be they European, Gambian, Senegalise etc.
    • It would be very selfish to enter into any sort of relationship with a woman from a poor African family and not want to offer some sort of financial support.
    • She seems like a smart cookie, she has had some sort of further education and is already on the road to build a better life for herself and family.
    • If she is to be pushed into an arranged marriage situation, then if not me then who else? Another tourist who just uses her for sex, then disappears back to Europe never to be seen again? An older Gambian man who will take second and third wives in years to come?
    • For what it’s worth, most of my Girlfriends in the UK have been a lot younger (but a couple were older as well). I don’t set out to find young woman, they just seem to gravitate towards me. I look a lot younger than I am.

    As to my motivations, I’m not looking for sex, if I was I’d get a prostitute, it would be cheaper. I am interested in seeing if there is a real possibility of a lasting relationship with this woman. I’m not going to rush into anything, it would be a long old fashioned courtship of letters and phone calls before we even meet again. I wouldn’t enter into any kind of physical relationship with her unless I was confident that the feeling was mutual.

    If there was anything long term in this, I am quite keen to explore the possibility of eventually relocating to TG and living with her. Life in the UK is not going well for me at the moment and I have been thinking for some time about making a complete change of lifestyle. I have a skillset (including some NGO work) that I can call upon to make a difference in her community and have spotted a gap in the market for a business idea. This could work as long as I have a roof over my head and the support of her family (a Green Card deal in reverse!).

    I’m getting ahead of myself here. I had (and still have) all the same reservations about this as you have and initially just wanted to canvas opinion on the “she’s going to take all your money/wants a passport” issue, which I am not blind to, and how this fits in with Gambian culture. I was particularly interested in hearing from people who have been in these types of relationships themselves, but thanks very much for your feedback.
  • edited December 2015
    @nickyw I am a British immigration lawyer with many years experience and I see people like you all the time. In my work I am professional and do the best I can for my clients. On this forum I can give my personal opinions. Your naivete is astounding, no matter what any one says you wont listen.

    https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/gambia-country-information-and-guidance

    Around 80% of Gambian women have been genitally mutilated (circumcised) Of course they want to leave Africa and live in the UK and have a British passport and you will be supporting her family for the rest of your life.
  • 1.) "... I am interested in seeing if there is a real possibility of a lasting relationship with this woman..."

    Of course there is. Her family would NEVER allow her to stop servicing a rich foreigner.

    2.) "... I wouldn’t enter into any kind of physical relationship with her unless I was confident that the feeling was mutual..."

    Honestly, what planet do you live on?...

    Cheers,
    Terry
  • Thanks both. I guess I don’t need to send you wedding invitations then!

    Seriously though, thanks for your time on this, I think I can draw a line under it now. Considering the number of threads on here about people sending large sums of money to some fictitious person they’ve only met online, I don’t think it was that naïve to at least be curious about the situation I found myself in. That said, I think I’ve rather embarrassed myself here and am going to ask for the thread to be removed, if that’s possible.

    Check your messages, I’m about to PM you both.
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