“Hello! Hello! Where are you going? You are so beautiful! Do you have a boyfriend?”
I get these comments on a regular basis while walking the streets of Koforidua, my home for the next 10 months. Ghanaians are world-renowned for their friendliness and hospitality which is wonderful but with that comes a very direct way of telling women how much they love them.
Before I came to Ghana, I read that Ghanaian men use the term “I love you” as a way of showing their seriousness about a girl. But for me, a westerner and an American, this sign of affection is a little too overbearing. Both Ghanaian men and women insist of me marrying a Ghanaian and staying in the country. They often offer to introduce me to their friend/brother/cousin.
After I told my male coworkers that I was single, they spent the next two weeks telling me their plans to find me a Ghanaian husband. While I appreciate their enthusiasm and compliments, constantly being approached about my love life gets old. Though I don’t usually condone lying, here are some tips and tricks I use to stretch the truth about my martial status when talking to Ghanaian men:
Make up a boyfriend/fiancé/husband
In the short time I’ve been in Ghana, I’ve already made up about three different boyfriends/husbands. This is probably the easiest trick to remember and most guys will act bummed but usually let you go on your way without much hassle. When they ask where my significant other is, I usually respond with a vague answer like, “Oh, he’s at home” or “He’s at work.”
Wear a fake wedding ring
My male coworkers told me this is the most evil thing to do to scare away Ghanaian men. I suspect they told me this because they really, really want me to marry a Ghanaian man and anything I do to deter that messes with their plan to get me to stay. I feel this is one of the more discrete options. The flash of a simple wedding band partnered with a story of your better half seems to do the trick.
Tell them you don’t know how to make banku/fufu
Banku and fufu are traditional starchy Ghanaian dishes that take considerable time and effort to make. These dough balls also make up a large portion of the Ghanaian diet and some men can eat an impressive amount. While I haven’t tried this approach, I’ve read that saying you don’t know how to make banku or fufu will deter them since first wife material includes being able to cook.
Make up an age
Ghanaians have a very difficult time determining the age of a foreigner, especially a westerner. And to be fair, my teammates and I have a hard time determining Ghanaians’ ages as well. This tactic only works if you know the relative age of somebody and if he is a good bit younger than the age you can pull off. As part of our training, we taught a couple of classes at a training college and while there was a wide age range of students, most were in their early 20s. While I’m only 26, here I can easily pull off 34 and seem out of the reach of most college students. If you can achieve a wide enough age gap, you’ll seem out of their reach and therefore not dateable.
Become friends with a local
Becoming friends with locals is a great for many reasons besides having them help you ward off potential suitors. Friends are easy to make in Ghana but it’s important to find friends who aren’t trying to use you for a green card and instead value your experiences and companionship. Although your Ghanaian guy friends might try to marry you off to their friends, they’ll at least always have your back and step in to defend you if someone is harassing you.
If all else fails…
There are nice guys and not so nice guys everywhere and just as you wouldn’t put up with constant harassment back home, you shouldn’t be subjected to it in Ghana. I would recommend trying a more diplomatic and friendly approach as mentioned above but if all else fails, you can tell them “Jai!” or “Mempe saa” meaning “stop” or “I don’t like that” in Twi. Ghanaians love when foreigners learn their language but in this situation, it also shows you mean business. For every one person who is bothering you, there will be 50 Ghanaians nearby that will rush to help you out.
Photo credit: Francisco Anzola