The fact is, the average Ghanaian is just as likely to give to an American generously as he or she is to ask for a generous gift. Unfortunately, Americans who only frequent ex-pat establishments often don't get to see this, as the ex-pat scene often attracts those people looking only for a rich source from which to ask. When you get out into Ghanaian communities, you see the other side of things. In my first week back from the states, I was given more things for free than I was asked for:
- I was given free water sachets by the restaurant next door, because the girl insisted they didn't sell sachets; they only gave them free to customers.
- After I accidentally pulled my door knob off my door, I was given a free bag of screws at a shop selling door knobs. The man insisted they were left over from old model door knobs no longer sold, but they looked pretty generic to me.
Receiving gifts can be more uncomfortable than being asked for them, especially when the person you are receiving the gift from appears to be poor compared with you. The things I have been offered have always been things that the giver could give without noticeably hurting their own well-being, even if the price I would have been willing to pay for the item would have improved it. The truly valuable thing I think I get from receiving gifts are lessons in being humble enough to accept a gift, open enough to permit the social tie the gift creates, and savvy enough to know when a gift is appropriate.