Americans in Ghana spend a lot of time being asked for stuff. Plenty of the things we are asked for are ridiculous (sums of money equal to half our monthly salaries, our hands in marriage). But honestly, we Americans, who worship individualism and self-sufficiency, aren't really the givey-receivey types anyway.
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:
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.
I have worked in economic policy and research in Washington, D.C. and Ghana. My husband and I recently moved to Guyana, where I am working for the Ministry of Finance. I like riding motorcycle, outdoor sports, foreign currencies, capybaras, and having opinions.