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‘You’re In Ghana Now, Not America’: Black Ohio Woman Learns Lessons of Dating In Ghana and Navigating Cultural Differences

Being a single black woman in America is hard enough to date and find your perfect match. You’d think that moving to an African country you’ll be in a better space to find your future spouse.  Erica Daniel was in for a surprise when she realized how important it was to understand the differences with dating in Ghana.  

Originally from Ohio, Daniel was living in Washington D.C. when she moved to Ghana in 2013.  She had already lived in Ghana as a college student when she was part of an exchange program at the University of Ghana.

“I had the greatest time during my year of study abroad,” she said.  It was one of the best experiences, but she had no plans to return to Ghana and live.  “God had his way and he brought me back,” she said.  “At the time I was working at the World Bank in Washington D.C. and an opportunity came up.”  She said that three people reached out to her and that was a divine confirmation for her to eventually move to Ghana even though it wasn’t in her plans.  She eventually left the World Bank and now works with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).  “I have a Masters in Public Health from George Washington University,” she said.  She’s also certified as an Intimacy Coach and is passionate about bridging the gap between Ghanaians and the diaspora community when it comes to relationships. 

Dating event “For the Love of FuFu” in Ghana. (Photo: Courtesy of Erica Daniel)

“I remember there was a time when we were talking about dating and my one housemate got really angry and upset with me because, over the course of one month, I had gone on six dates,” she said. “In my American mind that means I’m going for coffee, I’m having a dinner, a lunch, there’s nothing binding. But for her, that meant I was sleeping with six people.”  This was an aha moment for her when she realized the cultural differences when dating. 

Communication is an important aspect to consider as an African American when you’re navigating the dating scene in Ghana.  What you may have said in America may not be received the same way in Ghana.  Daniel launched an event series called, “For the Love of Fufu” as a platform to bring Ghanaians and diasporans together at an event that thrives off the communal culture of eating fufu where some of the most intimate conversations happen between friends.  Each event had a theme that allowed for interaction and fun games to help forge positive connections. 

When the pandemic hit and lockdown started, she shifted to a virtual series. “So, one of the virtual series we did during covid, was ‘Dating Nkonkonsa’ and Nkonkonsa basically means ‘gossip’, what’s going on around town. And so, it was a very fun series. We talked about Queer dating in Accra, dating from a man’s perspective, a female perspective, a Ghanaian dating a diasporan…a diasporan dating a Ghanaian, and also what is it like to be Christian and dating in Accra as well.”

Culture plays an important role when it comes to dating in Ghana. Although millennials are adopting some of the norms of Western society, transplants to Ghana discover there is still a lot of tradition for Ghanaians when they are in romantic relationships. Public displays of affection are not common in Ghana the same way one would see in America. Men are taught to be strong and don’t often express deep emotion in relationships. Many admit to never hearing their fathers express affection for their mothers. This can make it a challenge when they start dating women from America who are used to a different style of communication in relationships.

“I realized that men are suffering, that men deal with a lot of shame; they deal with a lot of imposter syndrome, and they don’t have anyone to open up to about their realities with love and relationships, and I’m not talking simply about romantic relationships. I’m talking about all relationships,” Daniel said. “How do you show up as your full true self?”

She says she helps both men and women navigate what they want in a relationship. A key part of her event series was to get people to “listen, know and understand how people view what you may see as common.” When someone is coming into spaces they’re not familiar with what they think is the norm may not be the case, so taking the time to understand is an important part of the process. As an intimacy coach, she says her one-on-one sessions are designed to help individuals open up. It’s not necessarily about romance, rather, it includes all aspects of relationships.

“You’re a guest in this country, so take your time to understand what the scene is like,” she says. “What people are looking for … but always check back in with yourself. Is this serving you? How are you feeling about the experience?” She also says it’s important for émigrés to put themselves out there despite the challenges they will face with cultural differences. She encourages newcomers to put themselves out there because, if they don’t they’re not going to meet anyone. Changing one’s mindset and learning to adjust while recognizing that one needs to stay true to one’s self is important.

“Take your time, explore every avenue and do what’s best for you,” says Daniel, who maintains that although dating can be complicated in Ghana, it’s still a lot of fun.

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