Getting a Free Lunch in The Gambia

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Imagine that you are out having lunch at a restaurant by yourself. You look over the menu and order that entrée that stands out to you. Maybe you also get an appetizer and some good sides to go with it. Perhaps you’re at your favorite pizzeria, and you order up a delicious pie. Then your food arrives at you table, and you can’t wait to dig in. But before you can indulge in the goodness that’s been placed in front of you, someone comes to your table. Another patron, someone you don’t know. This person then asks you if you wouldn’t mind sharing your food with him/her. How would you respond?

You probably wouldn’t want to share your food. And you’ll think of a way to get this person to leave. Chances are that many other people would likely do the same thing if they were in this situation. Why is that? Well there can be many reasons. Maybe we feel possessive of the food because we bought it with our hard-earned money.  Or maybe we feel anxious that a stranger is coming into our personal space. What ever the reason might be, it doesn’t seem to be a cultural norm in much of society.

In The Gambia however, things are a bit different. While I was living there I was exposed to the generosity of many Gambians. Not just from my host families, who were amazing and always made sure that I had something to eat. But from Gambians that I didn’t even know. It wasn’t uncommon for me to be out walking in my village and have people calling me over to join them for lunch. The same thing happened to me a few times in Basse, a nearby city. I would go into Basse to shop for food, but end up getting a free lunch instead.

My host father also showed great hospitality when it came to food. Not just to me, but to other Peace Corps volunteers and to other villagers. There were many times when he would welcome another villager into his home to have lunch with us. And whenever another volunteer came to visit me, he would make sure to have extra food prepared for the occasion. He is a prime example of how welcoming Gambians can be.

So if you were to approach a group of Gambians who were sitting around a food bowl and asked if you could join them. Chances are very likely that they would graciously have you. That is of course if they haven’t already invited you over themselves. Even if there is only a small amount of food in the food bowl, they’ll make sure that you get a portion. Interesting how they may have so little, yet they are so willing to share.

I hope you enjoyed this quick insight on Gambian culture. Have you ever been offered a free meal during your travels? Leave a comment below and tell me about it. And if you liked this post, please share it. Thank you for visiting my blog, have a great day!

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