Understanding the Cadeau

Understanding the Cadeau
Lome, Togo West Africa
Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I try to understand the culture of the Cadeau. This is the French word for Gift, however there are many uses and many meaning, it is similar to the word Manana in Spanish, nothing is simple.

West African people will ask for a gift or cadeau more often than not, the better they know you, then up pops the question, how about a gift.

I have now traveled about 4-5 months cumulative in the West African cultures in my lifetime, and I am still totally confused about this word Cadeau or straight out a small gift in Ghana.

The idea of a gift seem innocuous, simple, plain and how could giving a gift or asking for a gift cause harm or a problem. I am trying to think this through, the problem arises because in any or almost all relationships of any type I have had, whether male or female, old or young, the word Gift comes up, and it means so many things.

1. A worker in the hotel wants to borrow my pen, I give it to the persons, then the person says,
“Cadeau” a.k.a Gift.

2. I am ready to leave, and my friend as me for a small Cadeau in French so he can eat.

3. I start to leave for a walk around, and the girl workers in the hotel ask me to buy them some chocolate, never an offer to give me money.

4. I am hungry…

5. Where a man is on a date with a serious girl or not a serious girl he must give the girl a gift in the form of money.

I say to a good friend, if I give you 5000 CFA does this mean you will come visit me, she says,
“No, I am not a prostitute.”

I say do you want a Cadeau, she says,
“It is African Culture, you must give a gift.”

A gift almost always means money, a German man said to me last year, do not even think about anything but money, they do not want a gift, they want money.

Beggars, manipulators, flirting, serious loves, and hungry people, everyone wants a cadeau. I tried to explain that I was American in brain, and culture, anyway you do it, when you ask me for money I feel like you are begging and for the girls, I think worst.

I have burned my bridges here in Lome with one man who I paid to help me find another friend. He is now daily went from a friend, and even a paid helper to an annoyance, and somehow he believe he is entitled to ask me for a gift…daily. I did not think much when he wanted to borrow my phone to make a call. I said,
“It is in my room, I do not have it on me.”

He than says,
“I need to make a call, let’s go to you room and get it.”

I gave him about 75 cents U.S. and said to myself, he is abusing my good will, and goodbye, not a friend.

There is a cultural difference about giving orders or request here, that is normal, there is the idea that you can command a person to come. A person will say, come here, no please, thank you, or less than an expectation, come here. I am not good at jumping, really annoys them when I just look at them. I do nothing, I just look at them, they then expect me to come, I look, and think, than walk away with no comment.

Strange to me to give a person an order and expect the should come.

I have burned my bridges, I have been too kind and generous in this area, now I will leave and leave them behind, and remember, do not be kind and give a cadeau, or they will never stop. I know better when it is a beggar outside my hotel, I never give, because the person will meet me everyday at the door, and want more.

The Cadeau, the line is fine, between a friend, a bum, a beggar and a girls that works on her back. I wish I thought they were hungry.

I will go to the next city, try to keep all my money in my pocket, not be too generous and helpful, and maybe I can separate the good from the bad.

Understanding the Cadeau


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ahyes, you remind me the culture of cadeau in Rep of Congo.
However, I think the bit with girls is something else, at least it was for me in Rep. of Congo.

I used that Cadeau with all the people and friends I had.' J'ai un cadeau pour toi '(understand)? was the way to start a conversation.

I remember that I had a friend who asked me to buy him a Nintendo gaming system, this guy was so sad and delusioned with life, I learned that he died from an illness a few months later.

I met some girl in South Kivu , it was long time ago , pre-rwanda genocide, at that time, it was a no foreigners place in this vast place, I only met 4 foreigners a couple of U.S backpackers and 2 lebanese "business" people. The girls there know their place so they dont ask gifts, they know I can move on to some other girl, they better make me fall in love with them and ask for commitment and stuffs later.

Now, ok if you are in area with a lot of profiteers like the NGO people then the girls arent sure they can secure your heart.
I remember I talked with a Ghana girl after a few minutes of fine discussion she asked me 50 US dollars.

I think if you retire away from the city, you will meet far less 'cadeau' people or may be time have change so much, that the cadeau mentality is everywhere.

47 countries on the mainland and 6 island nations, Africa is huge, and then gain this number of countries is maybe negtiable.

Francophone or Anglophone, do they speak French and say Cadeau or do they speak English and say gift.

If they are speaking Mina, are they also asking for gift.

Expectations and wanting, the cultures change, evolove, and are mixed and dynamic.

Fun in the proper balance, annoying when an adult comes up and demands.

I somestimes just reply, yes I wiil take a gift if you give me one. Or I am trying to say in French, yes it is your turn to give me a gift.

I try to remember to say Togo and West Africa and limit the area of my comments, qualify the ideas, Africa is vast and an expanse of cultures.

if you went full on poorer than them looking hobo in rags, would you avoid being asked for this cadeau? do the beggars ask for cadeau among themselves i wonder?


It is hard to say if they ever see a whiter person as poor, or if they have ever seen a poor white person.

This is not a beggar situation, this is the problem, this is anybody and everybody asking for a gift. The better they know you, the more you talk with them, almost the better the likelyhood they will ask.

Beggar for the most part carry a pan around.

The problem is my feelings, when a person ask for money, I think beggar, but this is somewhat different.

I think all men who have girlfriends have to give money, they must prove they can support the girl.

I dont know how things are in Togo but I remember that in Rep. of Congo if you want to marry a girl, you have to give some huge gifts to her father it is not 'cadeau' anymore it is referred as being 'une dote' ,it can be translated to donation in english I think.

I'm curious to know how it is in Togo, have you heard anything like that over there ?

This is very interesting.

I'm wondering if this is a custom that you may practice yourself (asking them for a gift), or if it only applies to Africans wanting from foreigners. Do they practice it between themselves, or did it come from some type of internally abandoned tradition when one tribe visited another?

//craig of travelvice.com

This is interesting, I do also wonder, I will try to see if there is gift brought to anyone visiting. I do not believe it is normal to give a Gift or Cadeau among each other, however not easy.

I do think a man must give a woman a gift, however, I think a man must be careful on money and girls, maybe an insult.

Rene was pushing me to go with a girl and buy her an Ice Cream, saying she like me when she asked for a cadeau.

I said,
- Then the whole country like me, including the men, because everyone ask me, the ones who do not ask are rare. -

I do think, if a girl like you, and is polite, she will ask for something, then will want to walk with you. If she does not want to walk with me or you, then maybe just a greed thing.

Asking for a cadeau can be an opening line for women, and for men, I think they just want to see if they can get over on you and sort of abuse good faith. There is a real macho world here, and I have learned how to be more macho then normal.

Not a hard thing for an Indiana Farm boy.

I will watch and listen, try to see if anybody is giving or asking for gifts, beside from me.

I am now in Kpalime, I will publish this comment now.

I just had a girl in the hotel, ask me to go to the mountains tomorrow with her, before I go, she wants me to buy here a small cell phone. I am trying to be serious, I say,
“How much?” in the French Language.

30 CFA this is about 60-75 US dollars.
Amazing audacity, this is the same as an American girls saying, give me a months pay. This is a months pay here.

I am not going to buy here a phone, and I am not going to the mountain with her, does spurn me on to learn the word greed in French.
- avidité -

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