In Gambia male and female relationships are mostly
initiated by men. This is done either directly or indirectly
using a third party. Usually people start dating in
their teens, although in the rural areas courting can
begin earlier than that.
People date and go out more or less freely with each
other in the urban area, while in the rural areas things
are much more controlled because the community is very
small. Young people dating do not physically express
their love in public except at parties or when they
are amongst people their own age.
As a woman, don't be surprised if a man comes and tells
you he loves you; that is how it is done. If a man approaches
a woman then no matter how long the conversation the
words 'nobb' or 'sop' may come up. The word actually
means "like" but very often they are mistranslated
by local people who think it means "I love you",
but actually it means "I like you". Gambian
men who approach you will rarely take a 'no' for a 'no'.
They'll try at least two more times before giving up.
To make your life easier, do not take it personally
when men insist so much. Gambian women, even when they
are very interested, will always start by declining
your amorous advances both to test the pretender's determination,
and to show that they are not an easy prey.
However, other relationships may be platonic; this may
be co-workers, neighbours etc, who are friends and may
visit each other quite often, although this sometimes
may result in a physical relationship. Sexual matters
are discussed among peers of the same sex group.
Gambian men are very friendly with women, and while
you will be eager to meet new people and make friends,
be aware that Gambian women may interpret your reactions
toward male solicitation in a way that you never intended.
If you find that you are overwhelmed with unwanted male
attention, try to use humour to diffuse the situation
or to exit it without incurring bad feelings. Humour
is used in many situations in Gambia, and it can be
a very effective tool to communicate difficult messages
without insulting people.
Contraceptives are used among some young girls
to prevent pregnancy, but again it is used more in the
urban than rural areas due to illiteracy, poverty and
lack of accessibility.