My Experience with Ethiopian Men

January 2, 2018
My Experience with Ethiopian Men

It was my last year of college and with an open J-term coming up, and I was determined to take advantage of the month long break and travel abroad.  I just wasn’t sure where.  Coincidentally, two of my good friends were planning a trip to Ethiopia to visit friends and relatives.  Knowing that my parents would sleep better at night if I was traveling with two male friends of broad and tall stature, I booked my plane ticket to Addis Ababa.

We decided that for the first two weeks, I would stay with a host family in Addis Ababa and volunteer at a local school while my friends visited family in Gambella. Then we would meet up and travel around the country for the last two weeks of our stay.  When we landed in Addis, my host brother and his friend greeted me with flowers, and about six relatives came to pick up my two friends.

I should mention that my friends come from a tribe native to South Sudan called the Lou Nuer who are known for two things: their daunting height and ability as warriors.  Needless to say, after a sufficient amount of intimidation towards my host brother to keep me safe, we went our separate ways.

My friends were going to be in a city that took two days to get to by bus. Only after it was too late did I realize this might not be a good piece of information to share.

It didn’t take me long to realize that my gender, combined with my blond hair and fair skin, was enough to draw more than just a little bit of attention from Ethiopian men.  Once, while walking through the streets, a boy sitting outside his house sang a line from a popular Rihanna song, “Oh na na, what’s your name?” as I walked past.

Those were probably some of the few English words he knew. Heads turned everywhere I went, to the point where one of my friends reminded me later, “You better enjoy this now because you know it won’t be the same once we go back to the States.”

Though there were six people in my host family, my host brother was the one I ended up spending the most time with since he spoke much better English than anyone else and was the only one with a car to drive into the city. This gave us plenty of time to talk and for me to explain my background, how I came to be in Ethiopia, and that my friends were going to be in a city that took two days to get to by bus. Only after it was too late did I realize this might not be a good piece of information to share.

My mind raced for a way to get myself out of this situation, but being alone in a city where you don’t know the language or even how exactly to tell a taxi driver where you live doesn’t leave you with many options.

After being in Ethiopia for about a week and going into the city several times with my host brother, he offered to show me the nightlife of Addis. He explained that he, his sister and I would drive into the city, meet up with their friends, and check out some bars and dance clubs. If it got too late to drive back that night, they would stay at a friend’s house and get me a hotel room in the city.

As I am both adventurous and love dancing, I couldn’t turn down the offer.  The next night I got all dressed up and ready for a night of fun. But just as we were about to walk out the door, my host sister informed me that she was no longer coming with us. I was already halfway out the door and didn’t think anything of it, and my host brother and I got into the car and headed for the city.

He proposed marriage and explained that even though I might not want to marry him, it was clearly God’s will.

It became clear to me when our first stop was to a very fancy restaurant (where he had made a reservation for two) that the evening was not going to go according to plan. I brought up, multiple times, the plans to meet up with his friends but he failed to ever give me a clear response. My mind raced for a way to get myself out of this situation, but being alone in a city where you don’t know the language or even how exactly to tell a taxi driver where you live doesn’t leave you with many options.

Three bars later, I still hadn’t come up with a solution. The night ended with both of us staying in the hotel room that was meant only for me and contained only one bed.  There, amid failed advances, he proposed marriage and explained that even though I might not want to marry him, it was clearly God’s will.

This was a small hiccup in an otherwise amazing month in Ethiopia, but it did teach me two things: don’t be as trusting of Ethiopian men as I was and keep your intimidating male friends with you when you travel in Ethiopia. It’s unfortunate it has to be this way, but true all the same.

My Experience with Ethiopian Men


My Experience with Ethiopian Men

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Have you traveled to Ethiopia? Have you dated Ethiopian men? Email us at for information about sharing your experience and advice with the Pink Pangea community. We can’t wait to hear from you.

Photo credits for My Experience with Ethiopian Men by Erin Oneil and Jodi K. Smith.

My Experience with Ethiopian Men


About Erin ONeill

10 thoughts on “My Experience with Ethiopian Men

  1. Avatar
    November 27, 2019

    I had the opposite sister and I were treated with the upmost respect..We travel from Addis Ababa, Bahir Dar, Gondar, Lailabela, Axum, Mekele..Great history, culture houses, Tej, good..We also had 1 of our brothers in our was our family vacation..We had the supreme expert guidance of Beka Ethiopia Tours..Beka was honest and kept us safe..As I was departing..I cried because it felt like I was leaving my family..We were there for 15 days, the locals assumed we were either Habesha or Nigerians..I plan to visit again in Nov
    2020 aka 2013..I love Ethiopia!!!

  2. Avatar
    July 5, 2019

    Why are you generalizing? So you go to Ethiopia and think you know all about Ethiopian men? You are nothing special trust me, they marry within their own. Ethiopian women are absolutely beautiful. This was a very WEIRD article, and random as hell. Idk what point you were trying to make. White people think they can just go anymore for like 2 weeks and know everything about the culture and add 2 cents. I’m sure the Ethiopians besides this experience…were wonderful to you. Why mention the negative only? So weird. I see you have other articles up about Ethiopia, please save it girl.

  3. Avatar
    miss man
    January 28, 2019

    if will of God and you want to marry it’s good

  4. Avatar
    October 18, 2017

    I am an Ethiopian man living in the US for a long time. Ethiopia has been quite an isolated country until recently and the culture shock for western visitors is inescapable.
    First point: A decade or so ago, girls (local) are not expected to go alone, either for long or short distance travel inside the country. With a girl, there will be someone to travel with. Only sex workers, girls with no responsible family, divorced women (very derogatory at the time), and sexually open girls travel alone from one place to the other (excluding government workers). It is mostly the norm for people to assume you as open to relationships when you travel alone. I believe, that mindset is still there. If you don’t want to be harassed by opportunistic men in Ethiopia, don’t travel alone.
    Second point: Honestly, most Ethiopian men don’t understand white beauty. I am not exclusively generalizing here. If an Ethiopian man in Ethiopia says I love you and want to marry you, you need to know that he wants to immigrate to the US, unless he is a well established person. He may well love you and want to marry you for real; however, immigration is also in his mind. If you want to marry him, you need to accept the fact that you are helping him to come to the US as well. Plus, you need to make sure that he has no wife or girl friend. If so, you can keep the love going (if you love him) by respecting him (avoiding unnecessary arguments, avoiding getting moody) and taking care of him. Ethiopian men are very light hearted in general, if you show trust. Also, if you let him know that you are doing this to help him to make his dream come true (you know, by mentioning that immigration is also in his mind and you don’t mind to do it for him as a lover).
    Third point: when you get a host family, make sure you get a well established family with no grown up, unmarried sons.
    Hope this helps!

  5. Avatar
    April 10, 2017

    How is it easy to marry in Ethiopia and for a Ethiopian to get papers to come to USA? Didn’t know it was that easy, with security and laws.

  6. Avatar
    March 16, 2017

    I would find it somewhat odd if Ethiopian men in general liked white women for marriage. Ethiopia is home to some of the most beautiful women on the planet. There is a tendency by many people in the world to view foreigners of a different race or ethnic background as interesting. I would not be surprised if this guy was looking for a way to get to the US. Pay attention to the initial greeting.
    One of my Ethiopian friends told me that an Ethiopian man wanted to marry her–she refused. He said “it was God’s will”. Hmm….. Anyways, thank God that you were safe.

    • Avatar
      March 16, 2017

      Oh, I forgot to say, I love Ethiopia and Ethiopian people!

  7. Avatar
    February 24, 2017

    Not all Ethiopian men are like that. Sorry you had to experience that.

  8. Avatar
    November 11, 2016

    Ethiopiman man tried to marry you for papers and easy way to come to USA. Unfortunatey they are very opportunistic, and it well known in Ethiopian culture that for long term relationships they form unions between their own. Meanning Ethiopians almost exclusively marry other Ethiopian. I am glad you returned home safely before rage or anger arose. They are nicest men on Earth, until … and that time you meet a person you have never seen before. Lastly, his siter knew the “plot” as Ethiopian people are very secretive and can be extremely decistful against whites. They tend to think low of western whites. Is is sad, as we are very genuine. Good luck with your trips!!

  9. Avatar
    July 7, 2016

    OMG, I’m so happy you got out of that situation. Yes,it is a good idea always to have someone you can trust with you while travelling there. Even though sometimes some gestures could be misinterpreted in a different culture , this specific situation is not a case, it’s an outright wrong. All ethiopian men are not like that. And another thing, the excitement some youngsters have for white people on the street could also be because of the limited no. Of foreigners they meet. Otherwise, they also try to flirt with local women which sometimes border on harassment. And it is also possible to contact the police through the managers of the night clubs or hotels whenever you feel unsafe, even letting know people in the next table could avert some situations, people are very cooperative.Anyway, the bottom line is that I’m glad you’re safe and you’re right about warning other female travellers to be cautious.

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