The People and Food of Liberia

Liberians are very friendly and sociable. However, they do not take kindly to being ignored and will call you rude. Make sure that you greet as many people as possible and smile when you do so. Make friends with any guard, cleaner etc that you come across, introduce yourself and remember their names. Your security will also improve as the locals will warn you of security threats if they know you and know that they can talk to you.

Handshaking is the norm, usually followed by a finger snap. Shake hands with people you meet, even fruitsellers.

As Liberia is incredibly poor, you will inevitably be asked for money or help of some kind. Usually the most persistant beggers are former combattants. Giving money to the elderly or the physically disabled will not go amiss. However, with most children and others, it’s best to spend a little time with them, play a game, take digital photos (loved here) and then possibly give something as a gift to your friends. Liberians are proud people and their desperate need is no reason to treat them as beggers.

School fees are expensive (up to a $100/year) so often foreigners are asked to pay for school, but this can also be used as a ploy.

Most people in Monrovia, with the exception of internally displaced people, are relatively well-off in Liberian terms. The worst conditions are in the countryside, where help is also most needed.

Rather than saying no to the requests, considered rude here, say later or tomorrow or I will see what I can do. Do not ignore people.

It is advisable to bring some business cards. They are given out at every function.

Eat
Like anywhere, travelers can find meals in Liberia to be either surprisingly expensive or enjoyably cheap. It all depends on where and what one eats. For Western-style or Middle Eastern food at restaurants in Monrovia like Diana’s, Plaza Pizzeria, Beirut Restaurant and others, a meal will cost about US$15 per person. Eating at the Mamba Point and Royal Hotel restaurants can be even more expensive, although one can also find inexpensive items on the menus (falafel sandwiches and burgers can be had for US$5). The Royal Hotel in the Sinkor neighborhood is also home to Liberia’s only sushi restaurant, The Living Room. It has the ambience of a classy, New York-style sushi bar, but the sushi, despite abundant local fish, is merely average. A meal there, with a drink, will set you back around US$25. A less expensive option is the Bangkok Restaurant in Congo Town (up Tubman Boulevard from downtown Monrovia, on a turn-off to Old Road). The Thai food is good and relatively cheap (e.g., a plate of pad thai is only US$5). A few Chinese restaurants can also be found on Tubman Boulevard in Sinkor.

Eating African can be enjoyable and easy on the pocketbook. Liberian meals like palm butter, casava leaf, potato greens, chock rice, and jollof’s rice will barely leave a dint in your budget (US$2-3 with a soda). Portions are usually enormous. Another popular local dish is fufu (fermented dough made from the casava plant) and soup (the most common are goat soup and pepper soup). Fried or roasted fish, especially snapper, can be delicious. And for those who like to eat on the go, fruit and snacks can be bought from street vendors throughout Monrovia. Peanuts, fried plantain chips, roasted ears of corn or plantains, bananas, mangos, and other fruits can be had for LD$5-20 (or US$0.10-0.30). Especially delicious are the various breads sold freshly baked in the morning. Some breads resemble banana bread, other breads are more like corn bread. All are delicious although somewhat oily. A good local place to try is Beatrice’s Mini Market on Broad Street.

Drink
Club beer is the staple drink, served everywhere. Local gin is also available.