Institutt for sosialantropologi

"There's no love here" - Beach boys in Malindi, Kenya


By Miriam Eid Bergan

Supervisor: Post doktor Cato Berg


Although there has been various suggestions as to what would be the correct term to use on a phenomenon where Western female tourists travel to Third World countries; engaging in romantic relationships with local ‘beach boys’, I have chosen to support the term ‘romance tourism’. Beach boys, who are actually young men, are found around the world where there are Western tourists on vacation; in the Caribbean, Jamaica, West Africa and Indonesia. There also exists earlier accounts of beach boys in the area chosen for this thesis, namely the Kenyan town of Malindi; situated along the East African coast. In Malindi, a large number of beach boys operate on the beaches during day time and in the bars and clubs during night time. They are in search of (preferably older) foreign females on vacation, based on their desire to engage in romantic relations with the women. This is not, contrary to most of the studies done on beach boys elsewhere, to create an opportunity to migrate to Western countries. Rather, beach boys in Malindi aim primarily for an economic gain; relying on gifts of valuables and money from the foreign woman they romantically ‘attach’ themselves to (if successful).

These reciprocal relationships, albeit with a main focus on the beach boys’ experiences, are the focal point of this thesis. There is an obvious exchange of affection and intimacy for gifts of valuables and money, and the economic aspects of the phenomenon will in this thesis be explored in light of a unique insight into the life of beach boys in Malindi. Although it is a global phenomenon, an attempt is here made to establish the ways in which beach boys are anchored in their local community while simultaneously being a part of transnational flows of people and ideas in the shape of tourism.