Ghanaian Customs

Ghana is located on the west coast of Africa, and it was the first country on the continent to gain independence from the European colonial powers. Since the British left, the country has taken several steps to forge its own identity. Many of the symbols and customs of Ghana's colonial times have since been replaced with those from the country's own indigenous past. Ghana is a very proud nation; it is the world's second largest cocoa producer, and it has enormous oil and mineral deposits which are set to provide the country with rising standards of living over the next decade. It is likely that many people from around the world will arrive in Ghana over the next few years, but there are a few customs and social etiquettes that should be observed when visiting.

A very distinct version of English is spoken in Ghana which involves a high percentage of regional dialect. English is a second language, but visitors can expect to encounter up to sixty local languages throughout the whole country. Many locals are multilingual, and they switch between English and one of the indigenous languages. Ghana is surrounded by French speaking nations, so visitors may benefit from learning a few basic French phrases.

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Ghana is a nation that gives great prominence and respect to their national symbols; these symbols should be given due respect. The most important symbol is believed to be a black star. It is the black star that signifies the nation's pride and pan-African solidarity; such ideals were important during Ghana's fight for independence from the British. There are several other symbols in Ghana which relate to the country's pride, history and culture. A ceremonial sword, a chief's stool and a talking drum should be shown respect from visitors, as they are very important symbols to proud Ghanaians.

There are several ethnic groups in Ghana, so visitors should try to learn the subtle differences that exist between them. The biggest social differences relate to the north and the south of the country. The north of Ghana suffers from far more poverty and social exclusion. The immigrants in the north are often forced to take more menial jobs, and there are several cases of segregation and discrimination against minorities. Visitors should be wary of these local differences if they are visiting the north of the country.

A great deal of emphasis is given to the giving of food in the homes of Ghanaians. Many households rear their own goats and chickens which are slaughtered for occasions such as weddings and birthdays. Ghanians are very proud householders, and they will often cook feasts for guests. A significant local celebration is that of Odwira; it involves the presentation of specially-grown yams to the tribal chief. Many of the Akan people will require this day off, so visitors should be aware of the significance of the occasion. Members of the Ga tribe will probably observe a festival called Homowo; a harvest festival which is celebrated by eating a local dish called kpekpele. There are also a number of local whisky variants which are offered to auspicious guests; refusal of the offer is likely to cause mild offence.

Ghanaians are extremely polite and quite formal. They put a great deal of emphasis on hospitality, and local families will often come together for meals and social gatherings. Colleagues, friends and acquaintances will always shake hands during an initial meeting, and polite enquiries about the health of loved ones will be made. There will always be an offer of some food and drink, and this offer will be made regardless of the time of day. If a visitor is arriving during a meal, an offer to join the meal will usually be made. It is deemed as impolite to refuse such a request. The social etiquette of Ghanaians is not too different to that found in the developed countries of Europe and North America. However, massive emphasis is put on offering hospitality, and it can cause offence if visitors refuse such offers.


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