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Ghana Cultural Etiquette 101

By Jeffrey Ohene Darko

1.     Always greet people from right to left, always with your right hand. Remember that your palms are always properly aligned for greeting people when going right-to-left. Always follow this order, regardless of the age or gender or status of the people you are greeting. This will seem very awkward when you enter a room where everyone is lined up on the left wall because you would have to walk past everyone to start greeting from the furthest person. 

2.     The West African handshake is used in Ghana, where the middle finger snaps the middle finger of the person you are shaking. The louder the snap, the better, and it is acceptable to try the snap a second time if you miss it.

3.     Always use your right hand to give and receive items, and to eat. In this culture, your left hand is considered your ‘washroom hand’. It is a common practice to give money with your right hand while at the same time receiving your purchase into the same hand. 

4.     Always greet people first when you enter an area. Otherwise, you may wonder why people are just looking at you when you enter a room. They are waiting for you to offer a greeting, which will be received with a big smile and a warm reply. 

5.     Never make derogatory remarks about any religious, political or ethnic group or behavior. Ghana is tolerant and respectful of all its diverse tribes, religions and customs. 

6.     Always be respectful, especially to elders. The older the person, the greater the courtesy. But always greet in the correct order, right-to-left, regardless of age or gender. (see #1 above) 

7.     Remember to share & be hospitable. People in Africa do not live the independent lives of Western cultures. Sharing food and sharing stories are two of the best ways to join this culture of interdependence. It is acceptable to give small amounts of money ($2 maximum) to children or the disabled, but usually not to beggars. 

8.     You should not be wasteful. Africa is a land where every little thing has value. Feel free to offer anything that has no value to you to any person anywhere- clothes, items, etc. 

9.     Direct, “let’s get to business” conversation is considered rude. Always exchange pleasantries and inquire about family before beginning to transact any business. Even if you are just purchasing an orange. 

10. Keep your demeanor and dress properly. For men, lightweight trousers are more proper than shorts during the weekday. Shirts with a collar are also the preferred dress during the weekday. Non-native men should not go shirtless except at the beach or poolside. Shorts and T-shirts are fine after the workday hours or on weekends, when it is casual time. For women, modesty is preferred. Always try to keep your shoes clean of dirt and dust. 

12. When in rural areas and small villages, a visit to the local chief is the first stop you should make. When in the presence of the chief, remove your hat, keep your hands out of your pockets and do not cross your legs. When invited to greet the chief, approach just short of where they are seated and bow slightly. Do not offer your hand unless the chief invites you for a handshake. Always be sure to bring a small gift. Usually a bottle of schnapps is perfect. 

13.  Knowing just a couple words of the local language makes a huge impact; like: ‘Thank you’ (medaase) and ‘How are you’ (wo ho te sen/s3n)


CREDIT: Easy Track Ghana

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