So, a few people took the small survey to the right! It looks like the most people want to hear about the culture! Culture refers to pretty much everything in Ghana…so I will try to touch base on as much as I can!!
1. So, as some of you might know, Ghana is a former British colony known as the Gold Coast. Ghana is the first African country south of the Sahara to win its independence; which was 53 years ago. Ghana has been under democratic rule since 1992 but I have heard from many Ghanaians that “democracy” doesn’t mean what it should for Ghana.
2. Ghana has 10 regions. Within those 10 regions, there are over 50 ethnic groups and over 90 languages and dialects. English is the official language but other well known languages are: Akan, Moshi-Dagomba, Ewe, Ga, and Twi. 70% of the people live in the southern part of Ghana.
3. Accra (the capital and where I live) is 4.5 degrees north of the equator and is on the coast of the Gulf of Guinea. From north to south, Ghana is about 418 miles long and from east to west it is 333 miles wide. The bordering countries are Cote D’Ivoire, Burkina Faso, and Togo; these are all French speaking countries. Other major cities in Ghana are Tema, Secondi-Takoradi, Tamale, Sunyani, Koforidua, Ho, Wa, Cape Coast, and Kumasi.
4. It is actually really easy to travel around Ghana. Busses and tros are labeled and people can usually direct you to the right place. I usually take Busses when I travel anywhere that goes in the direction of north. You can take S.T.C and Metro Mass Transit which are the government busses or busses such as V.I.P or V.V.I.P (HAHA) which are privately owned and are usually on schedule (Ghana Schedule) as compared to the government busses. Tro Tro’s are easy to catch and are the cheapest way of transportation. Tros will usually stop to drop you wherever you ask. But this means it takes longer to get to places. Also, you can always tell if someone has been on a tro just by how they smell…haha! I think there are more taxis than people in Ghana. Taxi’s find you, especially if you’re white. And if you don’t know the price, they will rip you off. Taxi is the most expensive way of transport but is the most efficient since there are no added variables. Shared taxis are good as well! It usually just takes them a while to fill but they have a set and fair price.
5. I consider Ghana to be very safe. I have not yet been robbed or assaulted so I think it’s all good! Of course travelling at night isn’t a good idea, I have learned. There are areas and paths I don’t take if I walk at night but it mainly has to do with using your brain and your gut feeling. And usually if I feel scared it’s because I’m in a sketch area, but that doesn’t usually happen.
6. The currency of Ghana is the Ghana Cedi (GHC). No one takes credit cards. The one and only mall in Ghana accepts credit cards and some hotels do as well. ATM’s or “cash points” are available in Ghana. There are even three ATMs within 500 feet of me. But outside of Accra, you will only find a few in the entire region.
7. The food!! The entire diet consists of yam, cassava, corn, plantains, and rice. Many tropical fruits are plentiful, but vegetables are scarce and more expensive. Fish is the most common “meat” eaten in Ghana; poultry is next, followed by red meats which are rarely eaten. Fufu and Banku are the favorites in Ghana. These are usually eaten with soups or sauces. Gari is dried cassava. I hate this stuff. But my classmates will eat it mixed with water and even my friend Amy will eat it with Milo (like chocolate milk powder) and peanuts mixed with water. People also put Shitto and Peppe on everything. This stuff will give you the runs. It is honestly too spicy for me haha. Beans are also very popular in meals. Red Red is a bean dish. Ground nuts are the same as peanuts here. Ground nuts are served with all plantain dishes, with bananas, and made into peanut brittles, and even soups. Ground nut soup is my favorite. I usually eat it with white rice or rice balls accompanied with tuna in the soup.
8. Most people shower twice a day here, I usually only shower once at night. Mostly everyone washes their clothes by hand. I personally wash my clothes every 2 weeks; this is when I usually run out of clean clothes haha. I’ve gotten used to hand washing my clothes. I just put on my iPod and scrub away for about two hours haha. Malaria does kill a lot here. I was given a daily medicine to prevent malaria but I actually haven’t taken it for like 3 weeks haha oopps…but I actually haven’t gotten sick here. I got sick earlier while I was here, but it was because I had sun poisoning. But if someone does get sick they go to the “clinic” here they will usually inject something into your butt.
9. From my observations, most teenagers do not smoke or drink. But adults usually drink beer and women usually drink Smirnoff ice (which apparently isn’t alcoholic…but there is alcohol in it…but people consider it a soda…). “Star” is the Ghanaian beer and the favorite beer.
10. Watching television is a big leisure activity here. Other families will go to the beach on the weekend, especially after church on Sundays. When the lights go off, people usually just chat. The teenage life is very different here. Because all of the students are boarding students, you can’t really hang out after school. But when hanging out, dancing and singing to American and Ghanaian music is popular. I am a fan of Ghanaian music. It is called High Life. Most HipLife artists are actually signed by Akon.
11. Dressing appropriately is very important here. Kaba and Slit are the most popular form of dress. I had one made specifically for the funeral, but most women wear them every day. I liked wearing mine, but it is tight and hot. I even got heat rash from it, so I couldn’t imagine wearing one every day! Teenagers, when they aren’t wearing their school uniforms, wear jeans and dresses; teenage boys wear designer tee shirts and other flashy items. Ghana gets a lot of rejects from designer shops around the world; seeing such brands on Ghanaians is very common. But all clothes are washed and ironed and having your elder fixing your clothes right before you step out of the door is common. But flip flops and sandals are the most common form of shoe.
12. Most Ghanaians have up to three cell phones each. Cell phones are huge here. Everyone is always reachable. But most of the time people will just call you and have nothing to say haha
13. As you all know by now, Ghana is extremely religious. Everyone is Christian, Catholic, or Muslim. You will see signs and psalms listed on cars, buildings, shops, and tros all throughout Ghana. Some shops and listings are called: “Love Jesus Barber Shop” “Accept God Chop Shop” “Jesus is your friend” “As nice as Heaven fashions”. As you can see, Ghana is highly influenced by religion. This is also why most girls do not drink “good girls don’t drink Star”…that is why…lol
14. Ghanaian families are relatively large. Most families live on shared compounds where the family stays together. This is due to financial reasons, to take care of the elders, and have assistance in the upbringing of the children. If a family has their own home, cousins, nieces, and nephews will usually live at the house anyways.
15. So here is some etiquette that is common in Ghana. Some of these I have already listed in past blogs.
a. Never use your left hand
b. When greeting a group of people, start greeting from the left
c. You must say “you are invited” when you have food in front of you
d. Never refuse food. RUDEST thing you can do.
e. Do not compare people to animals. Even if you mean it in a non hurtful way.
f. Saying that you are getting fat is polite.
g. Public affection is NOT appropriate. Holding of the hands is disgraceful. Amy and I saw this one couple kissing near the poolside once and we were appalled. Haha Ghana. Hugging isn’t normal here either. When you greet someone you usually do this handshake thing and then you snap fingers between the two hands, it’s actually really cool haha.
h. You always address strangers and teachers as “Madame” and “Sir” usually if you want to ask a question you say “please, madame, blah blah blah” it shows respect.
i. Eating while walking is considered weird here. But I usually do it every now and then. It is probably just weird because it distracts you and if you get distracted to where you are walking, you will probably fall in the gutter.
Well, this was long!! But I hope it was helpful and answers any curiosities you had! I will try to upload more pictures as well; it just takes a long time.