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Culture & Customs

Things to know

Gifts:  It is rude not to accept a gift someone tries to give you. That being said, sometimes there is a fine line between a gift and someone trying to sell you something. If you are not sure, politely refuse, and do not hold or carry the item.

Right Hand:  Eat, greet, and do everything else with your right hand. It is very disrespectful to eat, exchange money, wave, or accept something with your left hand, so keep this in mind!

Thumbs up:  The thumbs up sign is not exactly “cool” in Ghana where the gesture is similar to giving the middle finger. Showing people the bottoms of your feet is also rude.

Respectful words:  As a sign of respect, certain prefixes like “Mama” or “Auntie” are used when speaking to older women or authority figures.

Religion

Religion plays an incredibly important role in the lives of Ghanaians. An overwhelming 69% of citizens identify as Christian (24% Pentecostal/ Charismatic, 19% Protestant, 15% Catholic, and 11% other). You can attend lively church services of any sect practically every day of the week.

While most Ghanaians are Christian, a significant part of the population (16%) is Muslim. The northern region of the country is predominantly Muslim, and you visit mosques on the NYU trip to Tamale. In addition, although a large part of Ghanaians practice Christianity or Islam, many do so in tandem with traditional religion and most statistics grossly underestimate Traditionalists due to their negative stigmatization and the practices’ frequent integration with other religions.

There is also the small Jewish village of Sefwi-Wiawso in western Ghana, where students have gone to spend Shabbat and Passover for an amazing experience.

History and Political Views

Ghana was the first [black] African country to gain independence in 1957 and is very safe and developed compared to others on the continent. This is especially apparent in Accra, where the economy is strong and there are many new developments. Yet you will notice a disparity between wealthy and poor Ghanaians. The country is a constitutional republic and has its share of scandals and corruption within national and local politics, but there is no war.

It may be all about Obama stateside, but in Ghana, there was a presidential election December 7, 2008. Politically, Ghana is a representative democratic republic where the elected president will be the head of state and the head of government. The parliament is involved in legislation power along with the government - power is shared between the president, the parliament, a council of state, and an independent judiciary. Religion is prevalent in Ghana’s more conservative politics (for example, homosexuality is illegal). Most of the politicians are men.

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Language

Although English is the lingua franca in Ghana, it is often very hard to communicate with Ghanaians in the English that you are used to. Most speak with a distinct Ghanaian accent, and many speak pidgin English, a simplified version of English with different grammatical structures and one or more of the local languages blended in. There are many indigenous languages in Ghana, including Twi, Ga, and Ewe. Twi is the most common language where you will be staying in Accra. 


 Your first Twi lesson

Akwaaba! ahk-WAH-bah  Welcome! 
Mepa  wo kyε meh-pah-CHOW Please
Ma da se [pa]! me-DAH-se [pah] Thank you [very much]! 
εte sεn eh-te-SEN  How are you? 
εyε eh-YEH I'm good 
Na wo nso e? na WO-nso-eh And you? 
Yebeshia! yeh-beh-SHYA See you later! 
Bra! brah Come! 
Obroni  oh-BREW-nee  white person/stranger 
Obibini oh-bee-BEE-nee  African 
Ah-hey? ah-HEY  How much is this? 
Te-so! (teh-SO)  That is too much money!
Wodadame!  wo-dah-DAH-,e  You are sweet talking me! 
Bo-koh!  bo-KOH  Cool! 
Efe  EH-feh  beautiful 
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