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Ghanaian Etiquette

What really counts is the way you receive people. If properly done, your guests will be honored; failure to do so leaves an indelible impression. Showing respect is important, especially to older people. Though they appreciate attempts to understand their way of life, Ghanaians (especially those living in the villages) are conservative people and respect traditional courtesies; and they also are quick to detect insincerity. Be friendly.

Social Graces

Handshaking using the right hand only is the usual form of greeting.

Do not forget that the smile is also a form of greeting. Please make an effort to pick up some of Ghanaian simple vernacular greeting forms.

Greeting Pronunciation in "Akan" Dialect
Please Mepaokyew
Good morning Maa Kye
Good afternoon Maa-ha
Good evening Maa-adjo
Good night Da-yie
Farewell Nantee-yie
Welcome Akwaaba
Thank you Medaase

Ghanaians place much value on dressing and consider it disrespectful to dress inappropriately at various functions. Some tips: White is usually worn at weddings or naming ceremonies, dark cloth at funerals (varies with each ethnic group).

Ghanaians should always be addressed by their formal titles unless they specifically request otherwise.

Proper Hand
Use only the right hand for giving or accepting gifts or any other thing. Use of the left hand will offend.

The left hand has limited functions in Ghana. In fact the use of the left hand for certain activities is considered an anathema. This is one reason why, when Ghanaian men wear traditional cloth, they throw the fabric over the left shoulder to limit the freedom of the left hand. In particular, avoid receiving or giving, gesticulating in speech, waving at a person or pointing things out with the left hand.

If you are naturally left handed, it is not your fault, and it is no offence. But you can avoid public embarrassment of complications by keeping something (e.g. your guide book, camera, souvenir etc) in the left hand.

  • Do not blow your nose while eating.

  • Never sniff any food or beverage offered you.

  • Younger ones must always relinquish their seats for older ones when seats are unavailable.

  • Take off your shoes when entering sacred ground and do not take pictures without permission.

  • When sitting with older or eminent people such as chiefs, do not sit cross-legged.

  • Remove hat or cap in the presence of older or eminent people such as chiefs etc.

  • Do not enter any house unless invited in.

  • A welcome drink should always be accepted and at least a sip should be taken.

Dress Code
Ghanaians consider it respectful to dress decently for social functions especially for visits to the palaces. It is considered disrespectful to attend social functions in crumpled dirty clothes, T-shirts, unkept hair etc.

Our old folks are also not very happy to see a woman or lady dressed in shorts or trousers (slacks). When sitting in the presence of eminent people or elders, please do not sit cross-legged. Visitors are held in very, very high esteem in our society and we expect that you exhibit an acceptable standard of dressing and decorum.

If you are wearing a hat or cap, please remove it when speaking with an elderly person. That shows your outward respect for our traditions.

Palace Protocol
Our chiefs enjoy receiving foreigners and interacting with them. We have already told you about dressing to the palace. There are other etiquettes that you need to observe. When you are invited to greet a chief or the king, for example, move up towards him and stop short a point from where he is seated, stop and bow. He may graciously invite you to come for a handshake.

On formal occasions, we do not speak directly to the king, or chief, for that matter communication at the royal court is a three-way affair through a spokesman (linguist) called "Okyeame" who replicates the conversation. The visitor faces the Okyeame and delivers his message to the chief. The chief gives his reply or response to the Okyeame who renders it to the visitor. It is that simple and interesting. This has been our practice from time immemorial.

N.B. Normally, visitors to our palaces have to make customary offerings of friendship to their royal hosts. This consists entirely of drinks: Aromatic Schnapps, Gin and / or money, the amount and quantities depending on the size or enthusiasm of the group.

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