Akwaaba everyone! Welcome to my first of many blog posts this semester while studying at the famed University of Ghana!
Akwaaba, which means welcome, is something you will hear from the locals and see in the airports once landing in Ghana, also known as the Gold Coast. I’ve been in Ghana for officially a week and a half and I am absolutely loving the country!
My time here has been a whirlwind, so I’m not sure where begin. First off, Ghanaians are extremely nice people who are willing to go out of their way in order to help those in need. I’ve experienced this firsthand on my flight here. The people next to me woke me up when it was time to eat, constantly asked about my wellbeing and even invited me to a friends and family BBQ!
Second, Ghanaians pride themselves on being hospitable, therefore not only am I treated with welcoming hugs and praises but we refer to one another as brother, sister, auntie, uncle or even mommy. This not only builds unity with the locals here, but it is also a sign of respect for those who are older. The sense of family here demonstrates the country’s collectivism and its people’s deep care about one another.
Third, Ghanaians are very religious in their Christian faith. You can see their love for God everywhere you go: nail salons, barbershops, taxis, license plates, billboards, posters etc. Even on campus, there is a place of worship and there are many small groups formed around campus having bible study. Sometimes at 3 a.m. you can hear people giving praise by dancing and shouting scripture or songs. On average, Ghanaians usually pray at least three times a day and consistently thank God throughout the day.
Within a week, we were able to accomplish so much! We took an extensive campus tour, rode the trotro (a minibus, that is always overfilled to capacity, but very cheap), visited the Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum and visited to Sankofa Beach.
Unfortunately, my biggest fear came true within a week and a half … I fell in the gutter twice. Yes, the gutter! Yes twice! Hopefully this will never happen again but it has not made me feel any different about my experience thus far. And to my family reading this, yes, I promise to be more vigilant of my surroundings as time goes on.
As you can see in this picture below, I am not living in a hut or sleeping on a mat on a dirt floor. The University of Ghana has dorms just like America (in fact, more spacious).
These two pictures were taken while visiting the Dr. Kwame Nkrumah Mausoleum. Dr. Kwame Nkrumah was the first prime minister and president of Ghana and led them to their independence from Britain. (pictures below)
Basic norms to go
I’ve gathered a list of basic norms in Ghana that I found interesting and very different from America.
- Your right hand is usually used for eating, handing things to others, getting others attention, shaking hands etc.
- Your left hand is usually used for cleaning (yourself). Therefore, it is a sign of disrespect if you use your left hand for any of the right-hand duties.
- When trying to demonstrate the height of someone/something to another person, you should be careful which way your palm is facing. If you are demonstrating the height of an inanimate object (refrigerators, cars, bookcases) than your palm should face downwards. If you are demonstrating the height of an animate object (person, animal) than your palm should face upwards.
- When you are trying to tell someone to “come here,” in America, your palm faces upwards while your fingers motion back and forth. But in Ghana, your palm faces downwards while your fingers motion back and forth (basically the opposite of America’s way).
- When greeting a group of people, start from the right side of the group and make your way down the line.
Although it’s been a week and a half I am still mesmerized by the culture and the beautiful people who look just like me. Being in a country that loves, appreciates and uplifts the black community is breathtaking. Being here has given me a sense of peace and I look forward to sharing more of my experiences in the next post.
Ma da ase Pa (Thank you very much)!
Brittany Jones is a senior majoring in interdisciplinary studies in three departments, with an emphasis in social work, psychology and criminal justice. She is studying abroad this fall in Accra, Ghana.