The etiquette of greeting and conduct in Ghana

Stories and facts

When visiting Ghana, understanding and respecting the local customs can greatly enhance your experience. One important cultural norm is the proper way to greet people, which is always from right to left using your right hand.

This ensures that your palms are correctly aligned for each handshake. This sequence should be followed regardless of the person's age, gender, or status. The only exception to this rule is when greeting a chief in a formal setting, where you should greet the chief first. This can be awkward if everyone is lined up on the left wall, as you will need to walk past them to start greeting from the farthest person.

In Ghana, the West African handshake is distinctive. It involves snapping your middle finger against the middle finger of the person you're shaking hands with. The louder the snap, the better. If you miss the snap, it's acceptable to try again. This greeting is a standard practice in Ghana and is not intended as an insult, even though it may be perceived differently in other cultures, such as in Italy.

Always use your right hand for giving and receiving items, as well as for eating. The left hand is considered unclean as it is associated with toilet use. It is common to give money and receive small purchases with the same hand.

When entering an area, always greet people first. In large groups or waiting rooms, a wave and a general greeting are acceptable. People will often wait for you to greet them before responding with a smile and a warm reply.

Never make derogatory remarks about any religious, political, or ethnic group. Ghana values tolerance and respect for its diverse tribes, religions, and customs.

Show respect to elders, with more respect given to older individuals. However, always greet in the right-to-left order regardless of age or gender.

Ghanaians value interdependence. Sharing food and stories is a vital part of the culture. It is acceptable to give small amounts of money to children or the disabled, but avoid giving to beggars.

Be mindful of waste, as every item has value. Throwing away items unnecessarily is considered wasteful. Offer anything you don't need to others who might find it useful.

Direct, business-focused conversation is considered rude. Always exchange pleasantries and inquire about family before conducting any business.

Men should wear lightweight trousers and collared shirts during the weekdays. Shorts and T-shirts are acceptable after work hours or on weekends. Women should dress modestly, and everyone should keep their shoes clean.

Events often start at least an hour after the posted time, a practice known as "Africa time." Arriving at the scheduled time might elicit jokes about following "European time."

In rural areas, visit the local chief first. Remove your hat, keep your hands out of your pockets, and avoid crossing your legs. When invited to greet the chief, bow slightly and only offer your hand if invited. Bring a small gift, such as a bottle of schnapps.

Understanding and respecting these customs will help you navigate social interactions in Ghana with ease and appreciation for the local culture.

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