Rebuilding Foundations

An exploration of international development work in Africa

You are welcome

After yesterday’s rant, I feel a need to give a more balanced story about this beautiful country.  Ghanaians are extremely friendly people.  Much of my discomfort stems from my own standoffish North American upbringing where it’s weird to ask a stranger in the supermarket how their day is going.  Here, though, it’s weird (and very impolite) not to ask.  There is a huge difference between:

“Good morning, how are you?”
“Fine.”
“Are you having bread?” (which means, “Do you sell bread?”)

and

“Good morning, are you having bread?”

It’s also not weird to ask a stranger for his or her phone number after speaking for only a few minutes.

When I went to Wa a few weeks ago, the boy beside me was traveling back for school after staying in Tamale for the holidays.  He saw another boy out the window while we stopped to let off some passengers.  They talked for a bit in a mixture of Twi and English.  I couldn’t understand a lot of the conversation, but he asked the boy outside if he was a student at the university.  They talked until the tro had finished unloading and started to move again.  “What’s your number?” asked the boy beside me.

The outside boy gave his number so my seat partner could “flash” him, meaning call and hang up right away so he saw his number but neither are charged any pay-as-you-go fees.

As a super polite but somewhat aloof Canadian, I would not feel comfortable giving my number to someone I only talked to for a couple minutes.

Unless we were at a bar and he was super hot.

Joking!

We Canadians have our strange customs too.  For instance, we add people on Facebook that we barely know – a website full of photos and personal information.  When I think about it, I’d actually rather give a stranger my phone number than access to my profile.  My phone number is more intrusive, though.  I don’t like being called 5 times in a day, even if it’s relatively easy to ignore.

But let’s get back to the original point of this post: Ghana is a warm and friendly country.  People tend to laugh easily and greet their neighbours.  I don’t want to stereotype any culture with broad generalizations, but I’ll still say that Ghanaian culture is lovely by and large – despite its patriarchal leanings.

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