Wednesday, 29 November 2017


There are many differences between Ghana and the UK as you can imagine. There are obvious differences such as climate; the UK is rainy and usually cold (especially in November), whereas Ghana is always hot, it’s a thermostat that doesn’t go below 24 degrees and that’s only in the evenings. I can’t really complain about the heat however, I am in Tamale and although a warm 35 degrees its manageable, unlike the 39’s and 40’s of Sandema or Navrongo.
However, the greatest difference between these two countries is not the climate but the attitudes towards strangers and greetings in general. If you’ve had the ‘pleasure of living in London then you will understand what the general attitude towards strangers is. Imagine smiling at someone on the tube? Wishing them good morning and inquiring into how they slept? You would be on the first bus to Broadmoor. No, instead head down, no eye contact, the only camaraderie is the collective sigh shared over a delayed train, usually southern. Ghanaians’ are the polar opposite to this, their culture appears to be built upon communication and an acknowledgement of the people that make up their community. It is rude to not greet a stranger and socially unacceptable to not greet someone you know. In the morning you will be greeted with a ‘Dasiba’ (Des-Bah), the afternoon ‘Antere’ (Ant-aray), and in the evening ‘Anola’ (Ann-Ola). All of which you should reply with a ‘Naaaa’, it is that simple and the amount of joy this one response brings is infectious, expect laughter but also expect their gratitude and respect. It’s a difference I will miss a lot, after a brief 10 weeks I feel more a part of this community, in some ways than I do in my community back in the UK.
                                                  A hat salesman and Nathaniel Dilling in Tamale town centre

Another difference I have observed is that regarding the elderly. Respect for elders in the UK may be seen as giving up a seat on public transport or helping an elderly person cross the road, both honourable acts. However in Ghana in terms of respect for elders it is a way of life rather than an occasional kindness. There are certain issues that are caused by this level of respect such as their influence upon the young and the passing on of harmful traditional views, for example those concerning the role of women, but this is a small proportion. What is admirable is that in Ghana the elderly are seen as sources of wisdom and invaluable experience, and as a result elders are greeted with a bow and in some cases a squat, in which they stay until told to stand. Imagine squatting for your Grandma Janette, she’d politely smile and ask if you had dropped something. I jest, but it is endearing and in contrast to the UK where tens of thousands of elderly men and women reportedly suffer from loneliness, it’s a culture we could learn greatly from.

The London Underground, from
A significant cultural difference that is worth mentioning is that concerning time and punctuality. This is demonstrated though GMT, an acronym we acknowledge as Greenwich Mean Time, in Ghana however this is understood as Ghana Man Time. What does this mean? In the UK we respect punctuality especially in terms of business, if we are told to meet at 9:00am we will make the greatest effort to arrive at that time, maybe even slightly earlier. Alternatively in Ghana there is a fear of being the first to arrive and waiting around so if you wish to meet at 9:00am there is no guarantee they will arrive at this time. This is best shown by the time we tried to order chicken to the office, we ordered at 11:30, which we thought would cater for GMT so as to receive our meal at 1:30. However we waited and waited until 3:30 then waited until 4:30 at which point ‘hanger’ was fully fledged and even goats that surround the office began to look delicious. Unfortunately our meal never arrived. As you can imagine this can be frustrating, however you have to understand why this is the case. It links back to greetings and a different understanding of what is important. If you were to meet friends or family on your way to your meeting in the UK you would stop and briefly explain you were in a rush and if you could speak later, but in Ghana friends and family become the priority and communication with them takes precedence. It is a big cultural difference and one that took a while to get used to. 

I think the biggest difference is in the UK we have a society that is taught to expect and prepare for the worst. We are fearful and we let that fear rule how we treat others, this is shown through the lessons we are taught as children ‘Don’t talk to strangers’. In Ghana there is a trust, an overwhelming sense of trust, and yes this has its problems, but it has an incredibly refreshing benefit where strangers are greeted and treated with friendliness and kindness.  

A couple things I couldn't fit in but you should know:
  •   Everything is a road, footpaths are roads, alleyways are roads, and red at a traffic light doesn’t always mean stop. Never play chicken with a motorbike. 
  •   Never offer anything with your left hand, its disrespectful and they will throw you so much shade you’ll think your back in England. 
  •   Ghanaians eat with their hands, if you whip out a spoon to chow down on a bowl of kenkey, you’ll get the same reaction as if someone whipped out a spoon to eat a pizza in the UK. 
Written by
Nathaniel Dilling

Photo Credit: The London Underground, from and Chloe Ross-Brown

No comments:

Post a Comment