Let me start out by saying that Ghanaians are a group of people who love to follow protocol. We believe things are set in place for a reason and the older those things are the more we must cling to them because you know, tradition. To non-Ghanaians, some of these things I’ll be discussing may come off as funny or don’t really make sense. And I agree, but there are some that are highly regarded. Below, I will share a few taboos from Ghana, these were gathered from different people from different ethnicities that I spoke with: (Ghana has over 100 ethnic groups currently.)
● Using your left hand to give someone a handshake, eat, receive something, or give something to someone. – no matter what your dominant hand is, it is an abomination to interact with people with your left hand. In Ghana, people believe that the left hand is dirty because it is the hand that is used to wipe after using the toilet.
Fun fact: back in the day, kids that were born left-handed were beaten into learning to use their right hand to write and do other things.
● In some cultures, you don’t fish on Tuesday. Apparently, the gods of this particular group in Ghana bath in the sea on Tuesday.
● I believe this applies to all of Ghana. It is a taboo to do a thumbs-up gesture then press it on your index finger. How that looks like is a fist with your thumb out. (hope you get the picture) This means “wo maame tw3” (literal translation: Your mom’s vagina) in the Akan language, Twi. It is said in many different languages but the gesture remains the same.
● You can’t sweep at night.
● Can’t whistle at night- You are supposedly calling spirits.
● Can’t sing in the bathroom- The first time I heard this was during my research for this post. Similar to the one above, singing in the bathroom is a way of calling spirits.
● Can’t ask someone who owes you directly for your money back- I want to say this is changing with the new generations. But most Ghanaians from my experience are not very direct, so directness, especially in terms of money is frowned upon. So this is an example of how to ask for your own money owed to you
- Yaw (calling to ask for money from Kofi): Hello, Kofi, how are you?
- Kofi- I am fine by grace.
- Yaw: I’m very glad to hear that. I was calling to see how things are
- Kofi: I am managing. Yaw, my guy, I haven’t forgotten about your money oh. It is coming.
- Yaw: oh, that’s not why I called (that’s why he called) but my brother, I hear you.
- Kofi: You should have it by Sunday
- Yaw: oh no rush at all (gets off the phone and complain how Sunday is too far away)
● Rejecting food- Some people in Ghana take great offense to you rejecting their food. Even if you are full, you have to eat. Unless it is a dying matter, the food set before you must be eaten.
● You have to greet people from left to right. If you do it incorrectly you may have to start all over again. I recently saw that at someone’s traditional wedding.
● Not greeting an adult when you see them. The greeting has to go something like this; “please, good morning.” for certain generations you must include a little quick bow.
Woe unto anyone who enters someone’s house or pass in front of someone’s house and not acknowledge the people sitting in the front. Or saying something like hello or hey! Just by your greeting alone, someone can decide whether or not you were raised by humans or animals. And people have no problem telling you, you were not raised properly based on your greetings.
● Along with the greetings. You NEVER ask an adult “how are you?” How it is done is, you as a younger person, greet and then the adults ask YOU, how you are.
That all friends. By no means does this apply to the whole of Ghana, so do take this lightly. As mentioned before, I asked various people from different ethnicities, including what I know and that resulted in this post.
Are you from Ghana? Have you experienced or heard of any of these?
Where are you from and what are some taboos in your own country?
My name is Shereen. I am Ghanaian lifestyle blogger. I blog over at www.asereneplace.com. My goal to show that African’s are not one dimensional and I do this by allowing people into my world and experiencing all that I write about; including faith, living well, books, music, beauty, etc… Literally all the things.