You may have Ghanaian colleagues, working in a Ghanaian company or planning to do business in Ghana sometime soon. Whichever your circumstance you are most likely wondering how you can communicate with them and integrate well into the vibrant culture and language.
In fact, a recent report by the World Bank, ranks Ghana in the top three African countries for freedom of speech. So be rest assured that as long as you have an understanding of Ghanaians you will not be walking into the lion's den in your Ghanaian workplace.
Here at Study Twi, we have put together this article highlighting 4 key areas to keep in mind with hopes that it will help you navigate the Ghanaian workplace by understanding the culture and language a little more.
1. Do your research and be open minded
The first step to integrating well in a Ghanaian working environment is to spend a little time doing research. You can do this by reading useful articles like this one or simply asking a Ghanaian friend to shed some light on what is and is not deemed appropriate in Ghanaian culture and language.
As you spend more time with people of another culture, you will often notice how it contrasts with your own cultural values and how your culture can be perceived by others.
When you are knowledgeable of your own culture such as it’s history and values it will enable you to notice the differences and similarities between Ghanaian culture and your own whilst enabling you to be open minded.
2. Showing respect and appropriate greetings
In addition to being open minded to your Ghanaian coworkers, it is also imperative to show respect from the very beginning, such as using honourifics when greeting (how you show courtesy to people depending on their age and rank). Please be reminded that Ghanaians do not like to address age very much especially in the older generation as this was not well documented decades ago, so please refrain from asking about age until a good mutual friendship is established.
When working in Ghana and with Ghanaians in the diaspora, you may notice that the use of the right hand is preferred over the left. This is because the left hand is deemed as inferior and is usually used to do unclean tasks so when greeting someone, whether a handshake, waving hello or giving someone something please ensure you use the right hand instead of the left.
What’s more, using simple terms such as “mepaakyɛw” (please) and “medaase” (thank you) goes a long way too.
Food also plays a big part in showing respect. When on your lunch break, eating a snack or grabbing dinner after work it’s always part of Ghanaian culture to ask their counterparts to join them. You may hear them say “me nsa aka” or “you are invited”. Of course it is up to your own discretion whether you accept or decline the invitation to share a meal together, if you accept you can say “medaase” and if you decline you can say “ma no nkɔ” or mepaakyɛw daabi, ɛyɛ.”
3. Listen well and take note of nonverbal cues
Ghanaians are known to be very expressive - from tone of voice, volume, facial expressions and gestures, so as you spend more time with them, the more you’ll be able to decode what they are saying from their nonverbal cues alone.
Listen and watch carefully to understand what kind of mood your boss and coworkers are in as this will help you to know the right thing to say. Pay attention to their pitch and annunciation as this will help indicate whether they are asking you a question or just making a statement. Be mindful of certain negative behaviour patterns or activities by coworkers that may be morally wrong or go against your core values. If you find yourself in such a situation it’s always a good idea to be truthful and stand up for what is right.
What’s more, ask for clarification and confirmation often and check in with whom you are speaking with to ensure they understand what you are saying.
4. Use the language
Speaking Twi as a beginner can be nerve racking but remember the first time is always the hardest. When you’re with your Ghanaian colleagues be sure to use the little Twi that you know as this will build your confidence - simple phrases like “mepaakyɛw wobɛtumi aboa me ayɛ adwuma no?” (Can you please help me with this task?), “wo ne w’abusafo ho te sɛn?” (How are you and your family?) can be useful in advancing your Twi language skills. Furthermore, expressing likes and dislikes on a popular subject matter such as food and music will be beneficial too!
Working with people of a different language and culture is by no means easy but it can be enjoyable as it opens up your world to new and exciting experiences. We hope this article has helped you feel more at ease about working in Ghana and with Ghanaians.