Every society sets its standards of acceptable behavior and it values in interpersonal relationships. Africa in general and Ghana in particular place much emphasis on communal values like extended family, nuclear family, respect for the elderly, honoring traditional rulers like chiefs and elders, and the importance of dignity and proper social conduct. What one person does is seen as having an impact on his entire family, social group and community, therefore, everyone is expected to be careful, respectful, dignified and observant in every public settings and every aspect of life. There is not much appreciation and acceptance of the extreme sense of personal independence that westerners hold so dear. An attitude of “I don’t care what others think; I will do it my way” is judged as selfish, socially deficient and destructive. Everything is to be done by consensus-agreement after much discussion.
There is every deep sense of doing things in a formal, proper way. This means that too much informality, especially in public settings is not appreciated. For example, Americans tend to value informality, relaxed situations and interactions. However in Ghana, proper, respectful conduct is expected, especially from those who are in the present of people who are older than them. For example, if you approach a group of people with the intention of speaking to only one of the group about something, you must first take time to greet the entire group before asking permission to speak to the one person. To walk up to a group and speak directly to one person only without first greeting the entire group is considered very rude. This sense of formality and concern for public conduct is also seen in the fact that eating and drinking during meetings, church services, prayer times, etc., is not acceptable, neither is chewing gum. The general rule is: “Do not eat or drink in any gathering unless you are offered something by the host.
This sense of respect and formality is also seen in the custom of removing sandals, caps before entering shrines, chiefs palace etc. ( this includes flip flops). Also, when you are entering someone’s room(especially bedroom or private office), you should knock on the door or say “knocking” before entering, even if the person has already told you to come in. This evidences a respectful, careful attitude. Always remember to be cautious, respectful, and observant so as not to be offensive. This is especially true when you are in the presence of authorities, elderly persons and in public settings.
Religion is very basic in everyone’s life in Ghana, and the spiritual side of life is regarded as the most important. Everything is seen through a grid of spiritual values and realities. This provides for a very receptive atmosphere and positive climate for spiritual work and interaction, however, as in all cases, takes time to listen and learn.