Sometimes in my less happy days here in
Staring is for starters. Walking through town sometimes, or most often when I am doing something out of the ordinary for a white person in
Another thing that makes me frustrated sometimes is being called ‘O Kran Ja’, the local word for white man. While I realize that it is a simple way of referring to me out of a crowd of people, I can’t ignore my conditioning and feel somewhat offended by it. The worst is when someone will sit but a few feet away from me, have a conversation in the local language with one of my friends, co-workers, or family members; and say the word ‘O Kran Ja’ repeatedly throughout. “I know you’re talking about me, the least you could do is ask me my name or speak directly to me!!”
But after I have these gut reactions immediately follows a sense of regret and guilt. Nobody is trying to be rude to me, and I know this. The people who may stare don’t mean to be intimidating and will often bare their huge white smile when I break the tension with a greeting or a smile of my own. To be honest, they are only staring because they are interested or because I am doing something that is uncommon for someone like myself to be doing or shouldn’t be doing at all.
The ones who refer to me as ‘O Kran Ja’ also don’t mean to be derogatory in anyway. Sadly because of the past in
What I realize through all this is that I get that incorrect feeling of rudeness only because of my perspective. My Canadian standards make me feel that way. But what happens when I look at things from a Ghanaian standard.
Put bluntly – I’m RUDE!! EXTREMELY RUDE!! Ghanaian culture is one that is so friendly and open, that more often than not I don’t even recognize how rude I am being. Example: it is a given, that when you are eating or drinking anything, and somebody enters; you are to offer them what you are consuming. Saying “you are invited” is the proper way to do it.
I can’t count the number of times that I forget to say it, or worst, consciously don’t say it. Yes sometimes I feel selfish. I make sure to buy snacks on the way to work, so why should I have to share with people who never take the time to think ahead. Well Nick, that’s not very Ghanaian of you.
Another is when people are sick. Here in
The last and most obvious is one I commit daily. When you are friends you talk to eachother. Most ex-pats will complain (and I’m not exempt) about how when you give out your phone number people will call you lots. Well that’s what friends do. When your friend travels, you call them to see how their journey was. When you haven’t talked to them in a week or so, you call them to see how they are doing.
The other aspect is just human interaction. When I’m walking through town to work and I see a friend, a wave of the hand and a greeting yelled does not suffice. Take the time to do a proper greeting. I can’t count the number of times when people come into my office at work and after a few minutes of exchanging niceties, I am back to my work. But then I am shamed when I look at my co-workers accepting their guests and hosting them accordingly. Walking through town with a co-worker takes twice as long, because they actually take the time to greet everybody they know properly.
There are countless other cultural faux-pas that I commit everyday. The fact of the matter is that we as ex-pats are lucky to have such understanding hosts. Often I’m sure I’m let off the hook because ‘I’m from
The Ghanaians I interact with are sensitive enough to respect my cultural norms, and they don’t hold them against me. If they were as judgmental as I am about those superficial cultural inconsistencies, then I’m sure I wouldn’t have any friends by now. I have nothing but thanks for my extremely welcoming hosts, who make living in this country, away from loved ones, an easier transition.