Twi in Ghana

Greetings and Etiquette

A person shaking the hand on someone sitting down

Although Ghana is a country with 46 languages, English is the national language. The language used for any greeting or parting depends largely on the situation.

When youthful peers greet one another, the greeting usually takes place in English and is in a very casual, western style. Although Ghanaian culture is conservative when it comes to demonstrations of physical affection, young people more and more exchange hugs. Despite the conservative attitude toward physical contact during greetings, it is acceptable for either men or women to hold hands when walking down a street.

Greetings between parents and young people also may tend toward the informal, depending on the level of education and exposure to European culture. However, greetings between young people and elders have a different tone. The language spoken is usually Twi or another Ghanaian language. There are inquiries as to the health and well being of the elder. The greeting is more leisurely. Even in the case of greetings that tend to seem more informal, there is always the underpinning of the respectful nature of African culture.

Greetings between middle-aged friends tend to be informal; the language will be probably be English. It is unusual for hugs and kisses to be exchanged; however, men and women will shake hands freely.

Greetings between elders usually take place in a Ghanaian language, and there will be exhaustive inquiries into the health of one another’s families, the well being of the farm, and all other concerns.

Protocol for greeting large groups of people varies, depending on the nature of the gathering. When young people go to a party of their peers, generally, they will not know everyone and will just go find their friends and greet them. When young people go to a party of mixed young people and adults, they do not have to greet everyone; however, there may be certain people whom they are expected to seek out and greet. When attending a family gathering, each member of the party must be greeted respectfully.

Departures follow protocol similar to that of greetings. At mixed parties, one generally says goodbye to friends and the hosts. At a family party, one says goodbye to each member individually. This is an opportunity for older relatives to give parting advice to the young, who are obliged to listen graciously.