social occasion

Social conduct in Ghana

In general, Ghanaians emphasize communal values such as family, respect for the elderly, honoring traditional rulers, and the importance of dignity and proper social conduct.


Individual conduct is seen as having impact on an entire family, social group and community; therefore, everyone is expected to be respectful, dignified and observant in public settings and in most every aspect of life.


When greeting people in a home, it is considered improper if the guest ignores any person present. Guests are expected to acknowledge and greet every person at a social occasion, including children and babies, by shaking hands (with the right hand only).

When shaking hands, it is appropriate for the guest to first greet the person on his/her right-hand side and work their way left. This ensures that the guest's palm makes contact with the palm of the person receiving the handshake - touching the back of the hand instead of the palm is considered insulting or unlucky. Guests are expected to begin by greeting the most elderly person present.

The same ritual is expected to be observed upon leaving as well as arriving, and should be carried out until sufficient familiarity has been established, at which point the ritual becomes redundant.

When greeting dignitaries, such as village or tribal elders, this ritual is expected to be carried out by all persons present regardless of age or status.


Asking a person to a social event (e.g. a bar or restaurant) implies that the person offering the invite will be paying for everything. Inviting a person out and then expecting them to pay for their own drinks, etc. is considered extremely rude. When an outsider is invited to visit the elders and/or Chief of the community, the foreign guest(s) are expected to take a gift which usually a bottle of Schnapps or Kasapreko gin, easily available in all shops.

Special Occasions

Naming ceremonies, puberty initiations, marriage and death are all marked by family ceremonies. Seasonal festivals serve to bring a whole tribe or clan together in spectacular fashion.

If attending a funeral, women (including foreigners) must cover their heads with a hat or simple black cloth wound round the head. A man must not have his head covered. The same applies to church-going, weddings, and naming ceremonies.


It is unacceptable for women, particularly young foreign women, to wear clothes of a revealing nature. Female clothing which would be acceptable in the West (shorts, low-cut strapped tops, etc) are not socially acceptable in Ghanaian society. Similarly, it is unacceptable for foreign men to be shirtless in public, and also unacceptable for Ghanaian men, to a lesser degree. Ghanaian social norms are sometimes difficult to establish, as younger adults are generally much less inhibited about wearing revealing clothing or being shirtless, while older Ghanaian citizens may find such apparell on Ghanaians and foreigners of any nationality or race to be insulting. A general rule is to dress conservatively unless in the company of people either of your own gender and/or your own age, and with whom you are well-acquainted.

Drinking alcohol and smoking in public are serious faux-pas among Ghanaians and should be avoided, both by Ghanaians and foreigners. Public intoxication to any degree is generally viewed with extreme disapproval. Such activities, though, are perfectly acceptable in a local bar ("spot"). When drinking alcohol, it is a common custom among Ghanaians to pour the last few drops on the ground as a libation for the gods. People who decline from drinking alcohol may accept an alcoholic drink with gratitude, raise it to their lips without drinking, and pour it upon the ground. Raising the glass to the lips signifies gratitude and thus pouring the drink away is a socially acceptable alternative for those who do not drink (this predominates in central and northern Ghana, where local populations often contain a higher number of Muslims than in the south, and this custom permits non-drinking Muslim Ghanaians to join social events without offending those present by refusing a drink or without breaking their religious laws).

Taking photographs of people unknown to the photographer must be conducted with the same level of consideration in one's own country. Most Ghanaians are happy to 'pose' for pictures as it is considered polite.

In public, it is not normal to find people of the opposite sex holding hands. If one should find the same sex holding hands, it is often a signifier of friendship. Social reaction to public display of affection differs: it depends on social class, education, exposure and other factors. Generally speaking, it is viewed upon as something private and should be kept that way. Homosexuality is a no-go topic simply because people just don't know how to react to such. Often some just resort to a moral and biblical reasons for objection to homosexual relationships. homosexuality is neither condemned nor condoned by Ghanaians). Male hand-holding is sometimes less prevalent in large cities.

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