The differences between American and Ghanaian culture abound, and they make for some interesting experiences and some silly situations. I came to Accra to study local newspapers and journalism as part of a study abroad program through the American University of Wisconsin – Superior. I had never been out of America until I began this adventure in December. I wasn’t sure exactly what to expect, but I knew things would be different than in my own community back home. I was in for a surprise. I have found that people here are very kind, and they are willing to repeat things when I don’t understand. They like to speak in English with me while I try hard to catch a few Ga or Akan words that I can practice on them. I knew that coming to a big city would be a change from my small town, but I’ve never been so crowded by so many people as when I went to Makola Market on a Sunday. I was moving along with the crowd, but I couldn’t tell if my feet were actually on the ground. I have never had the opportunity to bargain in the States, so haggling over prices with my tight student budget is a new experience as well.
Getting from one place to another has also been interesting. If I walk down the street, kids yell “oboroni!” and laugh or smile and wave. It’s hard to get anywhere at times when I am surrounded by a group of well-wishers or sellers. When I ride in a taxi, I figure I’m going to die, or the driver will end up hitting one of the people, goats, chickens or motorbikes that seem to be all over the road. In America, if I step out into traffic, I will most likely be hit, or people will brake and be sure to scream at me. Here in Ghana, people are aware of each other and are constantly on their guard to be sure they brake, swerve or otherwise avoid hitting anything or anyone. I have seen a few accidents, but for how nervous I was when I first rode in a taxi, there are relatively few overall.
I was told by my professor, Ephraim Nikoi, that foods here in Ghana would be spicy, so I tried to prepare myself. I had no idea. In America, spicy means it just barely tingles on your tongue. Here, spicy means you feel your throat disintegrating and your hands burn for hours after eating tilapia and light soup with fufu. There is really no comparison between Ghana and the United States when it comes to spice.
The sense of community here is very neat. It seems that kids are held responsible by everyone in the area, not just their parents. Kids are very polite and usually quiet here; in America they often get into trouble because no one is teaching them how to behave. People like to visit here and are willing to explain some of the cultural customs and traditions that I want to learn about. The culture is far more open and inviting than many places in America. It’s refreshing to have people acknowledge me and watch out for me.
The weather here is another change from where I live in America. Right now, the temperature back home is around -9 to -26 degrees Celcius. Even in the hottest days of summer in Wisconsin, the temperature doesn’t usually get above 90 degrees. Here in Ghana, I am always pouring sweat and wiping my face with a towel. My clothing sticks to me and I have to drink seemingly gallons of water to keep myself hydrated. When I go back home at the end of January, I’m sure I will be in shock.
I have really enjoyed finding friends here in Ghana and learning so much about the different cultures, languages, people groups and customs. I will miss being here and getting to experience all the adventures I have had – going to Boti Falls, touring in Cape Coast, studying in La, swimming in the ocean, researching at La Mansaamo Kpee with the Wojaku newspaper – and I will miss the warmth of the weather and the people of Ghana. I will have to come back someday because I love it here.