60 different things about Ghana*

*according to us (it started as 20 things, but grew a bit).

1. People really do carry things in their heads…food, wood, water, generators, everything. Their posture is fantastic. But almost no-one wears a hat.

2. The majority of women have false hair extensions, or wear wigs! Despite this, ‘rasta’ hair is not allowed at school.

3. Ghanaians are happy, smiley, polite and calm people who live in a crazy, chaotic, loud, in-your-face country where almost nothing goes quite to plan but always seems to get there in the end.

4. We wash our hair with ‘Dark and Lovely’ shampoo, yet our hair is neither dark, nor particularly lovely. Soap is made out of Cocoa pods.

5. Food comes in a multitude of colours: auburn, bay, beige, bister, buff, chesnut
chocolate, coffee, ecru, fawn, hazel, khaki, mahogony, nut, puce, sorrel, tan, umber. Oops! Nearly forgot brown.

The McRichieBenaud meal – brown, beige, off-white, and ivory.
aka Giblets with jollof and shito.

6. Cocoa bean flesh tastes great –  like sweet lychees – but unfortunately looks like maggots.

Maggots have taken out a class action against Cocoa (pictured).

7. Plantain fruit and plants are indistinguishable from bananas – except the plantain ‘banana’ is bigger and tastes like a fruity potato.

8. Plantain makes the best chips in the world. The pineapple and mango is fabulous. Ice cream is also spectacularly good…. I don’t understand that one either. Jollof rice and shitto (see 5) are also very good.

9. Giant snails taste like dirt mixed with mold and extract of old sock (nb. everyone says they were cooked the wrong way). The bread (preserved with sugar) is zippily different for 2 months and then produces a quality a gag reflex forevermore.

10. Maths lessons have been know to turn into Religious and Moral Education lessons. But, so far, no R.M.E. lessons have turned into maths lessons (twelve apostles each have three sprigs of mir…or…The 3 wise men are travelling at 7 km per hour and see a star 12 km to the east….)

11. Babies are carried on mothers backs. I have seen prams for sale, but never used.

12. Axel-breaking overloaded trucks are the norm. Axel-breaking under-maintained roads are the norm. This is not a good place to be an axle.

13. It’s legal to sit in the back/on the top of a truck while its moving.

14. Trucks have been spotted bogged in potholes or flipped over from driving through them.

Truck 0, pothole 1.

15. Cows are transport in the back of utes.

16. Surprisingly few motorbikes [the fatality rate must be spectacular].

17. Masses of massive, unfinished houses. And quite a few delapidated ones.

an airstrike would actually improve this dwelling.

18. Shopping from the car window takes convenience shopping to a whole new level. Fruit, vegetables, nappies, tissues, car chargers, alphabet posters, plantain chips, fabric, plastic containers, bath washers, dvd’s, coat hangers..haven’t seen a kitchen sink, yet.

19. Village market day originates from taboo day. Taboo day changes depending on which river you live on.

20. Street boutique..ever wondered where all those clothes you donated to the Salvoes ended up?

21. Many churches don’t sing hymns, but high life.
An example , “I love my life”- original (3:50min). remix (124min – you’ll have a new appreciation for irony after this feast!)

22. You eat in a Chop bar.

23. You drink at a Spot.

24. A chop bar can become a spot, but a spot doesn’t become a chop.

25. Speaking of chops, sheep look like shaggy goats.

26. Goats look like they have been shrunk (except for their stomaches and testicles – which nearly touch the ground)

It thinks its a basketball. We reckon its completely nuts?

27. Bushmeat treats include grasscutter (a giant guinea pig), bush rat, antelope and guinea fowl. Alas, no lamb.

28. Cheese is not very popular – and in some cases unknown.

29. Very few lollies, as sugar detracts from a mans ability to…act like a man.

30. Children, however, are allowed lollies and it seems fine to eat them in class (which isn’t particularly manly either)

31. Fanta is available at the school canteen. It is also used as a libation.

32. Cats and dogs! Call that rain? Jock has to wear his bike helmet to avoid concussion if he plays outside in a downpour (OK, there is a certain artistic licence in that statement, but the rain is impressive).

33. They (guys in white coats) are trialling a vaccine for malaria in Ghana! Which has to be a good thing.

34. Speaking of guys in white coats, crazy people don’t get angry, but they do on the whole, get ignored.

35. It’s hot, all the time. Its just the rain that changes.

36. On the street, or in the stores, everyone sells the same things…this week everyone is selling corn or car chargers.

37. It’s loud! The music, the car horns, the loud speakers selling herbal remedies or salvation.

38. “Obruni!” “Hey white man!” All the time…children, men, women, everyone does it.

39. All the beds, chairs, tables made locally are a variation on a single theme.                And that theme is 1980s mafia chic.

40. No prescriptions are needed…how many months of Viagra did you require?

41. Wedding decorations are a BIG deal (which isn’t actually that different to Australia)

42. Funerals are an even bigger deal. Many people live without refrigeration, but they will pay to keep a body in the morgue for several months so an appropriate funeral can be arranged.

43. Dowrys are still often paid.

44. Parts of Ghana have extraordinary coffins…cocoa bean shaped coffins, boats, fish, houses; whatever was significant in that persons life.

45. Widows wear black adrinka cloth for a year after their husbands passing.

46. Avocados are called pears. Pears are called pears, but they come from South Africa and aren’t eaten much.

see the garden eggs in the background

47. The original egg-plants come from West Africa and are called garden eggs, and do look like eggs. Aubergines, while from the same family, come from Asia.

48. Much smaller personal space, and everyone holds hands, men included, and it doesn’t mean they are gay.

49. Privacy is not a big deal. Kids leave the toilet doors open at school, and I once spotted a man having a squat in the bush in plain view!

50. Everyone is religious. But some still go to ‘Spiritual healers’ or fetish priests. Juju is very real.

51. Many people eat at least one meal a day out. Roadside breakfast stalls are common, selling boiled eggs or porridge in plastic bags. My favourite one is ‘Start the day with Jesus’.

52. Most stores have religious names…’God is great babering shop’, or moral names like ‘No food for lazy man carpentry’, ‘Psalm 23 hairdresser’. Bill has taken this to heart and is the proud manager of the ‘God is the Saviour Exploration Laboratory’.

53. Most taxis, tro-tros and buses have religious names, in English or Twi. ‘God is God’ or ‘Nyame adom’ (By the Grace of God). My knowledge of Twi is largely based on these stickers. Jock, on the other hand, is being coached in Twi potty mouth by his mates at school.

54. Want to catch a tro-tro? If someone (the conductor) is leaning out the passenger window yelling, there is a seat for you.

55. If you visit a chief, it’s polite to offer a bottle of Schnapps.

56. Its good manners to shake hands from the right of a group to the left.
57. Malt based drinks (other than scotch) are extremely popular. Guinness makes one of the most popular malts here.
58. After school assembly, the children march into class singing ‘We are soldiers of the Lord’. Jock hums it to himself when he’s busy.

Dried fish, an olfactory experience

59. Ghana is an olfactory experience, particularly dried fish, drains and kitchens.

60. My favourite thing about Ghana – when we return to our house we are greeted with ‘You are welcome’. It is genuinely lovely, and pretty much sums up Ghana.

12 responses to “60 different things about Ghana*

  1. Your blog is great and you look like the perfect family! I will probably email you sooner or later to ask about more information about Ghana as I’d love to come! I was looking for pictures of the sea & beaches but couldn’t find any on here, loved the mini-goats though 😉
    Keep posting! Thanks

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  2. Is it any wonder adapting has some difficulties !!! It was so interesting though but I will never think of lycees in the same way. Rob

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  5. WOW! Love this blog! We are a US family, (currently expats in Begium) and are seriously looking into an option in Ghana. Not too sure yet. Your blog provides such a great, honest, fun glimpse into an incredibly different world! Thanks!

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    • Hi there, you have a lovely, lovely blog, and beautiful photographs. And trust me when I say, life in Ghana would be very different to life in Belgium. The festival looked absolutely stunning. Should you think any further about Ghana, feel free to keep in touch. Kind regards, Chrissie

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  6. Pingback: Bonnes fêtes | six degrees north·

    • As we said at the top of the post, it’s just according to us. I think it depends on where you live and what your experiences have been. Many people write that Australia is just one big desert, populated with nothing but deadly snakes and spiders, and it’s waters full of great white sharks, leaving it’s tiny population on the edge of death. It’s all just a bit of fun, and not meant to cause offence.

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