Ghana Traditions: Culture, Customs and Society

Along the Gulf of Guinea lies the beautiful West African country of Ghana. Its culture and traditions are rich and vibrant.

The people of Ghana are warm and friendly. They are polite, open and trusting — even with strangers. In Ghanaian society, it is traditional to take life at a relaxed pace and view time as a series of events rather than a matter of hours or minutes.

Two women in traditional Ghanaian clothing are sitting next to each other. Both are wearing traditional head wraps. One is laughing and pointing.

In Ghanaian society, people are more important than schedules.

Most Ghanaians consider “let’s get to business” conversation rude. It is custom for Ghanaians to exchange pleasantries and ask about family before beginning business. They greet one another, making extra effort to greet older people. With the men, handshakes almost always accompany greetings.

A woman in Ghana smiling. She is wearing a black head wrap.

Ghana’s 24 million people include six major ethnic groups that break into more than 60 smaller ones.

The six larger groups are the Akan (Ashanti and Fanti), the Ewe, the Ga-Adangbe, the Mole-Dagbani, the Guan and the Gruma. Like most other African nations, Ghana has rich, traditional cultures that differ from one ethnic group to another.

Along with different ethnic groups and cultures, 52 separate languages and hundreds of dialects are spoken in Ghana. The official language is English — a residual of British colonial rule, from which modern Ghana gained independence in 1957.

Until its independence, Ghana was known as the Gold Coast. It was renamed Ghana, meaning “Warrior King,” to reflect the ancient Ghana Empire that flourished in West Africa during the 10th century.

Today, the Ghanaian government is a unitary republic consisting of a president, parliament, cabinet, council of state and an independent judiciary. It is tradition to hold elections every four years. The government administration operates out of the central business district of Accra, the country’s capital city. As the country’s largest city, Accra has a population of roughly 2.4 million.

Ghanaians emphasize values such as the importance of family, respect for the elderly and honor for traditional rulers.

An elderly woman stands in a blue room with her arms clasped around her front, wearing a yellow and blue patterned dress and a headscarf.

They place high value on dignity and proper social conduct. Individual conduct is seen as having impact on an entire family, social group and community. Therefore, each person is expected to be respectful, dignified and observant in nearly every aspect of life.

An entire family shares any loss of honor, which makes the culture a collective one. Protecting this sense of “face” requires harmony. People behave with decorum to ensure they don’t cause embarrassment to others.

Everything is shared — even food, no matter how small the amount.

A family in Ghana works together to prepare traditional food

If a Ghanaian gets interrupted while eating, he invites the other to join him. Depending on the level of familiarity, the person may wash his hands and join in. If the relationship is casual, it is tradition for the other person to politely decline.

Among common greetings and responses in Ghana are:

  • Maakye — Good morning
  • Maaha — Good afternoon
  • Maadwo — Good evening
  • Wohu te sen? — How are you?
  • Onyame na adom me hu ye — By the Grace of God, I am fine
  • Me daase — Thank you
  • Kusee — Sorry
  • Me paa wo kyeo (“ky” sounds “ch” as it would sound in “chain”) — Please

When talking to an older person, a Ghanaian must not gesture with the left hand. In fact, anything done with the left hand is considered rude. Nevertheless, some people write or do things with the left hand because that hand is stronger than the right. It is traditional to never use the left hand to eat or gesture, however.

Ghanaians are indirect communicators. They take care not to relay information in any way that could cause issues. This includes delivering bad news, turning down an invitation or refusing a request. Ghanaians want to protect face as well as maintain harmonious relationships throughout society.

Ghana is often described as a land of festivals, music and traditional dances.

A dancer performs in brightly colored clothing, jewelry and body paint. A boy wearing a bright orange and patterned shirt smiles while dancing. Other children can be seen in the background.

It is custom for most communities, clans and tribes to have annual celebrations.

There are three main types of music in Ghana. Ethnic, or traditional, music is usually played during festivals and funerals. Highlife music blends traditional and imported music. Choral music is performed in concert halls, churches, schools and colleges.

Children in Compassion's program sing. They are wearing matching blue shirts.

Children registered at some of the Compassion-assisted child development centers in Ghana have formed choirs. One such choir is the Kasoa Cluster Mass Choir.

It is a tradition for children at our child development centers to welcome visitors and sponsors with elaborate drumming and dancing. This is an expression of appreciation and Ghanaian hospitality and culture.

Three children have their faces decorated with colorful paint

Along with taking their own customs and traditions seriously, Ghanaians easily understand and adopt other cultures and practices. This makes Ghana a comfortable society for everyone to live in and an easy African country for outsiders to visit.

Learn more about Ghana and our work there!


This was originally published April 23, 2012.

25 Comments |Add a comment

  1. lightouta October 28, 2021

    Wonderful read, may God cause the writer of this piece to enter doors of unmerited favor in Jesus name
    Amen

  2. Doreen Vivian Namai October 7, 2021

    I can’t wait to meet my partner in Ghana for the first time we are so blessed 🙏 thank you to Our Great God Our Creator 🇬🇭❤️❤️

  3. Joshua obioma May 17, 2021

    I will love to be in Ghana for an holiday nice country, I love ghana

  4. lol April 28, 2021

    who is the author

    1. Kaye-Lin April 28, 2021

      Hello there! The author of this blog is named Vera. She is a photojournalist in Compassion Ghana. 🙂

  5. Richard Manu April 20, 2021

    Excellent brief about Ghanaian culture. That’s so amazing. The people of Ghana are so good to be with. They have unique culture that accept everyone.

  6. Dennis Ebo Quaye March 16, 2021

    If i had to introduce a person to Ghana at a glance. This is it

  7. Kinako Dazangapai December 16, 2020

    This is really so amazing the culture and everything is so beautiful.

  8. Ishmael September 24, 2020

    I really like your post. Thank you for sharing. With the common greetings that you shared, I will humbly suggest that you add the language and people that speak them to enlighten people more. Because those greetings are not said all across the country.

    1. Taryn September 24, 2020

      Hello Ishmael, thank you so much for your feedback. I have passed it along to our team to look into other languages. We appreciate you and you have a blessed day! 💙

  9. Leonard Nabuko August 16, 2020

    It’s a beautiful country for holidays as the people are responsible warm and respectful

  10. Lilly July 19, 2020

    Ghana is such a friendly place

  11. isaiah December 4, 2019

    i have 50% of ghana dna and to be onest i am just 10 but my uncel who is frome ghana came to see me it was a long ride he said but i still thout his flight was delad anways i no that pepole frome ghana are specel they are so kine and one day when i was 4 i went to go visit and no trash anywher it was like heven.

  12. william November 27, 2018

    ghana is the best place if you would like to learn culture and foods and more

  13. Fatima Zeba May 2, 2018

    Ghana is a country with lots of friendly and welcoming people

  14. Jide Adeyoye March 18, 2017

    African culture is so rich that you can not but love it. Ghana, Nigeria are just but a few countries that have a special heritage that is unique. I love being African

  15. Ann Becerra January 1, 2017

    I visited my sponsored child last April and I can tell you how friendly and welcoming all the CI staff I met. I had a wonderful touring the country and all the people I met were all nice and kind.

  16. Juanita Graves August 23, 2016

    I just got back my Ancestry DNA, and I am 94% African with most percentage in Ghana. I would like to know as much as I can about my culture to embrace it. Reading this article explains so much as to who I am and now explains my warm spirit as I have been told.

  17. Gifty mensah July 16, 2016

    In God everything are possible so day will surely get their sponsors

    1. Kashmere Pratt December 1, 2016

      what christmas traditions and celbrations do yall do?cause my class is doing a project on yall country and we can’t find any information.THANK YOU

  18. Mark White August 23, 2012

    I just got back from a 2 week short term mission in Ghana. It is a beautiful country with beautiful people. They do love the lord and there is a great need there. Thanks Compassion for highlighting this great country. Three days after I left the President passed away and there was a peaceful change of power within 30 min. This was a great model for the rest of Africa.

  19. Kees Boer August 23, 2012

    I used to go on ships from Ghana with my dad during the Seventies. We would share the Gospel and many sailors from Ghana came to know Christ as Saviour……

    1. joycelyn January 15, 2018

      wauw amazing welcome to the kingdom of GOD my brother

  20. Karl August 23, 2012

    Good read, I really enjoyed it. It reminded me of my childhood there, which I miss very much :(. I’m laughing about the left hand gestures, I was left handed so anytime I would try to grab or greet an elderly person, they would smack my left hand away.

    The people are indeed very nice and friendly, I would encourage anyone to take a trip there if they can.

  21. Nina August 23, 2012

    Thank you so much for a beautiful picture of this wonderful country. Many ‘first world’ countries could learn a thing or two…..

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