Being here in Ghana and observing the culture, this country is a high context culture. This is due to the Ghanaian traditions and history of how their ancestors communicated. Ghanaian people are very standardized people and when communicating they feel that they should not have to explain themselves. Ghanaians feel that you know and understand what they mean, through their non-verbal and indirect way of communicating. Well for someone such as myself, being a true westerner, this can be very frustrating and I have been feeling as if some of the people are downright rude. However, after really observing and reading about high context cultures it is not that the people are rude; they just expect you to know what they mean. Well it’s still frustrating.
Since arriving in Ghana we have been eating out most imes and staying in hotels due to traveling around the country. We have traveled the whole length of the country, from the southern region to the northern region. Being a customer service expert, I have been observing the customer service at the restaurants and hotels. The best way to describe this non-verbal indirect communication is; when checking into our first hotel no one knew that to get hot water there is a switch that you had to flip for the water to heat up. Also, in order for the air conditioner to come on you must put your room key in this slot near the door. I only found this out the next day while speaking with Dr. Abaidee and he explained to me about the shower and air conditioner situation. I said to myself why didn’t the front desk staff explain this to us I could have had a cool room and hot shower the night before. Ghanaians are not good communicators for their foreigners (Western customers).
Most of the hotels restaurants include breakfast with you stay. Omelets are the highlighted items on the breakfast menu. In the U.S. and other places I have traveled to, an omelet has cheese in it unless there is a request not to put it in. Well of course I wanted the Spanish omelet and I asked for extra cheese. To my surprise the omelet was a fried egg with peppers (red and green) and onions no cheese. Being the cheese lover I’m a little confused because I did ask for extra cheese but no cheese in my omelet. I ask the waiter where was the cheese, his response “we don’t have any cheese.” Well my taste buds were a little disappointed. I hate eggs without cheese. I’m finding even when you ask, Ghanaians really do not communication affectively. Either they do not understand you and don’t want you to explain or due to their indirect way of communicating they just assumed that the understanding is clear. So you never really get a straight answer and then frustration on both sides set in. By the time it’s all over the waiter is totally frustrated and you are trying to keep it together. Not knowing what you are getting can be pretty difficult.
With the help of the tours and places Dr. Abaidee have taken us to it is helping me to work through this high context culture. From learning about the Ghanaian culture and how it was built on the traditional historic system. The way the Ghanaian ancestors communicated then was through the drum beats, this was so that the emery could not understand what was being communicated. Communication here in Ghana has not really changed. No, they do not communicate through the beat of the drums, but indirect and non-verbal (or should I say no communication, just assuming you know) way to communicate is still very much is alive. So westerns beware when you visit Ghana things are assumed you know and this will leave you feeling a little confused and totally frustrated. However, just know that this indirect non-verbal way of communicating with a Ghanaian is their way of life. Just be patience and remember where you are.