In Ghana, social life is characterized by various influences from the nation’s many ethnicities. Fortunately, the country does not, or only rarely, experience the tensions that plague many other multiethnic nations in Africa; the different ethnicities have managed to remain in a state of relatively peaceful coexistence throughout the nation’s recent history. Differences in tribal heritage, language (see below) and religion — while Christianity is the most widespread faith, there are sizeable Muslim communities, particularly in the north — only make Ghanaian culture more interesting, rather than being a cause for strife.
The largest ethnic groups in Ghana today are the Akan, Mole-Dagbon, Ewe, and Ga-Dangme. Between the four of them, they represent about 85% of the population. Other ethnic groups include the Guan, Grusi, and Gurma, amongst others. Foreigners who have opted for life in Ghana are not too numerously represented, but tend to flock together in the main urban centers and economic powerhouses, some of which we have discussed in our article on moving to Ghana.
Depending on where you are planning to spend your future life in Ghana, the dominating, or rather most numerous, ethnicity will obviously differ. With it, the language you are most likely to hear on the street or the market will change: the many different tribes living in Ghana speak a whopping 70 languages between them. For obvious reasons, living a sensible and satisfying life would be impossible without a lingua franca. English is the language that assumes this task. While it is not the native tongue of the majority of the population, it is a mandatory subject in schools and the language of official and economic life. Thus, you should not have problems getting through the day relying only on your English skills.
Several other languages are recognized as official by the government and deemed “government-sponsored languages” by the Bureau of Ghana Languages, namely Akan, Ewe, Ga, Dangme, Nzema, Dagbani, Dagaare, Gonja, and Kasem. Due to this immense wealth in languages, it should not be surprising that a good portion of the population is multilingual and fluent in other languages besides their native tongue and English. French experiences a steady rise in popularity and prestige, and it is not uncommon to meet Ghanaians, particularly in professional settings, who are fluent in French.
Chances are that you will not be able to spend more than three months in Ghana without witnessing a holiday or festival observed by at least part of the population. While Ghanaian culture is most often represented by the heritage of the largest group of the population, the Akan, there is a wealth of cultural festivities to discover, and music and dance almost always are central parts of the celebrations. The cultural heritage of the nation is also a considerable draw for tourists visiting the country — expats living in Ghana should definitely take the opportunity to partake in these unique and fascinating festivals whenever it arises!
In terms of cuisine, starchy staple foods made from locally available produce as well as soups and stews are the center of a good Ghanaian meal. You should definitely not pass on the opportunity of feasting on some delicious fufu, a dish consisting of pounded plantains and cassava or yams, with a side of soup or sauce to dip the dough in. Another wildly popular dish is Red Red, a bean stew served with fried plantain.
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