The very first time I heard the phrase “you are welcome” I paused and wondered if I was being rude and forgotten to say thank you, because it seemed completely out of context. But, alas the first of many confusions to understand was that “you are welcome” is not necessarily a response to thank you, but rather a friendly phrase to let you know that you are welcome here, in Ghana, in their country.
There are many other quirky phrases and tendencies that we have come to appreciate and that still often amuse us.
Aha, emphasis on the drawn out, almost nasally aspect of ha, is used all the time, usually as a general agreement of understanding. After Afia, our host mom, explained that we shouldn’t eat bushmeat because of ebola, aha was the perfect response, because that makes sense.
Eh, Charlie! can be used to mean hey man in a friendly tone, or more like woah, no/ come on/ are you kidding me. When a cab driver tries to tell you it costs 30 cedi to get home from Osu, you might hear eh, Charlie! No way, we’ll find another one.
Sista is used to call a woman or get her attention. When someone is trying to sell you something you might hear, sista, sista, give me 1 cedi, 1 cedi, for a bag of plaintain chips for example. A sound similar to shh shh but more with a t in front of it (like tsh tsh) and ending in a hiss, is used to get a person’s attention as well.
“Please, I’m coming” is one of my favorites. Please is used in front of almost anything, and I’m coming means hang on, or could mean I’ll be there in a second. Esther, our friend/daily waitress at Med Diner would always tell us, “please I’m coming” while we were waiting for our lunch, even if the food wasn’t actually ready yet and she wasn’t actually coming right back.
You will often hear the phrase “you’re invited” also. When you sit down to eat, especially if one person gets their food first, they might let you know it’s okay to have some of their food by saying “you’re invited”.
Another noticeable trend is the signs for business or stores. Many are named after God, Jesus, or are religious in some manner. For example, signs that say Jesus is King Cosmetics or Holy Light Printing Services are very common. My favorite was an ambulance that said Truth is Healing. Then again though, we saw a lingerie store in Osu called Tits n Butts, so this is not a trend for 100% of the stores.
All of these things continue to become less out of the ordinary, but I am still often surprised by the way that people acknowledge their friendliness to us outsiders. Just this morning as we were walking home from church with Afia, a random woman in our neighborhood said to us “you are welcome” as we passed by. It’s always nice to know that despite our obvious appearance as foreigners, many people feel compelled to let us know that we are welcome here.