Tuesday, 29 July 2008

What you don't learn in guidebooks.

There are certain things about Ghanaian custom that you don't learn until you live here, or in some cases (mine and my friends'), until someone explains to you what your actions mean.

I realised this several weeks ago after being told that a certain acquaintance was my boyfriend. The person who told me, mentioned it as a fact, not a rumour and was surprised to hear it wasn't true. I was in complete shock, wondering how this 'fact' had come about, what Virgo would think of hearing such a 'fact', then realising, on top of all the untruths in the 'fact', the acquaintance was a married man with children!

Suddenly it stopped being an innocent mistake (I know Virgo's secure enough to handle such rumours) and instead I was the mistress of a husband and father. Nice. My crime? Strolling through Shoprite with the acquaintance a good eight months earlier.

Similarly, a friend who shared her meal with a guy she just met at a lunch with a group of friends, was understood by the whole group, including the man who ate half her food (scooped on to his own plate), as signalling that they were actually sleeping together! I can only imagine the guy wondering over his luck, not having to chat up this beautiful lady and yet she was ready to go all the way with him.

Sometimes it has lesser consequences, but is equally puzzling until you realise what has happened. For example, the time my mum and went to a lunch said hello as we entered the house, then both felt we were given the cold shoulder by the other guests (women, of course) until I realised and whispered in Swedish to my mum: "We didn't go round from left to right and greet everyone as we entered the room". A few smiles and introductions to the other guests individually, and suddenly we were part of the crowd.

Right now, I can only imagine who else I am a mistress to, after all, I too have shared meals with friends (the Poet, as recently as last Thursday), sat in my male friends' cars (yes, that too is a crime) and walked through shops with other male friends.

So for the sake of your reputations, please, share your experiences so we can all learn and walk through Accra as citizens of good standing! ;)

6 comments:

Nana Yaw Asiedu said...

I feel your pain, but in this Rumour Capital (or shall I say Capitol) nobody can give you a definitive set of situations. What will not trigger rumours today, will scandalise you tomorrow. You just learn to go with the flow.

In Rumour Capital, I do not think the actors are as important as the interpreter. And they can interprete every action anyhow they want. Tough, but true.

You just keep doing your thing, Maya. We trust and respect you loads.

Maya said...

I agree. If we were to listen and worry about all the rumours around town, we wouldn't dare do anything at all.

Thanks for the pep-talk, Nana Yaw. ;)

Yngvild said...

what? you didnt know talking/walking/eating/interacting with men means you are more than friends? I was seen as the neighborhood whore in Kumasi cos all my friends were boys (cos all the girls thought i was stealing their boys..) :)

Where I live now, people know more about my life and my marital status than I even know myself, when one day I walked behind a pair of elderly men discussing my origin. "She is a Norwegian, married to a Ghanaian". Sure sucks to miss one's own wedding... hope it was the best day of my life.

posekyere said...

Long Live Maya!

There is a systemic inclination towards untested presumptions in Ghana bigtime.
The culture of reading something bizzare into an otherwise normal relation between decent people is pervasive.

The ability to conclude that something is a fact without any reasonable evidence is beyond most people except most Ghanaians. Subjective interpretations, observations, feelings, assumptions,hearsays and improper deductions are all lumped together as hardcore facts.
Again Ghanaians,generally, do not question the authenticity of most the stories and information they come into contact with. They take them as they hear them and see them.

To try to formulate a "proper ghanaian way" of living your life so as not to fall prey to the whimsical interpretations of the spectators is an exercise in futility.
Forget that you are staying in Ghana and live your life as decently and joyfully as you would anywhere else in the world.

Maya said...

I know Yngvild, too naive of me. I should have known better, especially since I've also had people narrate my life behind my back. And just a few months ago I also heard about my wedding. Just wish I had been invited... ;)

Maya said...

Posekyere, you are so right, and your language is beautiful!

The scary thing is that I and probably many others, believed all the 'facts' we were told, before realising how these stories are created. So I guess that ought to be the real exercise: inform those coming to Ghana so that they don't become part of the gossip mechanism simply by innocently believing everything they hear.

As advised, I will continue doing what I'm doing without giving a damn about what others think or say!

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