Ten Insights into Ghanaian Culture: #5 – Ghanaian Perceptions of Travellers
Ghanaians, just like other residents of Old World countries, I’ve noticed, tend to be very good at identifying who does and does not live locally. They can tell before you even open your mouth to announce your foreign accent or garbled Twi. They can tell from your clothes. They can tell from your shoes. Heck, they can even tell from your skin tone. (“Yes, I know she’s from abroad; I can see that the sun has not yet burnt her enough,” I overheard a woman once say, which I got a good laugh out of.) So, Ghanaians are really very good at singling out the traveller, the foreigner, within the crowd.
This may be good or bad for you. It may be good in the sense that foreignness brings privilege. It gives you preferential treatment and easy access to many services and opportunities. The VIP pass. The bad news is that it makes it easy for people to cheat, swindle, or rob you; to hike up prices, because they expect that if you are a foreigner, you must be rich; and to ask you for all kinds of favors, or for money. Yes, you will make many fast friends who are just as quick to part with your money. And no one will believe you if you tell them that you’re just a regular Joe earning an average salary and trying to make ends meet, like them. You can’t possibly be a regular Joe, because aren’t you from a rich country? Then you must be rich too. And maybe you are, indeed, compared to the income of a “regular Joe” in Ghana. And you should absolutely do whatever you can to help people who will never have the kind of social and economic opportunities that you may have back in your country. But just remember in your benevolence that you have bills to pay too; that you can live in a rich country and be poor too; and that the more money you hand out, the more money people expect you can give them, too.