LEBANON, TEMA, GHANA—The second best way to make friends in Ghana is to introduce yourself by your Ghanaian name. Every time I do, I receive delighted giggles from the girls and women and a smile and a fist pound from the men. When I arrived in Ghana, I did not know which day of the week I was born, which was shocking to the people I met. “How could you not know what day you are born?” The day you are born dictates your name so not knowing what day I was born was, for them, like not knowing even who I was!
I called my mom and she knew luckily (I guess she will probably never forget the day she gave birth to an 11 pounder—me). “I was born on a Friday,” I told Lion (his real name is ‘Kwasi’). “That makes you a ‘Kofi’!” he laughed. “From now on I will call you Kofi.”
He doesn’t, actually. He calls me ‘Obi’ which is short for ‘Obibini’ (that means ‘black man’). My real name, Kyle, is impossible for most Ghanaians to say. It comes out sounding more like “cow” which isn’t very attractive. So I go by Obi, Kofi, Obruni (white man) or David (my middle name). So I am pretty confused at this point.
Find your name in the table below and you will be an instant success on the streets of Ghana! [at least the regions in the south that speak Tchree (Fanti, Ashanti)]
|Day of Birth||Male Name||Female Name|
|Wednesday||Kwaku (KWAY-koo)||Akweya (ah-KWEE-ya)|
|Sunday||Kwasi (KWAY-see)||Acoseya (ah-coh-SEE-ya)|
I noticed a pattern where male names almost always start with a ‘K’ and female names tend to start with an ‘A’.
Often women will make up names for you as you walk passed “Kwaku! Kwaku!” they will sometimes shout. One time a woman shouted “Kofi!” When I told her that was my name was actually “Kofi” she and all the women in ear-shot burst out in laughter.
The funny part to me is that traditionally, the Fanti/Ashanti did not have seven-day weeks. The week was brought by westerners. Today if you want to refer to “last week” while speaking Tchree, one would say “last week.” I tried asking a pastor I met today about when the modern week was introduced to Ghana and he said that Martin Luther King brought it. So I am looking for other answers still.
You may be wondering what the best way to make friends in Ghana is. The best way is to be white. Where ever I walk children, teens and even adults shout “Obruni!” This means they want to talk to you; it does not mean they are racist. When they shout at you, go over to them and start a conversation introducing yourself as your Ghanaian name. They will laugh. Ask them about their day, their family, what football team they support, tell them about yourself, where you live, your family (be warned that if you tell them you have sisters they will often request to marry her). You will certainly have a nice conversation. If, on the other hand, you decide not to talk with them, they will keep shouting, laughing and you will get annoyed—at least I do. Just acknowledge them, wave, say “hello,” and you will have a much better day if do as the Ghanaians do. Namely, be friendly.