Roland S. Martin
CNN Political Analyst, AC360° Contributor
The one thing I love about learning about other cultures is that what you do in yours that's good, is not acceptable at all in another culture. And what's bad in yours is just fine in their culture.
I just finished having lunch with His Royal Majesty, King Adamtey I, who heads the Se kingdom of Ghana, which encompasses 2 million people worldwide (In fact, he is the host of the African Technology Conference I'm attending and was the one who personally extended an invitation to me to give a keynote address).
Over lunch, we were discussing what is acceptable in Ghanaian culture and the issue of language came up.
His Royal Majesty, along with his brother and royal aides, got a good laugh out of Americans who curse, such as saying s–t, f–k, and other words we can't say on television and radio. He said that it's looked upon as no big deal in Ghana. And in fact, he said it's not a shock to hear a pastor say "this is f-–g wonderful" in church.
I turned to my wife and said, "I would love this country!" because she knows I have an affinity to let loose and cuss like a sailor.
But we also got a good laugh about hand gestures. In Ghanaian culture, if you give someone the thumbs up or extend your thumb to them, you are insulting them in a major way. If you point your open hand at someone, then that is considered a major offense.
I was also told that anyone – especially a respected figure – who passes gas in public and is heard by someone else, completely loses any and all respect, whether it's the president or prime minister. And then the people will have no respect for them.
It was a fascinating discussion because it was important to learn what is a no-brainer in one nation is seriously frowned in another.
His Royal Majesty has promised to sit down with me on Saturday for a discussion that I'll shoot video of, and as a part of that, we'll discuss customs in Ghana. It promises to be entertaining.
By the way, tomorrow is Friday and all across the country that is considered "traditional dress" day. I had planned on wearing a suit when I give my keynote, but I'll be dressed in African garb, which is cool, considering I've got like 20 outfits (although I only brought two since I planned to purchase others here). I'll try to broadcast my speech live on uStream.tv.
I'll be out and about tomorrow and this weekend, so look for more pictures and video. Especially on Friday, when I'll be a part of a ceremony officially declaring me a "son" of the Se tribe. It promises to be a blast!
Anderson Cooper goes beyond the headlines to tell stories from many points of view, so you can make up your own mind about the news. Tune in weeknights at 8 and 10 ET on CNN.
Questions or comments? Send an email
Want to know more? Go behind the scenes with