Phone Terminology and Etiquette

  • Credit, Top-Up, Airtime, Units – the amount of cedis purchased for prepaid phone and Internet use. More commonly known as "minutes" in US. *Note that whereas calls are charged per minute in the US, they are charged per second in Ghana for most, if not all providers.
  • Flashing - has 2 definitions here (Don't worry! Both are very different from what you might be used to when this word is used back home!)
  • In order to save on minutes or "units", a caller will dial a number, let the phone ring once and then hang up, requesting that person they are calling use their credit to call them back (because calls are only charged outgoing)
  • Another way to exchange contact information. When exchanging phone numbers, one person types the other's number in their phone and then calls the other person so their own number appears on the other person's phone, which they can then input into their address book.
  • Text messaging, or SMS-ing, is very common. This makes having a smart phone, or at least a phone with a full keyboard, very convenient. If you receive a text message, send a message back to indicate it was received.
  • Voice SMS/Voicemail – at time of press voice SMS is not commonly used and thereby people have trouble even knowing how to listen to a voice SMS they have received. While voicemail is available through the service providers, most Ghanaians do not commonly use it. Rather, if you see a missed call on your phone, the custom is to return the call. But there really isn't any way of knowing if you truly missed a call intended for you, received an incorrectly dialed call, or if you were "flashed".
  • A Ringing Phone Always Gets Answered - Perhaps it is the lack of voicemail use that perpetuates the urgent phone culture here. If you are accustomed to turning off your mobile during meetings or social engagements, or sending calls received during said moments directly to voicemail, you might be surprised that almost no situation in Ghana is held so sacred. A ringing phone almost always warrants an answer, unless, of course, one is avoiding the caller!
More in this category: « Buying a phone