I Believe in the Use of Salutations

Olive - Fontana, California
Entered on November 7, 2008
Age Group: 30 - 50

Cultural differences and shocks are two things I experienced when I traveled to the United States of America. Some moral norms I grew up with do not exist in the United States culture. In the Ghanaian culture, it was my moral responsibility to address every elderly person appropriately. My values and beliefs taught me to respect people by addressing them as sister, brother, aunt, or uncle before his or her first name. I am obliged to use Mr., Mrs., or Dr., followed by the person’s last name. It is respectful to call people by their title. This norm helped my morality as a Ghanaian. This is my value. This I believe.

I believe it is morally wrong and unethical to call an adult by his or her first name. For example, I would say Sister Michelle or Brother Michael, Mr. Hanson or Mrs. Johnson and Aunt Ann and Uncle John. Besides, if I want to show respect to someone younger than me, I call the person sister or brother. No matter the person’s status, respect is the core value. I address every woman at my mother’s age as Aunt. Similarly, every man at my father’s age is addressed Uncle before his first name. Grandparents are addressed Nana. Because of my belief, I address my superiors appropriately even in the United States. The only people I feel comfortable to call by the first names are my classmates, my age group and individuals close to me who insist I use their first names. However, if a class mate is older than me, I still use Ms., Mrs. or Mr. and never call the person by the first name only.

A child who calls people by their first names in Ghanaian is said to be disrespectful. It then becomes the family’s responsibility to teach the child how to address people by using the appropriate salutations. In the United States, however, it is culturally appropriate for a child to call an adult by his or her first name. Most American students call professors by their first names. I believe it is morally disrespectful and unethical. Is it wrong to say Professor James and not simply James? My neighbor once said my children and I should call her by her first name. Despite the fact that it is appropriate and acceptable in the United States culture, I insisted my children call her by the daughters name like Stephanie’s mom. Amazingly she likes it better.

Even though every culture has its appropriate norms and practices, I believe it is morally appropriate and respectful to address people by their desired salutations and not by their first names only. The Ghanaian culture I grew up in teaches and reinforces this. This I believe is the best value I ever learned.