Tea rolls

A number of years ago, a Canadian woman arrived in Ghana to manage a guest house in Accra. Shortly after starting in her new role, the Ghanaian staff tell her that the guest house needs tea rolls.

Kitchen staff at the guest house

Kitchen staff at the guest house

So she goes to the cooks and tells them to bake some tea rolls. This causes a very animated discussion. They respond that they have always just bought tea rolls in the past and that they don’t know how to make them. “Nonsense,” the new manager replies, “We are not going to buy tea rolls when we can make them.” The cooks give her amazed looks followed by a frenzy of discussion in English and Ghanaian languages. The cooks ask her if they really can make tea rolls in the kitchen. “Why not?” the manager asks back, adding that it is quite simple to make tea rolls and that they have all the ingredients. The cooks stare back in incredulity and then break into an even more animated talking frenzy.

In the end, the opposition to her plan to make tea rolls is overwhelming, so she sends one of the staff into town to buy them. When he comes back with tea rolls, it all becomes clear. What she did not know is that in Ghana English,  “T-roll” means toilette paper.

Anyone living in an English-speaking country other than their own runs into misunderstandings, some of which are very funny even if only after first being very frustrating. To connect with people, rather than just make fun of them, a person needs to become a student of this new form of their own language.

PS: Some of y0u may have received this earlier due to a mistake I made while writing it. Sorry if you are getting this a second time.