7 things to know before returning to Ghana
From the United States of America to the Queensland to the land down under, in the past decade more Ghanaians have repatriated than ever in history. Though many still pursue the American dream and desire to move abroad for various reasons, many who have tasted the other side seek to join the “moving back” train home to work, start businesses and give back to their motherland. No matter whether across states or oceans, there’s no doubt there is a significant amount of thought and weighing of pros and cons involved in deciding to make a jump. Here are a few things one should consider when thinking of becoming a “returnee”.
1. Slower Pace
No rat race here! That’s a good and not so good thing. Life in Ghana is definitely a lot more relaxed – in a sense – with people not too fixated on having to be anywhere at the exact time, or parking within a line at the risk of getting a costly ticket. Maybe it’s the effect of the sun, but you won’t feel as rushed here and leaving that “never enough hours in a day” lifestyle of the developed world, is a big reason many are moving back. You’ll breathe a lot easier from day to day though some days that also means that your application process is going to take twice as long as it should (government worker shrug).
2. Housing Isn’t Cheap
You’re likely reading this from the couch in your swanky 2 bedroom, 2 bath apartment in mid-town with a pool and a gym, that you pay $1,500 for. You’re a mid-level manager and can afford that pretty easily in your upper 20’s. Well, in Ghana such a home is considered luxury, and would cost you twice as much! As if that isn’t enough of a blow, you are likely required to pay that as a lump sum six to twelve months upfront. Whether the cost of real estate is justified or not is a constant debate. Now you know why people live with their parents well into their twenties and even thirties.
3. Things Are Expensive
You’ll miss those sales you’re so used to, for sure. From fruits you’re used to eating (like strawberries or kiwis) to beauty products to clothing and electronics, Ghana is a heavy importer. Aside from the burden of shipping passed on to the consumer, profits sought by business owners are in the multiples. Bought that mascara for $6? It’d be about $10 in Ghana, a hard pill to swallow in a country where incomes are far-fetched from paychecks in the West. You’ll learn to eat mangoes and pineapples over strawberries and kiwis, and as you should – support locally made products. Say hello to custom-made clothing and authentic shea and coconut oil products. Even better, they taste and look awesome!
3. Developing. Not Developed
I used to get offended if anyone referred to Ghana as a third world country, but you’ll learn to call a spade, a spade. Held up to other West African countries, Ghana definitely offers a safe haven with lovely weather, a bustling economy and metropolitan city life in Accra. Year in and year out, there are new malls, real estate developments, hotels and restaurants as well as better infrastructure being built. This is all however but a drop of water in what is left to make life in Ghana truly comfortable. We still struggle with intermittent power, potholed streets, roads with no traffic lights or law-abiding drivers, and lacking proper healthcare systems.
4. Labour is Cheap
No need to paint your own house, assemble furniture or wash your hair in the shower in Ghana! You could actually have a house helper, driver or gardener for $100 per month, if you cared to. Here, hiring help is rather inexpensive so it’s easy to get a hand with almost anything. Despite the circles you might roll in, the poverty index is high in Ghana and many minimally educated people looking to earn a living are flexible on salary. This also means you can feel good giving 5-10 Ghana cedis here and there to brighten someone’s day.
5. Defensive Driving
You have a license. And where you’re coming from there are street signs at every turn, which people obey. People understand why the car has certain parts, and use them as second nature. Driving etiquette is a thing practiced by most. In Ghana, not so much. If you have visited and rode in a taxi or were driven, you’ve likely experienced the craze that is the streets and held on for dear life, even as a passenger. As a driver, it’s even more intense – battling your way through intersections with no light while throws of pedestrians, animals sometimes and dodging networks of potholes (poor cars!) Trotro drivers will have you cussing a lot more so learn to woosaah.
6. Accra Is Fun
The major cities in Ghana including Kumasi and Takoradi will provide you, and your family with enough entertainment options for the weekends and holidays. Accra definitely makes moving to Ghana less painful. Now a very metropolitan hub offering nice eateries, beaches, nightlife, dance classes, rooftop paint and wine nights and such, it’s easy to see why returnees have found comfort at home, being able to indulge in such young adult fun. Whatever it is you like to do, it is likely it exists, or would be a great business idea (hint, hint!) Ahaspora hosts social events like a monthly Happy Hour giving new members a chance to make new friends and network.
7. You’re Not Alone
Though you may be Ghanaian, “moving back” is no easy feat. It’s a change in your life and to some maybe a culture shock. Wherever you are on the spectrum, it’s comforting to know thousands of Diasporans have decided ahead of you to make the move to Ghana and are living their best lives (or still working towards the Ghanaian Dream). Organizations like Ahaspora are fueled by a mission to help make the transition a lot smoother by being knowledgeable about and supportive of the returnee experience so that citizens can then be strengthened to give back and build up our beautiful country.
Moving back home is not easy as pie but is worth it for most who have done it. For many of the women of Ahaspora who’ve made the move and men, it is said it takes 2-3 years to get through the rough start, to start feeling like you can actually stay so be sure to have such a plan in mind. Remember to be open minded and flexible and realize that though there may be more comfortable places around the world, Ghana is home.