Two weeks. In two weeks, six months are over and thereby my stay in Ghana is coming to an end. It is a weird feeling, stuck between “can’t wait to get home” and “I am going to miss this country, those places, the people”. Ending my work at the Ghana National Commission for UNESCO and my stay in Ghana it is time for some reflecting remarks.
What I learned in Ghana:
1. Be patient: Basically, I had no other option than to adapt to this trait, seeing that the other option would have been desperation. Starting with the office life, where I sometimes had no internet or very slow internet, I had no other choice than to be patient. It is the same coming to transport. In Ghana TroTros are not leaving until theay are fully loaded. So I learned to be patient and tried not to be angry about the fact that I have to wait, even though this might be still hard sometimes.
2. Don’t stress too much: Before I left I was very stressed in Germany. I rushed from one exam to the other, wrote my thesis, worked and prepared all the things for Ghana. My body rewarded me with going from one infection to another. Even though I worked 40 hours a week in Ghana, I figured out to be less stressed. My daily walks home, which gave me time to stop thinking about work, really helped me.
3. Health is the most important: Since my body was not used to the weather and the food in Ghana, I often suffered of stomach pain and headaches. For this reason I sometimes could not go out as much as I wanted to. Anyway, I learned that it is important to listen to your body and be patient with getting healthy again.
4. Global responsibility: As a student of political science I surely knew about global responsibility before. Anyhow, my time in Ghana has shown me once again how important it is to work together – as global citizens – to solve global issues. Being confronted with the problem of plastic pollution everyday (plastic on the sidewalks, the rivers, the gutters, beaches and in the ocean) I started questioning my own daily consumption. Moreover I could also smell the air pollution of Agbogbloshie in Accra. Agbogbloshie is Europe’s biggest electronic waste desposable and shows the sad truth about the power disparity betwen global south and global north. More about Agbogbloshie: www.daserste.de/information/wissen-kultur/ttt/sendung/ttt-23072018-welcome-to-sodom-100.html
5. To appreciate things that are normal in Germany: I started to miss cheese the first week of my arrival in Ghana and started to miss it really bad after a month. Cheese is just too expensive in Ghana (around 16 Euro in the supermarket). Furthermore, I am still not used to the very cold shower every morning. Even though, some people might enjoy it, seeing that temperatures in Ghana are still at 29 degrees daily, it is just not my thing. During the rainy season our house got flooded once. Anyway, it was not a big deal for us, because our house is made of thick walls and water could only pass through the windows. But I had to think about all the small houses and foodstands on the streets that are facing serious problems during that time.
6. Some small words in Twi: Medaase, Mepakyew, Wo ho te sen? Even though I tried to learn Twi for the past six months it is very hard to understand my colleagues at work. I am still proud about the small things I can say and people on the street appreciate it, when I speak a bit of one of their local languages. The course was also intersting, because the teacher taught us about culture as well.
7. Line Dances: Which girl did not dream about being part of the line dances in High School Musical? At least for me it was such a nice thing. Therefore, I was really excited as I found out that people are doing line dances in Ghana. I was able to learn some of them in Afrikiko and still think it is a great joy.
8. How to eat with one hand: In Ghana the left hand is considered as dirty, seeing that people are using it in the washroom. Therefore, I had to learn to hand and receive things with the right hand only as well as eat with one hand only – which is especially tricky when you are eating fish.
9. How to say “No”: Yes, I also met some Ghanaian guys on the streets, in the office or anywhere that wanted to marry me or to have my number. Due to the fact, that I am not ready to marry anybody yet and I have a boyfriend I had to say no and thereby reject the person. This was very hard for me, because I wanted to be friendly to everybody, but as time passed I got better in it and tried to end the conversations in a funny way.
10. Accept and adapt to another culture: Even though there are still similarities between the culture in Ghana and Germany, there are also many differences. As far as I experienced Ghanaian culture is highly influenced by Christian religion and the strong believe of the people. In my office we prayed before starting a conference, official gatherings or journeys. Even though I am not religious at all, I still participated in the prayers to respect people’s believe. Furthermore couples in Ghana never kiss or touch each other on the streets and I only seldomly saw people holding hands. Moreover the office live differs from Germany – meaning that timelines are not as important as in German offices (meetings can start with a delay of 1-2 hours). That does not mean that Ghanaians are not working hard- in the opposite I experienced my colleagues as very hard working people. Also the style of communication is varying from Germany. Germans seldomly touch each other while communication, whereas in Ghana it is normal to have physical contact during conversations.
11. In Ghana you will never feel alone: I lived in a very nice neighbourhood in Accra with neighbours that really cared about me. When I was feeling ill and stayed home, they asked me, why I havent gone to work today and I greeted them every morning when I left the house. This might be missing sometimes in a more indiviudualistic society like Germany.
All cultural differences I mentioned above are for sure only based on my personal experience and cannot be generalized.