Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Ghana: Ten Lessons learnt so far

Hello everyone,

Just a quick update to share a few of the unexpected cultural lessons that I've learned here in Ghana so far....

  1. Before traveling ANYWHERE outside of your home, make sure you are armed with toilet paper and Imodium.

  2. Always ask for directions at least three times before going somewhere new. Ghanians love to help and direct, even if they don't exactly know where you're going.

  3. The only way to measure distance here is “far” and “not far.” Traffic, weather and bad road conditions play a major role in the establishment of whether something is “far.”

  4. Even if someone nods frequently and says “Ah, okay” several times during a conversation, that does not mean that they understand you. It is very rare for people to admit that they don't know what you're saying.

  5. If you give out your number, people WILL call you several times a day at all hours of the day and night. Unfortunately, some cellphone companies in Ghana offer free calling between midnight and 4am, so people often take advantage of this.

  6. Do not plan things more than a few days in advance, at best. Situations arise that will disrupt your plans. These can take a variety of forms depending on the plans, but frequently include: power outages, no water, people not showing up (or showing-up very late), lack of understanding or consensus on particular happenings, rain (yes – rain is a legitimate excuse), random public holidays, random government decisions to extend school holidays, late/incomplete construction projects, unexpected (and unpleasant) illnesses, district-wide shortages of essential things like fuel, printer ink, paper, etc.

  7. Being a young, white, female foreigner ensures it is very easy to make acquaintances and potential husbands, but very difficult to make genuine friendships.

  8. On that same note, being a young, white, female foreigner (without a real degree) gives me very little credibility as someone who is capable of looking after herself, let alone assisting others. “This girl can't do her own laundry, pound fufu, carry heavy things on her head, run alongside of cars on the highway selling things, or speak Twi. What CAN she do?” (Fortunately, I can do some of those things now, so I've earned at least some degree of street credibility.)

  9. If you are anything other than Christian or Muslim, it's better to just say that you are either one or the other to avoid direct, confrontational, conversion attempts.

  10. If you witness some sort of petty crime (ex: pick-pocketing) it's often better to just turn your eyes away, since calling it out may result in the criminal (even a youth) being beaten (sometimes to death) by a crowd of people and/or the police.


  1. Oh poor Becky : )

    I wish I could have spoken to you longer last night but my credit ran out in the middle of the phone call. Luckily for you it happened at a convenient time.

    Love you.

  2. #4 is a big one in Vietnam, too. Yet it seems to apply only when I speak English. When I speak the language of the locals, the locals are happy to tell me that they don't understand me. Ah well - at least they're honest!

  3. Hey Becky
    I miss you but I can certainly see why you are all the way over there. You are getting educated to the max. You appear to be learning your lessons quickly. (Maybe you can come home early. It sounds like you've learned alot) We all missed you at Thanksgiving and were thinking about you.
    Look after yourself
    Love Aunt Sherri