IJGB – I Just Got Back


IJGB – I just got back.


The inspiration for this post can be found here: http://www.bellanaija.com/2013/12/10/are-you-an-i-just-got-back-ijgb-signs-symptoms-cures-of-the-new-jjc/


(Please read the comments section. The lolz. Some comments were shady though. Real shady.)


What is it? Does it exist? Who cares?


I’ll answer the second question first. It does exist. It’s very real. Now I’ll answer the third question. Who cares? People like me dammit. People who just got back! *clears throat* This also applies to those who wish to expatriate and have had that thought lingering in their brains for a while. Now I don’t think I fully fit this category anymore as I’ve been here for 6 months (now 16 months. Boom.) I feel like one of those parents who say their child’s age in months. Le sigh.


I’m more aware of my surroundings, how the everyday Ghanaian in Ghana behaves and I know when someone is trying to cheat me (my London Twi always comes to my rescue *hi 5s self*).


So what is it? The IJGB first of all means ‘I just got back’ a.k.a JJC or warrever. It’s normally used for people who have returned to the continent after some time away; studying, working etc. Or members of the Diaspora who have moved back for the first time like me. It’s the simmering resentment towards those who have just got back, some reasons which are plausible and others which are just not. Bear with me, I’ll explain.


My experience with IJGB syndrome

It’s the lingering stares examining you from head to toe. It’s the shock then almost sudden disdain when you don’t speak with an accent like theirs (I’ve literally had experiences of doing presentations and the participants say ‘Eii’ as soon as I speak. Yeah. That has happened MULTIPLE times -_-). It’s the assumed superiority that they believe you have (My handbag is from H&M not Louis V, chill). It’s people blanking you or mumbling half sentences when you say good morning for no reason whatsoever. It’s the uber defensiveness when you try to teach them something different to what they know. (Side note – I work in an office of women. Just FYI. Yah.)


Now don’t get me wrong, when you start any new place of employment you have to prove yourself. That is a given. But this was more than just ‘proving myself’, I’ve had to do that before. It was more of a ‘Who do you think you are?’ kind of attitude.


Some IJGBs do have a stink attitude. An inflated sense of self even. I’ve seen some. They annoy me too. They may make reference to their schooling (even though you didn’t ask), or they may complain incessantly about the heat (It’s Africa boo) or just generally be whiny (go and sit in a corner somewhere). But I was careful (even too careful) about making how I comported myself around Ghanaians. I would complain to my peoples back home in London lol.  So why me? *cue violins*

Is it insecurity? Is it the presupposition that I think I’m better? Nah. I came back to help my people. Yes I’m a proud Brit but I’m also a Ghanaian (though being in Ghana has made me realise how British I am. Another post. Te lo prometo). I want to use my skills to help advance education in the land of my parents. *cue Michael Jackson – Heal The World* No but seriously though, I am here with genuine intentions. The curriculum, teaching practices and methodologies in GH are outdated. It’s shocking and we’re ridiculously behind. The UK system has serious gaps but, it doesn’t compare to what’s happening back home. Just. Doesn’t. Compare.


I’ve pondered over this for a while. I think it’s complicated and everyone will have their own individual reason or nuance.


It seems as though some just can’t reconcile that you share the same surname as them, you can make abenkwan,  you have a foreign accent AND you can communicate in your local language. Almost as if we’re aliens 😦 Now this is not ALL Ghanaians. Some are suitably impressed that you’re flying the black star flag wherever you were born/have lived and are back to lend your knowledge. I’m detailing my own experience and the experience of some ‘returnees’ I’ve come across.


FYI, this doesn’t apply to my obroni friends by the way. The “White Saviour” mentality is still  prevalent in Africa so they expect our Caucasian friends to have nicer clothes, to have foreign accents, to have money trees growing in their gardens and so on. It doesn’t offend them. It’s the expectation.


So what do you think? Have you experienced this? Am I making it up? (Of course I’m not. Don’t be silly ;-))


Until next time…

*I initially drafted this when I reached the 6 month mark so March 2014. Sigh.

Living Back Home Pt. 1 – Work

Ghana is live (fun, a great place to visit, interesting etc.) I can almost guarantee you that coming here on vacation you will ADORE it. Particularly if you are with someone who really knows the place. It has a unique history and culture, laid back vibe, warm and friendly people, some great bars, clubs, restaurants…The list goes on.

But I’m here to talk to you about LIVING here. Not a whirlwind 2/3 week vacation where you know that you’re going back to London, the US, continental Europe *insert foreign location*

Living in GH can be difficult, extremely difficult but it’s also a very enjoyable place to be. You just have to develop some coping mechanisms for the more difficult parts**.

For those wondering, my job in Ghana came about as a result of an internship I did for an education consultancy company who then sent me to Ghana as an employee to manage the education team for a DFID Girls Education Challenge project – Making Ghanaian Girls Great!

I would highly recommend (where possible) securing your job before you get to GH. I’ve heard too many horror stories of people getting jobs in GH then finding out the job doesn’t exist, benefits are poor, not being paid for months on end etc.

Expatriate packages vary from company to company so bargain well well before you get here. You probably won’t get all you dream for but bargain for what is important for you as an individual. Standard things you should be asking for are: accommodation, health insurance, number of flights home (to London/Canada/US etc) and possibly travel allowance. You may also think about living allowance but this is probably pushing it (depending on who you work for).

Get learned (especially older & more experienced) people you trust to read your contract. I have some amazing friends but the truth is not one of them (nor I) were well versed in international employment/expatriate contracts so we didn’t really know what to look for. You don’t want any nasty surprises when you arrive in a place you’ve never lived before.

Companies by nature will do what works in their best interests so really think long and hard about what is important to you. And don’t be afraid to ask for it!

Working culture in Ghana is distinctly different to what you may have experienced. That laid back attitude is very much present in most arenas and can be infuriating when you want things done quickly. You have to exert extreme patience, follow up on everything, and unfortunately you may have to micro manage (initially). My advice is to be firm but fair, take an interest in your staff as human beings (they’re not robots), praise them when they’ve done a good job (cannot overstate this enough!), give them constructive criticism and communicate, communicate, communicate. It will take time (a long time) but the efforts will be worth it when you have a team of staff who were previously displaying poor work ethic that are now regularly going the extra mile and always seeking self betterment as professionals.

Back to the praise part. There is so much power in a simple ‘thank you’ or a ‘well done’. It doesn’t matter what level you are at in your company. No one enjoys feeling unappreciated. So praise them when they’ve done well. Now on the flipside when they haven’t done so well you can use the “2 stars and a wish”/WWW & EBI* format. (Yes, I was a teacher before I came to Ghana. You learn so much about humans). 2 stars and a wish is used when giving feedback to a pupil. It’s very simple. Start off with 2 positive comments and a point for improvement. That way, the person doesn’t start the conversation feeling apprehensive or leave the conversation feeling deflated. It’s all in the language you use.

Until next time folks!

**Dumsor dumsor (lights off/no electricity), taxi drivers (just because), poor customer service (happens everywhere but some Ghanaians have an art for it) etc.

*WWW= What Went Well, EBI= Even Better If…

Living Back Home…

My iPhone photography skills at the top of the Jamestown lighthouse :-D

My iPhone photography skills at the top of the Jamestown lighthouse 😀

Happy new year……y’all. *chuckles* I won’t get bored of this for a while.

So I’m back in big bad Accra, blogging like I said I would. It’s 2015 baby! Despite despising the hype, there is something exciting about a new year starting. Something refreshing. So I hope you’ve all written down some goals. I hope you have a new focus for the year. I hope you’ve consulted with God on what His will is for you henceforth. I hope you’ve started on a new foot mentally and so on….

I’ve decided to do a mini ‘Living Back Home’ series, for those flirting with the idea of coming to live in Accra, Ghana or another African city. I really should have done this during my first first year here but to be honest it would have been a lot of angry ranting rather than a balanced perspective on life in GH. If you have any questions or specific topics you’d like me to address don’t hesitate to reach out and I will happily cover them in a post or two.