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…