How to Thrive in Ghana

Laura tending to dinner at the Koforidua YMCA.

For our first blog post, we discussed how to survive in Ghana. Now that we are way past the survival stage, we thought it would be fitting to follow-up with how to thrive in this beautiful, welcoming country.

  1. Get addicted to the local food: Remember your mother scolding you for playing with your food as a kid? Well, with tasty dishes such as fufu and banku you can re-live your childhood desires to eat with your hands guilt-free! Local food also includes local treats: FanIce (frozen vanilla ice cream, strawberry yoghurt and chocolate milk in sachets), donuts (gigantic TimBits), plantain chips, popcorn, peanuts, corn, scone/muffin things called ‘rockbans’, coconut cake (polo), chocolate, pineapple, watermelon and mango, to name a few.
  2. Find a good local seamstress or tailor: Whether it is locally dyed batik prints, crazy cotton prints from the market or more up-scale fabrics from Woodin, who can resist the exciting, vibrant colours? Best of all, you get to design your own clothes in your own style and your own size. Where else can you get a one of a kind wardrobe without breaking the bank? (though your suitcase might feel a bit strained…)
  3. Learn some Twi and some GhanEnglish: Chalay (mate, friend), I will alit here (to ask a taxi or tro-tro to stop and let you off), I go and come (I will come back) , me ko efui (I’m going home), me hoye (I’m fine), tissue (napkin). And of course your Ghanaian name. We are the two Abenas (Tuesday-borns).
  4. Hone your bargaining skills in the markets: Whether it be carvings, paintings, beads or more everyday items, shopping in the markets is always an adventure. Though Ghanaians cut a tough bargain they are never aggressive or upset and it can make for a fun discussion.
  5. Familiarize yourself with the public transport: Shared taxis are cheap and convenient, and you can often have interesting conversations with your fellow passengers. Tro-tros are also always an adventure. And although you sometimes have to wait nearly an hour for ones going to less common destinations to fill, that’s still a better record than the buses. Plus, you can do all your shopping while waiting for a tro-tro to fill. Every sort of food and drink, toothpaste, phone credit, clothes, flashlights, candy, bracelets….
  6. Invest in some essentials: A handkerchief, a pocket flashlight, hand sanitizer, an umbrella…. And ladies, consider getting your hair braided with fake hair, it creates vents to cool your head and you never need to struggle with the bucket hair wash!
  7. Travel on the weekends: Ghana has so many amazing and tucked away places to visit. We have been lucky enough to visit Accra, the Cape Coast castle and spend a night in the tree house in Kakum National Park, see the fort in Kumasi, the beach at Ada Foah, a friend’s brother’s engagement ceremony, a nearby market, bead factory and waterfall so far.

Denise cooking palava sauce on a traditional stove.

So yes, sometimes it can be difficult and frustrating to be an outsider in a foreign country that lacks some of the conveniences of Canada, but overall we are thoroughly enjoying our time and are grateful for the incredible experience.

-Laura Stocker and Denise Lipscombe, Youth Ambassadors, Ghana 2012

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2 thoughts on “How to Thrive in Ghana

  1. Thank you for your blog. I am hopefully leaving shortly on the same sort of project, except in Brazil, and it’s nice to have someone recount their experiences and what we should expect.

  2. I passed through Koforidua quite a few times while I worked in Kumasi. I miss the crazy tro tro rides, being called Obruni or china-man everywhere I went and the amazing fufu and plantain chips!
    You’re so right about the bargaining haha The taxi drivers can be so nice – one even got me a fan-choco!
    Keep thriving~

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