Last weekend, Chris and I celebrated our six month anniversary in Ghana – by which I mean we’ve been in Ghana for six months, not that we’ve been together for six months! Being ex-civil servants we like to introduce as much bureaucracy into our lives as possible, and as such thought it only proper to undertake a formal mid-year review of our time here.

The Good
If you like sunny weather and even sunnier people, Ghana is the place for you. With the exception of a few months of rainy season around May-June, the weather is scorcio pretty much every day. And even sunnier than the sun itself are the good people of Ghana, who possess a love of life which can’t fail but lift your spirits. This is especially true when you try and speak one of the Ghanaian dialects to locals here, a small gesture which will make you a friend for life, once that new friend has stopped laughing at your terrible pronunciation.

life in ghana girl

life in ghana farmer

Other great things about Ghana include the vast tropical coast line – although note to the tourist ministry, cleaning the beaches a little more would really make a big difference in terms of attracting visitors – as well as the decent range of places to eat in the capital city of Accra, where Chris and I live. Helpfully, the country also benefits from having a stable, democratic government meaning Ghana has become and looks likely to remain one of the great success stories of West Africa.

life in Ghana beach

An example of a beach with great potential, but which could do with a bit of love and attention

The Bad
Whilst Accra has a number of great dining options, both for those who like local food or those who prefer international cuisine, Accra itself isn’t the most livable city in the world. The traffic is pretty awful, both in terms of the delays and the pollution, and costs for ex-pats can be pretty outrageous. For example the first apartment we viewed turned out to be priced at a mind-boggling $5,000 per month, with one year’s rent asked for up front – that’s right, $60,000…in cash! Although to be fair to Ghana this ridiculous situation must in my view be blamed upon foreign governments based here who pay their staff’s accommodation costs directly, seemingly with scant regard for the oblivious taxpayers back home who are ultimately paying these sky-high rents which benefits no-one except the private landlords, most of whom from our experience didn’t even tend to be Ghanaian, to make the situation even worse. That said, if you use a bit of common sense, and some pretty advanced negotiating skills, you should be able to survive a few years in Accra without going totally bankrupt.

The ugly
Perhaps one of the saddest observations we’ve had while in Ghana, living in the capital but having worked right across the country including out in the countryside, is the seemingly huge inequality of wealth here. Of course Ghana isn’t alone in suffering from this global phenomenon which seems to be spreading and deepening at an alarming rate, but here in Ghana it really is glaringly obvious and as such especially upsetting.

For example in the countryside, some Ghanaians still have to walk under the baking sun to collect water from wells, whereas the elite in Accra drive cars worth hundreds of thousands of dollars. Similarly, those wealthy citizens who can afford expensive back-up generators have a constant supply of electricity while the majority of Ghanaians live at the mercy of ever-present power cuts. Or in an even more troubling example, the current ongoing doctor’s strike means that the while the wealthy continue to utilise their well-equipped private hospitals, the poor and most vulnerable might find themselves completely without medical care, even for accidents and emergencies. If this isn’t ugly, I don’t know what is.

life in ghana inequality

The view out of the window in one of the fancy hotels we stayed in. Which reminded us that as visitors to other countries, we can all too easily end up being part of the ugliness that is inequality of wealth.

life in ghana slum

The remains of an informal dwelling I visited, which had been torn down without the occupants being given anywhere else to live

So, in summary, where does that leave our mid-year review? In terms of things to do both in Accra and across the country more widely, we give Ghana a highly respectable 7/10. In terms of livability, by which we’re mostly referring to living in Accra, we think a 6/10 seems about right – dragged down by the very high cost of living and frequent power cuts. But in the manner of a typical mid-year review, where it’s always best to save the best until last, in terms of the fantastically friendly people of this beautiful country, it’s a big fat 10 all the way!

 

So that’s it for our mid-year review and as always with reports written by civil servants, it feels appropriate to end with those famous words beloved by bureaucrats everywhere…’comments gratefully received’. (Although please, no tracked changes at this late stage in the drafting process and definitely, definitely, not those awful comment boxes which must be the worst invention since the chocolate tea-pot).

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About Tammyonthemove

Tammy & Chris are a couple hailing from Germany and England, meaning between them they are efficient and polite, but unable to talk about football. Find out why they stopped pushing pens around the British civil service to travel the world on their blog.

36 Thoughts on “Our six month review of life in Ghana – the good, the bad, and the ugly

  1. Congrats on six months! It’s really interesting to hear about your experience with the inequality in wealth in Ghana. That’s something that really bothered me in Jakarta and now in Phnom Penh. I must say that in Phnom Penh I’m acutely aware that the amount of money I’m spending on rent every month is more than most Cambodia make in months upon months. And that’s always disheartening 🙁
    Justine recently posted…It’s Official…I Live in Phnom Penh!My Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 16, 2015 at 4:28 am said:

      Yes, Phnom Penh/Cambodia is definitely another example of huge disparities of wealth. I always thought it was especially obvious on the roads, where you almost have a class system that goes bikes, tuk tuks, normal cars, and then huge 4x4s at the top of the chain, often driving aggressively without any regard for others.

      That aside though, I hope you are loving Cambodia!

  2. Wow, what an experience. I think having a stable government is one of African countries’ biggest challenges but getting there means great things. How long are you staying there? My day job involves finding expats around the world to guest post or interview on our company blog, if you’re interested let me know!
    dannielle recently posted…Why you should go to Falkirk if you visit ScotlandMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 16, 2015 at 5:40 am said:

      Hey Dannielle, Thanks for your comment. Would love to hear more about your guest posting opportunity. I will email you and perhaps we can then take it from there.

  3. First of all wow at the 6 months there. That is pretty awesome! Also WOW at the price of an apt. And upfront no less? That is crazy. That is a mansion in the southern portion of the United States. Certainly an interesting experience and life story!

    • Tammyonthemove on August 16, 2015 at 4:33 am said:

      Thanks for the comparison, Holly. I actually did a similar comparison in my mind with my home town in England, and also Berlin in Germany. It’s crazy to think that the US, UK, and Germany have cheaper comparable options when you consider the average incomes across all of the countries too.

  4. Wow kudos to you embracing living in a new and very different culture for so long. I’m so glad that you are enjoying yourself and the people, even if there are a few things that are just plain wrong, and downright unfair. I hope you enjoy the next 6 mths (or however long you are staying) just as much, just remember those smiles!
    megsy recently posted…Visiting Munich Germany – Food Fun Adventure in BavariaMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 16, 2015 at 4:34 am said:

      Many thanks, Megsy. Even though we’ve just lost power again, those smiles do indeed make it all worthwhile! 🙂

  5. I had no idea Accra would be so expensive to get an apartment! That’s nuts. Congrats on 6 months there though! Enjoy the rest of the time
    Mallory recently posted…Nominated For A Liebster Award 2015!My Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 16, 2015 at 4:36 am said:

      Many thanks, Mallory. Yeah, it’s crazy, isn’t it. I think there are a number of other African countries that experience a similar challenge with prices being driven up by ex-pats. For example in the capitals of Angola and South Sudan, from what I’ve read.

  6. Wow! I’m sure your six months there has been such an experience! I can’t get over the $5000 rent on an apartment!!! Who can afford that??

    • Tammyonthemove on August 16, 2015 at 4:38 am said:

      From my experience, it’s mostly people whose company or government are paying all or at least most of the bill. But nonetheless, we are having a great time, that’s for sure!!!

  7. Wow the rents are really high, $5000 a month? Wow, that is expensive. Glad to hear that the people are friendly though.
    Natasha Amar recently posted…Hotel Review: Weekend Getaway at Danat Jebel Dhanna Resort Abu DhabiMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 16, 2015 at 4:40 am said:

      Yes indeed, Natasha. Although as a famous credit card advert once said (kind of)…lovely, smiley people…priceless 🙂

  8. It’s always difficult to see places where the inequity is so vast. And $5000/month for an apartment – wow. Interesting place – thanks for sharing your views.
    jen recently posted…Hungarian Potato and Sausage SoupMy Profile

  9. Hi, first of all I want to express my support to what you are doing. I have been to Africa (to Nigeria) and I can’t imagine live there. The differences between poor and rich as you mention, and also lack of law and the public offices working so badly. I wish it will get all better, perhaps the NGO can surely but slowly do something in good direction. Good luck!

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 11:05 am said:

      Yes, I hope so too Veronika. Changing these things sadly won’t happen over night, but since the Millennium Development Goals have been adopted in 2000, so many things have changed in a lot of African countries for the better. There is still a long way to go, but I am hopeful that with time and dedication by various NGOs and collaboration of Governments things can get changed even more.

  10. Congrats on the 6 months! It’s amazing that you guys are living in a very different culture!

    My jaw dropped to the floor when you mentioned $5,000! Wow! That’s pretty expensive! I thought it would be cheap to live there, but that’s something new I learn about. It’s disheartening to hear about situations there. I really hope it will get better in the future. I’m hoping to visit Africa in the future, for at least two months to explore different countries there.
    Stacey Valle recently posted…Sisterhood of the World Bloggers AwardMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 11:07 am said:

      I was shocked too Stacey. Sadly in a lot of developing countries you have two economies: one for the locals and one for expats/tourists. Ghana is one of those countries, but Cambodia, where we lived before, also had these two economies.

  11. We had a few expat friends from Mumbai who were sent to Ghana after India. Some hated it, some loved it. It’s always interesting to get different perspectives on a place. And funny enough I never heard much about the wealth distribution.. I wonder how it compares to India.
    Karilyn recently posted…Top 5 Stops on Route 66 Los Angeles to Grand CanyonMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 11:10 am said:

      I have never been to India, but I believe that the wealth distribution is pretty unequal there too. We have a few Indian friends who grew up here in Ghana, but still have family in India and so visit occasionally, and they say the same thing.

  12. Congratulations on hitting the six month mark. I can totally understand the differences between rich and poor and sometimes I can imagine it can be very hard to watch. But as always, the people are always one of the good things about living in a place.

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 11:12 am said:

      Thank you Sophie. Time has gone by really quickly. We are glad that we have met so many nice people here. It really makes a difference.

  13. Thanks for such an honest and well rounded review of everything to do with living in Ghana. Holy crap though my mouth almost hit the floor when you said $5,000 a month for an apartment rental!! I would have assumed it would have been the complete opposite not being a very well off African nation. So you certainly shed some light on the country and opened my eyes there!!

    Congrats on your 6 month anniversary – I’ve found when traveling through poverty stricken nations myself that the divide of wealth can be very confronting and hard to come to terms with. That being said I’m glad to hear that the people there made your list of the things which are good.

    Thanks for the review.
    Meg Jerrard recently posted…The Land of Lakes and Volcanoes: 5 Reasons to Jump on a Plane to Nicaragua TodayMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 11:14 am said:

      Thanks Meg. I am glad you liked the post. Sometimes you feel like your hands are tied, as there is only so much you can do, and that’s certainly hard to come to terms with.

  14. Six months in Ghana, congrats guys! So interesting to hear about your experience there! I live in Phnom Penh too and agree that the inequality of wealth here is quite glaring. It’s been hard to wrap my mind around…
    Jennifer Ryder Joslin recently posted…Motorbike Commute to Work in Phnom PenhMy Profile

    • Tammyonthemove on August 18, 2015 at 11:17 am said:

      We lived in Phnom Penh for two years too, so I understand exactly what you mean. The inequality in Cambodia is very big too and it was always something that was hard to come to terms with. The child beggars was something that particularly upset me a lot.

  15. So cool to read your insights about what living in Ghana looks like.
    Also, amazed by how expensive can get!
    Great article!
    Inma recently posted…What Dubai Taught Me And The 10 Things You Should Experience There TooMy Profile

  16. Love the featured image! $5,000 up front is insane
    Hannah @GettingStamped recently posted…Night Helicopter Flight Over VegasMy Profile

  17. Well, unfortunately, everywhere is like this: no matter the country, you can find the good, the bad and the ugly….

  18. Good, bad and ugly… but it’s a very valuable experience for sure!

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