Wednesday, April 28, 2010

10 Life Lessons From Ghana - Lesson 3

Break Out from the Abroad Crowd (aka returnees)

It's so easy to come back and just hang out with people who, like you, have also returned from abroad. You should hang out with such people of course. There are a number benefits to doing this.

First of all, it will help you to not feel so alone in your journey. You need that. God knows I needed it. When I came, I knew one other person who'd made a similar move. Even though he was younger than me, and we didn't spend so much time together (Infact, I haven't seen him in a year!), it helped just to know that someone else who could have had the  American dream had chosen to move home. It reassured me that I hadn't completely lost it. A few months later, another friend made the same choice and it really helped me to not second-guess my decision. This is important because when you move back, there are times when you wonder if you shouldn't have come. In such times, just knowing that there's someone else out there who is doing this gives you strength.

Returnees may also help you find jobs, or a church and recommend places to shop, where to send your kids to school etc. 

And they're good for the conversation. They like talking about how glad they are to be back and make abroad seem undesirable. We all love this. It is exactly what we want to hear when we're in Ghana and couldn't go back even if we wanted to. lol.

So if returnees are so great, why is the lesson to break out from them?

Well, returnees are good at some things and they're not so good at others.

One of the things you should watch when you're with them is your spending.

I have observed that returnees can speeeeeeeend! It's a kind of peer pressure that doesn't serve anybody. We don't do this on purpose but what happens is that when returnees find themselves in a  group, they go all out. On Friday night, your friend will text or call you and let you know where the party is. Then you'll dress up and go. Maybe it's at Rhapsody's or Frankie's Lounge or Sweeties or African Regent. Note the names I'm mentioning. These places are not cheap. So you'll have 3 drinks  which cost you 30 cedis and pay a 20 cedi cover and if you don't have a car, take dropping to the place for 10 cedis and back home for another 10 cedis. Wonderful! Repeat on Saturday. And next week, and the next, and the next. Perfect! And sometimes you'll even have dinner. Add 25 cedis to that bill. And that's if you're a woman and so paying for just you. If you're a guy who likes to/or feel compelled to buy women drinks, then you can double or triple that bill. And what's the big idea? Fun? Really? What's really wonderful about this is that no one complains. It's how we show that abroad was worth it, i guess. lol. Even in the US, where salaries are higher, how many people blow 150 bucks every weekend on just fun? 

This is enough reason for you to break out of the crowd. Else, I tell you, wo mbO bra. 

But even besides the money spent, really, what's the idea? You close from work on Friday, you're tired. Instead of going home to sleep, you stop at some lounge. A few drinks, you chat with friends, all well and good. Then you go to a club and at a place like Rhapsody's it's not even so much about the dancing. You just go and buy more drinks and people watch. That's all it is. Well, i take the dancing part back. Depends who you go with. I dance a lot if I go with particular people and not so much when I go with others. It's about chemistry I guess.

Anyway, I've been there and done that, and now I've stopped.  Everyone should probably experience it for themselves and make their own call, but if you ask me, it's ridiculous! I'm not saying become a hermit (though I'll admit I've become something of a hermit). It's fine to go every once in a while and even I'll go once in several months or if I have to meet with someone to talk about other things or if there's a special show but to go just because it's Friday night and it's part of your lifestyle? 

It's cool if you can afford it. 

I can't. 

In fact, I intentionally refuse to afford it. 

And for anyone who is listening, I'm just saying, there are better ways to spend your money. It's easy to lose track of how much of your income actually goes into cultivating a lifestyle like this so beware.

The other thing about this lifestyle is that besides the money spent is just time....time for yourself, time to relax, time to spend with your family.Time you could invest in your start up. Time you could work out. Time you could sleep. Time. Time. Time. Something we claim we don't have enough of.

And to top all of that, if you don't take care, the alcohol can become a habit. It's a weird dynamic when you think about it actually. I don't even enjoy alcohol. And honestly, I don't get the appeal of Jack Daniels or Vodka or whatever else people drink in bars. But if you go and everyone orders their drink, you'll order something and if you think about it, it makes no sense. You're forcing yourself to drink some shit you don't even like and are paying through the nose for it and if you're like me, you don't even get the buzz that you're supposed to get when you get tipsy. 

It's absolutely nuts. 

To summarize, this lesson is really generally about watching the company you keep and how that affects your finances. It would apply anywhere in the world. Of course  you can find people who've lived in Ghana all their lives living this kind of lifestyle, but  I observe returnees doing it in this a whole lot more. 

It's up to you of course. So if you give it some thought and the utility you derive from this kind of socializing merits the price (not just in terms of money) you pay for it, then by all means go right ahead. I'm just pointing it out as something which, if you're not watching, can leave you living from paycheck to paycheck.

I keep telling people that you can save a ton of money in Ghana but you can't do that without minimizing key money drainers like this from your life.

Watch out for lesson 4.


  1. Haha. This was a lively one. I can sooo identify. First time I came home, I wanted to see all the joints. And my sisters obliged me. I had friends who were more than willing to show me round. 2 weeks into it, I cooled off. kraaa....Last time I was down, a couple of really close friends and I had lunch at Crown Apartmento. Original plan was African Regents. Note the names now ( a naija accent) Dinner was 2 pallets of lobster and rice. Price? 67 new Ghana. Not bad.

    A funny thing happened at the hairbraiders. I went to get 'soft' kinky twists at Osu. The soft hair cost more. I asked how much it was. 15. O.K go ahead. How many do you want to use? I looked at my sister asking for imput. 3? My sisters eyes bulged out. Marian, are u sure? Of course. She has a horrified look on her face. Marian, its 15.I know. My sister shrugged. O.K i will use 2, I told the girl. It cost 14 Ghana to braid. The girl got to work and i loved the result. In fact it was the same spot i had gotten my braids the year before. Most of the ladies there are Ga and I get to hear my language spoken well...Ga is vanishing fast, sad to say. Grand total 44. 44.....? NEW GHANA CEDIS! My sister looked at me. I looked at her. What did you think ,her expression read. I give the girl the money and we walked to catch a Taxi to Epo for some of that good rice. Oh, I miss Ghana already just talking about it....Once outside we start laughing... You know, I thought it was 15 Thousand....I misunderstood, I told her. She is like who sells soft kinky for 15 thousand? That's why when you said you wanted three packs I was looking at you. You would have paid almost 60 dollars. Imagine! This old Ghana new Ghana confuse man oo...!

  2. BTW, why is the first para. bolded?

  3. I am so guilty of this. I was/ am still amazed by how much money one can spend on a single night out in Accra. I don't even spend half that much in London! That's why I like to run away to Koforidua where I can get my hair and nails done for GHC4!

  4. This is a simple one but can be so easily overlooked. Thanks again for sharing.

  5. Haha..good advice...
    Nice post...looking forward to Lesson 4:)