Six degrees North

Expat of the month
  • Six degrees North
Published on 2012-10-01 at 00:00 by team
Hi, my name is Chris, I am an Australian, currently living in Ghana, West Africa. My husband, myself and our three children live an hour out of Kumasi, the second biggest city in Ghana. Our hometown is Newcastle, Australia - a great coastal city north of Sydney.

Hi, my name is Chris, I am an Australian, currently living in Ghana, West Africa. My husband, myself and our three children live an hour out of Kumasi, the second biggest city in Ghana. Our hometown is Newcastle, Australia - a great coastal city north of Sydney.

When and how did you decide to move to Ghana? Is it complicated to settle down there?

My husband is a geologist and he moved to Ghana 18 months ago, initially as a fly in/fly out consultant. But that is really tough on family life. So when the opportunity arose for all of us to move (in January 2012), we took it. It seemed like a great opportunity to live somewhere 'different' before the first of the children is old enough to go to high school. 

In honesty, moving to Ghana has been harder than expected, particularly as we do not live in Accra. We are the only expatriate family on a small mine site, which can be challenging. Everything here is just a bit trickier, and takes a while longer to get done - there is so much we take for granted in first world countries. The roads, the availability of some foods, basic services, etc. Thankfully, in Ghana, issues like security and stability are not a problem, which creates a lot of freedom to explore the differences. Some of the cultural differences are profound and some of the attitudes of Ghanaians towards Obronis (white people) fast become a chore. But ultimately, the longer we stay, the easier daily life becomes.  

Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you visited?

My husband and I both worked in Canada for 2 years, before our children were born and we travelled individually prior to that (through Asia and Europe). In Canada, which was our first expatriate experience, we spent winters in Vancouver and worked in the Arctic in the summers. We didn't get much of a tan, but it was an extraordinary experience. Holiday-wise we have travelled a fair bit in the South Pacific, Europe and North America. I have done a summer season as a researcher in Antarctica.

What do you like the most about Ghana?

It's friendly and polite. Given so many African countries have significant religious or political strife, Ghana is an extraordinary country. It is stable, friendly and we feel very safe here. Ghanaian music just makes me smile and I love the inventiveness of Ghanaians to find a solution when resources are often limited. 

How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with Australia, your home country?

Wow, that's a hard question. The culture shock was very real, I was actually surprised at how profound it was. At first, everything seemed different, despite Ghana being a predominately Christian, English speaking country. I was shocked at how deep the divide between expat and local is, how long it took to get things done, the traffic is amazing, accents, heat, malaria, social attitudes, differences in school name it really! But, of course, the longer we stay, the better at daily life we get. We have learnt to slow down, and to take it as it comes. Which is a great lesson in itself. Our children have coped really well with the move, and we think it is an amazing opportunity for them as well.

Do you miss anything from your homeland?

Things like Skype and blogging make staying in touch a little easier. This is the first time I have ever lived inland, so I really miss the ocean (our hometown is on the coast and has really excellent beaches - which we all miss). And of course I miss our friends and family, and the very easy social life we had in Newcastle. 

Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?

Ghana has been a really interesting journey for us. It's a friendly, noisy place - and is sufficiently different to keep our eyes open. But if I had to pick one event, in the first week we were all in Ghana we were invited to a farewell party. We live in the Ashanti region of Ghana, and at the party were 18 local chiefs, and a few hundred other people, all dressed in their fabulous kente fabric robes, with golden rings. It was incredibly exotic and an amazing introduction to West Africa.

When did you start your blog? For what reasons?

I started the blog to keep everyone at 'home' up to date with what was happening in our new life. Moving from Newcastle to West Africa is certainly not a common thing! So everyone has been really happy we set up the blog. Our children's friends and teachers from their old school also read it, so it's a great way to keep the conversation going with that community, particularly as our children are fairly young and don't email a great deal. It's also been a fun way to record our experiences of living in Ghana, and I think will be fantastic for our children (and us) to read years from now. Now though, more than half the people who read the blog are not known to us, which is pretty exciting too.

Did you make new friends with your blog?

A few yes. Kumasi doesn't have a huge and there is no real focal point for the, so the blog has provided some contact with expats, which has been good. I think with blogging becoming more and more common, it (blogging in general) will prove to be an excellent resource for many expats. We also get emails from people who are thinking about moving to Ghana, and offer them tips and opinions. 

Why did you register on and what do you think of the website?

When we first discussed moving to Ghana, was one of the first resources I stumbled across in a google search of living in Ghana. I find reading blogs a really useful resource to see how and what people are thinking about a particular place or thing, much more so than guidebooks. Previously I had a craft blog, and knew how communities can be created around like-minded bloggers. certainly helped with information and getting a sense of what it would be like to live in Ghana. So thanks to you guys! 

Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Ghana?

To give themselves plenty of time to settle in, and don't expect things to progress along a linear path. Sometimes it's the unpredictability of life here which makes it fun, so it's really important to try and keep your sense of humour!

Six degrees North