Thursday, February 12, 2009

Guest Blogger Esi Writes...: How To Avoid Disappointment When You Move To Ghana

By: Esi Woarabae Cleland

Some Ghanaians living abroad cite lifestyle differences as one of the main reasons why they prefer to live in places such as the US and the UK. For the twenty to thirty something Ghanaian who is yet to build a house Ghana, one of the major questions on his/her mind as s/he thinks of relocating home is: would I have to move back into my parents’ home, and by extension under their thumb? And who would want to do that when they’ve tasted independence and what it feels like to rent one’s own apartment and pay ones own bills?

Undoubtedly, the decision to move back is made easier when the young person feels in a financial position to rent a place upon his/her return home, but even such lucky people may underestimate the cost of renting what would be considered a decent place. Six months ago, I was one of those lucky people, and still I did not end up renting a place. I won’t go into the whys that finally led me to decide not to rent a place today but through my housing search, and by listening to the concerns of some of my friends abroad, I’ve learned one thing that every young returnee needs to know so as not to be disappointed upon their return.

The golden rule is this: keep things in perspective

When I was in the US, I lived in North Carolina, one of the cheapest states as far as housing goes. Even there, I lived in a 3-bedroom house with 2 roommates. Many of my friends who have lucrative jobs and live in places like New York City and New Jersey, despite making good money live in tiny one-bedroom apartments. Many who have bigger apartments have room mates. This is true of people in Boston as it is of those in DC. The situation may be even worse in London and yet Ghanaians cope. Yet, these same people come to Ghana and they want to move from their small, often dingy apartments in New York City or London straight to gated communities in Accra and Tema. In one blog entry that I wrote in August last year, I recounted asking what it would cost to rent a nice house at East Legon when I first returned to Ghana. Upon later reflection, I see that this is completely unrealistic and I’m not sure why I thought things would work differently here than they work in other parts of the world. Let me clarify.

When you live in the US, you usually start life from a small apartment, often with roommates. Then gradually you get a small one-bedroom place of your own, then you upgrade, and upgrade until some 10 years or more later, you finally own a nice house. It’s the same in Ghana; nobody starts life by owning or renting one of those mansions in Cantonments or Airport Residential Area or East Legon. Simple as that. Very few people begin life by renting two-bedroom estate houses. The fact that you’ve been educated at some of the finest schools in the world and have worked a year or two for a big international company does not change that. That sense of entitlement is misplaced and until you put into perspective that you can’t start life from the top, you will be very deeply disappointed upon your return home.

On the other hand, once you put things in perspective, and accept that you can’t have it all at once, you’ll find that you can enjoy life here as you work your way up the social ladder. Put simply, if you were willing to live in a place similar to where you currently live, in the US or elsewhere with the inconvenience of roommates and all, you’d be perfectly fine here too. I wish all those contemplating a move home the best of luck!

If you enjoyed reading this and would like to read more from this blogger, visit her blog: Wo Se Ekyir-What Your Mamma Never Told You About Ghana at:

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