Assimilating into the African Way of Life – Part 2/2

This is the second part of our conversation with Mohamed Syahid bin Mohamed. Here, Syahid tells us more about what you can expect in Ghana and shares some essential travel tips you wouldn’t want to miss! You can catch up on the first part of our conversation with Syahid here.

 

 Syahid 2.1   How is Ghana like?

I think it depends on the regions and areas in the country. We do see the poorer regions in Ghana where there are kids selling stuff along the expressways. Begging is a common sight over there.

Share with us some of the challenges you faced.

Like I mentioned earlier, the food was cooked according to the local palates. Food was also cooked according to the cuisines that the chefs were taught. Sometimes the food is undercooked.

Syahid 2.2The locals there tried to share with us their local delicacies, but none of us dared to try because even some of the locals said that they had it once and went to the hospital afterwards.

Transport was another issue. If we wanted to travel, we needed to use the car but if our colleague was using it, we could not travel around. Cabs are easy for near places, because we know the rough cab fare. But if it was too far a distance, while we agreed that it was safe, we did not want to take chances especially if the cab driver was to drive farther into unknown places.

Essentially it’s about assimilation, if you go there being so demanding, it doesn’t help. You really need to have an open mind.

Syahid 2.3

What did you like or not like about Ghana, about living and working there?

I will contradict myself when I say this. I love working there, it’s slow paced, and I can learn without stress. But at the same time, it is too slow – sometimes you look at your watch and it has only been ten minutes, when it feels like two hours have passed.

They were also not very advanced in their methodology, like scanning documents etc. We tried to give recommendations, but a lot of them were shot down because it seemed too advanced for them.

Living there was nice though! Everyone was friendly. They are humble, they show kindness towards you and are respectful.

Syahid 2.4

Do you think the average Singaporean will be able to adapt to the life there?

Hmm, it depends. If you’re looking at the standards of living, yeah, maybe. In the capital city in Ghana, there are more upscale places, but if you go to the village areas, they are like kampongs. It is definitely not an issue for people to survive but some may be picky about the food or lifestyle or trends.

“So if you’re into hectic life, fast-paced and are very goal-driven, Ghana is not a place for you. Ghana is like the place for the perfect retirement life, for people who do not like stress. Of course there is still stress, but it is not as much as what you would expect in Singapore.”

Was there anything that you learnt from this trip?

There, we did things we could not do in Singapore. We also learnt things we do not learn at Business School. When we were there, we learnt about the whole process, not just about finance and making profits and all that. I came across some terms that I have never seen before.

Have you any fun/interesting facts or stories about Ghana to share with our readers?  

Well, Ghana is famous for cocoa. And I would say try to find out from the locals where the exciting places to go are. We found out that there is this amazing Thai restaurant only on the last day, right before I flew off.

And, as a guy, protect yourself when you’re there? (laughs) It’s not the girls who should be wary. The girls there are very garang(gung-ho in Malay). When they there saw us for the first time, they said, “Oh you’re so cute, you’re so young!” And they actually used the word “fresh” on us! Girls there are really quite wild.

That’s interesting to note! Do you have any travel tips?

Travel light! You do not have to be fashionable there, because you will realise that regardless, you will still be fashionable there. Their dressing is quite unique, I would say. Just pack as if you are going for a chalet.

And bring an insect repellent – a must! Even in air-conditioned rooms, the mosquitoes still manage to make their way in. Don’t expect fast Internet, but 3G on the SIM card works fine.

Thank you! Well, would you return to Ghana to work or travel in the future?

I would not mind. Of course, there was a moment of homesickness. I wanted to go back home after six weeks in Ghana.

But I would still go back to Ghana if given the chance to. Up till now, I am still contacting my colleagues there via Facebook. Some of us even use Skype to keep in contact. My supervisor still checks on me once in a while, and asks “How’s your studies?”, “How are you doing?” etc., and they keep me updated about what they are doing there as well.

Syahid 2.5

That’s really nice of them. Is there anything else you’d like our readers to know?

You can afford to splurge there. The cost of living is manageable. Their bread – a typical French loaf costs about SGD$0.80. For us, it’s considered low cost of living, but for them it can be quite high. Their salaries are quite low too, I heard that they receive about SGD$500 for someone who earns about SGD$1,200 here.

When you go there, just do not expect too much. It is not supposed to be a bad thing. It is about having an open mind, but some people might not be able to cope. The life there is better than expected, although some may expect more from Ghana.

Don’t put yourself on a level higher than anybody else. It happens. You might think they don’t know how to do things, so you find yourself more superior. But just go there with an open mind and humble yourself.

This wraps up our short little tour in Ghana. Are you eager to find out more? If you’re an NUS or SMU student, there are opportunities to do an exchange semester in some African countries. NTU students can find out more about the NTU-KKH programme. We also hear that IE Singapore‘s opening an office in Ghana. Check it out!

Next week we’ll bring you more stories on Africa. Stay tuned!