Living like a local

Having only been here a couple of weeks I’ve already had quite a few culture shocks, both good and not so good.

Early starts

People get up really really early in Ghana. It is normal to wake up at 4:30/5:00 and start the day with exercise, chores, getting the latest social media update or your TV/reading fix. This caused confusion in the first couple of weeks as I thought my in-country counterpart Tilly just didn’t realise we weren’t starting until 8:30, but now I have learned to tune out her morning routine and she’s agreed to leave the lights off until 7am – compromise at it’s finest!

Hand washing

I knew there wouldn’t be a washing machine in the host home, and I had hand washed clothes before so didn’t expect this to be an issue, but it’s a lot harder than it looks when done properly. I’d at most washed a bikini whilst on holiday and half “washed” a towel if I’d gotten sand at it at the beach. This is nothing compared to a full load of washing including bed sheets when you wash a 10cm square section at a time at most. The technique involves rubbing the material onto your knuckles to scrub any dirt out, and expect a load to take a good 3 hours; if you’re lucky. I’ve also found that any lace materials scratch your skin off like a scouring pad, so when the online websites recommend cotton undies, they didn’t just mean for comfort whilst wearing.


Last Sunday we attended a special Independence Day church gathering with our host family that was conducted in English. The ceremony started at 7:30 and finished at 12:00, and it was more of a party than the usual hymns and prayers I was used to as a child. Everyone dressed in beautiful African prints, or white linen if part of the choir, and I noticed that they are particularly fond of their sequins. As well as dressing fabulously, everyone was dancing throughout, singing, and praising the appointed prophet as he wished their illnesses away and spoke of riches due to be bestowed upon all those in attendance throughout the month of July. An experience I’ll never forget but I’m not sure I’ve been converted just yet. Here’s a snippet of the service.

I’m hoping I’ll adopt some of the early start mentality as although I would call myself a morning person, I’m not an exercise in the morning person, and need to be to suit my curfew. Hand washing will not defeat me so early on so I’m going to find new ways to try and speed up the process before I succumb to giving up 15% of my stipend to a cleaning lady. As for church, I’ll definitely visit the host homes smaller local church before I leave and remember the ceremony fondly, but I’ll leave the singing and dancing to people with more rhythm.



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