I’ve worked in Ghana for 4 years now. Here, I’m to share the lessons I’ve learned throughout my stay.
1. Don’t mind them
This is probably the most common sentence I hear at my workplace. This is kind of synonymous to “do not listen to whatever they’re saying because they’re not saying the truth”.
People gossip a lot, and stories are being fabricated to the extent that lies become the truth. Some also don’t want to admit that they are wrong, so they twist their statements to save face.
This sentence serves as my reminder that I should just mind my business and do what I have to do. I also ensure to try my best to remember what really happened and stick on what really transpired.
Unless you want to go insane, you’ll have to be comfortable not seeking someone else’s approval and stop mind them.
2. Relationships are more important than perfection
“I don’t want trouble.” This sentence is also commonly used by my colleagues and staff.
Ghanaians value relationships. As much as possible, they want to be on good terms with everyone. They are quite similar to Filipinos, they also avoid confrontations.
I’ve learned this from my former housekeeping team leader. She always says that sometimes, she just has to close her one eye whenever there are mishaps because being too hard on staff will cause more harm than good.
Not that she’s neglecting her responsibilities, but what she does is she would correct those mistakes then later, when everyone’s done with their tasks, she will call those who need correction and speak to them like a brother or a sister.
This approach was foreign to me. It took me a while before I started integrating it with my style. In the work culture I know, all mistakes come with an immediate reprimand, especially when you are working with a luxury brand.
Later, as I grew on the job, I’ve learned that doing this helps build rapport and trust among leaders and subordinates. By adapting your methods to how the staff reacts and behaves, it immensely increases productivity.
3. Value your culture and traditions
I’ve heard a couple of my staff say, “But we’re Ghanaians”.
At first, I was annoyed hearing this from them since open-mindedness is necessary when working in the hospitality industry. I feel the statement to be limiting and downright insulting. It’s like you don’t want to adapt and you’re too rigid. However, upon reflection, they are right. They are Ghanaians. They know who they are.
Sometimes, I feel like, with globalization, the Philippines has been westernized to the point where our cultures and traditions are almost forgotten. A lot of Filipino children do not even know how to speak Tagalog. We adapt well to other cultures at the expense of our identity.
In Ghana, people acknowledge foreigners, their inputs, and culture, but they still keep their own. In restaurants and bars, they play Ghanian songs and locals often, if not always, prefer local food. They use fabrics with African prints and wear them on a daily with pride. They still have their traditional leaders and people still honor and pay great respect to them.
I tend to wonder, there are a lot of Filipinos living and working abroad, but why is it that whenever I meet a foreigner, s/he cannot identify that I am a Filipino? They will think of Thai, Indian, Chinese, Nepalese, but never Filipino? It’s absurd.
4. Position is only a title until you learn how to walk the talk
With my 4 year experience in Ghana, you really have to walk the talk. You have to prove yourself worthy of the title given to you. This is probably because as an expatriate, the expectation is higher since you are considered to have an international experience.
In other companies I’ve worked with, once a title was given to you, staff would recognize you as their leader regardless of the circumstances. However, here, your authority is constantly challenged not only by staff but also by your colleagues.
I view this as a challenge that pushes me to always be on my toes. I ensure that I always bring something valuable on the table and stand on my ground especially when I’m being tested.
5. Black is also beautiful
I grew up believing that fair blemish-free skin, straight and silky hair, and being hairless from below the eyes to toes are beautiful.
So, during my first years in Ghana, I didn’t appreciate African beauty. But after gaining some perspective from friends, I started seeing their innate beauty. I started admiring those who flaunt their natural hair and those who refuse to bleach their skin.
I am always teased “Kirara” because I have this provincial look and I’m morena. But, through these appreciations, I have grown comfortable with my own skin.
These are 5 lessons working in Ghana taught me.
1. Don’t mind them – Mind your own business and do what you have to do. Be comfortable not seeking someone else’s approval and stop mind them.
2. Relationships are more important than perfection – Rapport and trust are more important to effectively and efficiently lead a team. Suit your approaches to the people you’re dealing with.
3. Value your culture and traditions – Adapt to foreign cultures but never forget your own.
4. Position is only a title until you learn how to walk the talk – Always be on your toes and ensure to always bring something valuable on the table.
5. Black is also beautiful – Celebrate your innate beauty and be comfortable with your own skin.