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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Accra, Ghana

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An Aussie Expat offers some great advice on settling in to Accra, Ghana that actually applies to expats just about anywhere.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?

Accra

Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

This is the first country I have expatted in that speaks my native tongue - have previously lived in 3 countries that spoke a different language. In 2 of those countries, I had to learn the new language and was amazed to find I could having always thought I could never learn another language as I failed hopelessly at school. Best thing is to start using your new language as soon as possible even if people do laugh at you, most appreciate your efforts and will help you.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

No

How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

It varies depending on country and circumstances - it is always worse if you are in a hurry to settle quickly rather than taking time to sit back and observe and adjust. Trying to speed things along often creates a lot of frustration. Is also affected by how much support you have in your new country to get settled.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Pretty much but not always separate stages - often can be going through more than one stage at a time and sometimes may change from one stage to another on a daily basis.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

I have been away from home for so long now (8 years) I never really feel homesick anymore but I do find myself getting angry and frustrated at not always being able to get things done that should be quite simple, depression from a feeling of powerlessness here as I often have to rely on others and am often taken advantage of. While normally I am quite trusting - I have no faith or trust in people here which badly affects the quality of experience I have here.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

Live music

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

People here only tell you what you want to hear not the real situation - leading to not being able to trust anyone.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Best not to be too hard on yourself and go with your feelings - if you are not feeling like an adventure or having a good day - do something relaxing and which you will enjoy - even if it is watching a good TV show or reading a book. Only take on the world when you feel up to it. In the early stages do not rush, make sure you take lots of time out for yourself to keep stress levels to a minimum. Do not try to achieve too much to quickly it only leads to frustration - I set myself the goal of getting one thing a day achieved and anything else is then a bonus.

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