It is said that nothing educates like a shock and that is certainly true in the five months I have been in the UK. The things that have made the most impact in my life are not the weather, snow and spending over GH₵ 35 on a haircut. Those were expected. It is however the unexpected things that impressed me the most. Here are a few
SHOCK 1: The world is coming to an end!
Wondering what that is? Well that was the first thought that came to mind when I saw the way people walk in the UK. It is like the world is coming to an end and those of us in Ghana didn’t get the memo. There is a sense of urgency to everything here. The timing of trains and buses, the commencement of lectures in the university, the response to a customer’s request, the delivery of a mail and even the way people walk.
The exciting thing about this sense of urgency is that things get done on time and lectures close on time. However, there are some down sides. Chief among them is that it deprives one the opportunity to enjoy the trivialities of everyday life. A bus ride in Glasgow may leave on time but can never be as exciting as that Circle-Kanashie trotro from Ashaiman. There is no time to appreciate friendship, family and nature. Everything is on the move, like the world is coming to an end.
SHOCK 2: They don’t call it a Masters’ Degree for nothing
Probably the most asked question in my life since September is, “how is your course going?” My initial response was fine. Can you blame me? I am a Ghanaian. Everything is fine. Even when it’s not fine, that in itself is fine. But after a few months, my answer changed to, “I now know why it is called a Masters’ programme”. Don’t get me wrong. The stuff they teach in school isn’t rocket science; that is unless you are studying aerospace engineering. The concepts are familiar and I have come to appreciate KNUST more. However, it is still not a programme for amateurs. From unrealistic deadlines, do-it-your-self tutorials, to test schedules that resemble a BECE timetable, the programme is turning out to be a test of one’s ability to manage himself and not just to manage his head.
SHOCK 3: Ghanaians in UK are very Ghanaian
I cannot think of one attribute you can find in a Ghanaian in Accra that you can’t find more of in a Ghanaian in the UK.
Ghanaians are caring. I think of Mrs M who picked me up at the airport when I had arrived after school had already reopened. She took me to my home to unpack, then to school to register, then to town to shop for me (Yes, I said shop for me not with me) and back home to stock my fridge with food. She has been caring for me ever since. Did I forget to mention that the first time I saw Mrs M was at the airport?
Ghanaians are thoughtful. I think of G&N, a Ghanaian couple in church who have taken it upon themselves to call me every week to check up on me, find out how school work is coming along, pray for me and even top it up with some tips on long distance relationships. The latter is personal.
Ghanaians are hospitable. I think of E&B who opened the doors of their home to me to spend Christmas, meet new friends and most importantly eat Ga Kenkey.
Ghanaians like politics. I must confess, I never understood those ‘Ghanaian living aboard’ who were regularly calling Joy FM’s News File on Saturdays with contributions. Don’t they have anything to do? After being here for a while, I see why. Ghanaians just like politics. I am not sure whether it is because of the love of country or their inability to complete their projects back home due to increasing cement prices. The UK guys even hear stuff about Ghana before the folks in Ghana hear them. It’s amazing but also annoying if you are a Ghanaian leaving in Ghana.
Finally Ghanaians have a unique sense of time. I asked an usher in church when service starts. His answer, “well, we start at 11 am and around 11:45 for the Ghanaians.” Shocking indeed!
All in all, when you travel abroad, you will get shocks, and you hope they are pleasant. But try as you may, you will experience the not-so-pleasant shocks too, like the man who asked me for directions to Sauchiehall Street.
Ordinarily, that should be no problem, until you actually know Ghana and understand how we give directions where I come from. How am I supposed to give directions in a city where all building look the same, there are no mobile money kiosks, and no such thing as roasted plantain sellers? That’s just wrong. That’s so so wrong. I guess you can take Ghanaians out of Ghana, but you can never take the Ghanaian-ness out of us.
About the Author
Harry Agyemang is a TGSS Scholar from Ghana. He is currently studying MSc Electrical Power Engineering with Business at University of Strathclyde.