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Diaspora Diaries: The Ugly Truth about the Ghanaian Mindset Towards Foreigners

As a journalist, I take pride in the level of transparency needed for this career and the moral obligation to fully cover the good, the bad, and the ugly. Diaspora Diaries is sort of my public digital diary as I document my experiences as a Ghanaian American living in Ghana.

Having been raised in America most of my life and being fortunate enough to travel all over the world and have friends of many different cultures and socioeconomic backgrounds, it feels like I’ve been given these lenses that allow me to see the world from different perspectives. One of the pros to this is the extremely high level of empathy and understanding I have toward people and situations. I can literally put myself in anyone’s shoes.

However, the con to this is that some people tend to take advantage of these qualities and living in Ghana for 3 months now, unfortunately, this is one of the ugly realities I keep experiencing. I find myself guarding my empathy and understanding due to the continuous instances of getting swindled by Bolt and Uber drivers, market ladies, roadside sellers, and even people I meet.

At first, I tried to empathize, taking into consideration the economy and overall lifestyle of a developing nation but, I soon realized it’s much deeper than that. It is about the mindset.

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I lived in Bali, Indonesia for about 6 months and aside from the countless beautiful beaches that decorate the island and the delicious (very similar to Ghanaian) food that I indulged in (what can I say, I’m a huge foodie), the people were some of the most polite and kindhearted people I’ve ever met. I did not have to worry about a significant price hike just because of my accent or obvious physical implications that I’m a guest in the country. In fact, I would leave every outing feeling like a celebrity because people wanted to take a picture with “the American”. Even with having eight million tourists in 2022, the Balinese people want to give their guests an experience that will leave them yearning to come back again.

In Ghana, it seems like once most people realize or see that you are a foreigner, they try to either take advantage of you financially or use you in some way. There are countless of stories I’ve heard from friends and family that turned them off and sort of broke their hearts.

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A young Black American man came to Ghana to get back to his roots and experience this beautiful nation. He and some friends (some Ghanaian American, some Black American) went to Cape Coast to visit Elmina Castle. After the emotional tour of the slave castles, an art seller approached him with a story to tug at the heart of the already emotional gentleman. He told him that the art piece was 400ghc (about 31 Dollars) but when he got in the car, the gentleman was regretful to find out that his friends got the same exact painting for 40ghc (about 3 Dollars). In an instant, his whole experience was ruined. He couldn’t understand how what he thought

was a genuine interaction turned out to be a finesse to extort him. For him, it wasn’t about the money, it was the principle.

Another story echoes the same sentiment, this one of a Ghanaian American Photographer who came to Ghana for a quick two-month trip to visit her mother. Upon arriving she decided to reach out to a popular Ghanaian photographer for a collaborative shoot. In my personal experience, when creatives or artists collaborate, they both utilize their resources towards the project. However, when the Ghanaian American photographer showed up to the shoot, the Ghanaian photographer did not have any of their equipment and expected compensation at the end.

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The last story is of my own experience, where I was going to a work event and called a Bolt (a ride-share app). I was with my cousin and as soon as we started having a conversation the driver heard our accents and changed his demeanor to a friendlier nature. He started telling me how he loved America and how I’m so lucky and suddenly, I got a weird feeling in my stomach. Uh oh I thought, and I knew something fishy was going to happen. As we got closer to the destination his phone went off and he no longer had the navigation to direct him, so he went the old-fashioned route and pulled over to ask someone walking by. This happened about five times meanwhile I had the directions on my phone, yet he refused to listen to me. One person gave us a direction and he decided to go the opposite way. Long story short, we arrived, and my ride went from 60ghc to 100ghc, and his phone magically came back on. Do I think he intentionally delayed the trip to spike up the price because I’m American? Absolutely.

I am in no way trying to paint a negative picture of this beautiful nation, but I want to start a conversation and address a reality that is based on a false narrative that many Ghanaians have been conditioned to believe: “Money grows on trees” in America, and foreigners have tons and tons of money. This coupled with survival mentality is a recipe for an impending disaster.

I understand that not all Ghanaians are like this but I’ve had more experiences with those that are that it’s starting to color my lens a bit; and with Ghana’s Tourism on the rise and global eyes on our beautiful nation, I hope that this false mindset can be uprooted and integrity can become synonymous with Ghanaians yet once again.

Disclaimer: The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Accra Times, its management, employees, or affiliates. This article is also not intended as an endorsement of any specific ideas or viewpoints.

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