REINVENTED EXPAT PARTNER
(BELLA – YOGA WITH BELLA)
This week, we continue our interview stories on ‘’Reinvented expat partner’’ with Bella of Yoga with Bella. She shares her story on moving to Ghana, how she transitioned into the Ghanaian life and how her business started.
What brings you to Ghana?
My husband got a job as Country Director of the British Council in Ghana. We’ve been here for two years now. We live in Accra with our two dogs. Our son has been boarding in the UK for the last 4 years and comes to visit us during his school breaks.
How did you cope with the culture shock and transition to life in Ghana?
With Ghana being my sixth expatriate country, having previously lived in Libya, Mozambique, Kazakhstan, Turkey, and Bahrain, I wouldn’t say I had much of a culture shock. I was actually pleasantly surprised to find Accra more developed than I expected. What struck me the most was the climate. High humidity combined with heat and no difference between day and night temperatures has been the most difficult thing to learn to cope with.
Did you find it easy to start Yoga with Bella and how long after you moved here did you feel ready to take the leap?
On arriving in Accra, I almost immediately started looking for a yoga studio where I could continue developing my yoga practice, which I had been doing for almost 10 years. There were quite a few good yoga studios that offered a variety of lessons and teaching methods, however I couldn’t find any Ashtanga classes in the style I had been practicing. Being a certified Ashtanga Yoga Teacher and having given occasional classes to my friends and fellow yogis in Bahrain, I’d never had formal work experience as a yoga teacher or a studio owner. I decided to fill the gap, offering Ashtanga Yoga classes and giving my first lesson just 4 months later. Setting up and promoting a business has been a huge learning curve for me. Of course, I had my ups and downs, a natural and unavoidable part of embarking on a new career path, but now I am feeling very happy with my work as I am doing something I feel very passionate about.
What advice can you offer other expat partners on how to get settled into Accra life quickly & easily?
On arriving in a new country I make sure that as a part of my settling in process, I make an effort to meet new people and try out new activities. During first 3 months, I usually accept every invitation to coffee mornings, shopping tours, and parties that come my way. If I am trying a new sport or recreational activity, I usually give it at least 3 goes before making up my mind. In my fourth month, I start becoming more selective and have usually already formed a social circle of friends I can meet regularly and do interesting things with by then. If you are planning to look for a job, start doing so immediately. Don’t wait until you move into your permanent accommodation, or receive your shipment and so on.
Joining various expat social media groups certainly helps to get the feel of the place and can be a very useful source of tips on life in Accra.
I would recommend joining GIE Ladies Community, British in Ghana Society (BiG) and North American Women’s Association (NAWA). There are also a number of WhatsApp groups for finding domestic help, selling used items and other advice groups.
Do you have any advice or tips for expat partners who would like to explore a new career path while on assignment with their partner?
The option to continue career development is the most difficult and sensitive aspect for expat partners accompanying their partners on assignment. Most of us come with hopes of being able to fulfil our lives professionally, being able to do something meaningful, achieve some career goals and earn financial reward for our work. To a newcomer partner, I’d suggest investing some time and effort meeting and getting to know as many people as possible. Many of the job opportunities in Accra come via a word of mouth.
How did you go about choosing your neighbourhood and where to live? What are your views about the house versus apartment debate?
We didn’t have a say in our accommodation as it was already allocated as part of my husband’s position. However we were lucky enough to be placed in a lovely stand-alone villa with a big garden. We came to Accra with two dogs, so having a garden is great. It also gives us an opportunity to spend some time outdoors in a private area.
What’s the best thing about living in Ghana so far?
I would say the opportunity to develop my creative and artistic side. I’ve learnt to make necklaces with Ghanaian beads, acrylic painting, participated in my first art exhibition, revived my sewing skills, and taken up my old passion of photography. I also help out at a charity organisation where I can apply all the skills I have acquired. I also find that the expatriate social life in Accra is very busy, which I enjoy a lot.
What’s your favourite place to go in Accra?
I would probably say Zion Thai restaurant in Osu (054 996 7644). Both my husband and I love Asian cuisine and this restaurant serves delicious and authentic Thai food. It’s an inexpensive and cosy place and you can actually talk there, as usually, loud blasting music is the norm in public places in Accra. We also love sushi and often go to Rockefellas Sushi & Grill Restaurant in Osu as a treat (050 130 1200). I love the ambience as well as their service.