REINVENTED EXPAT PARTNER
(LOTTE – GHANA FOOD MOVEMENT)
Our second interview story on “Reinvented expat partner ” is about Lotte of Ghana Food Movement. Talking about how she moved to Ghana and how she started her business as well as her experiences and advice.
What brings you to Ghana?
Both my husband and I were ready for a change – we were done with trying to co-ordinate our schedules, getting home from work very late, with no time for our kids or ourselves. We were really in need of a different kind of lifestyle. Then we heard that a post had opened up here in Ghana – we were immediately interested. My husband applied for a job as Agricultural Counsellor at the Dutch embassy and we ended up getting the posting. We arrived in Accra when our second child was just five weeks old, which I must admit, was quite hard for the first few months.
Did you find it easy to start your business (Ghana Food Movement) and how long after you moved did you feel ready to go for it?
As a former business owner with a natural interest in food and sustainability, I already had the experience, but needed to get the contacts. So I figured the best way to go about it, was to have lots of cups of coffee with people I found interesting, especially with entrepreneurial types, who were working in start-ups. I turned to Instagram, and searched for individuals in the food and sustainability field who were involved in initiatives that really resonated with me. I came across interesting chefs, food bloggers and influencers who were all about reinventing cuisine, from a sustainable and social perspective, and I was so inspired. My background as the owner of The Food Line-up, the biggest sustainable catering company in Holland, really helped me in identifying a gap in the market. I felt like Africa was missing from the global food narrative and I saw a possibility to collaborate with fellow foodies and like-minded individuals, and so the Ghana Food Movement was born! It’s a platform that brings people together to focus on initiatives that fight for better food systems. So it was passion combined with identifying a need for such a platform that turned into a business venture!
I have since started up a PR and Management agency for chefs and tastemakers from mainly West Africa. My goal is to help them generate new business and effectively promote and position themselves and their brands.
What advice can you offer other expat partners on how to get settled into Ghana quickly & easily?
Go with your natural interests, look for kindred spirits, even though you might be from different worlds and backgrounds, you may find you have a lot in common. Start by having coffee with new people, and learn about how things work in Ghana. Find your “thing”, whether it’s photography, fitness, art or cooking. I would also definitely recommend living in a compound rather than a stand-alone house, as in a compound; you have neighbours next door who can share a lot of useful information with you, and help you not feel isolated in the beginning stages of settling in. I also suggest joining one of the many WhatsApp groups if you’re a mom, or groups that are nationality-specific or related to particular interests.
Do you have any advice or tips for expat partners who would like to explore a new career path while on expatriation assignment with their partner?
Go with your natural interests and identify people within that field who you can approach. Start by meeting up over a coffee to understand the landscape. Just do something, even if you don’t get paid. There are so many other creative ways in which to get remunerated – exchange/barter services in the beginning. You will eventually build up your network, and become known and that’s how you will eventually find a job.
If you’re on the move, things will happen, if you don’t move, nothing will happen. But you have to go out and look for it and create those possibilities by talking to people – but luckily that’s very easy here! I love living in Ghana!
How did you go about choosing your neighbourhood and where to live? And how did you decide about the house versus apartment question?
Traffic in Accra was a huge factor in our decision so we chose to live near my husband’s work. We also wanted to live in a neighbourhood with greenery, and it was very important to us to live in a compound with little children as we have young kids ourselves. Having kids in the compound means you don’t have to spend hours in the car going to and from play dates. We looked at a lot of compounds, so we took our time to find the one that felt just right for us. Even though our place has one room less than we initially wanted, it ticked all the other boxes, and we haven’t regretted it at all. I would suggest making a list of what you need from your housing and keep in mind you may not get all the boxes ticked, but if it’s an overall good choice, then go for it!
What’s the best thing about living in Ghana so far?
I would have to say, it’s the people here – it’s very easy to make contacts, people are friendly and open to share their experiences. Living in Ghana is comparable to “happy chaos”; it’s upbeat and colourful with lots of possibilities, but you have to be prepared to look a little deeper. Don’t come to Ghana and expect a western equivalent of life, such as parks, green spaces, clean beaches, playgrounds and shopping centres. But if you peel beyond the first layer, you will discover a lot of new and exciting things happening.