Chinese law magazine “Rule of Law Weekly” interviewed six Chinese people who are working in Africa. Each individual works in a different country and they all have a story to tell. The following is the third installment in the six-part series.
Rule of Law Weekly Reporter Gao Jin Translation by Erik Myxter
“The home of coco” Ghana is located near the equator in West Africa. The country does not have all four seasons; during the course of the year Ghana only has the dry season and the rainy season. The weather here is a very dry heat. During the time of our interview the rainy season was soon arriving and Jia Jie (pseudonym) almost everyday meets the dark rain clouds that are full of energy and are ready to storm.
Three years ago, Jia Jie first arrived in Ghana to work as an account manager for a Ghanaian communication’s company. It is his company’s job to provide a full range of communications services for the country.
Before departing to Africa, Jia Jie went through unbearable burden of having to leave his wife and child, but nowadays the worries he once had do not exist. “Ghana is a great country, the standard of living to price ratio is so high that even many European and American families choose to live and work here. Here you can find your own fun, and march to your own beat, it is really great.” He told reporters.
Ghana is a former British colony and today it basically follows common law. Once Jia Jie arrived in Ghana he took part in a training course that was held by a local organization of the commercial office of the Embassy. It was there where he studied local culture, customs and immigration, social security and legal risk aversion.
“In Ghana Huawei, Southern Airlines, China Development Bank, China-Africa Fund, China Hydroelectric, Sinopec, Shenzhen Natural Resources and other large Chinese companies do business. At the same time many small businesses, electronic sellers and private individuals who come to Africa to do business are also here.” Jia Jie explains.
The official language in Ghana is English, but they do speak with a strong accent. “For the first few months when I came here I was not accustom to it (the accent), this made communication with customers a major problem.”
According to the company’s requirements he had to quickly overcome these obstacles and adapt, otherwise he would be eliminated.
So initially I worked hard to quickly become familiar with the content of my work, this included studying English, the technology, and the customers. “Doing this created immediate positive results during my evaluation.” He said.
In regards to his life, the company already arranged it for him. Jia Jie and his co-workers live in “incredibly nice” company housing. When he leaves, he has a car, where he works is the best local office around, and the cafeteria serves Chinese food. On weekends, the company organizes staff to play football and basketball.
After working here for a short while, Jia Jie felt that Ghanaian people have very direct personalities and they are not scared to say what they love or hate. “As long as you show a good heart with your customers, and satisfy their demands you will have good relations here, there is no foundation for the complicated and burdensome ‘guanxi’ system like in China.”
On the ground, many Chinese companies have a ban: It is prohibited to destroy the local ecological species, and one must act in an environmentally responsible behavior. Here there are many precious wild animals, for example, the West African coast all have rare, internationally protected animals such as the sea turtle.
On the other hand, there are many local fruits that can be enjoyed.
Ghana’s specialty products include Coco, coffee, rich mangoes, pineapples, papaya, watermelon, oranges, apples, bananas and avocado’s….. Jia Jie says: “The pineapples and especially great, the color of the pineapple here is whiter than that of China’s, the flavor is very sweet and not even the least bit sour, those of my colleagues who have gotten use to eating the pineapple here, cannot even touch a Chinese pineapple once they come home.”
Over time, many Chinese co-workers love Africa. “The food here is healthy and safe, the air quality is terrific and life’s pressures are few. “ These points are something he and his co-workers all agree on.
In Jia Jie’s view, although Ghana has a stable and safe society, a fast developing economy and a few years ago they discovered oil, but he feels the economy is still not developing quickly enough. “There is a lack of infrastructure. The public transportation system, the national electrical grid, water supply network, unified planning of energy supply facilities, basic education and national health protection all needs to be improved.”
But these problems do not have an effect on the local people’s elegance.
Ghanaian people really do not like people smoking in public places. They also don’t like other’s putting pressure on people because here it is seen as being very impolite.
“For example while meeting in an elevator, everyone will great each other. In China people do not have this custom, so when a local person greets you and you do not respond they will remind you: I said ‘Good Morning’ to you, you must respond.” Jia Jie explained.
Ghanaian’s like music, every night people enjoy themselves out at open air bars singing and dancing in the street. They have positive attitudes towards life; life is not so exhausting there. Although they admire the lives of the rich, they are not jealous of them; they believe each person has their own ways of living.
“My company’s driver has a monthly salary of not even 1000 Yuan, but he will not work overtime to make more money. He also won’t give up dinner with his family or church on the weekend. And regardless if they are hawkers on the street, or are one of your colleagues, people are generally happy to greet you.” Jia Jie says.
The traffic in Ghana made him feel that there is a high level of social trust here.
If a local street car broke down on the side of the road, there will be a group of people willing to help push. After the car has been started, the driver will just put his hand out of the window and wave to express thanks, the people who helped will just laugh and go on their way.
Ghanaian streets are very narrow, but at a fork in the road drivers are courteous to each other they let others pass in order. A small fender bender is not particularly a serious situation; the drivers will smile and go on their way. Also all vehicles slow down when they see pedestrians and the rule everyone follows is “pedestrian-first”.
What was most incredibly to Jia Jie was that even though the roads are narrow, if an emergency vehicle sounds it siren the cars on the road immediately move to the sides of the road so that the emergency vehicle can pass down the middle.
“This was the first time I have ever seen such a scene, and unexpectedly it was in Africa.”
In 2011, Jia Jie started to take up golf, which became a deep fascination “I like the culture surrounding golf, its elegance and the personal interaction that exists between the two who are playing.” he said.
Starting in July 2011, every Saturday and Sunday Jia Jie plays a round at the golf course. Because he is a club member, to play one round of golf it costs less than 50 Yuan, this compared to China where it can cost anywhere between 1000 to 2000 Yuan a round.
“Some people come to Africa and have a chance to come in contact, understand and appreciate this sport. Because by chance I chose to play a sport not many in China understand, I like this country.” Jia Jie said.
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