24 October 2016

Camille Armantrout - Expat in Ghana

Camille Armantrout - Expat in Ghana

We’ve had the chance to talk to Camille Armantrout, 62, an American expat who has moved to Ghana with her family. Mrs. Armantrout who has lived there for a year and a half now works as a property manager.

Read more about her experiences in the full interview below.


Q: Where are you from originally?

A: East Coast, USA, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.


Q: What made you move out of  the USA?

A: A nagging suspicion that there was more to life than the American Dream.


Q: Where are you living now? How did you come to choose this new country of residence?

A: I'm back in the U.S. after living in Belize, China, Guam, Nicaragua, and most recently Ghana, West Africa.


Q: How long have you been living in Ghana?

A: I lived in Belize for fourteen months, China, Guam, and Nicaragua for six months each and Ghana for a year and a half.


Q: Are you living alone or with your family? If yes, how are they adjusting to the Expat Lifestyle?

A: All my travels included my husband and often, his three daughters. Twenty years ago, when we lived in Belize, the girls were quite young, 4, 7, and 9, and they adapted to the culture without issue.


Q: Do you miss home and family sometimes? How do you cope with homesickness?

A: I rarely felt homesick when abroad, mainly because we plunged headlong into the local community and usually had our hands full running a business together.  By the time we moved to China, the email had become an easy way to stay in touch, and we made good use of Skype during our recent time in Africa.


Q: What do you think about the locals?

A: This, of course, varied by country and was specific to our location in that country. While it's not fair to generalize, the Mayans in the Cayo district of Belize impressed us as knowledgeable, capable and resilient, the Chinese in Tianjin as generous and innovative, the Chamorrans on Guam as proud but diminished by government hand-outs, the Nicaraguans on Little Corn Island as laid-back and affable with a penchant for firing guns, and the Ghanaians in Kumasi as devoutly Christian and doing their best under corrupt government.

These are tip-of-the-iceberg stereotypes specific to my experiences at particular points in time with a small subset of people. Much more can be said about the people I came to know living abroad, their cultural nuances, and how they were affected by conditions outside their control.


Q: Was it easy making friends and meeting people? Do you mainly socialise with other expats in Ghana? How did you manage to find a social circle there?  

A: Expats were always easy to find. They kept an eye out for newbies like us and welcomed us with open arms. Today, there are expat resources on the World Wide Web that make finding each other even easier.


Q: How does the cost of living in Ghana compare to your home?

A: In general, it was much cheaper to live abroad than in the United States, as long as we didn't try to recreate our at-home lifestyle.  Cheese, for example, is not culturally appropriate in any of the places we lived, so we eliminated it from our diet. I love to cook and explore ethnic cuisine, so we rarely ate out. As in the States, you could dine out for cheap without spending a fortune. We always had our coffee, usually instant at home, I don't smoke, and wine could be had for a reasonable price if you weren't looking for imported.


Q: Do you have any tips for future expats when it comes to opening a bank account in Ghana?

A: Sorry, no - we usually worked with our employer's banking system, or when my husband was paid in the United States, made use of ATM's.


Q: How will you describe your experience with government paperwork such as applications for Visa and work permits? Why is that so?

A: It wasn't always straightforward or easy, but hey - if it was easy, everyone would be doing it!


Q: Would you say that healthcare in Ghana is reliable? Any preferred clinics or advice for expats?

A: Healthcare was largely in our hands, but we were lucky to have no catastrophic medical needs. The best thing about the places we lived was how much medication was available over the counter at the pharmacies, making routine health care cheaper than care at home.


Q: Did you secure a health insurance in USA or Ghana? What should be the essentials in the coverage for expats, in your opinion?

A: We never signed up for expat medical services, relying instead on our copy of "Where There Is No Doctor" in the late 90's and more recently on Google. I just wrote about this on my website, Two Brauds Abroad.


Q: What was the most memorable about the packing and moving process to Ghana? Which was the mover you chose and how was your experience with them?

A: We travel light, with four enormous duffle bags, so no mover necessary.



Q: What is the biggest challenge that you have faced as a new expat?

A: Finding out where to get things we hadn't thought to bring. For example, it took us six weeks to find a can opener in Africa so it was a good thing my husband brought his Swiss Army knife!


Q: What do you think are the positive and negative sides of living in Ghana?

A: Without a doubt, the slower pace of life in all of the countries I lived in was the best part of being there. On the negative side was the expense of traveling back and forth to see family at home, negating the savings from a simpler lifestyle.


Q: What are the best things to do in the area? Any particular recommendations for future expats?

A: In Belize, go to Pelican Beach for an idyllic getaway. China -  you must experience The Great Wall. Snorkelling or diving on Guam is incredible. Ditto for Little Corn Island, Nicaragua. Ghana's Mole National Park was definitely worth a day of travel, especially at the end of the dry season when the elephants are close to the lodge.



Q: Do you have plans to move to a different country or back home in the future?

A: No, but that's no guarantee. We thought we were completely settled before we up and moved to Africa in 2012.


Q: What tips will you give to expats living in the country?

A: Do your homework, learn as much as possible about your host culture as possible,  keep an open mind and immerse yourself in their culture. Otherwise, what's the point of traveling? Try the local food, buy from the local markets, bike if that's how they get around, or take taxis, or walk. Be sensitive to their mores and taboos, don't wear scanty clothing if the locals are dressed in long pants and skirts. Be yourself, laugh often, and be generous.


Q: Do you have favourite websites or blogs about Ghana?

A: http://www.belizefirst.com/