Skip to main content

Montpellier: Ghana In France

Like many who set off on a new journey in life, I looked forward to my year in France with many hopes, a couple of doubts, and a determination to make the most of my year abroad. Having travelled a thousand or so miles to the United States from Ghana, the plane ride from the US to France held more of a sentiment of returning home than of leaving home. For one thing, France is just two hours ahead of Ghana in comparison to the four hours time difference between Ghana and the United States. The knowledge that I could count on saying ‘bonjour’ to Monsieur Soleil at least 300 days of the year was also enough to make me feel all warm and fuzzy inside. What I didn’t expect however, was that the culture I considered alien and novel would actually be closer to home than I thought.

Paris. For many, that name imbibes romance, art, more romance and maybe a dash of history here and there. On the surface, there is absolutely nothing in common between Ghana and Paris. That is, until my roommate, my cousin and I ventured away from the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre, and the Notre Dame and into the narrow alleys of Place d’Italie. In that instance, time and space were no longer of consequence as all the energy seemed to concentrate on a single man standing on the curb with a sack of corn and a large container filled with freshly boiled corn cobs. Though I am not too fond of corn, the joy I felt at the familiar sight of those corn cobs was immeasurable. Who would have thought that a sight I had taken for granted back home would hold so much meaning to me a couple of years and a thousand kilometers into the future?

Montpellier. The fact that I had read the suggested books on Montpellier and had a vague idea of what to expect did nothing to reduce the impact of my first encounter with the Mediterranean city I would soon call home. I was literally blown away. For the first couple of days, I had to constantly remind myself that I was actually in France and not Spain or Greece. The Mediterranean influence in Montpellier cannot be over-emphasized as it is evident not only in the buildings, or the climate, but also in the mannerisms of the inhabitants. One could also accord the Mediterranean influence to the fact that Barcelona is a mere three hours away from Montpellier. Barely 24 hours after our arrival at “L’Hôtel Du Palaїs”, and Montpellier might as well have been Accra for all I knew.

Although we do not have a well-developed train system in Ghana, the tram that runs from Mosson to the Odysseum here in Montpellier brings about memories of the “tro-tro” or commercial bus system in Accra. Just like the “tro-tro”, the experience of a virtually non-existent comfort zone is all too familiar as everyone squeezes close in order to allow others some space on the tram. The culinary aspect of life here in Montpellier is another trigger of fond memories of Ghana. Having been involved in preparing large dinners from the age of twelve, my Ghanaian roommate and I quickly adapted to the French lifestyle of having late dinners after spending at least an hour in preparation of a meal. On the days when we decide to eat out, the aroma of home-cooked food wafting into our apartment from our neighbor’s kitchen triggers savory reminders of one local Ghanaian dish or another.

Even in the not-so-pleasant moments of my first few weeks in Montpellier when reality filters through, the similarities between life here and in Ghana remain. In those moments when it seems like every word of French I have ever learnt has vanished from my brain, I remember those days when I struggled to express myself in Twi – a local language generally spoken in the south of Ghana. One would think that I would be delighted to have to encounter guys every single day after having little or no daily contact with guys in Mount Holyoke. In a perfect world, this might be so. Unfortunately, the aggressiveness of some men here in Montpellier quickly brings to the fore reminders of times when I would have to explain to one over-eager lad or another why I could not and would not give out my phone number after meeting him for barely 10 minutes.

Although this is only the beginning of my time here in France, I believe I have already garnered and learnt a lot about French culture. From the looks of recognition we receive from the merchants we see frequently to the slow pace and laidback nature of life in Montpellier, every street and every corner seems to scream “Welcome home”.


  1. high! i think you look great! been a while since i last saw you so i gues im kinda excited to have seen you, chao!....Senyo

  2. such well garnished meals you made, didn't know you were such an expert shef!!!


Post a Comment

Popular posts from this blog

The Untold Stories of Ghana's Kayayo (Market Girls)

Thought I was done blogging for the day -- until I came across this BBC photo feature on Ghana's market girls or "kayayo". When I was back in Ghana, I would occasionally go to the Madina market in Accra with my mum and I remember seeing them every time. I often wondered why they weren't in school, why they were doing what they do and why they didn't bargain how much money was paid them. My mum would lament about their situations and each time she patronized their service she would ask them how come they were doing what they did. Unlike my mum, most patrons of the Kayayo's services are not as considerate and don't think twice about having them carry things twice their weight! This is a very sensitive topic to me, because the way I see it, a twist of fate, and I could have been one. I've been meaning to blog on this issue, but somehow it escaped me. Not about to let that opportunity slip by again. Alors, voila.

Here's a youtube slideshow (by the sam…

Lifestylz GH Interview: Sangu Delle

As part of Lifestylz GH’s interview series, we bring you our premier interview with Sangu Delle.

Profile: Sangu Delle
Sangu Delle is a senior at Harvard University. He was born and raised in Ghana, and is the youngest of five children in a bi-religious family (his father is Catholic while his mum is Muslim). He attended Christ the King Catholic School (CTK) and went on to study at the Ghana International School (GIS) until his O-Levels when he transferred to the Peddie School (a college preparatory school in NJ) on scholarship. His areas of concentration in academics are Economics and African studies, with a particular focus on development.

AspirationsTo be involved in the development of Ghana and Africa at large in some capacity. In the past, he was more involved in non-profit and development work, but has increasingly become active in entrepreneurial and business ventures; a testament to his belief that there should be “less foundations and more entrepreneurs” in Africa. In his own wor…

The Letter Writing Project: Unplanned (Student AGAIN!)

Ciao people! I'm blogging all the way from Bologna, Italy! Beautiful city, interesting experiences so far. This blog was written a couple of days ago and didn't get posted because I got quite self-conscious about what it was about (definitely NOT my grandest moment). But after some thought I decided to post it. I feel it's important to acknowledge both struggles and triumphs, especially if growth is the bottom line objective, and particularly since life does throw us a curve ball from time to time. Alors...I'd say enjoy...but given the subject matter, maybe "I hope this speaks to you in some way" is more appropriate? Here goes..
-- Unplanned
"It isn't what you did in the past that will affect the present. It's what you do in the present that will redeem the past and thereby change the future." - Aleph (Paulo Coelho)
It’s been a week and a day since I arrived in Bologna land, which coincidentally, is the very reason why we have so many foods “Bo…