Candance Taylor grew up in the “magical” small town of Washburn in northern Wisconsin—amidst waterfalls, ice caves, and the Northern Lights—and went to college in the bustling metropolis of Chicago. But it’s Taylor’s time in Accra, Ghana that has had one of the biggest effects on her life.
After marrying her husband Justice Taylor in 2008, Taylor soon began splitting her time between Chicago and Accra after her husband followed an opportunity in his native country to consult on projects in the agriculture and telecommunication industries.
“At the time, we just weren’t ready to fully commit to uprooting our lives for opportunities we weren’t sure about,” she explains. “I had a life, family, and work still in the States, so I would go back forth as often as I could,” spending 2-3 months in Chicago followed by 2-3 months in Accra, and so on.
“Once we got a place in Accra, we furnished it and suddenly it started to really feel like home,” she continues. “In the end, I started to prefer being here than in Chicago and since my husband was working here full-time, it only made sense [to stay].”
The Taylors made Accra their permanent address in March 2012.
Not only has moving to Accra completed a dream of living abroad; the move has also supported her own career trajectory by pushing her to start her own business.
“I was meant to be an entrepreneur,” she says. “If anything, living in the States was slowing me down because it’s easier to work for someone else and have a stable job. This move has forced me to follow my dreams!”
What do you do for a living abroad?
We just had our first child, so at the moment that is my full-time job. Before that I was running my own boutique PR firm called RISE PR; it was our job to communicate African stories on a broader level [for] small businesses, entrepreneurs, and startups. There isn’t really a PR industry here, so I wanted to create opportunities for smaller businesses and startups to promote themselves through social media at a level that would attract international attention; securing press in international [outlets] was very much a part of our role. It’s hard to get African stories that aren’t part of a single narrative told. It’s a really big continent; there are a lot of stories to be told. I think a broader story of this continent is starting to emerge on the international stage and it’s exciting to watch and be part of [it]. I ended up merging that PR business into an existing full-service marketing agency called Mozaic Media. I oversee general activities there, but [I’m] not working full-time yet.
In 2016 I will be launching Supermama Foods, a line of superfood nutrition made for moms, supporting mothers-in-need in Ghana. The idea came to be after I returned to Accra postpartum and my health really started to decline due to poor nutrition. It was suggested I try a local “superfood” and I haven’t looked back. That top-secret ingredient is the base for all Supermama products because, with its benefits, you would swear it was made for moms by Mother Nature herself. By harvesting it responsibly, we are able to use it as an economic tool to empower women farmers and educate women suffering from poor health before, during, and after pregnancy—we can have a huge impact on the quality of life for mothers and their babies.
What process did you go through to move abroad?
Getting a visa was straight-forward because I am married to a Ghanaian. It cost $150. If you’re [visiting] prior to moving here, you probably have a pretty good idea of where you want to live. We knew the apartment complex we wanted to live in based on its location and amenities. You have to pay for at least a year upfront, which can be challenging if you’re setting up here without the assistance of a company.
Most expats who come here are set up by their company, which is good because I think it would be difficult to find a place to live here remotely and without help. I’m sure there are services that can assist—Accra Expat and No Worries Ghana are great references—but it’s better to come here and then look for a place.
What do you like about the culture of your city, and what has made it easy to acclimate?
I love that it’s a very family-oriented culture. Everybody has a huge family. Every weekend there is a wedding, traditional engagement, naming [also known as] introducing your baby to the world, or funeral to attend.
Everyone is Black. The president, the police, businessmen and women, everybody. I grew up in white communities and I lived in Chicago, which is arguably a very segregated city. So to see Black families, Black people in power, entire companies with [all] Black employees—it’s a huge deal.
Finding other women to pow-wow with made it much easier to acclimate. Ghanaians are very friendly and outgoing, so if you can find a posse to hang out with, you’ll be good. The expat community here is very close as well and there are many organization to join to get introduced to them. I’m a member of NAWA [North American Women’s Association], which is amazingly helpful. I found NAWA through AccraExpat.com, but they also publish a local guidebook called No Worries: The Essential Guide To Living In Ghana. I just joined for the first time this year and I really regret not having done it earlier.
I can be terribly shy, but having a child has changed all of that for me. I have to put myself out there, on a personal level, for his sake. Expats are extremely welcoming people because they understand what it’s like to move to a new place and not know anyone or anything. If you introduce yourself to the local expats, you will get the inside scoop on everything.
What obstacles did you face when you moved abroad, and how did you deal with them?
The biggest obstacle for me was food. I miss Whole Foods so much when I’m gone. It’s starting to change—now there are farmers markets and more options in the supermarkets—but it’s nowhere near where I would want it to be. Access to a variety of quality foods is seriously lacking. Anytime I’m traveling I bring a suitcase [for] treats that I don’t want to live without. Now I also bring my son’s baby food because even if they randomly have organic baby food in a store, it’s not reliable.
What are the average basic living expenses like where you live?
It’s not cheap here. Housing is very expensive and there is no month-to-month rent. You must pay for the year in advance. Same goes for if you’re buying a place—chances are you’ve paid for it upfront. Pricing is the same as it would be in Chicago or even New York. Labor is cheap so you can afford to have people help you in your house, but all together it really adds up.
How has your 11-month-old son adjusted to the move?
In Chicago, [he] took classes everyday. We went for walks, played at the park, went to museums. That lifestyle for young children doesn’t really exist here. I’m part of a baby group for expats, which we attend once a week, but it’s not enough. One of the other moms and I are thinking of teaching our own class once a week so that the babies can learn in an environment suited for them while surrounded by other children. My son was walking at 9 months; he’s very social and active and I credit that in part to all the activities we did when we were in Chicago.
What advice do you have for someone looking to move to your city?
I know of quite a few African-Americans who have picked up and moved here. It can work. The “African Dream” is real if you’re willing to grind for it, but I think it would be better to get a job here first. You can also pursue other things in your spare time.
The system is not [as] set up as you would expect it. Anybody looking to make the move to Ghana—Accra specifically—is gonna need some help. It may look as simple as going to the DMV to take a test and get your driver’s license, but it’s not. You need to know ahead of time who to see, which means you need to know someone who knows someone who works there. Otherwise, you could sit there the whole day and still won’t get what you came for.
Another example would be shopping. You can’t get everything you need in one place here, ever. Furthermore, there’s no guaranteeing something you’re looking for will be available now or ever. We have to travel with anything we deem to be a necessity, [like] produce, baby food, [and] diapers. Usually the things you’re looking for are in high demand so you have to know what day and at what time the store restocks so you can check for what you need. This may sound trivial, but you can’t visit all the stores in one day because they’re too spread out and there’s too much traffic so it gets a little frustrating.
That being said we love living in Accra because for every problem there is a real opportunity to be part of the solution.