Important Questions:As A Trailing Spouse Moving to Jamaica

So your husband or significant other arrives home from work one day overjoyed with good news. He is bouncing off the ceiling and eager to share some great news with you. “Sit down,” he tells you as he explains that his promotion has come through and that he will be the next CEO of his multinational company.

Like any supportive wife and partner, you are thrilled for him and proceed to sit still for the details. He informs you that his promotion will take the family from Australia to live in Kingston, Jamaica. You are excited as you think. “Sun, fun and beaches!” You call both children in and share the good news that the entire family will be moving to the  Caribbean in three months because Dad has received a promotion.

Now let’s fast forward to a month later. After researching numerous websites, you realize that given the time frame at hand, you are lacking the type of details you will need to make this move to Jamaica a success. Questions unanswered at this time are:

•    What schools are available in Kingston or outside Kingston?
•    Where will the family live?
•    Where do most expats in Jamaica currently live?
•    Should you live in an expat community or find a community where there is a mixture of local and expat families?
•    Do you send the husband ahead to set up house while you and the children follow at a later date?
You  therefore have more questions than answers at this time.

In an attempt to receive the desired answers, you ask your husband to provide you with the relocation package from his company as well as the contact information for a relocation service or an expat specialist.

This is your first international move and you are unsure about what questions to ask the expat specialist who has been assigned to your case. You are aware that the children’s schooling will be first priority while living arrangements may be the second priority on your list.

Here are my ideas of what to focus on initially when considering a move to Jamaica:

1.    Will you be able to get a work permit from you husband’s company if you are interested in working? If not, will you be able to  do volunteer work in your chosen field of interest and passion?

2.    Will temporary housing or a corporate apartment be available for your family? If not, will you stay in a hotel? If so, for how long?

3.    Will there be Realtor available who will have your best interest at heart? Will they tell you about issues that you may not even be thinking about such as  water leaks from the windows and roof, screens on windows if you have very small children, grills for doors or windows,  and security companies you will need to call in should your husbands job entail a great deal of travel ?

4.    How will the sharing of cars work? Will you retain a driver until you are settled and more aware of your new surroundings, and how will the children get to school?

5.  Does the company have access to an Expat Specialist  who will work with assisting you with the settling process? If so, for how long?

6.    Will you and your spouse’s current driver’s licenses allow you to drive in the new home country?

7.    What is the procedure for insuring your vehicles or does the company manage such details?

8.    What are the procedures to apply for health insurance? How will you find doctors and a dentist for your family, especially if you have children who may suffer from asthma or allergies?

9.    Are there other expats in this new city from your country? If so, what is the quickest and most effective way to meet them for networking and support?

10.    Does your home Embassy have any representation in Jamaica? If so, does the embassy provide resources such as newsletters, medical service referrals or volunteer group references to assist with your relocation?

11.    Is the crime rate as high as you have read about in The Economist?

12.    Will your husband’s company pay for any home visits? If so, how many per year?

Although this list is not conclusive, it includes some of the more essential ideas that I wanted to share with a person who may be moving from a more developed country than Jamaica. If you are moving from India, Nigeria, Cuba or even Trinidad, your questions and needs may vary vastly then a woman moving from Holland or the US.

Life in Jamaicas’ countryside > A Single Woman Shares

Ever so often, I ask expats that I come in contact with who live in Jamaica to share five positive and five negative things that they would tell another person considering a move to the Island.

This has been my ongoing research since May 2008.

My research thus far has exposed me to mostly individuals who live in Kingston JA, with many of them  having moving to the Island with spouses for employment.

The following  however was shared with me by a  Peace Corp Volunteer, who lives outside of  the Kingston area. Most areas outside of Kingston I’ve noticed is referred to as “country”

She has lived on the Island for abit over 18 months.

People arriving from countries such as India,  Nigeria or Trinidad, rarely if ever notice or feel the need for personal space, as many are accustomed to individuals standing very closely together  in small spaces. Someone arriving from the Holland, Germany, Canada or the US may however view the need for personal space in a very different light.

5 positive things:

1. Working with kids!! My students (I work at a primary school) are my joy, and in a lot of ways children are the same everywhere – if you really want to teach them and love them, they respond with respect and enthusiasm.

2. The fresh fruit and vegetables!! I buy from the same locals so they save what they know I like, so I always get quality produce for cheap.

3. I’m in the Cockpit country, very far inland, and I’m still no more than an hour from a beautiful beach.

4. People from home can visit, and I can visit home if I need to, as plane tickets are cheap.

5. The food is great – from jerk chicken, to rice and peas, to Rastafarian I-tal food…..and very rarely is there food poisoning as Jamaicans cook their chicken so much.

5 negative things:

1. The amount of verbal harassment towards me as a white woman is intense. Then the disgusting, disrespectful, unrepeatable things said to me when I first arrived (before I was more integrated in the community, and realized I had to ignore the comments) made for a lot of bad days.

2. Jamaicans don’t have the same American ideal of “personal space.” I had to get used to people getting so close to me to talk, trying to hold my hand, etc. But it was a compromise, they got used to me sometimes telling them to move away:-)

3. The amount of MSG in snacks and food gave me horrible headaches at first.

4. It’s hard to learn to sleep with the sounds of dogs, donkeys, goats and pigs close by.  (I live way in the bush)
5. Men cannot understand why a woman my age does not have kids, or want to have kids with a Jamaican, or want to date a  local Jamaican, etc.  The harassment from not dating a local is still on-going.

How did life get so cheap in JA> Understanding Jamaica?

The following article was in a recent newspaper article, where the writer reflects back to the Jamaica of his grandmothers days. I have had the opportunity to see old films and video footage of the 60’s and 70’s in Jamaica, and  the only word which came to mind was paradise, simply paradise.

How did life get so cheap in Jamaica?
Jamaican Sunday Gleaner

Published: Sunday | July 13, 2008
Kevin O’Brien Chang, Contributor

My late grandmother Annie used to regale me with stories about life when she was young. I remember her laughing description of how stunned people were the first time they saw a plane in the sky, especially a next-door neighbor who bawled out ‘Lawd a massy! Judgment day come!’

Another thing that stuck in the mind was her puzzled reaction to the increasing murder rates of the 1970s. She just couldn’t understand it. When she was young, she recalled, the rare news that someone had been killed was always greeted with amazement that one human being could actually take another human being’s life.

But then, my grandma was born in 1900, when the Jamaican murder rate was about two per 100,000, and probably among the lowest in the world. It stayed in that range while she was growing up. Contrary to popular belief, Jamaica was not always a violent place. In A Century of Murder in Jamaica 1880-1980 [Jamaica Journal: Volume 20#2, May-July 1987], Michelle Johnson showed that up until about 1955 our murder rate was lower than that of the United States, comparable with Barbados and only slightly higher than Britain’s. Even in 1965 Morris Cargill could write in Ian Fleming’s Jamaica that “We [Jamaicans] hate violence.”

So far from being an indelible part of our heritage, as some argue, the nearly all-pervasive violence we have become used to is really an anomaly when viewed in historical perspective.

Over the years our murder rate has risen dramatically, not only absolutely but also relatively. The argument that ‘Is not us alone, because murder gone up everywhere’ is rubbish. Up to 1966 the Jamaican murder rate was significantly less than the American one, and as late as 1974 did not exceed it. Last year, it was over 10 times as great.

For the full article click

Cultural Entertainment: Jamaica & England

The road has been long:Have a peep

Hol Yuh Han ( Jamaican version)

British  Yutes version