Listen to a 60 minute telephone interview on tips for those considering a move to Jamaica.
Moving Back to Jamaica from a First World Country
By Francis Wade
After visiting South Africa (and especially after touring the Alexandria and Soweto Townships), I am facing the fact that my Move back to Jamaica has a lot to do with moving from First World to Third.
In Johannesburg, it is possible to move from First to Third and back again at will, simply by driving a few miles down a road, or by crossing a highway. The transformation is complete, entire and total — almost like entering an airplane in one country and exiting via the stairs into another.
Everything was instantly different — the buildings, the signage, the colour of the people, the poverty, the way the cars drove, the smells, the dust. I liken it to flying from Washington DC to Accra on a direct flight.
Moving Back to Jamaica is not very different.
Essentially a Move Back to Jamaica is not only an economic move from First World to Third, but a cultural move from the U.S./Canada/England (mostly Anglo-European countries) to an African-Anglo country.
As an economic move, Moving Back to Jamaica is like moving to live in any developing country in the world. I have visited a few, and there are just ways in which life is conducted in the developing world (which happens to comprise the vast majority) that are quite common, and widespread.
From my unscientific and limited experience, I can expect the following when I visit a Third World country:
* some people living in shacks, barely subsisting
* high crime
* income disparity
* bad roads and crazy driving
* corruption in the police force
* a lot of cheap goods being sold on the streets (most from the Far East)
* power cuts
* government bureaucracy and obstacles to doing business
* rampant incompetence
* heat, humidity and weak air conditioning
Basically, anyone Moving Back to Jamaica from a First World Country must deal with all of the above elements. Although they might have existed in Miami, Toronto or London, here they will undoubtedly find them heightened here.
But this is no different from Moving Back to Lagos, Mumbai, Caracas or St. George.
Each country has its nuances, but the move from First World to Third is bound to be accompanied by a culture shock that comes with a radical adjustment.
Here, we like to say “only in Jamaica,” when encountering some aspect of life that doesn’t work as it should. However, the truth is that most of what we think is hard about life in Jamaica, is harder someplace else…
* Crime > compared to > South Africa’s murders, Colombia’s internal strife. (And we still don’t have the kidnappings that Trinidad has experienced)
* Poverty > compared to > Haiti (we should be thanking our blessings)
* Corruption > compared to > Nigeria (we are ranked at #61 out of #163 in our corruption index)
* Income Disparity > compared to > Brazil (we are ranked with a score of 37 on a scale of countries with Gini coefficients ranging from 29 to 100)
* Literacy -> compared to> Pakistan (our literacy rate puts us at #99 of 173)
The point is that we are quite an average Third World Country as these combined measures go (except for our exceptional murder rate.)
And we are definitely not a First World country.
Moving Back to Jamaica means accepting wholeheartedly that a move from First to Third World is difficult for anyone who expects the new country to be like the first. I have met people who have moved here to Jamaica and struggled to fit in, not because Jamaica is particularly difficult, but just because they are unwilling to accept the difference.
They dearly miss the shopping (Target! Marks and Spencer! Canadian Tire!), the roads (I-95! 417! A1! ) and the security of living in a developed country, among other things.
The part that many seem to miss is the fact that when they leave the First World, to live in the Third, they are actually leaving the elite of humanity to join in the majority, and that the life lived in New York, Mississauga and Manchester is not typical of the way most people in the world live.
In fact, according to the website Causes of Poverty:
* Half the world — nearly three billion people — live on less than two dollars a day
* The GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of the poorest 48 nations (i.e. a quarter of the world’s countries) is less than the wealth of the world’s three richest people combined.
* 20% of the population in the developed nations, consume 86% of the world’s goods.
* A mere 12 percent of the world’s population uses 85 percent of its water, and these 12 percent do not live in the Third World.
The hard thing to face, for those of us who left Jamaica to live in the First World, is that we often become accustomed to the privilege of living in an elite country, completely forgetting that we are enjoying a rare and unique privilege. Instead, we follow the crowd and take the wealth that is around us for granted, and come to expect it as some kind of norm.
The indignant cries that “you just can’t buy good quality clothes anywhere on the island” from those who move to live in Jamaica, therefore sound to me like a complaint based in an ignorance of how most people in the world live, rather than in an inconvenience.
A move to live in Jamaica is bound to be a hardship unless the reality of world poverty is embraced, and the fact of First World privilege is acknowledged.
I’d recommend that, long before the Move Back to Jamaica occurs, a returnee should:
* become acquainted with the statistics on world poverty
* travel to other Third World countries
* start to acquaint themselves with the depths of poverty in Jamaica
When I hear of people who have failed in their Move Back to Jamaica, and I hear the reasons, I often wonder… what did they expect?
A successful move relies on having the right kind of expectation, and being able to deal with the reality of life in this particular, not but so peculiar, poor country.
Francis Wade is the author of the blog “Moving Back to Jamaica” which can be read at http://francismove.blogspot.com. When he began the blog in 2005 the move seemed to be a matter of containers, shipping companies and customs brokers. Now, it is about much more.
Jack Fruit, Hmmmmm.. I remember my husband showing me how to cut this huge fruit apart and eat the sweet pods with my hands. No way were my taste buds which are generally way open to new taste handling this new “Jack Fruit”.
Fast forward 4 years later I found myself yesterday being most upset that my husband ate (nyamed as is said here) all of this precious fruit which I purchased from a man on the street…
Nothing stays the same for sure.
Guineps another fruit I have acquired a taste for.
Paw Paw ( papaya) & Water melons. Fresh fruit is a true treasure to be had on the Island year round and they are plentiful..
Happy Birthday Bob Marley
I remember being age 12 in New York City, and absolutely loving his music. Many of the kids on my block wanted to dance like Bob the Rasta as we sang ” I Shot the Sheriff”. Fast forward some 30 years later and my visiting the Bob Marley Museum here in Kingston was awesome, as my love for his music continues. Hearing his 15mins voice interview was amazing as well. Your memory lives on Bob
I recently read the attached article in the newspaper about Work Permits, and since I get several emails about this topic, I concluded I would share this with you the readers.
Please note that most people arriving for employment to the Island generally need to secure a job and have the future employer apply for the work permit before arriving to the country. This new rule however should now give persons some additional time.
Please do your research wisely, as the unemployment rate in Jamaica is extremely high and most jobs generally go to locals first. Unless you have a skill that is needed for a particular job, the going could be tedious… read more:
The Jamaican Gleaner
January 30th, 2011
The Jamaican Government has removed the need for a work permit for overseas technicians required to carry out urgent work on the island not exceeding 30 days.
“If your machine is down and you need a man from anywhere in the world, you won’t have to wait six weeks anymore to apply and to get medical and police records. In fact, you are authorized to get him by computer – technology can bring him here instantly,” said Labour Minister Pearnel Charles.
“If you need the person for more than 30 days, you are going to have to apply for a work permit. Now this time, you are permitted to apply for that permit while the person is in Jamaica; under normal circumstances you would have to apply while he was at home,” he told the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association.
He urged employers not to exploit the system.
Persons seeking employment here are required to obtain a work permit by making an application to the labour and social security ministry.