Advice On Packing For A Move To Jamaica

I remember packing my belongings in Washington DC., with the intention of shipping them to Florida to join up with my husband’s belongings, in preparation for our move across the ocean to Kingston. I had absolutely no idea of what to pack. One thing was certain, I had convinced myself that all of my antique furniture would not accompany me to the tropics.

It was a difficult decision to leave behind our furniture and household items. However, I told myself, “Why would I want heavy mahogany bedroom furniture, two heavy treasure trunks, antique clocks, and fall/winter colours of wine and forest green living room furniture?

Why would I want to haul my unusual lamps and rugs?” I even convinced my husband to give away what we had in Florida to charity. After all, we were moving to the sun and we would simply purchase new light colored creams, pastels and wicker-type furniture similar to those I had seen in my favourite magazines such as Pottery Barn, Real Simple and Maco.

In the end, I decided I would only pack our kitchen items largely because of my love for cooking. I also included our towels, sheets, books and light weight clothing. My North American brain convinced me that there should be no difficulty in purchasing start-up items for our two-bedroom apartment in Kingston. I was certain an Ikea-type store would be readily available. Not so, I would learn soon enough.

Let’s fast forward to two months later in Kingston. After unpacking several boxes, we decided that we needed additional items to make our living space more comfortable. We proceeded to search stores for a couch, some simple lamps, rugs and potters for all of my new island plants. Five stores later, I returned home exhausted and disheartened. It was clear that I should have packed all of our belongings, especially after seeing the steep local prices.

Eventually, we resorted to hiring a local carpenter to make us a few items. We also purchased one lamp at a price I never would have paid in the U.S. Two years later, a small kitchen rug was added to our collection.

Today, I still frown each time I think about how expensive these things are on the island. While I understand that most items of this nature are imported to the island, I miss the bargains, sales, flea markets and good old thrift stores of the U.S. I also learned that the thrift store culture does not exist in the Jamaican environment. I may have a few theories concerning their marked absence from the Jamaican marketplace.

I remind myself daily that issues such as procuring furniture and household items are not such a big deal. Although I know that these items are simply material things which can be easily replaced, my thoughts continue to return to the items we left behind. Oh well, thoughts are thoughts.

I now advise persons considering a move to Jamaica, that furniture and household items may be easily replaced in an environment where there is an abundance of inexpensive choices. However, this is not the case in Jamaica.

Whenever I visit houses and see beautiful items, I ask the question, “So where did you get this?” The responses are usually along the lines of, “Oh, we had it shipped in from Miami,” or, “Mr. Barnes made it, but he migrated.” The answer is seldom, “Oh go to this great local store where items are beautiful and reasonable.”
As a result, my advice is that if you are moving to Jamaica and not renting a furnished place; ensure that you pack all of your favorites. If you live simply and basics will suffice, then arrive with less. If however, you need/seek comfort then pack all of your favorite couches, chairs, tools, patio furniture, books, book shelves, rugs, lamps, pots and pans and lots of plastic Tupperware-type containers.

If it turns out that you have packed things that you no longer need or like, then there is always the option of donating these items to charitable organizations. You will have zero difficulty in giving things away as there are many persons in need who will be grateful for your kindness.

Even though my husband and I have adjusted well, an article such as this would have been extremely helpful for me three years ago when I started packing for my life in the sun.

Podcast: Tips On Moving To Jamaica

I was recently contacted by a blogger  from an on line forum called

He asked  if I would be interested in doing a 60 minute  telephone interview, about my life and tips to those considering a move to Jamaica.

I think this Podcast information may be helpful to those considering a move to Jamaica and may make  for some good listening!

I have been in Jamaica for abit over three years, and have a small business where I assist individual expats settle into Jamaica. I also provide assitance for Companies relocating staff to Jamaica for employment.

Listen when time allows.

Open Ackee Fruit

Learning Jamaican Patois

I had two very interesting conversations this past weekend with two different individuals about Jamaican patois, a language that is often discussed on the island.

One person, (a Jamaican) was explaining that many Jamaican children are not learning standard English because, many of them live in households where only patois is spoken and several more attend schools where many teachers also only speak patois. His point, is that by the time these children are required to take formal exams they may be in trouble, mainly because all of the standard examinations are written in standard English and the expectation is that school children will be able to respond in standard English.

The debate then, is where are these children to learn standard English. The second conversation was with an expat pal, who is currently trying to understand patois in the work place. She comes from a culture where Jamaica patois is described as ” they speak terrible” or “the Jamaicans speak badly.” I found myself explaining to her, “it’s not that Jamaicans speak badly, but they are speaking another language.” I found it all very amusing as I described this to her.This is a subject which I clearly did not fully comprehend  during my first year on the island.

Before  I moved to Jamaica, I was always aware that there were Jamaicans that I understood and some  that I did not, but I never knew the real reason until listening to the language while living here. My first experience with getting a haircut at a local barber shop in Kingston was interesting, as I remember sitting in the chair, closing my eyes and asking myself, ” what are these guys saying ? ” it honestly felt like I was in Haiti with French Creole being spoken around me. I remember asking my barber a question, and he responded by speaking very slowly in English for me to understand, but a few minutes later I could not follow his sentences. I have now come to learn that all Jamaicans are multilingual, and while some may not speak patois, they all understand it.

The switch back and forth between patios and standard English goes back to slavery days is what I was told, when the slaves were not allowed to use their native language.The rebellion against that was that the slaves simply used English when they wanted to be understood and used patois ( which has English words thrown in here and there) so passing listeners might assume the language being spoken is English.

I also remember thinking during my first year here, that women in the stores and shops were unfriendly,  because they would not respond to small talk. As I would walk into bakeries and ice cream shops, very cheerful and friendly asking ” so how are you, what is this made of, etc etc.”  I now realize  that often times, these women were not being mean or unfriendly but may have been dealing with several difficult day to day occurrences, and they would also need to respond to me by speaking English which could be a problem, so it was easier to not say anything, than to end up in a standard English conversation  with ” farrina and dem plenty questions” meaning foreign people who ask a great deal of questions. I found the following videos very interesting and wanted to share.

Visit when Time allows.

The following vidoes are By Xavier Murphy

Whose Mouse Are You read in Jamaican Patois

Dr Suess ABC read in Jamaican Patois

Update From Kingston: Jamaica

At this time myself and husband are safe, and thanks for checking in. While we live in Kingston, we do not live close to any of the areas that are “at war” is how they say it here, or communities which are warring.

Bearing in mind that Kingston is not a very large city, but lots of the poor neighborhoods are in close proximity to areas which are not as socio- economically challenged. This is by virtue of how the city was designed is my best guest.  So all that to say, we are watching news at home and hearing gun shots, and helicopters flying over.

Foreign press& media are calling Tivoli and some of the warring areas, “Slums” which makes many Jamaicans very angry to here some neighborhoods being called slums. Hmmmm!

This entire ordeal in my mind could have been prevented, but due to extremely greedy, corrupt politicians who chose to befriend criminals, Jamaica is now at serious crossroads. This particular blow up, has deep historical roots, as this guy Dudus’s dad was also a known Don some 15 years ago and was murdered in jail by a fire. Drama

The worst part is that good investigative reporting is sort of lacking here in Jamaica, which leads the International Press to getting snippets from Twitter or wherever, as they try to understand it all.

I do not profess to know the entire history of it all, but I do know corrupt politicians with bad  communication skills when I see them. What a freaking mess,  as criminals and politicians  mash up the country, very sad indeed.

Here are two links which may help you to understand some of it all ( Please note some  information at the CCN  piece is not all entirely true from my angle? but 95% of it is. I simply hope it all ends soon, but even if it does, the social, economic and political spaces is without good clean, direct leadership is my conclusion.

Downtown Kingston:What Expats rarely see

I saw the following video on facebook last week and wanted to share with you the readers. This is certainly not a side of Jamaica promoted by the Tourist board, as they usually show the beautiful beaches of Negril, Montego-bay, Portland or the panoramic views of the Blue Mountains. I cannot say I blame them, as there are so many beautiful parts of the island to showcase for tourist.

I also need to admit that I have never been to the areas shown in the video, but I here enough  daily about Uptown and Downtown people to know different lifestyles exist, and if one lives on the Island long enough, you will come across many differences as well.

People considering a move to the Island however, need to look at the Island as a whole. So research, research, is my ongoing advice.

Note: Rarely seen by tourist

This is the side of Jamaica which is often viewed by Tourist:

. .

Expat Shares >Tidbits About Living in Kingston Jamaica

Ever so often, I receive emails from Expats who currently live in Jamaica and have a desire to share with others, what life is currently like for them on the sunny Island of Jamaica.
The following piece is from such a person, who  lives in Kingston. I am pretty certain that he may have read my Blog before arriving to the Island, and I am thankful that he was willing to share with readers.

I’ve now been living in Jamaica for 11 months.

I was having a drink at the Hilton Hotel in Kingston pool bar earlier this week, and my visiting guest commented that I appeared really comfortable in Jamaica. I asked why he made this observation, and he said I ‘beamed’ when talking about work and living and he confessed that as an occasional short term visitor that he found Jamaica still a very intimidating place.

So I then remembered my first impressions:
1) The ’40 watt’ street lights that made every street a series of dark pools of shadow with the menace of danger
2) The large number of people that hang about on the streets at night – ‘what are they doing’?
3) The lack of police on the streets at night
4) The street vendors harassing me for a sale
5) The lack of street names, directions and ability to find places easily

So here are some observations since actually living in Jamaica

1) Jamaica is LOUD – very LOUD. And loudness is a good thing – it’s a sign that people are enjoying themselves

2) Finding places depends on asking people – as you get closer, stop and ask for directions. People are friendly and helpful. Please do not rely on the maps or non-existent sign posts or street name signs, just stop every so often and check with people on the road

3) Stop and give lifts to hitchhikers – its standard practice. And don’t be offended when they ask you for money  the assumption is “you are white” and likely a lot wealthier than the folks you are giving a lift to

4) If you get ‘hissed’ at by people sitting out alongside the road, it is not an offensive act. Rather, it is a ‘come hither’ ie PSST rather than HISSSSSS. Your call if you respond

5) Don’t haggle too hard – average income is $3-4,000 USD and everybody needs to get by

6) Use the street vendors, especially the roadside fruit vendors in the country. You get to taste and buy some unique fruits like Star- apples and Sour-Sop. Ask to taste the fruit first as they will always oblige

7) If booking hotels, book late, use your local residency to get local discounts and haggle hard – there are some great deals to be had. The off or slow seasons in April,  May  & October is lovely and generally cheaper
8) Coconut water is delicious and THE MOST REFRESHING DRINK WHEN IT IS HOT. The very best place to get Coconut water (apart from roadside vendors) is the shop at the Coconut Institute on Waterloo road opposite Terra Nova – a gallon of fresh coconut water is JMD$520 which is about $5US and by  far superior to what can be bought in the supermarkets. They also do fresh squeezed orange juice which is also very good.

9) Wine is very expensive everyplace on the Island. Enjoy rum and coconut water instead

10) Jamaicans don’t (as a rule) drink coffee. So coffee bars are very few and far between outside of Kingston. Make alternative arrangements to fuel the coffee demon (Blue Mountain coffee is delicious and sold at most large supermarkets)

11) Go to the cinema, especially Carib5. Jamaicans are keen cinema buffs albeit that only the majors seem to be screened (but Liguane club often show private screening of foreign film)

12) The best fish restaurant near Kingston is Gloria’s at Port Royal. Go on Sunday at noon; excellent festival as well

13) SweetWood jerk centre restaurant near Emancipation Park is one of Kingston’s best kept secrets.  Jo Jo’s on Friday and Saturday is also a great place for Jerk. However, get to Boston Beach in Portland for jerk at its best.
14) Best restaurant? In theory it should be Norma’s but unfortunately Norma’s in Kingston is patchy. My favorite is Mocking Bird Hill – chicken breast in rundown sauce with cinnamon stands out as a unique Jamaican classic. The 6 types of home baked bread and 4 butters plus a cocktail bar woman who really knew her stuff all made can make the event an amazing culinary experience. East Tokyo at the Marketplace is very good and the Wednesday buffet at Terra Nova is not to be missed.
15) Jamaican cuisine is, well it is. Street/fast food, desserts, mains. And for a Brit its great to find another cuisine that is as keen on a cooked breakfast as the Brits. Trini cuisine also stands out (with its Indian influences) but Jamaica cuisine is more distinctive without obvious antecedents.

16) Its a shame (to this 50 year old) that dancehall is so predominant as THE music style in Jamaica at present. That said, Jamaicans like EVERY kind of music from country to classical. Redbones Cafe usually hosts some good bands (or various music styles) each Friday and hopefully it will get back to this arrangement once it re-establishes itself. They recently changed locations

17) Meet and greet everyone as an equal – don’t ignore anyone (from the grocery store baggar to the sales assistant, from the helper to the prime minister). Be clear and direct in all initial interactions and enjoy the subsequent friendliness and openness of everyone you meet. It’s an island so many people often know each other or are related.
18) This is for the Brits – many people in Jamaica have deep and abiding faith, especially in Christian religions. Brits are very secular and will naturally treat faith as an anachronism and usually add an ironic smile whenever talking about faith. Please, be respectful of faith and suppress the ironic smile and latent giggle else you will give much offence and belittle yourself in the eye of the receiver.Do not think that your overtly secular friends and colleagues are Europeans – they are not and will likely attend church as do most of the population

19) Some European habits may be seen as ‘nasty’ – eg washing underwear with the main clothes wash, or even drying underwear with other clothes.

20) Remember that Jamaica is not a rich country and that if you are working here, local people are generating the dollars to pay your salary (in hard currency and at European wage rates). Hence you should be a lot better at your work or unique in your skills than Jamaican colleagues, else why are you here

21) JPS (Electric Company) are nuts. Electricity “cut offs” can occur within days of a late bill payment (despite 10 months of on time payments)

22) At the time of writing, there is a very serious drought in Jamaica, and the government remedial actions seem rather insubstantial. Apartment occupants in my block are being advised to make their own arrangements for water supply despite the fact that the water tank is communal.

23) Summers in Jamaica are intense, especially August and September where the temperature remains at 30 degrees until midnight. Electricity is  extremely expensive (provided by imported diesel) so get used to it

24) If you have the choice, live in the North East part of Kingston, either up on the ridge or up the top of Jacks Hill. You will benefit from the views, the cooler air and the easier ride into work (less congested than the West). Mona is nice but suffers from lack of breeze and lots of midges – get higher up if possible.

25) Get the Wednesday paper for the comparison of supermarket prices. Sovereign has the best choice (and an amazing cheese counter) and the Downtown Coronation market is great value if you can get down there on a Saturday morning at 6am. Otherwise Jo Jo’s supermarket has very good vegetable selection.

26) Don’t expect to find lamb – a friend knows a farmer in Mandeville who supplies but I have not seen it in any of the supermarkets in Kingston

27) Flow offers the best value cable TV service (at April 2010)

Hopefully this peep into one Expats Kingston life, can shed some light to many.

Another Day In Jamaica: Water Lock Offs

The last  few months have  been extremely dry across most the Island of Jamaica. Not only has the heat been an issue, but many people are singing and praying for the rains to fall soon. Many places have been on water lock offs/ rationed water, meaning ” no water in taps” and if you do not own a large tank you may be in for serious trouble. We are in Kingston on a schedule where we receive water in our taps three days a week.This experience has been extremely painful, but somehow we manage, with me now rushing to accomplish as many taks as possible on the water days

Hurricanes which usually bring heavy rainfalls speared Jamaica  in 2009, which was a good thing, but now a severe drought is facing the country with two of the major dams in Kingston almost near empty.

Last year for the first time in my life, I got acquainted with the dreaded “heat rash” due to the daily heat. This was clearly not a friendly experience. This year I have now been exposed to daily water “Shut offs” as taps are on go slow with “NO” water until 6am when I hear that ” trickle, trickle”

Another fun day in the tropics is my conclusion, as in two weeks time I may forget all about dry season and water lock offs, and start worrying about too much rain/ mud slides or whatever else shows up in my space

Read On:

Jamaicans have been urged to conserve water.

KINGSTON, Jamaica,  – Water restrictions are in effect in Jamaica as the country experiences a prolonged and worsening drought. Islands throughout the Caribbean are forced to deal with a similar situation with St. Lucia and Trinidad also suffering from daily water lock offs.

The National Water Commission (NWC) in Jamaica said it had introduced the rationing programme to meet the demands of consumers as some of its reservoirs were severely affected by the dry weather conditions.

One of the main reservoirs, Heritage Dam, which normally holds about 393 million gallons, is at  25 per cent capacity and the NWC said it was “a critically low level”.

In a prohibition notice, the Commission warned customers against using water for non-essential purposes such as irrigation and watering gardens, lawns and grounds; filling or supplying tanks, ponds, baths or swimming pools other than dipping tanks for cattle, elevated reserve tanks that do not exceed 200 gallons and are connected to household sewerage or water supply system; watering or washing roadways, pavements, paths, garages, out rooms or vehicles; or any other purpose which may require the use of a considerable or excessive quantity of water.

The tightened measures are in addition to restrictions implemented earlier this month which have seen customers experiencing no water or low water pressure conditions from 8pm to 5:30 am and 10 am to 4 pm daily.

Anyone who does not abide by the prohibition notice could be fined by the court or face up to 30 days in jail.

The Office of Disaster and Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM) has also urged all Jamaicans to conserve water.

Moving To Jamaica FAQ’s

Moving to Jamaica FAQ’s by American Retiree  who lives in Montegobay  Jamaica
By John Casey

Published Oct 1, 2004 @

1. Can non-citizens purchase property?
Yes, no restriction that I am aware of.

2. What are the mortgage rates?
As of Sept. 2004, one bank quoted me a rate of 17.2%.

3. Is it a sellers or buyer market?
Buyers market. Many homes are on the market for months before they are sold.

4. Would it be cost effective to purchase a home and rent it out until I retire?
That would depend on where the house is and the value of the house. One thing to be aware of as an absentee landlord is someone needs to be visible to protect your interests.

5. Are there any real estate agents in the area?
There are several in Montego Bay including a Century 21 agent. Most property is not listed in the paper. The agents will show you homes based on your price range.

6. Is there a vandalism problem with foreign own property?
No. Vandalism is very low and not related to nationality.

7. What kind of medical facilities are there?
Montego Bay has a large hospital. There are also several clinics in the area. Most routine testing can be done locally without going to Kingston. At least one of the clinics will airlift you to the South Miami Hospital in case of a life threatening problem.

8. Is there homeowners insurance including flood and hurricane coverage?
Yes, but expensive. If your house is made of blocks, there isn’t much to burn or blow away. Flood concerns would be mainly on the coast and some rivers.

9. What kind of medical insurance is available?
Blue Cross has a 20/80 program which is very reasonable.

10. What kind of automobile insurance is available?
The coverage is similar to the states but less expensive after the first year. Previous driving records are required from your state or insurance company.

11. How safe is it to live in Jamaica?
Most houses are fenced and gated. The windows and doors usually have decorative grating on them. Home invasion is extremely low.

12. Are groceries expensive?
That depends on what you purchase. Imported items from the USA are more expensive than domestic. Some of the same brands in the states are available in Jamaica but come through other countries. Jamaica has several large food companies with excellent quality products.

13. What kind of stores are available for hardware, groceries and clothing?
There are several large full service hardware stores with building supplies. Jamaica has 2 grocery store chains and numerous independent stores. Good quality clothing stores can be found throughout the city, however, selection is more restrictive than the USA.

14. Are there large shopping malls?
Not as you know them. There are several shopping plazas with a variety of shops.

15. What are the water rates?
It all depends on your consumption. With septic systems instead of a municipal sewer system, the rates are low.

16. What about electricity costs?
The costs are similar to the states.

17. Is gasoline expensive?
The cost is higher than in the states but there is less driving in Jamaica.

16. Can I purchase new or used automobiles?
Yes, but the cost includes a high duty tariff. Bringing you own car would be subject to the same high duty rate.

18. Is maid service expensive?
No. Maid service can be anything from once a week to live-in, with separate quarters.

19. Are Jamaicans good workers?
Usually. If you find one who is not, there are many more to choose from.

20. Are there reasonably priced restaurants nearby?
Most of the dine-in restaurants are located in the tourist area as many hotels are not all-inclusive. There is a wide range of prices between them.

21. Is there more of Jamaica that can be seen once the normal tours are exhausted?
Yes. There are countless places to see that most tourists aren’t interested in seeing. All you need is a knowledgeable guide to find those hidden jewels.

22. Can anyone move to Jamaica?
Jamaican immigrations allows you to stay up to 6 months at a time unless you apply for permanent residency. This is a three year process. Each of those 3 years you must reapply until you become a permanent resident.

23. Can I seek employment in Jamaica?
Not normally. The exception would be if you had a particular skill not found in Jamaica. If that was the case, a work permit would be required.

24. What is your life like in Jamaica?
Daily life is the same as it would be in the states but in a different setting.

25. Do you return to the states often?
Usually about once a year.

26. What do you like best about living in Jamaica?
There are many things that make living here great but the stress-free life is what I like best.

27. What do you like least about living in Jamaica?
Not being able to understand their dialect called “patois”, which is a mix of French, Creole and English. All communications in the business place is in proper English. Only in the street will you hear them conversing in “patois”.

Childrens Home in Kingston Burned> Sad Indeed

Mustard Seed home one of the many Childrens’ homes in Jamaica was razed last night. I am uncertain about the reasons  behind the recent increase in fires, but this one has been most troubling for me.

The Kingston area has been experiencing a severe drought, yet many individuals continue to “burn rubbish ” which means the burning of garbage in ones backyard or open lot. Who really knows!!!

Read on

Patrick Foster
Jamaican Observer
Tuesday, March 17, 2009

FIRE last night gutted the Mustard Seed Communities’ children’s home at 1e North Street in Kingston, leaving at least two children hospitalized.
This motor vehicle leaves the Mustard Seed Communities’ children’s home on North Street with children affected by last night’s fire at the facility. (Photo: Karl McLarty)

The cause of the blaze was unknown.

Last night, as firemen from the York Park Fire Station carried out cooling down operations, Assistant Superintendent Basil Richards said that the building was still being checked to ascertain if anyone was left inside.

Unconfirmed reports were that 30 children and two caregivers were in the two- storey wooden building when the blaze started.

“I am not certain how it happened, I just got a call that it was on fire,” Father Gregory Ramkissoon, founder and executive director of the Mustard Seed Communities, told the Observer. “The entire building is gone.”