Jamaican Immigration Experience> Shared

My pal John Casey is an Retired American living in Montego-bay Jamaica. John writes monthly for an on-line forum called Jamaicans.com,  and often covers topics that I beleive  are useful for people considering a move to Jamaica.

I get weekly emails from people who arrive in Jamaica for a Holiday, and  for whatever reason go back to home countries with the intent that they will move to Jamaica and live in paradise forever. While nothing is wrong with such an idea, please then do your research wisely.  Read, read and ask tons of questions, Jamaica while great for holiday is not as easy a place to live for many outsiders.  Jamaica  can be a very oral society and things may not be as organized as where you may be moving from, so  keep this in mind.

John Shares:

My Jamaican Immigrations Experience – An American Retiree in Jamaica
By John Casey> Jamaicans.com
Published Aug 1, 2011
Immigration to Jamaica-2

Jamaican Immigrations is a very complex and bureaucratic ministry, like most government agencies anywhere in the world. It has been very frustrating for me my whole time in Jamaica. The process from the beginning was very slow and unpredictable. Nine years ago the process wasn’t as easy as it appears today. I say that because back then nothing seemed to be organized as both the system and the staff didn’t seem to be on the same page.

In my case, when I went to Kingston to apply for permanent residency, which is still today the only office that handles this procedure, there weren’t any forms to fill out either in person or on the internet. The interviewer first asked us why we wanted to move to Jamaica. She then instructed us to put it in writing before we could proceed any further. We did this with the paper and pen she supplied. Next we were handed a list of documents we needed to supply before permanent residency could be granted.

Some of the documents needed were easy to obtain while others took an extended period of time such as the police certificate from the state from which we were migrating. In Massachusetts, this can only be done through the mail or on the internet. It took months for us to get our reports due to a number of reasons. When we began our quest for this document it was free but by the time we obtained it there was a cost involved. So you can see, even in Massachusetts the bureaucracy is prevalent. The other time consuming documents to secure were everything to do with our finances. They not only wanted year-end statements of earnings but, in the case of my pensions, they wanted proof from the providers that these were life long benefits and not just for a certain term.

The other required documents were much easier to obtain such as valid passport, original birth certificate, marriage certificate, medical certificate of good general health, two passport size photos, and letters from two reputable Jamaican citizens. The latter could be difficult if one doesn’t know many people in Jamaica.

Today there is a form to be filled out and can be obtained from their website, which I will give you later. I noticed on the form that many of the documents I needed weren’t listed but it’s safe to assume they will be needed before the process is completed. There was one document on the form not mentioned on my list and that is a return ticket/itinerary. Other than the form itself, there is no indication on the site that I could find as to what the process entails or how long it takes. I was told it took three years but it actually took five years because of the much dreaded bureaucracy.

In the beginning I assumed once the process got started it would be smooth sailing until completion. After the normal three years had passed I started to contact immigrations periodically so they would know who I was plus I would be able to handle any problem that arose then rather than waiting to confront it at the annual visit to Kingston.

Some other things not noted on the website is the annual visit and multi-entry visas. Each year, while you are still in the process of obtaining permanent residency, you are required to return to immigrations in Kingston on or before your anniversary date on the extension they give you in your passport. You need to obtain the visa if you plan to travel off the island any time during the year. It is much easier to get the visa while you are there for your annual visit than to try to get one should you decide later to travel off the island. A change that has been made recently is that visas may now be obtained at the Montego Bay office. However, that office only acts as a free messenger as they send your passports to Kingston for the visas are only granted in Kingston.

Time seems to be moving faster than immigrations can cope with. Nine years ago a visa can be issued the same day as the annual visit but that changed several years later when we had to make the long eight hour round trip a week later to pick up the visa. Today the process is even longer. The Montego Bay office takes twice as long supposedly. But on June 22nd of this year, we went to the Montego Bay office as it was getting close for the time to renew our visas. We were given a receipt there for our passports which stated they would be returned on July 4th. On July 5th, we received a call from immigrations in Kingston that the visas were approved but they needed a copy of the document that proved we were in fact permanent residents, a procedure that the Montego Bay office knew nothing about. The Kingston copy is somewhere in immigrations’ archives which can’t be accessed for the visa renewal. The next day we took our letter to the Montego Bay office where the clerk made a copy and indicated it would be sent to Kingston. We have made several inquiries since then but as of this date, July 20th, the passports have not been returned.

Knowing Murphy’s Law all too well, we applied for the visa renewals two months in advance of their expiration and our annual trip to the states figuring that would be ample time even if there were some kind of snafu. So, instead of 7-10 working day, it has been 20 working days and counting. The good thing about the new renewal is instead of the visa expiring every two years it now lasts for the life of our passports and at the same cost as a one year renewal was nine years ago.

Ministry of National Security and Justice
Immigration, Citizenship and Passport Division
Website: www.pica.gov.jm

So there you have it folks, onward John and Ann his wife goes.

Falling In Love With Jamaica

John Casey a retired American lives in Montegbay Jamaica and writes monthly for an on line Website. I felt that his article captured how many feel after a vacation to Jamaica, and wanted  to share. Here goes.

A Jamaican Love Affair
By John Casey  john_casey@cwjamaica.com


The lure of Jamaica is very powerful.  Who wouldn’t want to spend the rest of their lives in such beautiful surroundings with such happy people.  The warm sun and tropical breezes are like icing on the cake.  Where else could you find the pristine white sand beaches with the dazzling array of colors of the Caribbean ocean where beneath the warm waters are countless varieties of tropical fish that swim among some of the finest coral in the Caribbean.  But, alas, could you really be happy with all that?

The initial feeling in your heart when you first see Jamaica is very much the same as when you meet an attractive member of the opposite sex.  Love at first sight!  As we all know, there is more to love than physical beauty.  Beyond what we see lies the unknown.  This is true of Jamaica, as well, both have to have a period of courtship.  In the beginning are the many dates with that someone special where each party begins to expose their inner being.  So too with Jamaica.  Time is needed to look beyond that first impression.  You wouldn’t marry someone after seeing them just once.  It takes several visits and lots of exploration to start to get to know this tropical paradise.  Sitting under an umbrella on the beach is not going to enhance that relationship.  True, you will meet the friendly hotel staff but this isn’t what all Jamaicans are like.  Those people are trained to be more than everyday Jamaicans.

The real Jamaican can be found just about anywhere else away from the resort.  There you will find people as nice as those at the hotel and some not so nice.  There are many different personalities out there which have to be dealt with on a daily basis.  The panhandlers and hustlers are not restricted to the tourist areas but can be found almost anywhere the public is.  The higglers you see in the craft market are similar to those in the produce market and haberdasheries.  Can you discern whether you are conducting business with an honest person or someone who is corrupt?  Do you know if you are getting a fair deal or not?  Is a taxi driver giving you a local rate or is it inflated because you may not know the difference?

As you begin to learn about that special person, do they have a small habit that bothers you like biting their nails or talking with their mouth full?  Surely all their idiosyncrasies are noted in the back of your mind where, at some later date, they come forth for you to decide if you can live with them or not.  The same is true for you to live in Jamaica.  If the young man at the traffic light washes your window whether you want him to or not, is that something you could deal with daily?  Also, patience is a virtue you would need if you had to do business at a bank or one of the utilities.  Standing in line for an hour is not unheard of.  You might think there would be a lot of pushing and shoving or even fisticuffs but just the opposite is true.  Hospitals, clinics, and doctor’s offices can be an all day affair, appointment or not.  You may find these things very stressful in your life today, but in Jamaica, this is the norm.  Much can also be said about Jamaican drivers.  The taxi drivers take the brunt of the criticism for their fast and reckless driving but there are as many or more courteous drivers willing to share the road equally with you.

I have tried to compare courtship and marriage to living and adjusting to life in Jamaica.  The similarities are quite the same.  Each has to take its time.  You need time to learn about each other at each and every opportunity as growth of the relationship is strengthened.  Some things can be changed or  some have to be accepted as they are.  It all takes time and hard work but the reward is true happiness.

My love affair with Jamaica began on October 2, 1994 at Sandals Inn in Montego Bay.  It was a love that took several years and many visits to nurture.  That first year was spent as a typical tourist visiting several of the most popular tourist attractions such as Dunn’s River Falls.  The following was more tours but all of them helped me to get to know Jamaica.  Tours to plantations, historical buildings and sites, and deep exploration into the heart of this fantastic island further stimulated my longing to bring this relationship to a climax.  But I didn’t let my heart rule my head.  During those visits I spent as much as time as I could mingling with as many natives as possible.  There are some good long lasting friendships born out of those unions while others faded faster than a Jamaican sunset.  It was out of these newfound friendships that helped and guided me on my path to paradise.  Once my mind was made up that Jamaica was the only place I wanted to be, it took a couple of more years to find the right house and to take all the steps that led me to this tranquil piece of heaven I call home.

Now it’s up to you.  Come!  Come and see the real Jamaica.  Come and experience the happiness I have had for nearly six years.  Yes…come and fall deeply in love and experience all this “Garden of Eden” can offer you.

Do realize that living on the Island is certainly not like being on a vacation, and experiences vary depending on who you are and where you are arriving from.

Rainy & Dry Seasons in Jamaica

In Jamaica we have Man rain, Woman rain, and Pickney rain.

What exactly does this all mean to a non-Jamaican?

It may mean cool temperatures in the hills and mountains ( December Christmas Breeze), van eating potholes  (hurricane season/rainy season), brownish water from the taps( dry season), watery fruits and vegetables(rainy season) and a damn good reason to complain about unrelenting and inexplicable daily water lock-offs.

And soon enough, the harsh and heavy long awaited “Man rain” will pass away until next year, to be replaced by mostly Pickney (child) rain, with a little “Woman rain” now and again. This is a good thing, because with all the Man rain has come destruction and dislocation. Pickney rain means that parties and social gatherings can go ahead without the fear of being totally washed out. Frommers notes on Seasons

Climate Jamaica has one of the most varied climates of any Caribbean island. Along the seashore, where most visitors congregate, the island is air-conditioned by northeasterly trade winds, and temperature variations are surprisingly slight. Coastal readings average between 71°F (22°C) and 88°F (31°C) year-round.

The Jamaican winter is similar to May in the United States or northern Europe; there can be chilly times in the early morning or at night. Winter is generally the driest season, but can be wet in mountain areas; expect showers, especially in northeastern Jamaica. Inland, temperatures decrease by approximately 1°F for every 300-ft. (about.55°C for every 91m) increase in elevation. Rainfall is heaviest along the eastern edge of the island’s North Coast, with Port Antonio receiving the most intense downpours. The island has two rainy seasons: May, and October through November.

The Hurricane Season — The curse of Jamaican weather, the hurricane season, officially lasts from June 1 to November 30 — but there’s no need for panic. Satellite weather forecasts generally give adequate warning so that precautions can be taken. If you’re heading to Jamaica during the hurricane season, you can call your local branch of the National Weather Service (listed in your phone directory under the U.S. Department of Commerce) for a weather forecast. Another easy way to receive the weather forecast in the city you plan to visit is by contacting the information service associated with

The Weather Channel. On the Internet you can check www.weather.com to get the forecasts. We currently need rain now in Kingston, as even today I need to bathe using a bucket of water. Hmmmm!!!

Facts on Kingston Jamaica

The following information is a Post I did for Talesmag.  It is called “The Real Post Report on Kingston” Please visit this site for more on Expats, http://www.talesmag.com

June 2009 Updated  January 2010

The contributor has lived in Kingston for almost four years, a first expat experience. Her husband is Jamaican.

Travel time To Jamaica: and best routes to this city from Europe or the US: About an hour and a half from Miami.

Pollution index? Moderate.

Security concerns? Extremely high at all times. I always recommend that people make certain that the house or apartment they choose to initially live in, has bars or grills on all windows and doors. Some of my friends who moved here and tried not installing grills got burglarized within the first month. Jamaica, while a very beautiful country, has the third highest murder rate. Poverty and high levels of unemployment may be some factors driving the criminal element. This may sound strange, as when I first arrived and we were looking at places to live, I found the grills and bars offensive, and told my husband no way can I live behind bars. He convinced me otherwise and a month later I realized how naive I was.

Housing: Most expats who live in Kingston live in gated communities of townhouses or apartments. Having a guard at the gate helps control who comes and goes and may provide you with a peace of added comfort.  A guard is also very helpful for receiving of packages, etc.

Commute times can vary from 20 to 90 minutes depending on the time of day you leave. Jamaica does not have a school bus system, so many parents are on the road dropping  and picking children up in the mornings/ evenings, which helps in creating traffic jams. This only gets worse during heavy rainfalls.

International schools: The American School has a good reputation here, with many local Jamaican children in attendance. Hillel is another good private school. They provide both UK and US based curricula, so when your children return home they can matriculate. We do not have children, therefore no personal experience to share. Research is key, and many say it’s best to have your child sit in for a few weeks after a move before enrolling.  You may not want to send your child to some schools in Ocho Rios or out in the country, as they call anything outside Kingston, as to avoid where you child may be the only minority kid or outsider. Some children do well, but many may struggle to adjust. I have heard  stories of children crying for weeks. Some even recommend allowing children to spend some time getting adjusted to Jamaica before starting school. Please note, these are ranked as the two most expensive schools in the country.

Preschool/daycare available (with comments about your experience): There are several good ones. I’ve heard that Rainbow Land  which is based in Kingston his good, please do your research wisely.

Is this a good city for families/singles/couples? It is good city for couples or single men. Not so kid-friendly or wheelchair-friendly. Many complain about the lack of creative things for children to participate in. Single women should be extremely cautious about whom they date or go out with, which makes it difficult. Another issue is the sincerity level of dating. Be careful, as many expats can be seen as a ticket off the island.

Is it a good city for gay/lesbian expats? NOPE. Extreme caution is in order, many of my DC gay pals vow never to visit me while living in Jamaica. Cultural insensitivity towards this population exist.

Are there problems with racial, religious or gender prejudices? No, not really, but some racial class/color distinctions do exist among the locals. It is a rather complex situation, with many expats often missing the hidden essence. This is not a topic usually discussed with outsiders, as Jamaica is a country based on tourism and survival. Most people are generally more concerned about food and shelter.

What difficulties would someone with physical disabilities have living in this city? Huge difficulties would exist, as special services are minimal to non- existent. Rarely can one find a clean public bathroom with toilet paper, so be warned. Using the bush on trips is now common for me, sad but true, and I always have a knapsack with wet wipes and tissue handy.

Interesting/fun things to do: Yes, lots. Hiking, running, cycling, touring the island, great beaches and water sports. Cricket, plays, food fairs, and even gardening ( orichid & flower shows exist in Kingston). I am rarely even socially bored, as I belong to a great book club, running, cycling and a wine club. Jamaica can be a very social place place.

What fast food and decent restaurants are available? I do not eat at fast food places, but they do exist. Subway, Wendy’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Dominos Pizza and many local Jamaican places: jerk shops, drum pan chicken, and all you can eat crab shops. Market Place in Kingston has several great restaurants. Ocho Rios and Montegobay also have several good restaurants, The food here is exceptionally good providing you like spicy food. The Chinese food here on the Island is far better than Chinese in the US. There is also good Indian, Greek, and Japanese food.

What is the availability of groceries and household supplies? As for groceries, I have found most things to be available but extremely expensive ( Huge price hikes in every item on January 1st 2010. GCT Tax( General Consumption Tax) is now 17.5 and the gas prices continue to rise monthly. I was amazed when I first arrived, as we were spending more than we did for food in DC. I have now learned to buy local products when I can, and buy fruit that is in season. It is not like the US, where you get a variety of fruits and vegetables all year ’round. Things are seasonal. You also have to drive to two or three different  grocery stores to shop, as some places carry some items while others do not. I  often arrive home exhausted after these shopping trips. Many shoppers hoard items they like, as you may see something in stock one week, and when you return the following weeks it’s never there.ex (  fresh Popcorn, breakfast cereals, boxed milk)

What comments can you make about using credit cards and ATMs? No problem, they are all around town. Just make certain you tell them take out Jamaican dollars when using debit cards, as they might punch in $2,000 and pull out US $2,000 as opposed to JA $2000, which is about US $25.00 dollars. This has happened to us a few times, so be very careful. Thank goodness the bank notified us few hours later, but it took forever to sort out this error. Exchange rate on Jan 25th 2010.one  US one dollar $1 is

What type of automobile is suitable to bring (or not to bring) because of rugged terrain, lack of parts and service, local restrictions, carjackings, etc? SUVs are best for Jamaican roads. We learned this after it rained for 15 days straight during our first six months here. Do not bring a vehicle at all. Just get an SUV here, it will be easier for parts and repairs. Getting a new car could take 4 to 6weeks or longer; be warned.

Do you drive on the right hand side of the road or the left? Left. Like UK. Are local trains, buses, and taxis safe? Affordable? No train system exists here, and I have heard that the bus system is shabby. Mainly Peace Corp types use the buses, and they do fine. Taxis are best, or a private driver. Utilize a taxi service like Express Taxi, do not just flag cars down on the roads. This is not safe at all.

What is the best way to make phone calls back home? Vonage or Skype.

Do you have any recommendations regarding cell phones? Yes, Digicel, Cable & Wireless & Clara. Many of the locals have two phones. Purchase a phone as soon as you arrive and always keep an extra phone card with credit in your bag.

If you don’t have access to APO or pouch, how do you get and send your letters and package mail? Post office or Mailpac,  which  is a personal shipping service that is extremely expensive.

Items you would ship if you could do it again? Living room and outdoor furniture, rugs, lamps, and planters for my plants. Household items are usually very expensive here, and I find the quality to be shabby. Availability and cost of domestic help: Cheap. 20 – 25 US$ a day, depending on the size of the home.

How much of the local language do you need to know for daily living? While English is spoken, Patois is the language on the street. To get the best prices, one must be able to barter, and using Patois is better, as they find you amusing. I hate this, but many vendors will charge you double or tripple the price that a local person pays. The perception is that all outsiders  can afford to pay more or are rich.

English-language religious services available? Denominations? Yes.

Englishlanguage newspapers and TV available? Cost? Yes. Varies

Is high speed internet access available? Cost? About US $60.00 a month, not much.

Size of expat community: Not large, maybe 500 folks in Kingston.

Morale among expats: Mostly good, but I avoid  bored or frustrated negative people who live in Expat bubbles and complain daily.

Are there decent job opportunities for expats on the local economy? Nope. Work for yourself, as jobs are scarce and even volunteering is like pulling teeth.

Entertaining/social life: Yes, we have several social events to attend yearly.

Dress code at work and in public: Jamaicans are conservative in many work place environments. Stockings can be seen on women with Jackets, long pants, etc. Short sleeved shirts for men appear okay, but open toe sandals may be a no-no in banks etc.

Any health concerns? What is the quality of medical care available? Good dental and medical care. We have been very pleased. Health insurance is cheaper than in the US, but many specialists do not take the insurance plans. For any major concerns you may want to fly off the island.

You can leave behind your: winter clothes, heavy blankets and dark suits. But don’t forget: several pairs of kakhi shorts for weekends and sturdy sandals that can handle heavy rains. Tevas, crocks and a few dressier sandals  will serve you well. Weekend walking stuff, sun hats, and unscented mosquito repellant. Lightweight washable clothing. No dry-clean-only items, as that can be expensive and your stuff may get ruined.

Weather patterns? A rainy season and a dry season. ( hurricane/ earthquakes)

Can you save money? NOPE.

What unique local items can you spend it on? Art, wine and pottery. A good meat dinner at nice restaurant.

Knowing what you now know, would you still go there? Not sure.

Recommended non-fiction related to this city: Jamaicans.com & YouTube videos on Jamaica. Books by Colin Channer, Anthony Winkler,  Andrea Levy & personal blogs. All excellent cultural reads. Cook Books.

Any other comments: Jamaica is not for the soft, tame, or closed-minded types. Sometimes things simply do not work: power outages, internet outages, road blocks and water shut offs. Daily life is harder than where you may be coming from, but not an overall unbearable experience. I often say, that I have an immense love hate relationship with this soil, some days I love it, and some days I simply stare out into the open, wondering if I am dreaming. Surely, this is a dream I tell myself. I was recently told that one must have a Jamaican heart or develop a Jamaican soul, to live and love being in Jamaica. hmmmmm!!! I said.

Haiti I Am Sorry >By Trinidadian David Rudder

This past week while sitting at my desk in Kingston Jamaica, I experienced the tremblings of an earthquake. It was a most unusual feeling, because I had never had such an occurrence in my life before.

My initial feeling was  ” is this really occurring” and then ” yes it’s an earthquake” Little could I have comprehended that what I was feeling, was the tail end  of a larger earthquake which was occurring in neighboring Haiti. I now feel very fortunate that Jamaica was not affected by such a large scale earthquake.

In the same breathe, I feel extremely sad and sorry for the people of Haiti. I have known Haitian people from as early as age 12, while growing up in New York City, and three of my dearest female friends are  Haitian. All of them still have families living in Haiti, who are still unaccounted for, so this tragedy is very personal for me.

I simply hope that some world good will occur for the Haitian people after losing so many citizens to this tragedy. I’m also aware of Jamaica’s own experience in 1907 of a major Earthquake, so I am now extremely concerned about earthquakes

David Rudder Sings the following:

A Closer Peep at Jamaica>

The following realistic videos show snippets about what is good in Jamaica. I am often asked, “what do I like most about Jamaica? ” My initially answer is usually, that I love the food, the beautiful scenery of the countryside and the rhythm of the Jamaican people. The mountains, valleys and beaches are the best that I have seen in the Caribbean region, and while other islands may experience more financially stable economies, the beauty of this land is undeniable.

This is not however to say that living on the island is easy, so I then usually go further and share, that I have a love hate relationship with the soil. Some days I love it here and some days I look at myself in the mirror and ask ” What exactly were you drinking when you told your significant other yes, you would move to Jamaica with him?” What…. What !!!!!!

Sit back and enjoy the following videos. Keep in mind however, that your first step in seeing Jamaica is coming on a vacation away from the All-Inclusive hotels. So do your research wisely.

Part II

Both Sides of the Story> Shared Comments

My informational blog was officially launched on on May 13th 2008. I started writing a few things earlier in the year, but was truly intimidated to share. Anyhow, I finally got the courage to go public and started advertising that the site was available at several other websites where I think expats visit. What has been most interesting, is when I started receiving daily feedback.

So each morning, I race to my computer to see what people have sent my way, it’s been amazing. I have gotten several “thank you’s” for the information, with a few saying they wish something like this existed before they moved to Jamaica, and a few others suggesting topics they would like to read about.

I wanted to share these two particular comments, which were left about the Jamaican dialect/language.

Comment:( I think the point being made by the following comment, is that the Patois dialect should be no big deal to outsiders)

Come, man. Almost everybody inna Jumayka speak patois, even depolitishan when dem a meet de people, etc. You can barely fin a record which don use patois. Nuff nuff book a write in patois. Many people, though, can and do speak AND write formal English very well, and do so at work and at school




Translation: Come now! almost everybody in Jamaica speaks patois, even the politicians when they meet people etc. You can barely find a CD/ or music where the patois language is not spoken. Many books are also written in patois.

Response: Thanks for your insight. Please however realize that this blog’s information is to notify Expats moving to Jamaica about the existence and use of patois. Many people move here and it takes them a while to get used to the sound of the words, as they may or may not be English speakers. I have friends from Hungry, Belgium or even Trinidad who have had difficulty in understanding patois.

There are so many things that fly at you those first six months of settling in, and if one is aware of the non- standard English before the move here, then there ears are more “open” I used to go into barber shops to get my hair cut and it felt like I was living in Haiti, as I could not understand a word. I am now way better and even now play with the words myself, but had I known about the language issue earlier I could have been more mentally prepared. I have been told by Jamaicans that “ them nuh know why farrin have a hard time here, as them speak English”…… this was exactly my point.

WATA ( Water)

Another Comment:

As someone who does not speak Jamaican, I had to read some parts a few times.
I imagine you expected that. It is the first eye opener to readers thinking about relocating to Jamaica.
I will say that when I read “learn the language” my first thought was “but they speak English there….right?”
May I suggest you mention that the language is English but “Jamaican English.”
That or mention right away they speak a kind of English and then describe what you mean….the you-tube is a great addition.
Thanks for the world of feedback.

Continue reading “Both Sides of the Story> Shared Comments”

Questions; About Future Moves To Jamaica

For the last year and a half, I have been a volunteer mentor with various on line expat exchange services, where I answer questions for expats seeking information about Jamaica. Not sure when the idea first popped into my head to do this, but I realized early on that I get tremendous enjoyment when assisting in this capacity. I often meet individuals who tell me, that they moved to Jamaica  for employment without ever visiting the country, and are now amazed at how challenging life can be in the sun.

I find the concept of moving to a country or place that I had never visited very different, but it happens. Individuals simply fall in love with whatever perceptions they have of Jamaica and the Caribbean, and often times do not have a clue about what day- to- day living is like. They may have heard Bob Marley’s music or saw high performing Jamaican athletes competing, and thought, “oh boy!” I can move to Jamaica for a better life in paradise.

While living in Jamaica is clearly doable and the land is beautiful, I advise doing extensive research before selling everything and moving here, because it is a developing country.

Expats do arrive on the island and live a pretty interesting life, but settling in can often times be a challenge for some families. The following two questions were recently posted at an expat site:

Hi! I am a doctor who is being hired by the Heart Institute of the Caribbean in Kingston, Jamaica. I need help regarding the way of life in Jamaica before I decide to stay there. What is the standard of living there? Safe housing and how much for a car? Please help….I don’t have any idea regarding living in Jamaica. Thanks.

Now, what should my response be to this person? The first thing I would tell him is  to make his first pre-arrival trip to Jamaica, to see where he will be working. Sort of like an informational interview with the management to have a look around at the conditions he will be working with,  to see whether things such as medial equipment is compatible to where he is coming from, etc. He should  also check with his home embassy to see if expats from his home country live on the island and arrange to meet as many of them as possible so he can start asking questions. He should then try to meet a few Realtors to take him around and view housing, schools, etc. In other words, a move of this magnitude should not be taken lightly.

What I would also recommend is that he download the free e-book The 10 1/2 Mistakes People Make When Moving to Jamaica, written by myself and husband Francis Wade. he should then purchase our e-book on My Move To Jamaica; both excellent resources.

Another question posted:

I am a chef living in the U.S. and was thinking of relocating to Negril for maybe a year or so just to get some new experience and have a change of scenery for a little while. I was wondering if some of the resorts would provide housing for employees or at least help with housing. How much would it be for a single male adult to stay and live decently well? What might be a starting salary at a major resort for a sous chef?

I am not sure if this individual is aware, of the current unemployment rate in Jamaica being close to 40 percent . While jobs in the hotel industry may be available, they are hard to come by. Not only will this person be competing with Jamaicans for a job, he would need to have the job before he arrives to live or secure a job within the first three months of being here, and hopefully his employers would assist in getting his work permit. A work permit for non-Jamaicans now cost $108, 000. Jamaican dollars and usually expires in two to three years. The US equivalent is $1500.  which is a recent increase from, about $500.00 US dollars.

This amount does not include the application fees and process, so individuals will need to contact the Jamaican Immigration Department and Ministry of Labor when considering staying on the island for more than a vacation. Individuals married to Jamaican citizens usually get an exemption for work permits, but the process is not automatic and could take as many as six to nine months. Again folks please do you research well.

“No problem mon” is great to here while one is on a holiday, but not when you are trying to figure out how  you will survive on half the salary you made in your home country.

A Jamaican Day; Plus Hurriance Advice

I awoke this morning thinking, “Oh boy, what will I share with my readers today” as I vowed to never write the, “and I scratched my head this morning” post.

I keep reminding myself that people considering moving to Jamaica, need good solid advice on what to do, and  advice on what life  would be like if they really came to a live in the sun.

Who would want to read about me not knowing how to scale fish before cooking it and only realizing something was wrong, after I called my husband to the table for dinner? We started eating, and his face went blank as he explained what was wrong. The tears simply flowed, as all of a sudden, my mind went back to my childhood with my Trinidadian grandmother and having to scale fish. Nobody wants to read about that, I concluded.

Or, who would  want to read about one of the four wild cats that live in our development who has decided that I should adopt his wild butt. So in he sneaks daily, stealing meat from my sink, hot cupcakes that I have baked, and even white bread. How strange, I tell myself, for a cat to steal bread. I do not understand these island cats, as American cats I came across only ate cat food. ” a hungry cat is a hungry cat” I reminded myself.

I then concluded, that these are indeed my day to day happenings and my island reality. They are stories that some expats may eventually even have to relate to friends and family as part of their own experiences of life in Jamaica. I finally decided, well it’s Hurricane season and that is important enough to share, so great.

I will share about Hurricane season.  (The following is taken from the US Embassy’s May 2008 Newsletter: )

History teaches that a lack of hurricane awareness and preparation are common threads among all major hurricane disasters. By knowing your vulnerability and what actions you should take, you can reduce the effects of a hurricane disaster.
The goal of this Hurricane Preparedness Web site is to inform the public about the hurricane hazards and provide knowledge which can be used to take ACTION. This information can be used to save lives at work, home, while on the road, or on the water.

Hurricane hazards come in many forms: storm surge, high winds, tornadoes, and flooding. This means it is important for your family to have a plan that includes all of these hazards. Look carefully at the safety actions associated with each type of hurricane hazard and prepare your family disaster plan accordingly. But remember this is only a guide.

The first and most important thing anyone should do when facing a hurricane threat is to use common sense.
You should be able to answer the following questions before a hurricane threatens:
• What are the Hurricane Hazards?
• What does it mean to you?
• What actions should you take to be prepared?
Download the Hurricane Preparedness Week Poster (2008 version)

Visit the NOAA Coast affecting Services Center Historical Hurricane Tracks

website (WWW.CSC.NOAA.GOV) to learn about historical tropical cyclones occurring in different areas located throughout the Atlantic, Caribbean, and Gulf of Mexico.

The website provides information about U.S. coastal county population versus hurricane strikes as well as links to various Internet resources focusing on tropical cyclones. The interactive mapping application allows you to search the National Hurricane Center historical tropical cyclone database and graphically display storms.

I had never experienced a hurricane before Hurricane Dean’s arrival in August 2007. I remember being initially excited that I would get to see my first ever hurricane, and waited for it like a child awaiting a snow blizzard. My friends kept telling me I was mad, to want to see or experience a hurricane.

I now live to say that if I never experience another hurricane I will be a content woman. The winds, rains, and devastation in the aftermath are none  too nice moments. We were without electricity for an entire week, our land phone lines were out for three months, and running water was controlled.

Reality has now stepped in for me, as I realized that we were extremely fortunate to have not lost our roof as several homes in our development did. Many lessons were learned, and we will now stock up on a double burner gas stove, a flask, several flashlights, tarpaulin, canned foods, candles, matches,large trash bags, buckets of water and several candles in plastic bags.

More on Hurricanes in Jamaica > Dean 2007

I realized after the last post, that I should have expanded more on hurricane season, as it could be an issue if one is unprepared.

The following comment was posted after the last hurricane information blog post:

“Good to be prepared for hurricanes, as the season comes every year. Add to the list a wind-up radio, put your valuables in sealed/ziplock bags, etc. Keep your cell phone charged; maybe buy a solar charger”

Please note, when looking at initial housing, keep the hurricane season in the back of your mind. Should houses have numerous windows, make certain you have access to storm shutters and ask the landlord or Realtor who will be responsible for storm related damage, water leaks, etc.

Also ask if a generator will be provided. Rarely does this occur, but I have had some expats share with me that the international organization employing them, paid for many families to purchase generators upon arrival.

Also get two or three proposals from various generator providers, and be prepared to do your own initial research. This research should give you an idea of what size to get and what you should be paying for this item. You may also want to get clarity on how, or if your home country’s Embassy provides for citizens during a hurricane.

A generator is not mandatory and many are fine without owning one. Families with young children however may find a hurricane challenging, and could experience difficulty without access to hot water and warm meals for several days during the hurricane’s aftermath. Another issue, is making certain that you choose a home with a water tank on the premises if possible. I cannot stress this importance, as nobody told us and I never thought about a tank. After four months of being in Jamaica, and a long early morning run, I realized that we did not have running water and no back-up tank. I scrambled to bathe in bottled water that morning.