Helping companies transition their employees to Jamaica

Expat Stories

Survey Feedback:

I sent out the original survey in June of 2008, asking expats in Kingston to share 5  positive and/or  5 negative things they would tell another person considering a move to Jamaica, and attached are some of the responses I have received. I plan to continue asking Expats that I met to share.

My survey pool is limited to the Kingston area, mainly because I only meet or know Expats in Kingston. I have all intentions however of expanding and continuing my survey and will share the results as I gather them.

Please recognize that these are not my feelings or things I would necessarily say to people moving to Jamaica, but felt sharing the various voices would be helpful to individuals considering a move here.

I have been accused by some locals  that this information is negative, and that I should post more positive sharing, and my answer is, ” this is data I collect and I do filter any responses which I feel are  insensitive”

Please recognize that many of these individuals moved to Jamaica without very much support or knowledge of what  daily life would be like on the Island. While many of them have fully adapted, I think that better preparation for such a move would have helped. I am thankful  to all the individuals who choose to share with my readers. This survey is ongoing, so please feel free contact me if you live on the Island and would like to share your suggestions with others.

http://ReplytoDale.Info

Results & Sharing

Oct 15th 2009

The following  was shared with me by a  female single Peace Corp Volunteer, who lives outside of  the Kingston area. Rarely are Peace Corp Volunteers sent to Kingston, and I was very thankful to her s Most areas outside of Kingston I’ve noticed is referred to as “country”for sharing with me.  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.

April 1st, 2009

This response is from a  married mother and trialing spouse from Israel. This family  moved to  Kingston, Jamaica due the husbands employment. They have been in Kingston for abit over 18 months and appear very settled.

5 positive things about Jamaica:

1)  The people are very friendly and easy going, and will often go out of their way to help you, for example in giving directions, or if your car breaks down on the road.

2) I love nature here. The island is absolutely beautiful, and also diverse – you get different kinds of beaches, mountains, agricultural countryside, wetlands and more, and all in a relatively small area.

3) The weather is just great! for those who love hot weather, that is. It’s just never cold. Although in the rainy season the heavy rains can get on your nerves, and give you the blues. I continue to be a great fan of the weather here.

4) Yes there are security problems, but this means that if you live in a gated complex, and you have kids, they get to have great freedom to play outside with friends. Try to choose a bigger complex which would be like a safe little neighborhood.

5) Love the music and rhythm in the people. They dance and sing in the street and in the supermarket etc., and it’s great fun.

5 negative things about Jamaica:

1) Security problems mean restriction of movement (which is not as bad as it sounds though, and not nearly as bad as many African and South American countries for example).

2) There is a lack in cultural activity. Very little outside Jamaican culture (music, theatre, dance).

3) Driving may seem scary, and yes, there are wild drivers out there, who overtake dangerously before curves (but- generally drivers ere are kind and patient).

4) I hate the tipping culture! You have to tip left and right: The guy that takes your trolly from the supermarket to the car (you have no choice!), guides in all sorts of tours, and even when a policeman helps you on the roadside!

5) Bribery. If you are stopped by the traffic police you are expected to bribe your way out. (sometimes it makes things easy, but I still see it as a negative thing), and probably bribe would help in other areas, which I didn’t experience).

October 8th, 2008

This is from a married mother of a two year old who has lived on the island for the last three years. She moved to Jamaica as a trailing spouse with her Jamaican husband. She is an American from the New England area and is adapting pretty well.

So, here are my 5 things I love/hate about Jamaica and would like to share:(in no specific order)
Love:
1. the weather
2. the food
3. the diversity
4. culture/music
5. attractions – beaches, etc.

Hate:

1. the fact that you need to “know” someone to get things done in a timely manner

2. the rampant poverty
3. corruption/crime
4. the lack of every child not having an equal opportunity to education
5. the large footprints Jamaica is leaving on this earth! The country needs to GO GREEN!

Sept 22nd, 2008

This is from a female British executive, who moved to Jamaica from England for warmer weather,  to be with her significant other and for a slower pace of life. She has now been on the Island for about three and a half years.

Positives

1. Nurseries and  prep schools are fabulous! The high standards in early development coupled with the great love and attention given to your child  by aunties and teachers is amazing.

2. Socializing network opportunities – Fantastic!!!! Only in Jamaica would you see the former PM of Jamaica doing her Saturday shopping ‘pushing trolley’ to boot at Sovereign Center supermarket.

My point being, you will meet the unexpected everywhere and anywhere!

3. Whilst the cost of living is high, the quality of life is better.  Mani and pedicures I  considered a complete luxury whilst living in England – it has now become a necessity, an affordable necessity along with a monthly massage.

Not to mention the amazing domestic help which the vast majority of us will have. It is heavenly having someone to help you keep house. Look after these ladies and they will look after you.

4. Climate – there has to be something said to waking up to the sun in your face all year round!  No more SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder).. when you are feeling low the sun gives you energy! The weather is a major plus and really just the beautiful Island in its entirety. We have beaches and not the mention the wonderful mountains. If you are an outdoor person or not you will be able to find your mind blowing getaways and be at one with nature..  It is blissful.

5. Wine – back in the day I had to come to Jamaica armed with many bottles of wine that I smuggled in my suitcase!! I would inveigle my sister to do the same – she doesn’t drink and really could not understand why I would go to such lengths to have a good glass of Chablis or Chardannay.

Now I am delighted to say there is a great wine guy who imports wonderful wines from all over the globe!!!

Negatives
1.  Buraracy/Red tape -can be a real pain This is a really a, who do you know society, you can buy practically anyone – money talks and BS Walks…. can, I guess work to your advantage sometimes.

2. The cost of a car will turn your hair grey… it is DOUBLE!!! The car costs x the duty on the car costs exactly the same. Unless you are fortunate or unfortunate to work for the government they will waiver the duty cost.

3. Soon Come attitude  – will drive you insane if you don’t learn to except that is just the way it is.

4. The poverty is disturbing. The distribution of wealth is very apparent – your hearts will bleed. Does make you realise how very fortunate you are and humbles you .
The upside is you can give generously to some very worthy causes time/money – both!   Making a tremendous difference in many peoples lives.

5. Beggi, beggi – can’t stand the begging from able bodied, hardback men that look as strong as horses. Does grate on me… but I guess this is something that you will find in other countries too.

Sept 5th 2008

This is from a single American woman who relocated to Jamaica to work for a Multinational company. She has been on the Island for less then six months

Ok. 5 things you would tell a professional moving here.

Positives

1. Leave your foreign bred expectations at the border. Things run differently here. If you say this is how this was done in Holland, they will tell you to go back!
2. Be aware that your new colleagues may be threatened by your arrival.
3. Compliance is an issue. Process is not going to be followed just because the establishment says so. As told to me by a Jamaican, Jamaicans won’t do anything that they don’t like to do. Find a way to relate any changes you are implementing to them on a personally beneficial level.
4. A wise man has many advisors. Listen and then listen some more to learn about the business subculture. Even your detractors will in some way impart knowledge that will help you succeed.
5. Unemployment is high and the perception may be that you have taken away a job from a Jamaican. Be cognizant of this and respectful to let them know you take your job seriously and you’re not just dying to leave.

Negatives

1. The cultural environment is hypersexual and hyper-religious, whereas you could feel like a prudish heathen both at the same time.
2. Jamaicans really want you to enjoy your time here and will go to great efforts to ensure you do so.
3. There are lots of opportunities to make a difference. Likely more so than where you are coming from, so dig in and help.
4. When you think the movie projector has just broke down, calm yourself. It’s intermission!
5. Go with the flow.

August 14th, 2008

This response is from a single America male who moved to Kingston two years ago for a job.


Positives on living in Jamaica

1. The weather is beautiful year around. I really enjoy waking up every morning and having the option of running, walking or swimming in warm weather.

2. The beaches and mountains are wonderful. A one or two hour drive to the beach or mountain for me is a methodical and costly vacation for others.

3. The culture is very enriching. Jamaican food, dialect, music, and mannerisms are very colorful and unique.

4. The people are great and the women are amazingly beautiful. I am very happy with my lifetime partner, who happens to be Jamaican, but there are some gorgeous women on this island. Jamaica has a thriving upwardly mobile and progressive middle class.

5. There is a variety of restaurants, coffee/dessert shops, night clubs, bars, speak easies, spoken word, and jazz juke joints. You could never run short of adult night life.

Negatives on living in Jamaica :


1. Crime and corruption in Jamaica is pandemic. There has been a sharp increase in the number of murders and violent crimes over the past 12 months, which the Government is not equipped to address. The crime problem needs a multi-faceted approach which should include tougher policing, effective criminal prosecutions, quality education, job opportunities, combating malnutrition, etc. I believe the crime problem has the potential to destabilize the country.

2. The roads are not well maintained which could take a toll on your vehicle. Also, there are numerous road fatalities due to the widespread reckless drivers and speeders.

3. Things get done at a slow pace and there is widespread un-professionalism. I had to lower my expectations when it came to customer service because of poor service and lack of motivation. If you expect North East Coast service, you will grow increasingly frustrated and disenchanted.

4. Like many other post-colonial British/American societies, there are huge social prejudices and economic divides in Jamaica based on hue. Jamaica still suffers from many of the remnants of institutionalize and cyclical racism and discrimination. The economic, social, educational, and professional opportunities are deeply impacted by skin complexion. Jamaican society fosters and facilitates perpetual generational poverty and societal segregation. The middle and upper class plays a subtle yet effective role in ensuring that this well entrenched de-facto caste system is not easily penetrated.

5. The Government of Jamaica’s (GOJ) Gross National Product (GDP) is roughly 10 billion dollars, which is considered non-competitive and relatively small compared to the global economy. The GOJ owes millions of dollars to the World Bank and other nations. Over the past decade, Jamaica’s economy has only grown incrementally by 1 to 2 percent annually, which it has failed to keep pace with the fast growing population. As a result, the cost of living, i.e.. food, gas, real estate, clothes, etc. are over taxed and over priced.

Also, I believe that Jamaica’s real estate market is going to eventually crash due to the recent housing boom. There has been a tremendous amount of expensive real estate development in and around Kingston, Jamaica, which has created a surplus of housing. This housing boom is unexplained because normally when there is a housing boom, it is the result of an economic and financial boom followed by an increase in job opportunities and eventual migration. Unfortunately, none of the above variables exist which would justify the increase in real estate nor expensive pricing. And like the basic principal of Capitalism, whenever there is a shortage of demand and a surplus in supply, the price must drop/crash

June 14th 2008

This is from an American woman who moved here from the US with her husband as a trailing spouse. They have been in Kingston Jamaica for less than year and she is currently pregnant with her first child.

5 (actually 6) things to know before moving to Jamaica (Kingston):
1. The cost of living here is high – like San Francisco, New York or D.C. high.
2. The major grocery stores (Sovereign, MegaMart, Loshusan, HiLo) all use a disinfectant in the freezers that gets into the food, leaving a chemical-soapy taste and smell. It’s particularly noticeable in the meat and bread. If you have a sensitive nose and taste-buds, don’t waste your money on a bunch of food you won’t be able to eat.
3. Violent crime is high. High enough to impact everyone’s daily life. Most murders are gang-related, so if you stay away from the gangs, you’re at less risk. However, armed robbery and car-jackings are not at all uncommon. Even if it doesn’t happen to you, it weighs on the collective consciousness.
4. Jobs are hard to come by, so if you have a partner coming with you who wants to work, don’t assume they’ll be able to find something here, even if they are highly qualified, highly motivated individuals. You are better off finding something through an international company before you come, than trying to find something here.
5. Roads are rough and traffic is bad, so even though it is a small island, it can take a long time to get out of the city and to a nice beach.
6. Even though tourism is important to the economy, many beaches and otherwise scenic spots are still dirty, with rubbish left laying around.

I feel like I should say something more positive, but this is how I’ve experienced it. And I think the positives are pretty well advertised by the tourism board. Most people I talk to back home just assume it’s a wonderful tropical paradise unless I tell them otherwise.

The website is great – I’ll pass it on

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June 1st 2008,

This person is a married male who moved to Jamaica about two years ago, from Europe with his wife for a job. He works for a large foreign organization. He is originally from the Caribbean region, but lived in Europe for many years.

As requested.

Things I was aware before moving to Jamaica;
Jamaica has a very high crime rate. Crime is real and reason enough to be careful (door and windows locked, aware if someone is following you). At the same time, it does not have to restrict your life (i.e. staying home, because it’s too dangerous to go out).

Before moving to Jamaica, we came on a reconnaissance-vacation. While we realise that that may not be a practical options for everyone, it really helped us in terms of expectation management (for instance: what type of houses are available within or price range, and where are they located?)

Things to tell another person moving to Jamaica for jobs:
1. Jamaica teaches you to have faith and patience. Faith that everything will turn out fine and patience until it does. Growing up in the region, I thought I had realistic expectations. My thumb of rule now: make your worst estimate of (how long it will take to finally have InterNet/ how long you will have to wait at the doctor) and then multiply it by two.

2. Jamaica is a big country, but still an island. Everybody knows everybody: the degrees of separation are about two (instead of the usual six). This has it’s advantages (e.g. if you are searching for a good doctor and need advice on that). It also has drawbacks (if you talk bad about them behind their backs, they *will* find out. Unless you want them to.).

3. Jamaica is a very religious country, with religion being part of everyday public life. It is common to start an official meeting with a prayer. Rastafarians (even those without dread locks) do not eat pork and some even don’t eat met at all.. Be aware and show respect.

4. Be patient while trying to understand patois (but try to). Even after two years, the patois comments of some of mine Jamaican colleagues frequently just resemble a (random) stream of vowels.

5. There is a way to handle the involuntary windshield washes at the stoplight. Just leave some space between the car in front of you and yourself, decisevely turn your head sideways to indicate ‘no’ ( a waiving finger can add to this message, and (if he still approaches the car): let it gently roll forward to indicate ‘NO’.

6. Officially, Jamaicans drive on the left. In practice, they drive on the right: that’s just the way it is, probably less potholes. Just overtake on the left in that case.

Hope this helps.

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May 30th, 2008

This person is a married male from Australia who came to Jamaica with his wife, for employment with a Jamaican company.

Hi Dale


Happy to be part of the pilot group.

5 things I wish I was aware of before moving here:

1. Cost of living – power, food etc;

2. Time delays in getting things done an completed; attitude to timeframes ( I have a book about business etiquette however it doesn’t cover Jamaica – only mostly 1st world countries)

3. Reduction in options for sourcing reliable service – primarily when it comes to work items – machine parts, service suppliers;

4. Getting around and networking;

5. General society attitudes to ex-pats, non-Jamaicans and whites (although being Australian does afford some understanding and leniency, compared to UK and US);

6. Business culture.

Thanks and look forward to more involvement

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May 27th, 2008

This person is a married woman from South Africa, she came to JA as a trailing spouse with her husband. She has lived in several other parts of the world before moving to Jamaica.

I apologise for getting back to you late regarding your questionnaire.

1. I had never been to the island before coming to live here, my husband came alone to have a look around and that is one thing that I would suggest to any newcomer – ensure that you come out and get a general idea of housing/shopping/school locations and bring out a “shopping basket” with which to make price comparisons and to check availability of goods which is a good measure of what or what not to bring with. Remember GCT is added to the prices you see.

2. I would have welcomed a little list of essential numbers ie: Police, hospital, reputable cab service, restaurants that deliver etc. Having stayed in the hotel for nearly 8 weeks our first purchase was a map and I would quiz the tour operators at the hotel as to where and what to do over weekends. (We had a driver at our disposal and he would take us where we wanted to go which was not very good when you don’t know where you are! The staff had no idea what to do with us so we were left to our own devices.)

3. Nothing could have prepared me for the culture. How does one explain it. I feel as though I have become hardened in character and my husband agrees that kindness is more often than not interpreted as weakness or “sof’ness” on this soil.

4. I would advise that once one is familiar with a regular route from home to school/shop/work that they make the effort to learn alternate routes in the case of emergencies. (John is still amazed at my knowledge of the roads and back roads, but it is better to be vigilante at all times).

5. Another note is that your body parts are public property and have to remember that any reference to them is a compliment! This takes some getting used to.

My first few weeks have dimmed in my memory though I do remember feeling overwhelmed by how far away from home we were living and that “lost” feeling that one has when all familiarity is gone. This is always the time that one is most vulnerable on a new assignment as it is a generally known fact that you have not yet found your feet and the unscrupulous are trying to get into your favour before you find out the “runnings”, so caution is to be exercised until you are better informed.

Another note is regarding salary. There are some that comment on the fact that they were not aware of the various tax deductions that would be effected on their salary and had not taken into account the GCT when they were drawing up a monthly budget when they arrived.

I hope this helps. If I remember anything else, I will mail.

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April 20th, 2008

Single Woman who moved to Jamaica from England. One parent is Jamaican the other British, and she had never lived in the Caribbean before. Came to Kingston for a job 2 years ago.

Hi Dale

Off the top of my head though and these aren’t that tangible:

1. Later doesn’t actually mean later….it just means some indeterminable time in the (dim, distant) future. May seem a stupid point to raise but for me has been the cause of much stress and anxiety in every aspect of life here, personal, professional….I’ve fallen foul of the ‘later’ syndrome. In the same vein, soon comes, doesn’t mean soon anything.

2. Customer service is shite, you pay through the nose for most things and you can’t expect quality in anything. ‘I’m on the road’ doesn’t literally mean you’re driving anywhere, going anywhere, it just means you’re not at home and not in the office, or whatever. This one, I have found, is a great one, means you can be getting up to all sorts and the catch all opt out is ‘I’m on the road’. Same is true of ‘going country’ this means anywhere not in the corporate area!!!

3. Post doesn’t really exist here, post in and out of the country is at best unreliable and at worst totally non existent. Anything that comes to you that looks potentially interesting will have been opened and may have been teefed. In my experience it’s not really worth trying to send anything much.

4. Most ‘post’ round town goes via bearer and in my experience it’s a great way of getting (herrands) (many Jamaicans add H’s and drop them in strange places with speech, so look out for this) done without having to go on the road myself. Noboby listens to voicemail messages here, well that’s a slight exaggeration but in my experience for the most part you leave a message, someone sees the missed call and calls you back without listening to the voicemail, so a bloody waste of time leaving a message in the first place.

5. EVERYTHING here works on networks, never has there been a place that works on the principal of ‘it’s not what you know but who’ more than Jamaica. This can be the making and the downfall of most experiences/transactions. ……not sure if any of my ‘observations’ are of any use, but they’re certainly things I wished I’d know over the months and years.

Take care, walk good. Zx

This person is a wife and mother of two. She is a trailing spouse from Europe originally but moved here after living in NY.

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Hi Dale, here are some things i thought about:

1. i think it is useful to know about the grocery shopping situation. it is simply hard to find everything you need in one place. you will probably need to change your shopping routines one way or another.

2. If you have children it is hard to find things to do on the weekends unless you want to go to the beach or the movies or eat ice cream or encourage gambling, ie there is a place where kids can go to play all kinds of game machines and then win little useless things.

3. if you have children try to get involved in the school at some level. you will meet many people and learn about how Kingston works. It is a word of mouth system so the more people you know the better off you are in finding what you need.

4. try to find out how people in general relate to their domestic workers and then find your own way of doing it. you won’t be able to change society but at least you can create a respectful environment in your own house.

5. deal with the social differences in a way that make sense to you. find a charity or just be kind and respectful to people. i think it helps if you are clear about what you do and why. don’t deny the problem.

all the best, c

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This person is from Trinidad and came to JA single, she holds an Executive position.

Dale,

The five things I wish I was aware of before I got here are:

1) The high cost of living compared to Trinidad.

2) Specifically the high cost of Electricity – I would have negotiated differently.

3) The lack of traditional Malls since I am big on retail therapy even if its window shopping

4) More about the history, culture of the people and their views of people from my country.

5) How to navigate my way keeping out of the unsafe areas. Hope this helps.

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This person is a mother of two, and was a Lawyer in the US before moving to JA as a trailing spouse with husband.

Happy to help out. But oh where to begin?

1. I wish I had had a better handle on the good places to shop for groceries. 2. I wish I had known how expensive housewares and home decor items cost here. I would have stocked up on Xmas ornaments before coming.

3. I wish I had known what the process was for getting my driver’s license and renewing car registration.

4. I wish I had known of different options for obtaining car/property insurance (american companies vs. local Jamaican companies.)

5 I wish I had been warned about the nonchalant attitudes of landlords when it comes to maintaining and repairing their rental properties. I would have chosen an apt. that was less maintenance or newer in construction.

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This person came to JA to work with a US based company in Mobay, she bolted back to US after a year.

Here goes my short list of things I wish some one would have told me: ( this is from a montego bay perspective)

1. There is no postal service in JA. You have to go to the correct post office to pick up your mail.

2. Find a justice of the peace right away, seeing as everything, including pictures, need to be “notarized”

3. Most bills are not mailed, so it is up to you to make sure they are paid and on time.

4. Resources for information are very limited so ask questions…lots of questions!

5. If you need to see a dr here, make sure you take your medical records with you when you leave. Hope all is well! And feel free to use me for more surveys!

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This person came to work in JA from Belguim on contract with her partner

… things I would tell expat women…

Jamaica and Kingston are known as dangerous with a high level of crime. When I came here, everyone told me stories, watch out for this, watch out for that….and it almost drove me crazy…..my advise is “stay alert” and don’t show off with your expensive camera or gold and don’t walk all by your self in the middle of the night or in remote area…and thinking of those stories, I’d say….that Jamaicans are a little paranoid concerning security (note that most violence is gang related or domestic)… Jamaicans are very spontaneous, pppppssssssstttttttttt to get your attention, shout funny and original (sometimes negative) remarks and love to touch you….it happens even unconsciously. Don’t feel awkward about that. Sometimes my nerves went to bits. But this is only due to the fact that I felt uncomfortable. – Spending your time or a part of your life here…..come out of your house…do voluntary works, visit museums, art galleries, shops and discover, meet friends (don’t wait till you receive a call from someone, call yourself!) and take advantage of every possibility you have here and perhaps not in your home country. I am not handy and had never touched a needle before, started sewing in Jamaica ! Because fabrics in Jamaica are much cheaper than in Belgium. – Don’t forget your outdoor sports gear…run, cycle, walk, swim,….Jamaica is full of very nice places

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This is from yet another European and a trailing spouse.

Hi Dale,

I had to think for a second there to find 5 things that surprised me about Jamaica. You see, before coming here I read the Lonely Planet inside out twice, so I do feel I was rather well prepared for the – bumpy – road ahead. Nevertheless, yesterday my husband and I did some serious thinking and this is what we came up with:

1. Bring your own furniture! When I first got here, I checked out every single furniture store in Kingston. After all, there only are a couple. The problem is that they all sell the same stuff and unless you like tacky, you won’t find much to fit your taste, not even if you are ready to pay good money for it. Moreover, some furniture items can be very hard to find. I had the hardest time to find a sizeable rug for my living room. In the end, there really is only one store in Kingston that specializes in rugs (Lavange), and even there the choice was so limited that I ended up ordering one from abroad. If you like Asian furniture, I recommend a place called Bali, but don’t expect to come off cheaply!

2. One slightly disappointing aspect of Kingston’s social life for me is the limited choice of restaurants or places to have a drink, especially outdoors. In the end, you feel like you’re always going to the same three or four places. Moreover, some evenings, especially during the week, you might find yourself sitting in an almost empty place. Oh, and one more thing: there is NO GOOD ITALIAN (please don’t go to the fake Italian restaurant in the Pegasus)!

3. I’m from Belgium and as in many European countries people love to sit on a terrace of a restaurant, bar or tea-room watching the world go by and enjoying the nice weather. Forget about this in Jamaica. Apart from the Hagen-Daz ice cream place and a couple of places behind Devon house, you will find yourself sitting inside with the air conditioning blowing freezing air into your face. Imagine, Kingston’s most uptown restaurant, Max’s Steakhouse, doesn’t even have windows! So, bring a sweater.

4. Taking a nice stroll in the afternoon sun, looking at the shop windows in the street, is another thing you can’t do in Kingston. If you want to shop, you take your car and go to the shopping mall. If you want to have a drink somewhere, you take your car and go to a bar. If you want an ice cream, you take your car and go to Devon House. You see, there’s no walking in Kingston, only driving.

5. And on that note, get used to the idea of having little bumps and scratches on your car, because Jamaicans like to cut the curves and challenges the laws of physics when they are behind the wheel. But then again, my Italian husband says Italians are far worse drivers. You see, one thing can be said about Jamaican drivers, they are quite relaxed and friendly. They will gladly let you pass in front of them and nobody seems to mind when you are not following the traffic rules correctly.

There you go Dale. I hope my comments are useful for you.

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May 20th 2008

Single European woman, initially moved here to work for the EU.

Having already lived overseas in several countries, I had prior experience in coming into a new country and setting myself up. I am a very self-sufficient person, highly independent and happy to explore my new environment. That, coupled with a sociable nature and the language, made settling into Jamaica a warm and wonderful experience. If I had to pass on some words of wisdom to other (wo)men who are considering this country as their new home, I would say:

1. Do not be put off by the tales of high crime, security risks…etc. Kingston, like any big city, certainly has areas that are best avoided. When you arrive, buy a road map and ask someone (preferably a driver) which areas one should avoid. Make a note of these, be sensible…and then allow yourself to enjoy what the city has to offer.

2. The Jamaican people are incredibly caring and helpful: throughout my 5½ years here, I continue to be touched by the many, many ways people show their love and concern for me – whether through a kind word, a warm smile, an unexpected phone call or material means, they have generously shared themselves on a daily basis.

3. Do not be fooled into thinking that Kingston does not offer much: there is a lot going on here, but it takes time to uncover where to find particular activities! The best way is to ask, ask, ask…Being a small society, you will soon find someone who knows someone else who is related to a third person whose cousin leads a whatever-kind-of-activity.

4. Do not fall into the “trap” of comparing cost of living with another country. Whilst there are some things which are cheaper here (e.g. home help, personal care such as mani/pedi and massages), many things are far more expensive. But when one lives here, it is no use to make oneself miserable by wishing otherwise: make the mental adjustment that is necessary!

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Dale, I hope that this serves you…

Single Canadian mother of one, who moved here for a job from Canada.

Finally, I have made the time to jot a few things. I think about the subject all the time but my Alzeheimer’s is preventing my fingers from relaying the thoughts….

1. I wish I would have known about the individual private schools: which type of kids go to which school, which has better after school programs, etc. Also, to have this wholeGSAT and first form, second form stuff explained

2. Also, to know which activities there are for kids. It seems pretty bleak until you dig and find out where the tennis lessons, karate lessons, summer programs and such are

3. Of course, like eveyone else, the high cost of living here.

4, I would recommend to anyone to join a group to keep the social ties and mounds of information and new experiences open.

5. Health insurance. Would have been nice to know from the beginning that air ambulance and accident insurance is affordable and one can have piece of mind.

6. For newbees, how to get to the beach: to get to Lime Cay, go to Port Royal and take the canoe…etc.

7. Was very helpful for me to be passenger in a car for a year to observe the un-rules of the road before driving.

Phew, I am sure that I will think of more later…
(still dancing)

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May 21st, 2008

Single woman, who is French and came from Europe for a job.

Hi Dale,

I am happy to be part of your survey and share my experiences of moving to Jamaica.

1. For Europeans not coming from UK, get some information on the appliances which can be used in Jamaica, i.e. pb with electricity 110 / 220 V and plugs different from the one in Europe. Buy transformers in Europe as they are very expensive in Jamaica and not reliable. Buy plugs in Europe to be able to use the appliances brought from Europe. Explain the possibility to get 220 V in a house.

2. Make a list of useful things and furniture which can not be easily bought in Jamaica or which are very expensive in Jamaica, so that the people can bring them.

3. When coming to Jamaica, a list of network/organizations that you can easily become a member or join, i.e. sports, entertainment, music….

4. How to go about getting on mailing lists to get invitations/flyers for some private parties, concerts….

5. Good and up-dated information on the places, communities to go / to avoid – Please do not become paranoia on that part!

6. For women: where to find a good hairdresser who can deal with European hair!

7. A list of people who carry out alternative medicine.

If other points come to my mind, I will send you an email.