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Story #8: Pre-Move Story from a Prospective St. Croix Resident!
(Submitted in 2003) Greetings all....
For those who have never visited the islands, you are in for a treat, not just the beauty of the location, but the island people as well. Just relax and enjoy the anticipation of your visit. In my travels abroad, I have discovered that its always the people that make me want to return. The Virgin Islands is one of those places.
First of all, get used to the most polite people in the world.
Slow yourself down and plan on smiling a lot!
If your visiting, any of the resorts can give you the memories of a life-time, and if your moving there, you'll want to see it all anyway. Don't be afraid to drive anywhere in the islands. Your going to be amazed when you see the islanders taking turns giving way and a toot on the horn. No one seems to be in a hurry or drive over 30 mph, so no matter what happens, you'll have time to stop and be safe. You can't get lost, your on an island, you just get there a little later, that's all. (that's what they mean by Island-time!) Oh yea, remember "right side suicide"...we drive on the left here.
We rented from a local car company when visiting there, Dependable Car Rental on St. Thomas. They have a better rate than the corporate rentals, will work the schedule and rates to meet your needs, plus pick you up and take you to the airport when its time. Our rental of a Mitsubishi 4 door compact with a/c totaled $245 for 10 days. Gas was $2.10 on St. Thomas, $1.34 on St. Croix. We drove a total of 218 miles, and burned $12.00 in gas. And we did a lot of driving, property shopping, we usually do about half that. If some of the properties seem a bit run down, remember that hurricanes have leveled the islands several times in the past 20 years or so, and after the 7th time you clean up and rebuild, well, it's just not as important as it was.
The larger food stores were very well stocked with everything from hamburger at $1.99 lbs. (20%) to fresh produce locally grown. Prices on everything else were just about average with the states. Don't be afraid that your not going to find just about everything here that's in the states. Home Depot is opening a new store there, and that provides even more choices.
Some things are a little more expensive here, going out for dinner will be one of them. Most resorts come with a kitchen and shopping to save a little for play will be both fun and an adventure. Kmart has great deals on everything from TV's to clothes. And oh yea, liqueur is dirt cheap. You can get a quart of local rum for about $3.00 anywhere. The average lunch tab was $24 for 2, dinner ran $45 and up. St. Croix is a lot less, with less tourist, they cater to the local market. Eat in, and play out, ask around for where the locals drink for the daily specials and enjoy following the crowd on any Friday night and seeing all the different hot spots.
Crime is over rated in all the islands, on any given day, there will be 2-4 reports for each island mostly involving petty theft. The really bad stuff seems to point to corruption at some of the government level positions. Of course be safe, plan your day and evening in advance until you have a good feel for where you are.
There's lots of living going on in the islands, just in case you get tired of going to the beach again, you can join any volunteer organization and get to know a few locals, and of course they will get a chance to know you. A little networking never hurt looking for a job...The duty free malls are a ball, and a great place to people watch. Look out you don't end up buying something too, and they will wheel and deal if that's fun to you.
Evening entertainment can be free or as high as you want it. Check out the local rags and get a heads up on what's going on for free first, a six pack and a cooler on the beach can be a major event in the islands! Snorkeling is free and a real education of sea life, you might try going to Kmart and picking up a less expensive mask and fin set, renting them runs $20-25 a day, and you'll want to go more than once.
The job market works a little different there, I would tell anyone serious about relocating there to take 6 months worth of cash to live on, and hit the streets running. Few, if any, get hired off island. It's one of those things that you have to be present to win. But you'll make it if you like it here....and the heck with the rest....
Visit first if your moving here, think of it as a $1500 dollar insurance policy for a life time choice. Pretty cheap if you find you don't like it. On the other hand, a cheap chance to do some local snooping on your move there. Besides, when you get back, you can brag to all your friends and show them pictures of where your going....that's worth the ticket alone! And that stupid grin?….well, you might just as well leave it on if your coming back!
Learn to enjoy island time. It's going to end up why you want to move here. No one likes to be bullied or ordered about, at their job or anywhere else, and in the islands, the "natives" enjoy their paradise as much as we do. Enjoy slowing down and "visiting" with the employees, you can learn a lot from them. In no time at all you'll be doing the "pinky shake". Friends will visit from the mainland, and you'll laugh and think how they just don't get it....
When you return from your first visit, your going to be grinning from ear to ear, surprised at how developed and civilized it is, and that yes, you can make it there. The hardest part is what to do when your off from work....so many choices.
I will be returning to St. Croix sometime after the first of the year with the sailboat, some income rentals on St. Croix, and a big smile. I look forward to meeting some of you, and hope you find the islands as I do, a very special place with very special people.
I will be at the St Croix Yacht Club, on S/V Pontouf, (West-Indies for "slipper")
No more worry mon,
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