My husband and I moved to St. Croix last August. His report covers all of the actual logistics and is listed as Arrived at our new Home. I’m going to cover different ground.
To recap, we are a 56 year old couple, married for 36 years (yikes!). We have two grown children, two grandchildren and I still have my dad in Kentucky.
I think there are three things that will make your move, whether permanent or temporary, successful — Money, Attitude and Support.
The physical move is very stressful. Closing down your life at “home”, deciding what to take, store, sell, deciding about your car(s), even deciding which island will be your new home. Making these decisions is just the beginning of your move. After arriving on island you have to find a place to live and a job. You have to get your cars either shipped or bought. After you find a place to live, you need phone, internet, utilities. This usually means deposits.
What I’m trying say, and you’ll hear it over and over, you need ready cash to accomplish all this. We found a very reasonably priced furnished cottage right away. But we needed first and last month’s rent AND a security deposit equal to 1 month’s rent. That was a check for $1,950 the 4th day after we set foot on the island. Add licensing the cars (including insurance), paying utility deposits and buying the odds and ends we needed – we had spent almost $4,000 without blinking an eye. We had planned and budgeted for this, so we were not surprised, but boy it was still shocking to my system.
I don’t know if this could be done for less. I do know it was scary with the cash, I don’t know what we would have done if our budget was more restricted.
The other thing that having a cash reserve allowed us was time — time to adjust, time to look around and time to find a job! Ric took three months to find something he loves, me, I’m still looking. I have a pension from my former job so I don’t feel stressed to take what I don’t want just because I need the money.
The islands are territories of the U.S. They use the same money, have the same laws and speak the same language (sort of). But if you expect things to be like home only warmer and more beautiful — well, you’re in for bitter disappointment.
It’s hard to explain exactly what’s different. Everything moves much slower, that’s the first thing. Government is poor, corrupt and poorly administered. I grew up in Chicago in the 50’s so I know corrupt government. But the government in those days, for all the faults, made sure the garbage was picked up and the potholes were filled. That is not necessarily the case here and if you can’t live with that then you should reassess your decision to move.
People have been WONDERFUL to us, open and friendly. But they are reserved and very modest. I never see grown women in the grocery in shorts for example, always slacks or dresses. Pleasantries are mandatory before any business discussion. People do not like to tell you no, it’s not polite. So sometimes someone will say he will do something/be someplace when he has no intention of actually following through. That’s the sort of thing that will drive you crazy if you let it.
On the other hand, I never wait more than a few seconds on a side street before someone slows down and lets me into traffic on the main road.
What I’m saying is you must adapt to what’s here, not try and change it. Complaining or comparing things here to “back home” will only cause resentment. Now, I’m not saying you should accept being cheated or duped, just realize that things are different here so it will take observation, learning and adapting.
One more thing — I’ll call it race/culture. If you’re a white non-Hispanic, you will be part of a small minority on St. Croix. Can you accept that? Will you be comfortable? If you’re uncomfortable or feel threatened, that will come across in your demeanor and make living here and fitting in very difficult.
If you are coming with a spouse/friend/partner, you both need to have the same expectations. You’re going to need each other. The first couple of months can be frustrating and lonely. You will be thrust far outside of your comfort zone. Dealing with the bureaucracy alone will be challenging. Add to that finding a job and figuring out where to get your hair cut, where to buy underwear and how to find the businesses once you determine they exist, and you’re looking at some long, lonely days and nights. You’re going to need a support system, whether you’re part of a couple or on your own.
We were lucky; our landlord took us under his wing and helped us out. Then we started going to a neighborhood bar 2 or 3 (or 4) nights a week. We meet people who lived in our area. Everyone was great and very willing to give advice. Someone there suggested another activity that we might enjoy and we tried that and met more people and — well you get the idea. Your “bar” might be your job or a church or AA, whatever. But you need to find SOMETHING. It’s hard, especially if you’re not outgoing. Having a partner really helps, but you can do it alone.
Whatever you enjoy doing, you can find people on the islands who share your interests. And you need to seek out these activities and people. Otherwise you’ll feel isolated and the next thing you know, you’ll be thinking “maybe this wasn’t a good idea after all” and you’ll be gone.
I don’t know how long we’ll live here on St. Croix, but we are here now and for the foreseeable future. We like it and we’re glad we took the plunge.