Finally settling in STX!
Whaoo!! What a stressful transition! I haven't been to this board since I was doing my research to move back to STX. And now that we are finally getting Cruzanized, I can find some time to visit the board. Well, where do I begin.
1st, both me and my wife decided to move back to STX after living in Jacksonville Fl for about 20yrs. We made the move in May 2006. Thanks to some wonderful information that I got from this site, I was better prepared for what was coming. So I figure I'll share my adventures with you all and perhaps our experiences can help some one else that may be thinking of relocating to the islands.
Vehicle shipping. Well, that went okay. Tropical Shipping did a great job in getting our vehicles here. Now, when it came to registering the vehicles, that's a different story. It took me about 1 1/2 weeks to register my truck because the DMV was always short handed. So if I wasn't there at 7am to stand in line for at least 5 to 6 hrs, I wasn't going to get it registered that day. And talk about the excise tax! What a killer. That's highway robbery! Insurance here is just as bad. I pay more a year for only liability on both vehicles that I use to pay for 2yrs for full coverage stateside.
One thing that no one came strait out and said when I was researching is that the cost of living in the Virgin Islands is 2 to 3 times higher than stateside. The average 3bdrms house rental ran about $1800 to $2300 per month. Thanks to Hovensa's turnover employees. Luckily, a friend of mine was renting a house and the old tenant was moving out in a couple of Weeks. So we were able to get one for $950 per month.
Jobs, that's another story. I thought I was well educated and trained, yet, nothing prepared me for the disbelieve. What I found out very fast was that the person that got the job, was the person that had an inside contact. In other words, its not what you know, its who you know. Yet, me being born and raised here, I was expecting that. Don't try for a government job unless you know someone there. The contractors for the oil refinery, the same thing. Well, there goes the two biggest employers in STX. Sooo, that leaves the private sector. I got lucky and found a nice job as a Manager. It pays the bills. What I discovered early in the job search market is that you need to keep digging. If you fill out an application and they tell you that they will call you, you wouldn't get the job. You have to stay on top of them. If not, they will forget about you. This helped me to get a job and it even helped my 18yr old to get one two.
Cost of food. Lets not even get there. I know at one time I was paying $7 for a gallon of milk. I can't buy anything that I was used to in the states. Too expensive. Meat, I mean, good meat, forget it. I'm better off buying a life goat and killing it myself. Its cheaper. Overall, the cost of living is just out of hand.
Road conditions are even worst. I think, after being here for a year and a half, I think I've finally hit every pot-whole in the island.
Schools. Public school system sucks. Being in an educational field myself I understand that Teachers are over worked and under paid. Yet, when the teachers decide to go un strike, its the children that pays the ultimate price. Last year I can't even count how many shootings around the public schools they were. Students fighting with cops. Cops not arresting the drug dealers because they are friends or family members. And the crime goes on and on.
Politics. I'm not going to even go there. Everyone complains about how the government isn't doing their job, yet when elections come around, the same people that were in office not doing their jobs are right back in the same offices not doing their jobs. Business as usual.
Well, I think I've said enough for now. Maybe I'll continue later.
Now, although I am very disappointed in the conditions of STX, whether its the government, crime, schools, prices or what ever else. One thing is certain. I'M GLAD TO BE HOME!!!! I relax on the weekends around the family. I go fishing almost every weekend. Even if I don't catch anything, its very relaxing. Living stateside prepared me for the cold icy 72 degree temperatures in the winter and I wouldn't change it for nothing in the world.
Now I know everyone may be wondering why I started complaining then ended mentioning the things I enjoy. Well, what can I say, "I'M CRUZANIZED!!!" That's what we do, we complain about everything, yet, will enjoy life at its fullest.
Just be aware if you are moving to the islands. Its not a move for everyone. Some ppl like myself and my family eventually adjust with the unusual living and others do not. Keep in mind, this is not stateside. So don't expect stateside behavior nor stateside living style. Living here is not for the weak at heart. You have to really work on it and get things done. Nothing comes easy here, yet the pay-off are well worth it.
By the way, I did come down with over $20,000 to assist in the move and it came in handy. And that's was for 4 of us and I was lucky to land a job within 2mo. of arriving here. Not counting my monthly retirement check that was also coming in and additional savings I had as a backup. So, you can never save enough. The more money you have save up for your transition, the easier the transition will be. Come prepared to work hard and once you have settled, maybe you'll start complaining like the rest of us and enjoying it.
I'm sorry you sound so disappointed and frustrated with so many things about the island.
if it makes you feel better, I know people in rural NY state who pay $6.40 for a gallon of milk and over $4.00 a pound of ground beef.
Just like moving to any other place, there are some things you can't get on the island, but you can usually find a substitute if you're flexible.
I hope you continue to enjoy your family and weekends.
hmmmm,maybe it's just me but i don't consider it more expensive to live here than minneapolis, i found in the stateside urban areas you get nickled and dimed to death with coffeeshops,malls too many places to impulse buy and on and on, yes electricity is alot more but other than that,i don't think it's anymore expensive overall,it runs us about 2500 a month overall here for all our normal expenses,bills,personal bills,gas and sundries
I am fustrated about lots of stuff, yet I'll eventually get over it. I was born and raised here many years ago. I left and moved to the states in persue of other things. After I lived stateside for over 20yrs and was able to retire, I figure I'll return home to my roots. Yet, throughout the years I spent stateside I visited the island often and saw how things were slowly degrading. One thing that always boughtered me was that everyone complained about the problems, yet no one did anything about it. All you hear is not to let the tourists know about our problems, yet I'm a true believer that some one should say something. So I figure I'll take my opinion online.
Now, by all means, please do not misunderstand me. I'm not unhappy about the move. Like I said, I am from here, yet, I've never been someone that can see things go so bad and not say something. I am happy I'm home and I can spend time with my old friends and family, yet, I'm not going to sugar coat anything for anyone. Living in the islands is tough, make no mistake about it. And if you are not willing to make the sacrifices that needs to be made, then some ppl should reconsider moving to the islands. It is not the paradise that everyone likes to paint it as. I believe that if we all were honest with ppl that are seriuosly considering moving here, they should be told the truth.
I read alot of good stuff from ppl about the move, yet not many about the bad stuff and I think ppl should have both sides of the coin and if they still want to move, atleast they will do it with their eyes open.
Finally, yes, $7 for a gallon of milk is expensive. Especially when in Jacksonville FL, the average price was $3 about a year and a hlf ago.
I don't think I've ever seen anybody sugarcoat anything about the islands on this forum. On the contrary, time and again, people are told they need to do a pre-move visit to get a better idea of what living on island is like. They are told it isn't paradise, it is not like living in the states and it isn't for everyone.
Whether the cost of living is 2 or 3 times that of living in the states, depends on where in the states you are comparing it to I guess, although I can't think of anyplace I've lived in the states that is 2 or 3 times less expensive than STX. $7.00 a gallon for milk is expensive, but STX isn't the only place where everything is expensive.
I also can't think of anyplace I've lived in the states where one can rent a 3 bedroom house for $950, so lucky you for having friends to rent from!
Thanks for sharing your experience moving back to STX. I hope you find peace and are able to help facilitate the changes you feel are so desperately needed.
"One thing that always boughtered me was that everyone complained about the problems, yet no one did anything about it. "
So what are YOU going to do about it? And welcome back.
You also seem to have children. We ALWAYS caution folks with chidren to be extra cautious.
The most expensive things in the grocery, IMO, are the processed foods, cereals, etc, that kids thrive on. And milk is especially high here -- don't know why.
We are a family of 2, eat out 2-3 nights a week and still spend $100 - $120 a week in the grocery.
LG remember that while there are many places in the US where the cost of living is similar the difference with the islands is your income will not be as high as high here as it is there. Places like New York, San Fransisco, San Diego, etc pay much better then the islands do to help keep up with the cost of living.
Thanks for the update Gonzo, its always nice to here from people who have used the message board give an update on how their move went and how they like island living.
Betty, I'm not comparing living on STX with any of the major cities in the US. I have friends in upstate NY--she makes $4.60 an hour plus tips as a waitress, he is a school teacher making around $38,000. They pay $1100 a month for their 3 bedroom 1 bath rented home.
I didn't say it wasn't more expensive to live on STX, I questioned whether it was really 2 or 3 times more expensive than most places in the states.
IMO it is more expensive to live here the most places in the US. We last came from southern CA where the home prices are very similar to here (middle class being $400k and up there). We thought without the sales tax and no state tax and lower property tax that things would even out. But that has not been our experience. My husband makes about 20 percent more here and I make about the same (we are both educated professionals) as I did there, but all the little things eat away at you.
Our utilities are much higher as are our living expenses and definitely our entertainment is. I love to cook and groceries and staples (cleaning products, paper towels, etc) eat you up. To spend a hundred dollars on groceries stateside in a week was alot here that's a great week. And there are just two of us. Everything costs more because they have to be shipped in. If I had a remotely green thumb I would put a garden in.
Luckily we do not have to pay for water, but our electric for our quarters and our rental in this house alone are between $600 to $1000 a month (about 3000 sq ft), with only a/c in the bedrooms to sleep with. We are currently working on not using the a/c at all on night, it takes a while to adjust to but it has been a very cold winter, I'm dreading summer. So electric is about up to .35 a kilowatt and rumors are that they will be raised again soon.
Property taxes are low but hurricane insurance is usually at least 3% of your home price (and possibly higher) and there are no guarantees property taxes are going to stay low, it feels like the changes they made this last year to property taxes are laying the ground work to raise them. And if a hurricane comes it usually takes the market years to get back where it was. So only buy if you are in it for the long haul.
So you either come here well off and enjoy your retirement (although most retirees I know work at least one part time job) or you come here and hustle and live simply.
Gonzo was lucky with his rent, there are deals out there but sometimes you will have to wait years to find a deal that sweet especially if it is in a good neighborhood and the house is in good condition. Most deals are very simple homes that owners have paid off and don't want to renovate or some wants a caretaker in a nice home. Both are not easy at all to find. Everyone knows someone that has one but most don't have one for themselves.
I think most people that answered him were a little harsh because he didnt have completely rosy things to say but thats my opinion. Most of you have lived here a little longer and may have the advantage of a cheaper mortgage or lower rent but my monthly expenses including the mortgage on this house run about $4000 a month more or less, I would err on the more side.
3000 sq ft $400,000
Is that what is considered a middle class house?
I must be in the "negative class" at 1200sf.!!!!!!!!!
$300k to $600k is definitely middle class price here (in the current market) for a house in reasonably good condition and a good neighborhood, but I did not pay $400k for my house. I bought before the last boom. My house is 3000 sq ft with the main quarters and the apartment. I think you misunderstood what I wrote or I was not clear.
IMO, the tone of Gonzo's post was very negative and that is why he got the responses he did. I really don't think it was because he didn't have "completely rosy things to say". When you go to a board whose members are residents of the the VI and out of the goodness of their hearts, they give advice to people who are considering making the move, and basically say he wasn't given a complete or honest picture, it leaves a bad taste. Somebody recently posted about a guy you can hire for a hundred dollars or so to get your car through customs and registered. If that isn't helpful, I don't know what is. And that is my point. The people on this board are very helpful and honest when it comes to living in the VI. I don't read every post, but from what I've seen, everyone is advised to make a PMV. If you don't learn that the roads are full of potholes, and everything except rum is expensive, then you haven't done your job during your PMV.
If he had followed his complaints with anything positive he was doing or planning to do to, then I believe the responses would've been much different.
Like I said before, I never said it is not more expensive to live here, I just said I doubted that it is 2 or 3 times more expensive than most places I've lived.
"1st, both me and my wife decided to move back to STX after living in Jacksonville Fl for about 20yrs. We made the move in May 2006. Thanks to some wonderful information that I got from this site, I was better prepared for what was coming. So I figure I'll share my adventures with you all and perhaps our experiences can help some one else that may be thinking of relocating to the islands. "
Doesnt sound like he was unhappy with this board to me but maybe you have a crystal ball or something....
Oh and by the way someone charging you hundreds to get register is a complete rip off it should only be $50. Even that is a rip off just go on a week day no where near the first of the month or the end of the month and it doesnt take more then a hour (on stx). Usually people use these guys to register their car when they have something wrong with it like a chip windshield and are afraid they wont pass inspection.
Getting a car off the boat & through the whole licensing thing is well worth $100.00-$150.00. I don't think it was just getting the inspection/tag, I thought it was someone who shipped their car down after moving but maybe I'm thinking of another post.
Here's the post.
STX: Making car registration easy and transitioning to island life
Posted by: KLJ555 (IP Logged)
Date: February 06, 07:51PM
We had a friend Paul move down last week. His car got here and he hired Jason Rames to help him navigate all the steps of the process—road taxes, custom payments, inspection, registration and licensing. Paul said it was incredibly easy to get his car registered with Jason’s help and a lot less stressful than he was expecting. He also noted that having Jason guide him through the process saved him time, as he probably would have gotten some of the steps out of order.
Jason charges $175 for the whole process of getting a car out of port and onto the road. He also can do registration renewals (we are using him for our renewal in April) for $50.00. In addition to those services, he can also arrange for a postal box, do light moving and secure storage facilities. Depending on what you need, those services range from $100-200.
In the interest of full disclosure, we are friends with Jason’s brother and that’s how we learned about Jason. Jason grew up on St. Croix (his family has been here for 6 generations) and is a master at navigating the various government bureaucracies and island businesses. We also hired Jason when we sent our car down and he did a great job for us. I highly recommend him—he’ll make those transition items a lot easier. You can reach Jason at (340) 473-8586 or email@example.com.
I’m also going to post this info on the classified section, in case folks look there for this kind of information. KJ
Many of the retirees I know here are doing fine and most of them don't work. The ones that do work our often on the boards of businesses they used to run and/or own. Many of them are lucky in they bought homes when prices were much cheaper. In the early 2000s you could buy a house for $200K which would now be worth over a million.
Florida is losing retirees as property taxes and property insurance have gone up dramatically. People are migrating to where life is more affordable. This is happening in the VI also as people move from STT or STJ to STX where at least real estate is more affordable.
These are the hard decisions that people are always going to have to make, where can afford to live.
Quote: "Oh and by the way someone charging you hundreds to get register is a complete rip off it should only be $50. "
I know the Poster's statement was addressing STX. I wanted to respond based on my view: someone who has a vehicle on Water Island. Water Islanders are responsible for transporting their vehicle to STT as there are no facilities for inspection/registration on WI. The service fee charged by the gentlemen who manages the registration renewal for our truck every year earns every penny. Otherwise, we'd have to pay some or all of the following:
o barge to get our truck to and from STT.
o though we keep the truck in great working condition, often when WI residents take their vehicle thru inspection process it does not pass . Then, then incur more charges just to take it to someone on STT to "breathe on it" for a fee so that it "would" miraculously pass inspection the second time 'round.
o whatever time it takes to get thru the inspection, breathing, then registration renewal process.
IF the DMV is open that day. Otherwise, we would have to pay $ to park our vehicle in a secured area on STT.
o And, then there's all that daylight we've burned up when we could be back home on WI painting, fixing, rebuilding, maintaining the property or doing whatever else we wanted to be doing instead of being up to our neck in process and aggravation on STT.
One year the registration renewal process took our service provider 30 minutes. Last year the registration renewal process took our service provider over 5 hours - most of which was spent waiting in line. In our situation, the service provided is well worth the fixed nominal fee.
Yeah, much rougher for you, FBI. However, there was a misunderstanding as the person doing the registrations on STX actually just charges $50.00.
" He also can do registration renewals (we are using him for our renewal in April) for $50.00. "
Whao! Amazing, didn't realized that my comments had generated som much contravercy, LOL. No, thats cool, I like that, everyone speaking their minds. I would like to clarify some points that may have been taken negatively. Has one of the post quoted me above, I did get alot of good information from both this website and this postboard. No way I'll deny that. Thats why I also said that thanks to that information I got, I was better prepared for the unexpected. And yes, I had alot of those. That is why I needed to share my story.
Majority of the info was correct, yet, some of it was not. We did get every lucky having old freinds and family members here to help with the transition, yet, alot of ppl that move here don't have that kind of luck, so I felt I needed to bring up the bad things we have experienced to ensure that both sides were equally provided. We did have more good luck than bad, yet, the bad was there.
I also did concluded my first post by saying that I wouldn't change it for anything in the world because I'm spending time with my family, I get to go fishing when ever I feel like and I'm enjoying myself. So, please by all means, don't assume that I'm unhappy. We are happy where we're at and we are doing well. My two oldest daughters, 18 and 21 are planning of staying here and my youngest duaghter, 11, she's already speaking Crusian. And to top it off, I've had the pleasure of becoming a grandfather. My oldest daughter gived us a healthy grandson in early February. He is third generation Crusian. I can't wait to take him fishing.