How do the *islanders* do it?
Hi, I agree that this is about as civilized a thread as this board has seen in quite some time, and it is very nice to see. I personally hope to see many more like this in the future.
It is perfectly okay to disagree and to have different perspectives, but differences of opinion can, and should, be expressed in a polite and courteous manner.
A minor point to clarify:
I don't think a single poster in this thread implied that a "positive attitude is all it takes" or that "a positive attitude alone will do."
All of the posters who mentioned having the right attitude considered it to be a very important factor, but ALL mentioned other important factors as well.
Have a cool and comfortable Island evening!
Edited three times (darn it!!!) for minor corrections to spelling and punctuation.
Yes but a positive attitude is a no brainer. Thats one of those tired cliches. A positive attitude should help you with anything or so disney tells us and disney can't be wrong can they? Also a favorite of corporate america to the worker bees.
I don't think it was meant to belittle anyone, but not everyone can just will themselves happy when they are not. There is no simple solution for those that make it (or rather stay longer then the ones that don't). Because most likely we are all going back stateside at some point if we're not from the usvi. At some point we all go back for better health care, an easier day to day life, better cost of living, etc...
Island life will either suit you or it won't there's no magic formula other then more people leave rather then stay.
Indeed, all of the posts on this thread have really helped me realize what I am up against. As stated, I have accepted the 65K position. I am coming over first and my wife and kids will be joining me later. My wife works as an office manager for a physician's office, and we hope this will be a career she will be able to continue on the island. (the other 20K--possibly 22-25).
In reading all posts, I have come to understand how much of an adventure this is going to be, full of hardships and wonderful new experiences. I feel like I have bitten off more than I can chew, but I have decided to except this challenge. I am a inborn problem solver, (enjoy crosswords, mathematical equations, etc.) and, probably ignorantly, believe there is a solution or answer to every problem or challenge. I have decided to chalk this up as such, with the answer being an average ALMOST suburbian-style (with a few budget cuts, extra work, etc.) life for me and my wife, and two children for at least the next few years on the island.
I will update with my moving story as it unfolds on that forum and check back here for more support and advice. Thank you all for your thoughts.
Wish me well then...
How do people do it anywhere?
I know some people who couldn't get by on $65K a year in the states. In fact Paris Hilton couldn't get by on $65K a month. Well for 45 days she will get by on much less:).
When we are on STX for a month at a time, our power bill is about $125. We have a ocean breeze, and NEVER use the A/C. Our neighbor in the same condo complex that faces the same direction, used the A/C 27/7, and their bill was over $600 / mo.
Everyon's life style is different, so are their needs. Do you need a new car, or is a used car ok? Do you usually spend $100 for a meal out, or $30? Do you buy $20 shoes or $150 shoes? Do you go out to the movies or a play, or just rent DVD's? Etc, etc, ect.
I agree that if you are paying $5k to $10K a year for private schools for each child, that makes it much harder.
Having just lived in Hawaii on Ohau for the past 4 years I can tell you that St. Croix is a bargain. The key to the whole thing is to live within your means. Thre are so many natural things to do and enjoy her that don't cost a lot.. Having kids is tough because of the cost of private schooling.
I just wanted to make a quick comment about the "positive attitude" remark.
I've lived in the Philippines, and I've worked with many, many international students over the years. The difference in attitude between those that adapt well and those that don't is not necessarily a positive v. negative. Instead those who "make it" have the attitude that this is going to be a different country. Everything will be foreign to me-- ideas, food, language, everything. I will not be able to do things in the same way that I always have done them, and it will be up to me to adjust. There will be a lot of things that I like that I will have to give up, BUT this is going to be an incredible adventure. Most of the people that I have met with this attitude have thought about all of the things that they will have to live without, and have made a conscious decision that the adventure is worth the sacrifice.
One thing that I've noticed from my relatively short time on this board is that a lot of us "newbies" are asking about things that are familiar to us and that we want to make sure will be available on island, and that's ok. In fact, that's good to do to find out before you move. But we also need to realize that, although this is technically the United States, it is indeed a foreign culture. It may be frustrating that they don't have a Target or a Taco Bell or central air, but guess what? This is a different culture. They may have things there that are better, or different. But people have been living on island, and doing so quite well, without these American familiarities.
I really think that too many people are wanting to move to the USVI because they think it's going to be the same as their American heartland, but with beaches. And I think this is the attitude that a lot of the locals are trying to warn against. But, somehow in the exchange, some people have come off as fussy and mean or naive and stupid. And that's too bad, because I personally have learned a LOT from this board.
Anyway, I just wanted to point out that it may not be a positive v. negative attitude, but instead a willingness to accept change, good or bad, v. a desire for the familiar.
I think the easiest attitude to accept is that this is going to be an adventure. This is going to be totally different from anything else I have ever experienced. I have already decided that it is worth whatever sacrifice I may have to make. If I love it, great! If it doesn't work out, no big deal. But what a great story, either way!
Just my $.02, for what it's worth.
Some things about island life and lifestyles allow you to save $$ in categories of your budget. Other things increase the $$ in a budget category.
Private school tuition is a huge new budget buster for many families, since most had their children in free public schools on the mainland prior to their move. Depending on the lifestyle you have lived on the mainland and how you are willing to live in the islands, you may be able to save $$ on housing and entertainment. I had a much larger house on the mainland and my mortgage was about double what it is now. Most entertainment on STX is free, such as live music at various venues, beach activities, etc. There are also entertainment options that cost $$ (SCUBA, boating, movies, etc.) If you don't have $$ to spend on entertainment, you will still have plenty to do.
Food is an area where you can spend a lot or a little and fill your bellies either way. You can eat meals at home and develop menus that include the less expensive staple items or home grown fruits & veggies, or you can eat out a lot and buy expensive cuts of meat. Native islanders rarely go to restaurants for dinner and their grocery store totals tend to be a fraction of what most Continental transplants spend each week.
Power is expensive per kW, but you can be careful to turn off lights and other power draws when not in active use and avoid using A/C to keep the bill manageable. If your children constantly leave lights on when they head to another room, you can teach them to be conscious of this by buying them a lantern that has a hand crank to charge up its battery. These are great to have around during power outages, and you can have your children use them for light to play by in their rooms in the evening. They can save you some $$ and burn off some energy by cranking the power for their own lights and possibly learn not to take the electricity for granted. Limiting their television, computer and video game time also makes a dent in the power bill... in addition to other benefits!
If you think about it, people everywhere have widely different financial means and they must learn ways to live within their cash flow. Most college students and young adults live on a much tighter budget than middle aged professionals whose salaries have risen through the years. You won't live in a mansion if your salary is more in line with a modest home, but do you really need to? You may also save a significant amount on rent if you lease a property that doesn't have an ocean view. You will see the Caribbean constantly as you drive about the island. Many new arrivals insist they must have an ocean view, but they do have to pay extra for it.
There are fewer consumer goods available and you don't need as much "stuff" cluttering up your home, so that can save you some $$, also. People in the islands don't judge you by the car you drive or the designer labels (or lack thereof) in your clothing, which can also save a lot.
I personally spend less per month on total living expenses than I did on the mainland. I know this isn't true for everyone, but it is for me. I do travel quite a bit, but that is a choice rather than a necessity. There were a lot of years when I lived on the mainland when I couldn't afford much in the way of a vacation with my children. For people living in the islands who are on a tight budget and not able to travel, at least they have tropical beaches just minutes from home that mainlanders have to save thousands of $$ to visit on rare occasions.
Everyone wants a lavish lifestyle, but few have the budget to make that a reality. For many, the lifestyle in the islands is an adequate compromise. Good weather, beautiful scenery, time to kick back on the beach with a book, people to socialize with, etc. You may still work long hours to make ends meet, but your off-hours can be spent exploring the islands and not hibernating inside during a mainland winter dreaming about when you can take a one-week vacation to somewhere tropical.
smilekl - EXACTLY!
If you love where you live on the mainland, you really should stay put. You can vacation in the islands and your life will feel complete. If you are seeking a different experience and an adventure and are willing to accept that the USVI is not your hometown with a beach, then come try it here and maybe you will find it fits you. Or maybe not.
Attitude and reasonable expectations play a lot in how satisfied or disappointed a new arrival will be.
"I think the easiest attitude to accept is that this is going to be an adventure. This is going to be totally different from anything else I have ever experienced. I have already decided that it is worth whatever sacrifice I may have to make. If I love it, great! If it doesn't work out, no big deal. But what a great story, either way! "
But not what I would tell folks who want to move with children.
Great post!!! As I tried to explain earlier, it is not so much a "positive attitude," it is the "right attitude" (among other things) -- and you seem to have it down-pat Girlfriend!!!
One other comment in general:
Many people who move here (as evidenced by the posts in many different threads) are educated, worldly, well-traveled people. Many are not expecting this place to be like "Anytown USA" and many have lived in much more exotic places than the USVI. Thus, this place is rather tame and easy by their standards.
Therefore, for some, this place is not the "culture shock" or the "reality check" that it might be for others who's experiences in life have not been as broad.
One must consider this when attempting to advise perfect strangers on an anonymous message board. We all bring different experiences to the table, and as Beth said, it is nearly impossible to predict whether or not you will "make it here" until you try.
If you have the means and wherewithal to do so, there is absolutely no harm in trying. Even if it doesn't work out, the experience itself might make the whole thing totally worth it. JMHO.
"But not what I would tell folks who want to move with children."
I believe that younger children are pretty flexible is regards to a change of lifestyle. I moved down here when my kids were 7 and 10 and they adjusted just fine. When people bring up the quality of the public schools I always say that I didn't move them here based solely on academics, I really wanted them to have a different cultural experience. Their previous school was almost 100% Caucasian and my children had no perspective as to how other people in the world lived, besides what they saw on TV. Now, my children mix and socialize with students from a wide variety of backgrounds: Indian, Arabic, Asian, West Indian, Dominican, Puerto Rican, Haitian, etc. They have learned to not see color as a main defining feature and have learned to appreciate what other cultures have to offer. If things did not work out for us here during the first year, we would have returned stateside, but you can bet that my children would never have forgotten the experiences they had, the friends they made, the delicious range of foods they ate, etc.
Not sure where you came from on the US mainland where you couldn't run into all sorts, color and shape of people. You can give your kids the same sort of cultural dealio here in Los Angeles.
Not everyone comes here from NYC or California. Most of the country is that fly-over area. 🙂
How old are your children now Suzanne?
Suzanne has previously stated that she moved to STT 3 years ago when her kids were 7 and 10 so that would make then 10 and 13 +/-.
Thank ye kindly sir - I am either dumb as a post or forgetful!!! Hmmm.
Will you be putting your children in the public High School?
That question is for Suzanne.
Thanks for all the great posts guys and gals. No matter if you come or go for whatever reason, a great experience is had by... almost all. I think is is a really good thread that provides a lot more than your usual Q and A. Thanks to all of you who help us out.
I have really enjoyed reading the uplifting posts of some! My husband and I are still planning to move down when we finish clearing up some ties here and he is home from Iraq. Sometimes I get nervous that it is a big mistake, but I have talked with a couple people privately who I have met through this board to really get the reality of thier choice to move to STJ in particular. I feel confident in our planned move and hey if we don't like it well we move back or somewhere else. At this point we think the biggest mistake would be to not do it and then lose the opportunity later on. We have no kids, decent savings and what will be no debt. We are hard working, reasonable and simple people. Even here we don't eat out two or so times a week. Maybe a month and that is take out burritos or something small. We are happy to work hard and long to enjoy the beach and kayaking and hiking and exploring. (Winter just doesn't do it for me) We will be heading to STJ on June 1st for a week, Let me know if anyone will be out there. We could meet for lunch!
After reading this and several other related emails, I felt compelled to respond. In response to the general question, how do islanders make it, the truth is they are like people everywhere--you do what you have to! Some people will live within their means, others will exceed their means. How do people survive in San Fran, LA, London, Paris, etc.
As someone who lived in five different countries by the age of 26, I know from experience that there is a limited amount of preparation you can do before moving. In fact, too much prep can be paralyzing. I think life should be comprised of learning experiences! Yes, we can learn from others, but what about learning for yourself? If I took everyone's comments and fears to heart, I would have missed out on some pretty extra-ordinary experiences. And as for the people who want to say, well you have never lived in the usvi--true. However, I have been coming to the Caribbean since I was 3 months old, lived in the Eastern Caribbean for the first five years of my life and two years of high school.
I also lived on a separate island after graduate school. I was young, naïve and made tons of mistakes...which probably prepared me for my upcoming turn on STX.
And a note for the woman with young children--bravo! Yes, there are many places stateside where yor children can experience diversity, but there is something to be said for your example of fearlessness. I credit my early childhood experiences with infusing me with the courage and ambition it takes to earn 2 advanced degrees, learning other languages and moving to truly foreign countries. My life has been enriched and I am certain these enriching experiences made my college and professional school applications stand out. I say this however, understanding that I went to private school "down-island" and that is quite different than public schools locally.
So to the young person considering a move, I say, do your research, save some money & then dive in and experience life, which is meant to be lived. You might like it, you might not. You might fail, you might succees. Sink or swim, at the end of the day, at least you can say you tried!
Awesome Post Coolchica!!!
As to how "islanders" manage to live and rear families here on comparatively low incomes, it's worth noting that most West Indian families rely on extended family for things like childcare, and most West Indian children attend public school. Daycare or nannies and private schools are the norm for transplants from the mainland and are very expensive.
I believe that my question is germane to a thread that contains posts that encourage people with children to move to the VI. I would like to see the whole story. SuzanneB posted on the encouraging side of the discussion. I am sure that people who are considering relocating to the Island with kids would be interested to hear what she is going to do come HighSchool time. Not everyone who moves to the VI can afford Private or Homeschooling so it would be fair to let them know if the Public High School is not really an option.
I saw a brochure for Good Hope School on STX yesterday. Kintergarden tuition is $6,500 per year, and it goes up from there. High school is $10,000. There is a slight discount for a second or third child in the same family.
For most transplants from the states private school will be necessary/desirable and that cost needs to be factored into any decision to move to the VI. GH is the top end of private schools here, but still - something to think about.
I think that might have been an old brochure, friends of ours that qualified for a scholarship with the pre-k grade for good hope paided $7500.
I liked the "How do statesiders do it, that's the question I have" comment. I second that one. I live on STX, work an office job not making great money - comparable to what I made in Michigan. I happen to be in Maine for this month (medical) and am amazed at the cost of living. It is actually comparable to STX - while groceries are cheaper (and oh the stores and brands!) the housing and state sales tax etc. is what brings it up there. Housing as well - almost exactly the same.