Need advice from fellow transfers!!
My friend Dave and I have been toying with the idea of moving to a tropical island for awhile now. Both of us are serious about the idea and our friends think we're a bit crazy. He's 37 and I'm 27, neither of us are married, neither of us have kids, and we both lead pretty laid back lifestyles. I think the island life is perfect for us. We don't want to go into it blindly, though. I guess what I'm saying is I need some advice from other expats who had a similar dream of living in paradise and actually followed through. A little about us: I have been a paralegal at a plaintiff's law firm for going on four years now and he's been a mechanic for six years (I believe... give or take a couple of years). Neither of us are hell bent on remaining in our chosen professions. To be quite honest, I'd love to get out of the legal field altogether if possible, but I realize I need to earn a paycheck, especially if I'm making such a life-changing decision as this one. I do also have five years of experience in the restaurant business and would love to earn a living tending bar or waiting tables somewhere. We're looking to share a furnished apartment without breaking our bank accounts. I've looked into the cost of living and realize it's more expensive than living on the mainland, but it's a price we're both willing to pay. If anyone has any advice or would like to share their experiences, please contact me. Thanks in advance. 🙂
I'll be brief as I only have a few minutes here at work. First I suggest you do a search on threads with the term 'PMV' in the title which stands for Pre Move Visit as you will find it is highly recommended before making such a life changing decision.
That said I don't know of specific openings for either of you but that's because I've had no reason to look. I can tell you this place is VERY litigious so a paralegal may indeed find work here (STX) quickly but again I don't know for sure. What type of cars does your boyfriend work on? Is he certified (ASE?)? I can tell you from experience it's hard to find good competent mechanics for certain brands of cars in particular. You will find most every domestic and Japanese brand dealer here on the island so service for these is typically available whether competent or not. What's absolutely missing is a good shop for European auto repairs. There are no Euro dealers on the island but many people bring their late model European cars or even import them after moving (I've seen more and more 'new' BMWs lately despite no dealership) and many like myself often find ourselves stuck for a competent mechanic (I know some of the Porsche owners fly in a mechanic every so often at great expense.) If your boyfriend can work on these he should be able to find work pretty quickly I suspect.
Alice: To me an expat is someone who is living in another country. While this place feels like a parallel universe at times, it is still the US. I don't think many statesiders/Continentals consider themselves expats. When I moved down here there was a paralegal who had just moved. He didn't stay long at that, ended up crewing on a megayacht. But both of your career paths would translate well here...
The subject of your post -- advice from fellow expats -- suggests your citizenship is something other than U.S. and you want advice from other foreign nationals. In what country do you have the work history that you mentioned? If you've been working somewhere other than the U.S., do you have a green card?
I apologize for the oversight... I wasn't aware that there was a distinction between expatriates and people who relocated from the US. We are US citizens currently living in the midwest (Missouri).
Good paralegals are always in demand on St. Thomas. You might want to start out with that until you can find a slot in the restaurant/hospitality field. The economy here is really rocky at the moment so sticking with paralegal now might work out the best until you get really settled in. You're young with good skill sets so you might as well take the plunge at this stage in your life since you don't have much tying you down from what it sounds like. Just don't burn your bridges behind you. I wish you the best of luck but save as much as you can before you come because money tends to disappear quickly. You'll usually need first, last & 1 month's security for apartment rentals plus utility deposits & electricity is expensive. Don't rent anything sight unseen, either.
A paralegal and a mechanic seem like a good fit. You should both be able to find jobs in a few months. Bring enough money to support you for 2 to 3 months, first, last and one months deposit, money to either buy a car or ship one down, deposits and general getting set up money. I would recommend you come with at least 10k.
Ditto Trade and Betty. And to add my 2 cents... don't burn your bridges. If it doesn't work out, you can always click those ruby slippers and go home!:-)
Missouri is a pretty economical place to live. The USVI is not. As suggested, check out the comments posted on this forum regarding PMV, cost of living, etc. Both of your professions are ones that are in demand here, and probably in other places as well. On STX, I agree with the assessment that you could both find jobs within a few months in your current professions. You might consider that and taking a one or two night a week job in hospitality to see if you like it. Its not as fun and glamourous as the movies make it out to be :).
Advantages to the USVI is that we are a 'US affiliated' tropical island. Not a state, a territory... that means we get all of the benefits of being a state (except voting for president), and none of the obligations. We pay only a local 'state' tax (same as federal rate), but pay no Federal tax... but we get all the dandy federal assistance programs and free handouts. People born here are US citizens, just like if they were born in Missouri. 🙂 Of course the big advantages are weather, beautiful beaches, laid back lifestyle and you will meet some really great people.
Disadvantages are enumerated throughout this forum, the main one being cost of living. If the two of you are not a couple and interested in a single's scene... the one here is limited.
While you are doing your research, you might want to look at other tropical destinations. There are a lot of beautiful tropical destinations that are attracting US Citizens choosing to leave the continental US... the Dominican Republic is a hot spot now, Belize and Honduras, Turks and Caicos, Dominica, Mexico, Panama, St. Kitts.... or Puerto Rico (which...like us.. is a US Territory). That's just a few in the Caribbean.
Good luck to you and hope you find your island dream.
PLEASE LOOK AT DOING A PMV TO LINE THINGS UP FIRST!!!