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What is daily life like on the islands?  

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arman
(@arman)
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June 30, 2014 5:29 pm  

Hello to all out there on the USVI's!

I've been following several blogs on various sites for the last 12-16 months about people who are thinking of moving to the islands from the mainland and have read so many responses. It appears from the majority of the responses from expats who reside on the USVI's that it's NOT a good choice to make the move; in the alternative, it sounds like you're saying "Don't come here!" or you will regret it.

I'm curious: what was it like when some of you (or whoever wants to respond) moved to the USVI? What was the biggest shock? What are some of daily things that you don't have there and that we mainlanders take for granted?

I know money is a major issue -- namely, that things cost double (or more) over there than on the mainland. Or, utilities are a hit-and-miss at best (electricity going out on hot days, water truck not delivering fresh water, etc.). Are the natives friendly towards newcomers? Is there any conflict because outsiders are moving into their island and purchasing land, houses, etc.?

I'm interested because I've been planning for the last year to make the move by the time I'm 50 (about 6 years from now) and have been to many of the islands in the Caribbean. I like all of them, but the main reason I like the USVI is because it's still part of the USA and I don't have to worry about being able to own property or immigration issues.

I just like your thoughts as this will help me evaluate my plans. Thank you so much in advance.


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OldTart
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June 30, 2014 5:47 pm  

I've been following several blogs on various sites for the last 12-16 months about people who are thinking of moving to the islands from the mainland and have read so many responses.

Have you also read all the information under the headings you'll find at the top of this page from "Home" on the left to "Message Board" on the right? Some miss it when you they first come to this site but there's a wealth of information there which will answer your questions. There's a whole section of "moving stories" from many who've come and gone which are great reading - and don't be turned off by the dates of the pieces because the information and opinions stated are as relevant today as they were several years ago!


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speee1dy
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June 30, 2014 7:09 pm  

regardless of what you are told about the islands, in 6 years time i am sure a lot of it will have changed significantly
daily life here is just like any other place on the mainland. we get up we go to work we come home we eat and we do things on the weekend. what specifically do you want to know

come here if you think this would be a good fit, just be prepared thats all


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doc
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June 30, 2014 8:55 pm  

we have been on STX since march 1st. don't believe all the horror stories. we have found the locals friendly,have not had any safety issues although we do live in a gated community and are not out late at night and are contemplating moving to a non gated area near frederiksted. certain items are somewhat more expensive, in general fresh fruit/veggies, beer,milk but not outrageous and we get fresh mahi and lobster for $7 a pound so there is give and take on prices. gas---$4.29 a gallon. electricity outrageous at about 0.56 per kw/h. we have had 4 power outages so far and have not had the need for water delivery but are careful with water usage. there are decent grocery stores, 2 k marts, home depot,office max amongst others, also a bowling alley,shooting range, cinema complex so plenty to do. no real shocks for us as we have travelled the caribbean. on STX we personally do not find the beaches as good as many other islands, that is white sand with sandy entry to water, i.e no rocks. we find the beaches out west are the nicest in that regard. restaurants can be very expensive. if you like to dive or fish then STX is great, i think a boat would greatly increase your enjoyment. i would not buy property down here, plenty of decent rentals available.


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speee1dy
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June 30, 2014 9:19 pm  

so true about the beaches. frederiksted has the best


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arman
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June 30, 2014 9:46 pm  

I want to thank all of those who took their time to respond to my post. Thank you. I've stayed in Costa Rica for several weeks over the years and life is definitely different there with respect to cost of foreign-made goods, gas, utilities, etc. But, I noticed that so many expats are so much more happy there than living in the mainland. I spoke to more than a dozen over all of my stays and the feeling was the same: you give up some things in exchange for other stuff.

I can only assume that most of the people who are on this website have lived in the USVI for many years and have not decided to move back to either the mainland (or whatever other country they moved from in the first place) because there is something that makes living on the islands worth the sacrifices. For my girlfriend and I, it's the pace of life that really counts. We have lived in Washington, D.C. for the last 16 years (I'm originally from Los Angeles and she's from Austin, TX) and still can't consider this place "home." Life is too fast, everyone is in a rush, people are generally rude, real estate is expensive, and everything revolves around politics and/or the military. I may be wrong, but from what I have seen during my stays at USVI (St. Croix, St. Thomas, and St. John), it seems that the residents there really don't care about any of these issues and they are -- generally speaking -- more relaxed and seem to enjoy life more.

Sure, I know that moving to the Caribbean is not all about eating lobsters, looking at sunsets, going to the beach, etc., and that one must still work to pay for the bills; but, I think at the end of the work day, at least you guys there can sit on your porch and look at the sunset, have a cold beer, and know that life is not just about constantly running from A to B and then doing again-and-again, day-after-day.

Again, I thank all of you who took the time to read and respond to my posts and I really look forward to meeting some/all of you in the Caribbean some day!


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OldTart
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June 30, 2014 9:50 pm  

regardless of what you are told about the islands, in 6 years time i am sure a lot of it will have changed significantly ...

I've been here 30 years and nothing much changes at all where the basics are concerned. New buildings, new developments, etc. but the way of life and its basic essence generally stays the same!


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stxer
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June 30, 2014 10:01 pm  

Arman

I think that some comments you read have not given you an accurate impression of island living. First of all, the cost of living is not double or anywhere near it. Housing is about the same as east and west coast costs. In fact at the higher end you can get an ocean view house for a fraction of California or Florida.

The biggest cost factor is electricity. Currently well over forty cents a kilowatt hour which is about four times as much as most mainland costs. However, you do not have a heating bill in the winter and many people do not use AC except during very hot summer days.

Supply limits the variety of things you can purchase on island, but most things can be shipped and the total cost is just incrementally more than your local Lowes or Walmart.

Crime is not worse than any mid sized city in the states, but is closer to home. That makes it more of a concern. In other words there is a greater chance that you or someone you know will be affected by criminal activity.

The best thing to do is come and spend some time learning first hand. That's what I did.


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fdr
 fdr
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June 30, 2014 10:08 pm  

Biggest surprise thread: https://www.vimovingcenter.com/talk/read.php?4,194347

What I miss most of stateside conveniences: affordable farm-fresh produce, and fast free WiFi available practically everywhere.


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islandjoan
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June 30, 2014 10:52 pm  

When it comes to STX beaches, yes, the beaches in the west are very nice but not much beats Isaac Bay or Buck Island!


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arman
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July 1, 2014 12:03 am  

Stxer: thanks for the specifics! That's what I wanted to hear: specific examples. I had another question: my budget for purchasing a home is about $750,000.00. In St. Croix, will that be sufficient to purchase a fairly new home (to avoid repairs of older homes) in a nice area with ocean/beach views? Thanks again.


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DavidBank
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July 1, 2014 12:15 am  

Biggest shock?
1) How people state=side(family, friends, workmates, etc) some have an overly idyllic view of life in the Caribbean, others are down-right hostile that you are purposely getting out of the rat race somehow its an insult to how they are spending their lives.
2) (I should note here that this is my second move to the islands) That dropping out of the rat race will forever impact your career.
3) Make your $$$ stateside, your only going to tread water here.
4) The islands have never heard the phrase "the customer is always right", the person waiting or serving you sees their time as just as valuable as yours. If your behavior says "my time and I are important and your time and you are unimportant" you shouldn't be at all surprised by the response you get and yes they will go out of their way to go slower.
5) You may think your not devoted to a specific brand or a specific type of brand but you are. There will a few things that you wont realize you miss it until its gone (For me hair products & shaving creme). Have someone back in the states who will send you care packages via USPS.

You live in DC so prices are the same just don't expect any price breaks.


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stxer
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July 1, 2014 12:26 am  

http://www.coldwellbankervi.com/page-st-croix-mls-search-52.html

check the stx mls


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arman
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July 1, 2014 1:01 am  

DavidBank: David, thanks for the honesty. I have experienced the "island" style of service in several of the islands (e.g., St. Lucia, Belize, Aruba, Curacao, Cayman, etc.) and you're right about their pace; but, I think that's the difference between living on a slower-paced place than in a metropolitan city such as L.A., NY, DC, etc. I think the slowest service I have ever experienced was in Costa Rica. Man, they believe that every meal should take a minimum of 2 hours!

Anyways, thanks for your input and all others who gave their opinions. I'm open to all comments/opinions. I do like to hear the bad as much as the good; that's how I know what I'm getting into.

Have a nice evening there…I'm sure it's beautiful outside 🙂


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arman
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July 1, 2014 1:02 am  

Stxer: thanks for the line.


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arman
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July 1, 2014 1:46 am  

I meant to say "thanks for the link"


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ChrisMI
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July 1, 2014 4:29 am  

Hi arman,

We have lived in the USVI for just over a year. Some thoughts:

1) You don't need to live on an island if your main goal is a slower pace of life. If you want a slower pace of life, slow down your own pace. You can move 30 miles outside of DC and be around many others who live more relaxed (or any rural area in the states), and you can be a lawyer on STT who works 60 hours a week and be running ragged if you want. Pace is what you make it, yourself.

2) Each island is a small town in and of itself, isolated geographically and culturally different from one another. If you like that, it can be great. Cost of living is meaningfully higher, which you already know, but the land is beautiful, and weather paradise. The experience being a customer at a business can be different unless you are talking about a restaurant with tipped employees. You would need to be OK with that.

3) Many (including me) kind of bristle at terms like 'expat' and 'natives'. It makes it sound like your moving to Ghana or at the least a place where the people aren't Americans. It is not Costa Rica. If you move here you would not be an expatriate, as most in the USVI are Americans too, and it is an American territory (just not a state, like Hawai'i). I've had to educate alot of visitors who think that it's some sort of third world country, it is nothing like that. It isn't Greenwich, CT, but the average income and livelihoods are similar to Italy, for example. You'll fit in much easier than you think as long as you don't target only other stateside transplants to befriend.

My daily life used to be working until 6 or 7pm every day, then coming home and sitting in my house having dinner and doing very little else becuase it was 10-50 degrees outside. Now I pick my son up from school every day at 2:45 and we all go to the beach, or play outside, or swim in the pool, or go to a fun outdoor event. Part of the doubling of the time I spend with my family now is weather related, but part of it is a lifestyle choice that I didn't have to go to the USVI to make, but living here opened my eyes to what is really important in life, becuase I saw so many other people who worked hard from 7-3 and then spent the rest of the day enjoying themseves with their friends and families.

Good luck in your quest. Sometimes it's not just about getting to a destination, but enjoying all of the journey as well.


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speee1dy
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July 1, 2014 12:04 pm  

DO YOU ACTUALLY LIVE IN DC OR OUTSIDE OF DC. i always hated it when people said i lived in dc when i lived in st marys county-you know, almost an hour away depending on traffic.

i always thought dc would be an interesting place to live. so pretty there and the architecture of the buildings i just love.

maybe dont buy a place right away. rent for a year to see how you acclimate


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sunshinefun
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July 1, 2014 12:22 pm  

I have loved living here since day one. Much slower pace, nice people mostly and much healthier environment. The cost of living is not much different than the mainland, perhaps 20% higher depending on how you live. I can get everything I need locally or have it shipped. I could not imagine having to reintegrate back into the rat race on the mainland.


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mtdoramike
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July 1, 2014 12:46 pm  

Living on Island is like living any where else. The new will where off sooner than you think. But if you are independantly wealthy and can afford to kick back at the beach several days a week, which is what most people assume island living is really like, then it's great. You just have to realize, it's a slower pace and unless you LOVE the beach or water or bar hop, it can get pretty boring. There's no malls or outside entertainment to speak of.


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Native Son
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July 1, 2014 1:03 pm  

It is mostly like living anywhere else. You get a job, you go to work, and you find something entertaining to do in your spare time. That being said, there are different types of island dwellers. Some, like myself, were born and raised here. I have lived all over the world, courtesy of the US military, but I chose to return home. I do not need malls, theaters, or other outside sources of entertainment, and I am never bored. I could just as well curl up with a good book, or enjoy stimulating conversations with friends, or take a walk. Most of the people I know do not bar-hop...there are lots of private get-togethers at the homes of friends. People here tend to have private parties and if you have no local friends you will never know when and where these gatherings are taking place. Making friends is key, and if they are positive people it is even better. Negative people will sap your energy and kill your spirit.

I have found that happiness and satisfaction are not tied to a location, but come from deep inside oneself. There are many unhappy people who live within a stone's throw of malls, theme parks, etc. For me, being alive is the ultimate happy. I can deal with whatever else comes along.

Like I have said before, if you have grown up in the continental United States you have been spoiled without ever realizing it...until you encounter situations where there is unreliable Internet access, sporadic and expensive electricity, reduced selections at the supermarket, a lack of seasons (you may actually miss winter), and other things that will come to light. If you are born and raised here, these things do not bother you as much as they will bother someone who is accustomed to having every convenience imaginable, whenever they want it.


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C_Ray6
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July 1, 2014 3:52 pm  

I am on the same time line arman and just a couple years younger. I hope to find some part time work though and be just semi retired. I am leaning toward STJ but will most likely rent. I have a close cousin that lives in Vienna at the end of the orange line. I visit her often and enjoy D.C. I would have loved to live there in my 20s and 30s but definitely looking for a slower pace in my 50s and beyond. Keep us updated on this board. Will be interesting to see how our paths coincide in the next 6 years and our moves workout.


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East Ender
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July 1, 2014 8:13 pm  

There is an old and proud tradition of trying to warn new people away. I came down for what is now called a PMV and did a lot of networking..I gathered up phone numbers (this was before the internet was widespread here) and called contacts when I got back home. Almost everyone said,"Don't do it." in one way or another. When I landed and called them back, I found most people completely changed their tune.They were helpful, supportive, and kind. But then I guess they thought they were stuck with me. 😉

To me the biggest shock was walking into K-Mart and having staff stare at me, suck their teeth, and generally be what I considered unfriendly. Some of the staff there are still like that, but I guess I have learned to look past it. On the other hand, there are places like Chelsea Drug Store where you are greeted by a hearty "Good morning!" whenever you walk in. I have come to realize that many people did not have the same upbringing I had.

The reason most mainlanders move here is exactly as you stated. It is the US (kind of) and things like working, income tax, Social Security and Medicare are familiar.

I will not try to talk you out of coming here,but would suggest that you set a time line of six months or a year to get acquainted. If it isn't working out, then don't be afraid to cut your losses. Don't burn your bridges back home. You might need your dining room furniture or your old job someday.


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ChrisMI
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July 2, 2014 2:57 am  

To me the biggest shock was walking into K-Mart and having staff stare at me, suck their teeth, and generally be what I considered unfriendly.

Obviously lots of people have experienced this, but I have not (and I do know what it is). I'd almost like to just so I could respond, "did you really just 'suck your teeth' at me? I've read about that but never seen anyone do it. Can you tell me what I did that you found so offensive that you would make that teeth-sucking noise?"

There are many things I'd have liked to do but probably didn't have the balls to in the moment, but that's one thing I'm pretty sure I would have no problem calling out. It's totally juvenile. Sucking one's teeth? LOL!


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Alana33
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July 2, 2014 3:16 am  

Oh, get a grip. You are in de islands dem now.
I have not had anyone sucking their teeth at me in ages.
Learn how to suck back if it bothers you!
Ya'll need a serious reality check.


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