A lot of my perceptions are colored by living here for 10 years, and seeing the changes the islands have gone through, just like everywhere, I guess. There are still a lot of petty inconveniences, and silly things that happen, so the most important thing in living here is to not have things important to you be hard on you. If you are the kind of person who decides BEFORE going into the supermarket what you are going to buy, and will be unhappy if it is out of stock, this isn’t the place for you – even now. Also, remember that despite the homogenization of culture brought about (in my humble opinion) by TV and a lot of other pop culture, this is still a different culture. Learn how the locals do things – say “good morning” and “good evening” and ask how they are doing. Yes, some will still be rude to you – perhaps they’ve had more tourists be rude to them than they can handle? It is like swimming against the ocean – you are in the islander’s society and fighting it is just going to tire you out rather than be successful in changing it.
Living here St. Thomas was definitely hard for me. I met with a lot of locals’ ignorance and I really missed the “comforts” of home, like more than 5 minutes of hot water for showering and dependable electricity. But I’m not going to island-bash because I knew things were going to be different when my husband and I decided to move here. My husband didn’t have the same kinds of experiences as I did because he mostly worked with tourists. My days were usually filled with running errands and doing things around the island that involved close interaction with locals (i.e. doing laundry, grocery shopping, car registration, etc.). In my experience, I found that a large portion of the “local male” population – approximately 80-90% – had pre-conceived notions about me and expectations about my behavior, based solely on the fact that I was a transplant. Please keep in mind that I am an almost 30-year-old African American woman – so this was not racial or some kind of “elder-respect” thing. Anyway- I ended up feeling really isolated from my environment and only because of several key friends did I even last this long. I do not however blame this island or any of it’s residents for my negative experiences. The Virgin Islands are going to be whatever you make of them. If you are unhappy where you are and you move here – your still going to be unhappy. I realized this in my last few months here and I decided to choose happiness. For me, that involves a masters degree, beautiful San Francisco Bay views, international dining (i.e. Indian, Thai, Ethiopian-yum!), and a steaming bubble bath. What does it mean for you?