Hey Sno Flakes! Nice to meet up again for some tea. Today, I have some knowledge I want to drop on you. If you read some of my latest posts, you will know I came to Jamaica to live among the locals for three months. Needless to say, during my first month, the experience had a rough start, but after two months, nothing but amazing. I love it here. It was the best decision I have made in my life personally. I decided after my last visit for 10 days this past August, that I wanted to live here. So I went back home to the States, sold most of my things, packed up, and came to Jamaica a month later. So I thought I would help someone by posting the TOP 10 things to prepare for your move to Jamaica, or anywhere abroad for that matter.
- Research the Country. Let me start by saying DO YOUR RESEARCH. I googled everything from money exchange, the language, the culture, immigration requirements, rent, neighborhoods & crime. You name it, I researched it. I was prepared, or so I thought.
2. Arriving. When you arrive at the airport, come in as a tourist or a Retiree, just staying 3 months, and then if you need it, get an extension. It will make your arrival so much easier. If you are bringing gifts, tell them just that, gifts for your neighborhood locals. You are NOT bringing anything to sell.
3. Plan ahead. I came, thinking I could just find a rental after I got here. Oh, you can, but I don’t suggest it. I spent way too much money at resorts & hotels while looking for an apartment I could afford. Look at the Gleaner, the mirror, jamaica classifieds, google, or ask someone. Gated communities are best for foreigners, in my opinion. I found a great apartment, with a view of the sea at Sea Castle, Montego Bay, or Sand Castle, Ocho Rios between $500-$700 usd a month. St Mary Parrish has adorable homes for only $400usd a month and it is furnished in a gated community. If you want a home or an apartment not furnished, you can find rent even cheaper.
4. Money. Learn how to count the money. Being a foreigner, (especially white) and single, there’s a flag on your forehead that every local sees but you. They see money. Learn the prices of everything. A Taxi is $1.50 unless you use a tour taxi like Juta. If you go shopping, take a friend, a local with you! Otherwise, you will be overcharged every time. But again, once you learn the prices and stand your ground, & they begin to see your face more than 2-3 times, you will become a local.
5. Be friendly. Speak. Learn the language & the culture. You don’t have to speak Patwa, but try to learn the definition of terms. If you act scared and unfriendly, you will not be accepted well. But if you speak, and show yourself as kind, locals love tourists! They love it, even more, when they hear how much you love their country & culture. If you don’t want what someone is offering, like the hustlers at Seven Mile beach, just respond, “I’m good man” they will usually walk away. Sometimes you may have to use a little more bass in your voice and be more aggressive. They will walk away. Or act like you don’t hear them. But I prefer to speak.
6. Employment. No, you can not come here expecting to get a job. As a Country, it is a requirement that employers hire Locals first. So unless you have a job or career arrangement, have enough cash stashed away to support you for your entire stay. I would say around $10k at minimum for a couple of months. If you are frugal, you might be ok for 3-4 months. If you have a stash to hold you, you could start a business. I suggest looking for a need and going from there. I started a cleaning business for residential, Air BnB’s, & after-hour commercial offices. It hasn’t paid off yet, but it will.
7. Buy your car & furniture from other ex-pats, who need to leave Jamaica quickly. You will find amazing rates on a great car! (I learned this too late) I bought a van from a local, was overcharged, and 3 weeks, had to put in a transmission. It runs great now, but I learned from this too late, I could have purchased a nicer van from a family going back to the UK for way less.
8. TRUST NO ONE. Mind you everyone is kind & friendly for the most part. They are super excited we are here, however, even the most sincere, who wants to teach you about everything Jamaica, has an agenda. I am not saying don’t make friends, but never let your guard down. You must feel your way, and learn thru trial and error, who can be trusted.
9. Relationships. If you are a single woman or man. Beware. Most of the men, if not all have a woman stashed somewhere. Be it a girlfriend, a wife, baby mama, or another foreigner. They will smooth talk, maybe even wine & dine you to gain their trust. Their women know about you. Trust me. (Didn’t happen to me, but a friend I met from the UK) Their women know if he dates a foreigner, it will benefit them both in the long run. They are patient. My friend dated him for two years. His wife knew everything about her & her personal business. If you are going to marry, do your research on them. It is the goal of most locals, to meet someone, get money, marry and move out of the country.
—- IF you are going to have sex, (we are all adults here) USE PROTECTION! I can’t stress this enough. It is an honor among the local men, that if they get so much P***** that they catch a disease. (I know, I don’t get it either. But hey what do I know.) Especially don’t get pregnant.
10. Definitely do NOT share any personal business with anyone. NO ONE. Don’t make yourself a target. If it doesn’t work with that man, (or woman) they have friends. They will tell a friend to have a go at you. Live like a Local. Live minimally, if you can. Unless you’re wealthy enough to live among other wealthy, do not show off what you have. Remember, most of the people here are barely making it. Don’t set yourself up for danger.
Finally, ENJOY the Island! (ok that’s technically 11, but we won’t tell anyone.) We are in Paradise! Take time to explore. You do not have to hire a tour guide, although it helps, and makes you feel safer. There are a million and one things to do here. Rivers, waterfalls, mountains, atv, countryside, old ruins, cliffs, eateries! (next post). Don’t let the stress of work, money, and trust detour you from enjoying your time here.
I pray this helps someone. I have learned from most of these experiences personally, or I have spoken to others and received the information first hand With all the research and the time I have spent over the last few months, I feel like an expert at what NOT to do. I got a quick lesson in being a JA-merican. (Yes, that is an actual term.)
Until the next time, I want you to remember this. Life is not guaranteed to bring tomorrow. Enjoy it while you can.
Stay sweet, stay blessed, I’ll have your Tea waiting.
Credits: All photos were taken by Snow Wilson on a Samsung Galaxy 21 Note Ultra.
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