What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?
Name three things that you wish you had brought and three you wish you had left at home.
I wish I had brought more toys for my relatively housebound child - especially more to go around for when we are blessed with the company of other children. I wish I had brought linens: what our furnished condo is supplied with, is quite tattered and IF you can find decent linens, you'll pay an arm and a leg for it. I wish I had brought a few small, cheap, essential household tools - as I now have small fortune invested in a coffee maker, a blender, a decent vacuum.
Because I came to investigate prior to the relocation; there's precious little I wish I had left at home. I've since realized that this is a relatively self-medicated society... where when one identifies a problem, one would proceed directly to the pharmacy and get whatever is needed. The pharmacist has dispensed the items I asked about, if they weren't already out on the shelves. I'm sure they weren't controlled substances. There's an exceptional selection of everything I've ever sought in a drugstore. I had put a tremendous amount of thought into potential health drama's and brought the appropriate OTC ( over the counter ) medicines with me...unneccessarily.
I've struggled with finding a few items: a dandruff shampoo that contains 2.5% selenium sulfide (need this for the skin common skin condition that presents in warm, humid climates ), and sewing related stuff.
I wish I had brought a souvenier or two from home, that's re-usable and sharable... such as a cookie cutter in the shape of my flag, or a video of my homeland, and I especially wish I had a map on my wall for the ever increasing occasion when I meet another expat from another part of the world.
The essential items I brought and appreciate everyday are Starbucks coffee ( what's here is definitely ...different ), my everyday spices ( although spices are not difficult to find, I did not want to invest a fortune in a new collection ), and the child's stuff: kids shower curtain, bedding, and electronics ( there are NO box stores here... No wal-mart, No toys r us, No thrift/second-hand stores ).
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What advice would you give someone preparing to move to your area about the actual move, choosing a neighborhood and finding a home?
"drivers" and "housekeepers" are common in the expat community. Often, a driver is referred to as a security guard. The quality and selection of meats and produce is dismal. The prices of food will shock you ( I recently bought a table-size bottle of Balsamic Vinegar for the same amount of money as a housekeepers day rate). You may find comfort in " gourmet " shops, within the upper class neighbourhoods ( WestMoorings, Maraval, Fairways ). Word of mouth is everything... I've never heard of any other kind of networking here. Respect and manners are alive and well here; " Good morning", "Good afternoon", and "Good evening" are expected and delivered. I have been heckled for being " white ".
If I could advise you on choosing a home, I'd suggest thinking of your first selection as temporary, and making arrangements as such if at all possible. Once the culture shock wears off, and you begin to feel you're getting the hang of things around here (and there's soo much to get the hang of, let me tell you! (when someone asks you "are you gettin' through?" -what they're asking is whether or not you would like their help finding something"). It is then that you're going to find a home that suits you.
What type of housing do you live in? Is this typical for most expats in your area?
A furnished condo in the Towers at WestMoorings. I've met more expats in this compound than I have locals: and the locals who live here are well-to-do.
How did you choose your neighborhood and find your home or apartment?
Researching prior to launch armed us with details on the neighbourhoods. Upon arrival we sought a realtor who confirmed that we belonged in the expat neighbourhood. It is crowded, and security is a common feature from the building, to the neighbourhood, to the grocery store, to the mall.
Are your housing costs higher or lower than they were in your home country? What is the average cost of housing there?
The housing costs is astronomically higher than they are in my home country...considering what you get. In fact, it reminds me of a booming small town that can get away with such exploitations. As with so much else on this gorgeous island, the choices are limited. However, the price of admission demands a certain calibre of tenant - and for that, I'd say, we willingly hand over the money.