Guest Post by Kathy Nicholls
Nothing is quite as wonderful as living 10 minutes from the Caribbean Sea. In 2008, I had the opportunity to relocate to Barbados, contracted by the government of Barbados to set up a school to train medical transcriptionists. The two years I lived there changed my life.
You feel the sea breeze in the air no matter where you go on the island, and the people, while highly motivated to work hard, understand the importance of having a balance in life. Now back in the States, I do miss those things. Here are just a few things to think about if you are considering Barbados as a place to live.
Barbados is a small island in the Caribbean. When we first arrived, there were so many things to learn culturally. From the accents of the Caribbean, to the Bajan English, it was all a learning experience. Fortunately the people in Barbados are patient teachers, and they were gracious when we made mistakes in the way we said things as well as in teaching us some of the local phrases and sayings.
There are some things to do to prepare for living in Barbados. First, know that if you are working on the island, you must have a work permit. Barbados law says that a business is not allowed to hire a non-national if there is a Barbadian citizen who is qualified to do the job. The process for obtaining a work permit is lengthy, with a lot of paperwork, copies of all of your credentials, and a physical exam. In the meantime, you will have to plan on renewing your visa stamp while you wait as the stamps are only good for 30 days in the country. Be prepared for an exercise in patience as things tend to happen slowly and on what is fondly referred to as “Bajan time.”
Patience is a virtue, or so the saying goes. If you are going to live in Barbados, or any other place in the Caribbean, you quickly learn the meaning of this statement. “Bajan time” simply means it will happen when it happens. If you are coming from the US, you are used to making a call, for example, to get your cable TV hooked up, and finding that it’s done in a day or two, usually a week at the most. Not so here. It is not uncommon to wait three or four months before your time comes up on the schedule.
Food: There are many wonderful dishes in Barbados, so come prepared to try new things. You probably will change some of your eating patterns if you’re used to a lot of US-based foods, for example, cereal. Remember that most things in Barbados are imported. That translates to a higher cost for food than you may be used to paying. My first experience with that was going to the store because I was craving Frosted Flakes. Mind you, it’s not that I couldn’t find them, the store carried them. The box that I normally paid around $2.50 for in the States would now cost me the equivalent of $9 US Dollars! I quickly learned that Frosted Flakes was no longer on a “must have” list anywhere while I lived on the island. The best thing to do is learn to shop in the local grocery stores, visit the fresh fish markets (they are all over the island), and buy your vegetables from the local vegetable stands. Not only do you get fresher food, it is just tastier!
My time living in Barbados was so full of wonderful experiences, not the least of which was my marriage to my new husband. It was an awesome time in my life and I do intend to return some day. To list all of the things I learned while there would make this post longer than any of you would care to read. If you crave island living, the fresh breeze from the sea, and year-round summer weather, Barbados is definitely a place to consider.
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Kathy Nicholls lived in Barbados as an expatriate for two years, working with a medical transcription training program. She is now back in the States and owns the Nicholls Leadership Institute, where she blogs about leadership development, as well as two medical transcription-related websites, the Medical Transcription Training Alliance, working with potential medical transcription students and training programs, and MT Tools Online, a continuing education site for medical transcriptionists.
Do you have an expat experience you’d like to share? Click on the comment link below, or send me an email!