Living in the Caribbean: The Real Deal with Caril Phang
Interested in living in the Caribbean? Here, Caril Phang shares the highlights and challenges, as well as her tips for an amazing experience abroad.
Tell us about yourself! What do you do when you’re not traveling the world? Where are you from? Where do you currently live?
I am the Canadian Culturalist, an author currently living in the Province of Ontario.
What made you decide to move abroad? How long did you live there for? Tell us about how you spent your time in your new destination — whether you worked, studied, traveled, or did something else.
My first job involved project management, which required travel throughout the eastern and southeastern Caribbean. The role extended from 1997-2002.
What were some of the biggest challenges you experienced while living abroad? What were some of the greatest highlights?
The greatest benefit of working in the Caribbean was the consistent, sunny, bright, balmy weather. The proximity of the beach was a great advantage. It added to my health and overall outlook. It was hard to be frustrated when the weather was so bright.
However, the greatest adjustment was social. Leisurely attitudes are a challenge, especially if you have a particular professional/travel/project schedule to which to adhere. Limited and/or unreliable and/or unsafe public transit, in some territories, makes car ownership compulsory.
What do you wish you knew before you moved?
If you have different (North American) expectations of male-female interaction, Caribbean machismo can be a shock. A woman–especially if travelling alone–can expect any number of compliments (wanted or not), and may even receive a few ‘marriage proposals.’
Any favorite restaurants/events/sites that you’d like to recommend? Tell us what made them great!
The Ocean Terrace Inn on the island of St. Kitts is the place to go. The staff was extremely friendly, and Kittitians have a sense of community, ready to offer a ride to a hitchhiker or even a home-cooked meal to strangers visiting from abroad.
Are there any tips you’d give someone else considering a similar move?
1. Consider safety first. Speak to someone who has been in the location before, and obtain tips on securing your accommodation.
2. Pack your patience. The pace of commercial interactions, and bureaucracy may be a lot slower than you’re used to.
3. If you have to interact with a particular business, department, or division–private or public–try to call ahead, on different days, at different times. Don’t identify yourself as being from abroad. Just ask for general information. That gives you an idea of the types of people with whom you’ll interact.
4. Take a sense of humour with you. It can be easy to be frustrated, but make sure to look at your surroundings. Many of these islands are postcard beautiful–in real life!!
5. Keep a close eye on cell phone charges, or see if you can switch out your current SIM card for one from a local company. Doing so will save you a mint on ‘roaming’ costs.
Is there anything that women specifically should know before they move to your destination?
Consider the reality: conservative, highly religious, and male-oriented societies. Modest style of dress is important, especially in the professional setting.
Photo credit: Breezy Baldwin