There is a saying that paradise is a place you visit, not where you live. On a gloomy grey and miserable day in London, New York or Toronto the thought of living on a beautiful island in the Caribbean can only seem like paradise. Take off those rose-tinted spectacles for a moment and the reality is that you still have to go to the grocery store, wait in line at various institutions and pay for gas for the car. We live on an island, nearly all consumables are imported, which limits choice and increases the price, and rush hour traffic may make your language in the car rather colourful.
So, if living in Barbados is like living in a city anywhere in the world, without the added conveniences why make the move?
I am writing this on a yet another beautiful morning, with a cup of coffee in hand listening to the local cockerel, birds tweeting, crickets chattering and watching the three cows in the field opposite my house finish their breakfast. The sun is starting to peep above the wispy clouds and apart from noisy nature, I am left alone with my thoughts to contemplate my day and the start of my week.
What should be understood about living and working in Barbados is that the work week is like any work week in the world, busy. Barbados is home to a vibrant and burgeoning international business sector. The large accountancy firms all have a presence here, lawyers and advisors work on international transactions worth millions (if not billions) of dollars. International companies set up Barbados structures and employ locals and expatriates to manage and support their global operations (including sales, marketing, IP portfolio management even manufacturing). The well-developed infrastructure (physical and socio-economic) to support this business sector is managed and operated by individuals who diligently perform their duties to ensure this island continues to function to first world standards.
What makes the difference from a busy London week is that when the day ends choices unfold. BBQs, beach, water sports, liming (relaxing and having fun) in a beach bar with friends, or just chilling on your patio with a drink of choice and your family. Our weekends often involve paddle-boarding, kayaking, boat trips, picking up souse (a pickled pork dish) at our favourite rum shop and watching the latest movie at the luxurious Limegrove Cinemas.
Back to some of the practicalities of island living, to offset the high cost of imported goods buy local where you can. There are great farmers’ markets at Brighton, Hastings and Holders Hill. Learn what to do with a breadfruit and gorge on mangoes and avocados when in season. You can also plant and grow your own fruit and vegetables. Despite my attempts at starting a vegetable garden, which have not been pretty (I blame my London genes – I kill houseplants), it is apparently very easy to grow your own produce here.
Build, Buy or Rent
We live in a quiet part of the island in St Thomas. We chose to buy a property partly because I have zero patience (London genes again). The build option, which we were advised would take about a year, was out of the question for this former city dweller. It is, however, a wonderful option to have. There are not that many places in the world where you can choose your plot and design your own living space. If this option is for you, you must conduct your research. Find the right partners to work with by networking and asking friends, colleagues and realtors. Ask to see properties built by the contractor and prepare a list of in-depth questions for the homeowner and contractor.
There is a plethora of rental properties available all different shapes, sizes and locations. Where you chose to live is very much a matter of personal preference, if you have children of school age, you should certainly take into account where the school of choice is before deciding where to live. Again find a good realtor or look online for suitable properties, and use your network to find out about the local area, amenities etc.
A number of years before moving to Barbados we purchased a house in London. The sale was completed in four weeks, which was a little longer than we had hoped for. Our purchase in Barbados took about six months, our lawyer advised us that this was quick. It can take time to complete a purchase in Barbados. Many foreign purchasers use an international company structure to complete their acquisition which can be advantageous from a tax perspective. My company, Innovate LSO Solutions, connects local real estate lawyers with purchasers and we work to implement and maintain international company structures.
I mentioned that you should use your network of friends, colleagues and others to solicit information about island living. Networking has become a lot easier in Barbados. There are many business and social organisations that hold networking events. The Barbados International Business Association (BIBA) hosts Networking Mingles, which are open to members and non-members. The last event, held at the swanky Beach One Restaurant and Lounge, boasted over 200 attendees. It is a fabulous way to meet new people and keep up to date on the latest issues from an international business perspective.
The Barbados Chapter of JV Harmony, a professional networking organization (which was founded in the UK) was launched in Barbados in February 2015. The goal of JV Harmony is to link like-minded business professionals together and cross refer business locally and internationally.
There are also clubs for hobbyists, like sailing and expatriate organisations e.g. Canadian Women’s Club. Do some research and network, network, network.
Whether you come to Barbados as an expatriate for work, are a returning citizen or take up one of the relatively new Special Entry and Reside Permits (for high net worth individuals and their dependents) there will be a warm welcome waiting for you. How you choose to spend your time here will determine whether paradise is indeed a place you only visit.