Bridgetown, Barbados Report of what it's like to live there - 05/31/18

Personal Experiences from Bridgetown, Barbados

Bridgetown, Barbados 05/31/18

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No, I lived in Ireland while at university.

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

Colorado. It is a 12-14 hour trip total. There is a 9ish hour layover in Miami.

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3. How long have you lived here?

Two years.

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

US Embassy.

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Our house is great! We have a lovely green yard which is completely fenced so our child can run around with no concerns. Our house has three rooms, two bathrooms, parking for one car, a giant living room, and a nice patio. When school is in session, the morning commute takes about 15-20 minutes, but it can take MUCH longer if there is an accident because the cars can’t be moved until the police complete their investigation. Many of the embassy folks live in a gated community with a pool, playground, and a variety of housing types to include, single family houses, townhouses, and condos. The community is further away and traffic slows their commute.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

There is wide availability of canned and boxed goods. However, the goods aren’t consistently available, so people tend to hoard items if they see something they like. Fresh vegetables and fruits are sorely lacking. You can find them, but your selection will be limited and you will pay obscene prices. Because the prices are so high (everything is shipped in via boat and airplane), many people buy their basic food items from Amazon and other such companies. You will be able to find British (Waitrose) and Canadian (President’s Choice) products very easily. There is so much parsley. If you love parsley you will be set for life. If you want cilantro, however, be prepared to scavenge and hoard.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Enchilada sauce, Spaghettios, chopped green chilis, pumpkin purée, canned “American-style” green beans, and seasoned black beans.

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Restaurants are generally very expensive. There is a significant lack of “fast casual” restaurants. KFC, Burger King, Chicken Barn, and Chefette are the local fast food restaurants. Basically everything is a sit down restaurant, many of which require a reservation. Expect slow service, decent food, and high prices. They have been able to accommodate food allergies.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

Lots of lizards, but they eat the mosquitos. Cockroaches are fairly common.

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

We use the DPO.

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2. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

There is an adequate gym at the embassy. Surfside gym is right across the street from the embassy. It is very nice and costs about 1000 USD for a yearly membership. The membership includes a variety of classes. A boxing club just opened under Surfside. Other folks at the embassy belong to a CrossFit club, dance studio, gymnastics studio, and Pilates studio. There are lots of options, you just have to be willing to explore.

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3. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

Credit cards are accepted at most places. Barbados and US dollars are accepted. ATMs are available, but we use the US Embassy cashier for the best exchange rates. Theoretically, the Barbados dollars is fixed to the US dollar but the exchange rate isn’t always honored. Most people will do 2BBD = 1USD.

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4. What English-language religious services are available locally?

English is the official language of Barbados, so all services are offered in English. Anglican, Catholic, Seventh Day Adventist, Jehovah’s Witness, LDS, and Pentecostal.

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5. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

It could be difficult at times. There are more ramps appearing, but most buildings do require climbing stairs. Sometimes sidewalks just end. There are specified parking spots and locals seem to accommodate as much as they can.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

Taxis are generally safe, negotiate the rates ahead of time as there are no meters. The “ZR” taxi buses are insane and drive with no concern for others, however, some people do use them.

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

Most people have Rav4/CRVs. However small cars are also very common. The roads are on the smaller side. Potholes will destroy your car and the road are generally poor in quality. Parts are expensive so you may want to bring your own. A regular oil change can easily cost more than 100 USD.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

There is high-speed internet, but it does go out from time to time. The embassy can have the basic internet set up before your arrival. The price depends on what speed you want and if you decide to add cable TV. We pay about 100USD/month.

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Bring an unlocked phone. Family members can get a SIM card through the embassy. You pay the bill monthly, some people are able to pay online, but most people must got a payment kiosk (spread around the island) to pay each month). FLOW and Digicel are your two options.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

There are a number of EFM jobs in the embassy. If not working at the embassy, most spouses telework or own their own businesses. Local wages are low.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Normal concerns. Make sure you use your locks and alarm systems; they are there for a reason.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is ok, many people self medivac. Do not expect a sterile, organized medical office like you would find in the US. The embassy medical unit is well equipped and can handle many minor illnesses and ailments.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Sugar cane, the main crop on Barbados, causes many allergy issues as the fields are set ablaze after the sugar cane is harvested. Lots of soot, ash, and smoke in the air during harvest season. Also, dust blows across from the Saharan desert and causes allergy woes for many. In general, however, the air is usually very good and does not limit one’s ability to be outside.

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Many restaurants on the island are able to accommodate allergies, especially restaurants that cater to tourists. There is always a selection of gluten-free items at the grocery store. We have been able to handle a serious peanut allergy with no problems. Peanuts are a favorite snack on the island and shells are usually found mixed in with the sand on the beach, but, again, we’ve had no problems.

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5. Are there any particular mental health issues that tend to crop up at post, such as Seasonal Affective Disorder (winter blues)?

Island fever is very real. You must plan to get off the island. There are limited activities on the island and it is very easy to isolate yourself. Stay active in the community, plan trips to other islands, and don’t allow the high cost of everything prevent you from changing up your routine every now and then.

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6. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

The forecast is always 84 Fahrenheit with a chance of rain. It definitely gets hotter and more humid during June-September. There are wet and dry seasons but no one really seems to know which season is which. Hurricanes are a reality in the region and Barbados floods extremely easily.

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

There are two main schools on the island, Providence and Codrington. Both appear to be equally utilized. Many embassy families send their preschoolers to St. Nicholas’s Preschool; our child really thrived there!

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2. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

They are available, with a wide range of quality. I don’t know of any families actually using the local daycares. We looked at one but immediately left when we realized there was one adult for 30-40 children. St. Nicholas’s is the way to go. Many people bring nannies with them from previous posts.

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3. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

Many activities, some through the schools and some through community clubs. You should easily be able to find an activity for your child.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Overall morale is good. The more you are involved and get out to try new things, the happier you will be.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Many people join scuba diving clubs, hang out at the beach, attend embassy sponsored events. There is an American Employee Association and an American Women’s Club.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

It is good for everyone and the embassy is very diverse. However, there is a lack of nightclubs, etc., so you have to create your own social activities.

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

Homosexuality is not legal in Barbados, but the mood seems to be changing. Most LGBT folks I know (locals and in the community) do not feel the need to hide.

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5. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Visiting the beaches, the tropical gardens, Animal Flower Caves.

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6. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

This is not a shopping post, as it's too expensive! You will likely order most everything from the internet. There is some local pottery and some talented photographers.

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7. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

The clean air and (formerly, but hopefully soon again) clean water.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Travel off of Barbados can be prohibitively expensive; you will not be traveling to the other islands or the US on a regular basis. Island fever is not a joke.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Probably.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Winter gear, plans to save money, camouflage clothes (they are illegal), bicycle.

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4. But don't forget your:

Sunscreen, bug spray, extra sunglasses, beach umbrella, and beach cooler.

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