Relocating to the Virgin Islands

Relocating to the U.S. Virgin Islands is many people's favorite fantasy.  However if you plan to really do it there are some things you should know before taking the blind leap of faith.  Although the U.S. Virgin Islands is an United States Territory and all the citizens are also United States citizens, they cannot vote in Presidential elections.  Also there is no voting representative in the U.S. Congress to represent the Territory.

Cisterns:  We mostly collect our  water in cisterns for home use.  Some housing located in the town areas are serviced by WAPA who provides desalinated water from their distribution plant. This is usually rationed during times of  drought.  If you run out of water, you will have to call a water truck to deliver water to your home.  All homes using cisterns must also have a pump to pump the water into the house.  Learning how to prime a pump is something that may come in handy.

Climate:  Sunny & beautiful, like all the best days of summer all year!  However if you live near the sea your metals will rust much faster.  One of the things that can be affected is your computer hard drive.  An air conditioned room will help. 

Hurricane season makes up for all the great weather we have here.  Generally the better the view the more threat a hurricane will be to your residence.  Check out the FEMA website to know how to prepare yourself and your family.  Every family member must own his or her own personal flashlight for when the power goes out! Head lamps are especially useful because they can be used with no hands.

Driving:  We drive on the left.  We also have a few rather peculiar habits.  Mostly on St. Croix, honking is the island way of indicating a hello, or an acknowledgment of some sort.  All the islands have drivers who stop in the middle of the road to load or unload passengers or talk to friends.  You have to be aware of this habit and drive cautiously.  Also pedestrians & animals must be watched for at all times, driving carefully and at the speed limit is imperative.

Groceries:  These islands are over 1000 miles from Miami.  We don't have any big trucks shipping us goods via the Interstate.  We also have no trains.  So everything must be shipped either via air or sea.  Most is by sea.  Because of the distance and the method of shipping, groceries are much more expensive here than most statesiders would expect.  There is no lack of good quality foods here, but they have high price tags.  Growing your own vegetables can save you money.  We've got year round growing season!

Jobs:  If you really want to live here, you might consider being an entrepreneur.  There are not a lot of office jobs, or very technical work.  There are always tourist related jobs available in season which is Nov-May.   Another thing to consider is that you won't make as much pay as you did in the states.  The economy here is not as robust.

Medical Care:  We have hospitals on the islands but due to our smaller size of population they cannot offer every service you might need, you might have to go to Puerto Rico or the states in an emergency. 

Newspapers:  Each island has newspapers unique to their particular island.  St. John has the:

St. Thomas:

St. Croix:

Patience: If you don't have it, you should get it.  Things move at a slower pace here, you have to get used to it, and learn to live on island time, or just go crazy.  Fast food isn't as fast as you remembered it!

People:  It may take you a while to understand the accent.  You may never understand all of the natives here.  There are many different groups of people originating from the other Caribbean islands, Europe, & India and etc.  As a result you will find many different dialects that comprise part of the diverse cultural population in the islands.  Be prepared to listen carefully.  And if you can't understand someone, they probably can't understand you either, so be tolerant, it's a different culture and you are the new one here!

Power:  For the most part WAPA (Water and Power Authority) does a very good job considering they aren't on the North American power grid.  However there are a few problems with surges and occasional outages.  A good surge protector on expensive equipment will save you the cost of replacement in case of a power surge.  APC surge protectors are very good.

Public Transportation:   Open air safari buses usually run 'town to country' routes all day.  Taxis are also available, these are usually vans with more than just one passenger and are generally air conditioned.

Smiling:  It doesn't happen when you walk into a room, it happens after you say, "Good Morning", "Good Afternoon" or "Good Night".  

Snail Mail:  The U.S. Postal Service is here and they are really outstanding.  I think you'll find the postal service here is actually better than some of the stateside offices.  There is door to door delivery in certain locations. And they deliver Express mail also which is less expensive than courier service such as UPS and Fed-Ex.  One of the courier services that doesn't deem us "International" is DHL and has a fairly decent rate into the VI...exiting cargo however is higher.

Taxes:  Income taxes just like in the states but you pay it to a different government, the Virgin Islands Government (IRB).  No sales tax.  But there is a gross receipts tax for businesses and exicise taxes for items to be resold in the Virgin Islands.

Travel:  Caribbean Tour Services offers group programs. See Varlack Ventures for transport between islands.

Telephones:   No problem mon!  (During the busy hours you may hear a message "all circuits are busy". Just wait a few min and try again). 

Television:  We've got WTJX Channel 12 a PBS affiliate that is exceptional.  And WSVI Channel 8, affiliated with ABC.  Depending upon where you live you may get both, one, or neither of these stations without subscribing to cable.

Words: You thought you were using English?  Well, the West Indians have language that originates from before Queen Victoria ever took the throne. Check out the Dictionary of Caribbean English for a few pointers.


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