Trouble in paradise

In Babies & toddlers, Challenges & difficulties, Expat Life, Personal stories, Younger kids: 4-8 year olds by Carole Hallett Mobbs13 Comments

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Paradise lost

Clara describes her reluctant expat experience and how she dealt with the issues she encountered.

An expat in St Lucia

A Caribbean beach with palm treesWe lived in St Lucia from 2008-2010, a beautiful tropical paradise that I would recommend to anyone for a holiday – but where I felt myself slowly stagnating in the soup-like heat and the torpid way of life.

Whenever I mention that we used to live there, everyone, without exception, says, “oh, how wonderful, how lucky!”

Well, to a point. Yes, it was great having a pool in the garden and the gorgeous Caribbean Sea on our doorstep. But with two lively, active young children there was very, very little to do – and it was also pretty hard to make friends.

Luckily, there was a good little local school used by the small expat community and many of the richer St Lucians. But I had to send both my children there from a much younger age that I would have preferred simply because there was nothing else to do with them. Our first year or so in St Lucia was very hard, I made very few good friends and the heat was over-whelming. Think about the completely dead air just before a thunderstorm – it was like that for about nine months of the year. It sucked all my energy and I found doing anything more than very basic chores was impossible.

Making the most of what’s available

As time went on, we found more and more diverse ways to occupy ourselves; the girls started swimming lessons, we started to be accepted (to a point) into the local community and I discovered the joys of writing the first draft of a novel in the local air-conditioned coffee shop. I used my imagination in other ways too, and pretended the horrible, dirty, smelly stables where we took them riding were in fact an amazing 5 star posh pony experience. They didn’t know any difference!

We also moved house closer to the school, so I spent a lot less time in the daily traffic jam that filled the island’s only main road between the capital and the part of the island where most people with cars lived.

I made the most of what I had, which was time, and did a lot of planning for getting away for as many weekends as possible. We also managed to get off the island as often as we could. This was absolutely imperative as living in such a small place was like living in a goldfish bowl. So trips to Florida and a couple of neighbouring islands kept me sane.

We left St Lucia earlier than planned in order to take up a place at our local primary school back home. It was not a decision I ever regretted. I do have some fond memories of St Lucia, certainly of the sea, the diving, and the weekends away at the all-inclusive hotel at the other end of the island.

But – and most people simply won’t believe me when I say this – give me a choice between a Caribbean island and good old Blighty, the home country wins every time!

 

by Clara Wiggins

Clara’s background is in journalism and diplomacy – she worked on regional newspapers overseas and in the UK before chucking it all in, travelling round the world and then joining the Foreign Office. The daughter of a diplomat herself, she has seen the “expat” experience from all sides, including during her own posting to Jamaica and more recently as a trailing spouse in Pakistan and St Lucia. She is now settled back in the UK and divides her increasingly busy schedule between looking after her two young daughters, training as an antenatal teacher, working in a part-time office role and planning her next project – a “rough guide” to being a trailing spouse”. She loves writing and just wishes there were more hours in the day.

 

Did you think expat life was going to be an 'Instaperfect' dream? Finding it's not quite how you hoped? You're not alone. Offload on me! Life - especially expat life - can be really tough at times.

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Comments

  1. Thanks for the article. I’d appreciate anyone’s personal feedback on how SAFE St Lucia felt if one were to just do some wandering around the island. A slow life is fine with me – no children – so the article doesn’t discourage me from considering St Lucia for, at least, a 2nd home. I presume it is well connected by plane and boat to both S and N America?

    This is mostly a question about how hospitable and friendly the culture is and any rough points that might concern you. A lot of this comes down to values and beliefs in the culture.

    Beyond this, I’m interested in availability of fresh vegetables and fruits. Puerto Rico taught me that you can live on an island which should be able to feed itself with lots of natural abundance and, yet, find fresh whole foods really hard to come by and incredibly expensive.

    Any feedback on internet speeds, utilities, or how humid it is at higher elevation (which I generally prefer) would be nice!

    Thanks in advance!

  2. I am planning on relocating to st lucia from south africa….any information about accomodation and the standard of living as well as business.

  3. My husband and I might be relocating to St Lucia in the next couple of months with our four children (7, 5, 2, 2). We would be interested to hear some more experiences of moving and living in St Lucia with a family, especially about schooling, security and social life. We couldn’t find much information on the web so far and it’s hard to know what to expect so any information would be gratefully received.
    Many thanks

  4. It is a case of no place is better than home. I am a St Lucian expat living in London with my family and would prefer to be home. Island life is very laid back and slow, if you are use to a metropolitan life, adapting will be difficult. Island paradise is only for tourists.

    1. Author

      Two very different environments – some people can do cities and some people can do countryside (or islands!) Swapping between the two can be very hard for many people.

  5. Hi Emily,
    Have you made the move yet? My husband, my seven year old son and myself are considering a move to St. Lucia by the end of the year. I would be curious to hear what you have found out about the school, system.
    Jennifer

  6. I live in St. Lucia and have children attending both the International School St. Lucia and the Montessori Centre, both private schools. The latter is good for younger kids, whilst the International School caters for secondary school and late primary, encompassing Grades 3-11. They are both based in Rodney Bay. The International School follows the Canadian curriculum and we are very happy with the teaching methods and academic standards for our children. Montessori follows the local curriculum from Reception/Grade 1 and prepares children very well for the island’s Common Entrance exam to enter Government Secondary Schools at age 11/12. Hope this helps. Check out the International School website – http://intschoolstlucia.org I would be happy to answer any other questions you have

    1. Hello Jo, are you still in SLU? We are also interested in moving back home. Well, I am! It”s been almost 20 years and the American way of life is not my cup of tea! 😉 Any info on the schools? I have a 12, 11 & 9 year old. My mom also lives on island as she is Lucian, but would like different opinions! thanks

  7. Hi Emily. The school we sent our children to was the Montessori school in Rodney Bay, which is a private school. This was where most of the Expat’s send their children. We left when our eldest was in reception but the school does go up to the end of junior school. After that I think the options are more limited if you don’t want them to go into the local school system. Rodney Bay and the surrounding area including the Cap Estate is also the area where most expats live. I’d be happy to answer any more questions you have if you email me clara@ expatpartnersurvival.com. Do bear in mind that I am a few years out of date, but I may be able to put you in touch with someone who is there now.

  8. My husband and I and our three children are moving to St. Lucia, I notice you spoke about a local school, where was this school located, was it a public or private school and what community is it in. Is there a community or area where families are more likely to live? Thanks so much for any help!

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