Moving to Jamaica

Expats moving to Jamaica are often lured to the island by the notion of living in a tropical Caribbean paradise. However, life in Jamaica holds some surprises for unprepared expats, including an often corrupt bureaucracy, wide economic divides and high levels of violent crime. 

In addition, expats might find that the cost of living in Jamaica is much higher than they were expecting. Prices in Kingston, the capital, are comparable to medium-sized cities in the UK and USA.

The island has a tropical climate which makes for hot, beach-friendly weather all year round, and it's also prone to hurricanes and tropical storms from June to November.

Jamaica’s official language is English, although in day-to-day life expats will more often encounter a very different Creole Patois. Expats who make an effort to pick up the Jamaican Patois will find it much easier to integrate into life in Jamaica. 

Kingston was the island’s only city for some time, and visitors are often surprised by its size. The city has great nightlife and restaurants, although without the international acts and cultural events found in more cosmopolitan centres worldwide.

Expats considering taking a job in Jamaica should note that it can be quite difficult to secure a work permit for a trailing spouse. Many spouses try to get involved with local charities or expat clubs to stave off the boredom, or a popular option is to arrange to work for companies back home while living in Jamaica.

Jamaica has for some time had one of the highest murder rates in the world. Large cities such as Kingston have high levels of crime, particularly in impoverished inner-city areas. Although most crime is gang-related and doesn’t affect tourists, new expats to Jamaica should be aware that the move will require some adjustments to personal habits, especially if they're from a country where personal safety is the last thing on one’s mind.

Although small, the island’s culture is comparatively well known due to the widespread influence of reggae, dub, ska and related music, and a large diaspora of Jamaicans and descendants worldwide. Expats who make the move successfully are the ones who fall in love with the food, the weather and the rich Creole culture.