Moving to Jamaica

Moving to Jamaica - Expat guide to JamaicaA commonwealth country, Jamaica is technically the third largest Anglophone country in the Americas after the US and Canada. Expats moving to Jamaica are often lured to the island by the notion of living in a tropical Caribbean paradise, only to find that life in Jamaica holds some surprises for unprepared expats: 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 US.

Still, expats who make the move successfully are the ones who fall in love with the food, the weather and the rich creole culture, a result of its long history under British rule. Although small (Jamaica has a population of about 2.9 million people) the tiny island’s culture is comparatively well known overseas due to the widespread influence of reggae, dub, ska and related music, and a large diaspora of 2.5 million Jamaicans and descendants worldwide.

Jamaica’s official language is English, also the language of business, 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, the island’s vibrant capital, 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. Many expats move to the city to work in a diverse array of industries, particularly in manufacturing. Jamaica is rated 67 out of 190 countries on The World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business ranking for 2017, and rated particularly impressively when it came to starting a business and getting credit.

Expats considering a new 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. Women should also be prepared to deal with a fair amount of machismo, and realise that verbal harassment is practically a way of life in Jamaica.

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.

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