I originally started this blog to describe life in Paradise, the empty nest and retirement. I’ve tried to indirectly talk about our life here, but I’ve never really got down to the nitty gritty of what is really different. If we retired in Canada and spent our winters here and elsewhere, what would be the difference?
The most obvious thing that comes to mind is the people we’ve met because we live here full time. We have a sort of community, Caymanians, expats on work permits and expats with Caymanian status. We have our little “family” in our complex. If we lived in a condo in Canada we might meet our neighbours and hang out in a recreation room, but most likely we’d spend our social time with our friends and family. We might meet people in passing and know them by name, but it’s unlikely we’d have a regular weekend gathering, or get to know our neighbours as well as we do here. It’s not likely we’d all be adding each other on Facebook.
Here, we can almost guarantee that on the weekend our neighbours will be out by the pool. We can be as sociable as we want to be. We can join them for drinks or to cool off in the pool or just sit poolside and chat. We’ve come to know their drink preferences, their food preferences and whether or not they are having issues with immigration. We’ve met their visitors, sometimes even had more time to visit with them than their hosts. We know their friends, at least the ones who spend lots of time at our pool!
Another difference is that we’ve had to find all the professional services we would have continued to use in Canada, and we pay for them. We have on island, an optometrist, a dentist, a family doctor, a podiatrist, a physiotherapist and a hair stylist. We’ve shared drinks and meals with our optometrist. If we had maintained our Canadian residency, we would likely continue to see our former doctor, dentist, hair stylists (which I admit I still do in a pinch), physiotherapist and podiatrist.
We don’t eat out nearly as much as we did when we were visiting for shorter periods of time. We have a routine now, much like in Canada, where we have pizza every Friday. We have a well stocked pantry, a hurricane kit and our refrigerator is almost always full of beverages, condiments and produce, as well as assorted leftovers. We spend a lot of time shopping for food, preparing the food and cleaning up after eating the food.
We have had to become more patient about certain things. We don’t expect to run a dozen errands in a day if even one of them involves the government or a bank or anything that includes paperwork. We can accomplish a lot of grocery and wine shopping in a day, but paperwork moves on island time. Long waits in immigration offices, banks and hospital admissions and/or billing areas are commonplace. Even doctors offices are much like those in Canada, and it’s a good idea to bring something to read while you wait.
Even beverage shopping takes a little longer, because we like to chat with the people we’ve gotten to know over the past few years. We know about their families and if they are planning a trip somewhere soon. We can tell if they are having an off day. It’s like a small town that way.
Power outages are not unusual. They aren’t common and they are more of an inconvenience than a disaster, but they do occur more regularly than they do in Canada. At those times it’s best to relax and try to stay cool and hope you’ve already had your coffee.
We feel less urgency to do things like snorkel or go for walks on the beach. The sea is always there, beckoning. We spend more time doing household chores because there is no one coming in to clean after we leave. I don’t have a helper or a kitchen fairy, so it’s all on us. We look forward to doing all those fun things when we have visitors. Oh, and we get resident rates!
We haven’t yet found a place to shop for clothing. We use our time off island to shop at vastly reduced prices compared to what is available here. I know there are clothing and shoe stores for the general population, located in small strip malls in random locations, but we haven’t been in to any of those.
The grocery stores all have their own advantages and disadvantages. It’s possible to buy almost anything here, except for Alberta extra aged Gouda from Sylvan star, but you have to know where to shop. Italian special cookies and crackers, imported cheeses at great prices, Kirk Market; fresh fish, Hurley’s or Foster’s in The Strand; bulk products, Cost U Less or Foster’s in West Bay. We know where the most convenient recycling depots are for the errands we have planned that day. If we’re going to a movie, we drop off our recycling in Camana Bay. If we’re getting groceries, we take the recycling to the bins outside the store. We’re still trying to remember which days the bins are not so full!
We know that if we want to see movies in the theatre, we need to see them within a week or two. Yes, we get first run movies, but they don’t stay long. If we lived in Canada, we’d probably see the movies there or wait until they came out on dvd. No, we don’t watch stuff online if we can help it. The connections aren’t reliable enough and the power could cut out mid-movie, which would be frustrating. We still appreciate a big screen!
The biggest difference is the seasons. By the end of October we are looking forward to the end of hurricane season, while we watch friends posting photos of snow in Canada. It’s never cold here and it never snows. If I need long sleeves or long pants, it’s more for mosquito protection than for warmth. It is never too cold to go for a swim, no matter how cloudy or windy the weather. If we miss the cold or snow, we can simply plan a trip to Canada.