My Husband and moved to Belize in 1990. We are from Pendleton, Or. We enjoy a quiet enjoyable life here. Our home is for sale in Independence, so we can stay down here in B. Falls where we love it.
Where are you from, Les and Colette, and what are you doing nowadays?
We came to Belize from Oregon. We had a cleaning business in Oregon, to support us in our volunteer ministry. In 1986, we came to discover Belize. In 1990, we returned with all our belongings to stay. We got our residency by 1991 for 3 years. We traveled back and forth to the US to work. We then decided to try making a living here independently. We thus started making pizza in our own kitchen. We did that for several years. We then semi-retired in 2013. Nowadays, we have totally retired.
Why did you choose to move to Belize?
This was simple for us. The driving distance from our home, based in Oregon, was a big factor. Then, not struggling to learn a new language was another. Yes, Kriol is widely spoken, but at first we just had to "what" a couple of times and they simplified their speech. As time went by, we didn't have to say "what" anymore. We have driven from the US to Belize and back about 11 times. We are older now and the challenge is bigger than what we can handle.
What were the procedures to follow for US nationals to move there?
We came in December 1989 with a work permit. My husband had a degree that enabled us to be sponsored by a local citrus farmer. We then applied for a resident permit. We followed all government procedures: police report, medical report, etc. After making several trips to Belmopan, we were granted our resident permit.
What has attracted you to Big Falls ?
In our voluntary ministry, we are asked if we could go to certain areas. Big Falls was one of those areas. We have always liked the Southern part of Belize, so we agreed to go there. It has been 3 years now and we love the tranquility of the small village. The fauna is also lovely.
Was it difficult to find accommodation there?
It was not difficult to find a place to live. The first house we lived in was only temporary. It was not what we were used to. We then built our own house after two and a half years. But one can choose from many furnished and unfurnished accommodations, some of which are a bit rustic while others are very lovely.
How do you find the local lifestyle?
Getting away from the "US lifestyle" is usually the main reason most people move here. So the life style is different. Houses on a street may look like shacks in the US. But if you look past that, you see children playing, a mom doing laundry, a skinny dog resting in the shade, a pot cooking... This is everyday life here. If as a expatriate you compare things to the US, then you may not find happiness here. The lifestyle to us is what tropical living means.
Have you been able to adapt yourself to the country and to its society?
Yes, we have adapted well and all our friends say we are "real Belizeans". We have been successful expatriates because we adapted.
What does your every day life look like in Big Falls?
The first and best part of the day is to wake to this bird chirping tranquility. Then, as the village awakens, the sounds change to children going to school, adults heading to their farms or on the bus to Punta Gorda, our closest Town. The sun starts warming up. People hail us as they walk by. We live close to Minonite Colony. So you hear the "clop clop" of a horse drawn cart going by or stopping, yelling "Watermelon!". We prepare our day with breakfast and go out for our voluntary Ministry.
What has surprised you the most at your arrival?
That can usually be a negative experience depending on what your used to. My hardest thing was seeing these skinny dogs scrounging for food. As the years pass by, I still don't like it but I have got used to it. We take good care of our dogs and they are fenced in. We don't try to control what others do. Another surprise was how hospitable Belizeans are. They will hail you, give you something to drink when you visit their place. Where we were from, people met you at the door, never let you pass the porch. Here, people get a chair for you to sit down, ask if you want something or just offer you a drink. We love that.
What is your opinion on the cost of living in Belize? Is it easy for an expat to live there?
The cost of living is high if you want to live as a North American, Canadian or other affluent country. If you come here for the simple life as it is, eat the local available foods, you will keep your cost of living low. We do find other amenities expensive. For instance, Internet is expensive here, especially if you want a high speed connection. Gasoline and diesel prices are also very high.
How do you spend your leisure time?
We enjoy the beauty of the South. The rivers are lovely and cooling. We also like visiting those who come by to borrow movies or to chat. We often go to Punta Gorda to have a ice coffee and do some shopping.
Your favorite dishes?
We love escabeche, a Belizean chicken and onion Soup. Caldo, is a traditional Kekchi/Mayan soup. We also like stewed pork or chicken, fried plantain, etc.
What are the differences between life in Belize and in the US?
We really don't compare. Life in the US is so much more stressful. When we do go for a visit, we are ready to come back home to Belize in a week. We load our arms and eyes with family, load our stomachs with some of our favorite things that we can't get here in Belize and we are ready to come back.
Do you miss your home country?
We miss our family and some foods, but that is about all.
Would like to give any advice to soon-to-be expatriates?
Our advice is: do your homework. Come if you can, for more than two weeks to check it out. That way, you are past vacation mode and into everyday living mode. There is a difference. We came for three months. We then knew this was what we wanted.
What are your plans for the future?
We have aged parents, so you really never know if you will be needed to care for them. But other than that responsibility, we are here till our health allows us.