My blog, La Gringa's Blogicito, is the life of an expatriate American woman in La Ceiba, Honduras, touches on cultural differences, Honduran politics, as well as everyday life.
Hola, I'm 'La Gringa' from La Ceiba, Honduras. I'm originally from Texas in the US. I've been in Honduras for almost 12 years now. I can't imagine living anywhere else after all this time. I use the pen name 'La Gringa' for my blog because that gives me the freedom to be frank and open in my writing.
When and how did you decide to move to Honduras? Is it complicated to settle down there?
My Honduran husband and I decided to move to Honduras in early 2001 and did so in September 2001. It's not too complicated to settle down in Honduras, but getting official residency requires a lot of meticulous paperwork. We were lucky and found a good attorney (a must!) so it went pretty smoothly for me. Importing our car and household goods was another story – not so smooth. Registering a car, getting a driver's license, buying a house and that sort of thing can be very confusing in the beginning, especially if you don't speak much Spanish. I was lucky in that my husband is Honduran. I'm sure it is just as confusing for immigrants to the US or anywhere else.
Have you ever lived abroad before? How many countries have you lived in or visited?
Honduras is the only country I've lived in besides the US so I was pretty much an expat virgin. I've visited Mexico several times, Canada a few times as a child, the Bahamas, and Honduras. Prior to moving here, most of my travel had been in the US.
What do you like the most about La Ceiba/Honduras?
The ever-changing view of the cloud-covered mountains is stunning. I love the tropical climate, though the humidity can be oppressive at times. This may sound odd, but I really love the rainy season. Everything is so green and lush during that time and it's a bit cooler. It's a gardener's dream where everything grows all the time and there is never a time of year without flowers. People can be the kindest, most open and generous people you could meet anywhere. That is one of the things that really attracted me to Honduras.
How is/was the cultural shock? What are the main differences with USA, your home country?
The culture shock can be tremendous! Like most new immigrants to any country, I wore my rose-colored glasses and I had my share of difficulties adjusting to a new language, new food, new rules, new customs, new climate, new everything all at the same time! Now, almost 12 years later, I've mellowed a lot but I still find something new and interesting just about every day. I think that many people underestimate culture shock. My hope is that the Blogicito may help other newcomers to be better prepared than I was. Knowledge is power.
Do you miss anything from your homeland?
I miss the ease and convenience of shopping in the US. Even though I was never a big shopper, sometimes there are things that you really need that just are not available in La Ceiba. Oddly, sometimes the grocery stores would even be out of some of the basic things that are produced in this country, like sugar, a certain brand of Honduran coffee, etc. and we would have to go to two or three stores to find them. Once the stores were out of the type of tea bag that we like for months. Since then, when we see it, we buy 10 or 20 boxes. Other times it has been impossible to do car or other repairs because the parts we needed just weren't available. Things have gotten much better in the past few years. The CAFTA treaty between the US and Central American countries has resulted in availability of many items we used to never see in La Ceiba. We usually go to San Pedro Sula once or twice a year to treat ourselves to those things we can't find in La Ceiba.
Any 'memories of an expat' you would like to share with us? Your best souvenir? Or maybe your worst experience?
I candidly wrote about my worst experience in 'La Gringa's first month in Honduras'. I described it as major, triple by-pass culture shock. It's funny now, but I'd rather not relive it! Not really a souvenir, but I have some Honduran-made furniture that gives me pleasure every time I look at it. Some of my best memories are from unexpected kindnesses shown to us by ordinary Hondurans.
What does a typical day as an expat in Honduras look like?
I don't think that there is a typical expat day in Honduras. People come to Honduras for many different reasons. Some move here to retire, others for jobs or to open a business, and many others come here to work with NGOs, charities, schools, and so forth to help the poor. If I had to generalize, I would guess that more expatriates in the larger cities (Tegucigalpa and San Pedro Sula) are working, while La Ceiba attracts more retirees and those with vacation homes. On the islands (Roatan, Utila, and Guanaja) there is a mixture because many expats own tourism related businesses and the islands are popular retirement and vacation home destinations, too.
When did you start your blog? For what reasons?
I started my blog in July 2006 mainly to relate a little about Honduras and to share photos with some internet gardening friends who were curious, and to be honest, to blow off some steam about some of the frustrations of life in Honduras. As Honduran politics started getting a little crazy, I couldn't resist writing about some of the odd things that were going on. That was when I was really glad that I had started my blog using a pseudonym. Then in 2009, the President was removed from office and I felt it was really important to get some of the news out in English because there was so much misinformation in the international media. In 2011, I started writing about the crime situation here. Government corruption has been an on-going theme because it has such a devastating effect on the country and especially the poor and middle class. Now I'm back to writing more about everyday life, so I guess my motivations have fluctuated over the years. I write about what inspires me at the time and what I think readers are interested in.
Did you make new friends with your blog?
I have been amazed at how many people I've 'met' through my blog, literally thousands of people. At first it was mainly expats living in other Latin American countries who could identify with my experiences. Then other expats in Honduras began to find the Blogicito. Starting about four years ago, my Honduran following increased greatly even though I write in English. I hear from many expat Hondurans living in the US and other countries as well as many Americans married to Hondurans. I hope that anyone who discovers my blog through Expat Blog with stop by and say hello, too.
Why did you register on expat.com and what do you think of the website?
I'm always interested in learning more about Honduras and finding new Honduran blogs. I am a firm believer that reading blogs of expats in the country you are considering relocating to can be a good introduction to what you may experience there. That is something that really wasn't available when I moved to Honduras. Travel websites are an excellent source of information but have a different focus (planning your vacation) and tend to highlight the positives while downplaying the negatives. The typical expat is not "on vacation" every day, so learning more about everyday life from blogs is a great resource.
Which advice would you give to the other Expat blog members who would like to settle in Honduras?
The most important advice that I and many others give to those thinking about moving to Honduras is to come for a long visit – at least six months – to make sure that Honduras is a good fit for you and your family. Rent a house or apartment in the area where you think you want to live, do your own shopping and cooking and all the normal things that you would do wherever you live. Staying in a hotel for a week or two really does not give you a taste for what living in Honduras is like. Moving to another country is a big decision so doing your homework will pay off.
To back up a bit, I guess the most important thing of all is to find out whether or not you would qualify for residency. Honduras, like any other country, has regulations and requirements for residents. As an overall tip, I would say expect the unexpected and try to be flexible. Adapt the popular expression "Si Dios quiere!" (if God wills it) because sometimes you just have no control over what happens or when it will happen. Oh, and just one more tip: I think that expats will find the adjustment much easier and life much fuller if they learn Spanish before coming here.