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Mistakes expats make in Belize

Hello everyone,

Did you make any mistakes when you first moved to Belize? What were they?

How did you address your mistakes? Did you learn anything from them?

With hindsight, what would you do differently?

Are there any tips you could give future expats in Belize to help them avoid these kinds of mistakes?

We look forward to hearing from you!

Priscilla

Moderated by Bhavna 2 months ago
Reason : Off-Topic
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OH my. So many mistakes. My friend Craig likes to tell newcomers, your plan is crap. You can be a really smart person who's done lots of research, planning, and visits, but it's never gonna go how you plan. It's just hard to predict. It's sort of like having a kid. You can only prepare so much. You just can't know what you don't know sometimes.

More planning is definitely better. Plan on spending twice as much as you think you'll need. Have enough to live for at least a year while you refine your plan if you want to start a business here. Be really clear about why you want to live here - that helps when it's hard. Don't come here to run away from something. Come here FOR something. Connect with Belizean. Don't isolate with expats. Put an effort in understanding the culture. Get involved in your community. You can also see the packing thread to read my ramblings on what I wish I hadn't/had packed.

Yep that is pretty succinct.
I specially agree Belize shouldn't be somewhere you go to run away from something else.That can be some part of the reasons the oft quoted numbers about expats leaving within a year or two.
After traveling the world and living in in 26 homes in 9 countries, the one saving grace when we were someplace I was not overly fond of there was always an end date.
If you are not 100% sure that Belize is going to be your forever home give yourself an end date, or decision date for when you will decide on if it is right for you or not, and do not sink all your income/savings into a place you are not 100% happy.
If you do not know  ( that week  of vacation time does not really count) Belize do not buy before  or instantly you arrive. Renting is so easy here.

There is so much I can share. There are days I considered myself lucky having being able to live in Belize. Then there are days just the opposite.
Having a large property and having a large labor force is not really a plus.
I love farming ,so I close my eyes on losses and screw ups. Unless you have a strong reason to be in Belize the disappointment factor will creep in. Belize is not US and vice versa .

My advice?  I lived there for a year.  Don't move there.  It's a horrible place to live.  And getting on and off Ambergris Caye is the worst.

HarleyMan501 :

My advice?  I lived there for a year.  Don't move there.  It's a horrible place to live.  And getting on and off Ambergris Caye is the worst.

HarleyMan501
Your opinion is valid and appreciated. But without some context it is more of a rant than useful information to help someone that wishes to make an informed decision on whether or not to move Belize. 

Where is there (that you wouldn't move to)? The whole country, or just Ambergris Caye? I lived on Ambergris Caye for a year and a half before moving inland. Regular daily/hourly Water Taxis and airplanes make getting on and off the island if required quite convenient. It can be expensive if you do it a couple of times a week, but if you need to spend that much time off the Caye then why live there in the first place. Ambergris Caye is getting busier all the time but that too is relative. Some argue it has lost its charm of thirty years ago, but first time visitors depending on where they have lived previously can still appreciate and find the small town atmosphere.

Many people end up leaving Belize within their first year, some more remain trapped here in misery. There are many reasons why people don't last, and yet no single answer to why, especially since "the reasons that many of those people leave, are ironically the exact same reasons that the rest of us stay".

Anyway, I'm not trying to be argumentative. Just hoping for a bit of context to your comment to help others decide where your perspective based on experience might fall into their reality, and if they would be among the 50% that would leave, or the 50% that stay.

I agree, Bill. There are many of us who stay, so obviously some have a different experience than HarleyMan. I stay because I love the land, people, and cultures so much that the stresses, challenges, and hassles are worth it. But it's way different than vacation. All that said, I wouldn't want to live on ambergris either. It's too touristy for me, but some people dig that. To each their own. Just be sure you're where you want to be before you invest big $.

One note - while we don't actually "live" there yet - we are 4 years into our land clearing, house design, fencing, road and bridge building, etc, etc, etc, etc.....
We travel down to Belize several times a year and stay either in Hopkins or near San Ignacio depending on what we need to get done.  When we made the decision to retire early and live in Belize - we spent many days in all 4 districts to figure out what we liked and experience the differences.  In all our travels - we strive to interact with local Belizeans and also chat with (or grill in some instances ; ) expats.  Here are a few of our findings:
- Most of the locals and Belizean business owners are very nice, go out of their way to help out in any way they can.  They are very polite and always appreciative.  I think acting humble with respect to their position, plight, way of life, etc. goes a long way to eventually "fit in" after you move.  Just think how you would act if a foreigner moved into your neighborhood and pushed his/her ideals and habits on you.  I think we all would resent that.  Becoming part of the local community is the very best way to protect yourself and your property from theft or petty crime. 
- Ex pats are by their very nature a "target".  Not particularly for violence, but just be aware that since Belize is a poor agricultural country - most locals think every ex-pat is rich and can afford to pay more for goods, replace items that they may "borrow", etc.  In most cases - ex pats are rich to a typical Belizean.  Don't flaunt money or wealth.  Strive to fit in and eventually you will.
- A wise saying we learned early on - "When in Belize, if you have patience - you will lose it - if you don't have patience - you will find it."  I keep this quote in my head at all times when dealing with contractors, the government, etc.  It really helps - plus the cooler of Red Stripe beer in the back of the car ; )!
- In many of our chats with ex-pats, we learned that the 4-year mark seems to be the magic length of time.  It appears that the 1st year is fine, 2nd year some of the hardships start to sink in and the 3rd year is the low point where some expats really miss the luxuries of home and get tired of the weather, lifestyle, etc.  Most expats we talked to say that if you can make it into the 4th year - then you cannot imagine moving back to "The World".  This is also something we keep in mind as we continue on our path to Belize.
- Also when talking with expats - we realized that some are very unhappy with their status and I think they take it out on the country.  Some may have started a business that didn't quite pan out and now they are low on funds and not living the ideal dream they envisioned.  Others moved down as a couple because one really wanted to move and the other - not so much.  This also leads to bitterness and thus they may take it out on the country and concentrate on the negatives - totally blind to many of the positives.  Belize is a beautiful country with very nice people.  Who needs a Walmart anyway!

Sorry for the long post, I hope this helps those on the fence.  BTW - most of the above is relative for just about any Caribbean country or poorer tropical locale.

I think jvr1330 and billdoesbelize hit it on the head. It's no different than moving from New York city to Andalusia, Alabama, and vise versa. It's going to be different. One can't expect things to be the same everywhere, and they shouldn't be. Expecting people somewhere else to live the same, and do the same things as another isn't logical, and more than it is right. Freedom is the key. My wife and I are moving to Belize, and building a home there. Why? Well, why not? We like the people, and the beauty of the country. It's not bad to be in a place where the little things in life are still appreciated, and not viewed as an entitlement. If you like the states, or places like it, think of Belize as what they were before they "evolved" into chaos.

See comment under quote on next post.

rayonthebay :

I think jvr1330 and billdoesbelize hit it on the head. It's no different than moving from New York city to Andalusia, Alabama, and vise versa. It's going to be different. One can't expect things to be the same everywhere, and they shouldn't be. Expecting people somewhere else to live the same, and do the same things as another isn't logical, and more than it is right. Freedom is the key. My wife and I are moving to Belize, and building a home there. Why? Well, why not? We like the people, and the beauty of the country. It's not bad to be in a place where the little things in life are still appreciated, and not viewed as an entitlement. If you like the states, or places like it, think of Belize as what they were before they "evolved" into chaos.

Spot On!!!

Monkey Town Brew -Where would I find your packing thread?  :)

Jana

The banking opportunities available in Belize changed in the past 15 years and I think it is important to know about legitimate offshore banking and stay current especially before buying and selling real estate.

US CItizens - Your Worldwide income is your US Income and must be reported.  not difficult to do when you follow the rules.

Here's a mistake I made - Selling my home in Hopkins, Belize!

jdmnet30 :

Monkey Town Brew -Where would I find your packing thread?  :)

Jana

Oh, no. I'm not sure. Try searching what to pack or what to bring to Belize, and see what comes up. If you can't find it, let me know, and I'll see if I can hunt it down. It wasn't originally my post. It was just one I commented on if that helps you find it.

Monkey Town brew :
jdmnet30 :

Monkey Town Brew -Where would I find your packing thread?  :)

Jana

Oh, no. I'm not sure. Try searching what to pack or what to bring to Belize, and see what comes up. If you can't find it, let me know, and I'll see if I can hunt it down. It wasn't originally my post. It was just one I commented on if that helps you find it.

Here it is guys;
If you want to find someones previous comment, simply click on their profile icon/image. On the right side of their page you will see recent comments, scroll to the bottom and click on see more.


Monkey Town brew posted on the thread What shall I bring? on the Belize forum
last month
This is such a fantastic question, and I was actually thinking to post it as a conversation starter. I'm surprised no one has chimed in. You will have access to a different variety of things in Ambergris than we have down here in the jungle, but there are a few things I'll say I really wish I had brought - and some things I wish I hadn't wasted space on.

What I wish I had brought:
My printer! Why didn't I bring my printer?! They're stupid expensive here and kind of a pain to ship because they're heavy
5 coolers. Power goes out periodically, and you can't imagine what coolers cost here.
3 extra smart phones. This climate is hard on electronics, but you don't want to buy them here. Bring extras.
Car parts. Also wildly expensive here.
Tools. Bring tools. Yard tools too. And power tools.
My car! Why did I let people tell me driving through Mexico isn't safe?!
More grits. I can't find them here.

Things that were a waste of container space:
Cheap toys. I'm glad I brought the nice wooden toys, but cheap toys are everywhere, and even nice toys can be bought in gift shops and from many Mayans.
My antique books. Totally destroyed. I just couldn't let them go. Now no one gets them.

Things I'm super duper glad I brought:
My mattress. We have a really nice one, and you can't find anything like it here.
All my kitchen toys. My husband tried to fight this. I put my foot down. Really glad I did.
The tools we did bring.
All the weirdo stuff I need like fluoride free toothpaste, aluminum free deodorant, essential oils, non toxic detergent, all that. Only wish I had brought more. My teen replenishes my stock when she goes to visit her dad.

That's awesome, Bill! Who knew it was so easy? I was thinking about scrolling through my comments, but in my mind I comment on so much and didn't want to scroll through it all. You're a rock star.

Thank you!

Atlantic Bank/Faye Bank/Belize Bank all International Banks affiliated w/large US Banks including Bank of America.  They properly disclose and bank by appointment.  All have active websites and require 3 references from professionals.

Marianne,

Thank you for the banking recommendations. It is greatly appreciated.

Ray

Marianne LeBar :

Atlantic Bank/Faye Bank/Belize Bank all International Banks affiliated w/large US Banks including Bank of America.  They properly disclose and bank by appointment.  All have active websites and require 3 references from professionals.

Perhaps you meant Caye Bank, they seem to only have a presence on Ambergris Caye.

Belize Bank International closed their office in Placencia last year while Atlantic Bank International was building a new (now open) multi story office building there.

Last year Bank of America dropped all correspondent banking relationships with Beize banks. 

I suggest reading back through this site as several of us have related a lot of good banking information in these forums. Many changes in Belize/International banking practices have occurred over the last two years. Belize banking was apparently easier in the past. 

Also note Americans seem to have more hoops to jump through and delays in opening Belize bank accounts than Canadians or other commonwealth citizens.

Thanks for the info. :)

Americans have more hoops to jump through,  I don't believe that one for one second, it's a frustrating procedure for all, we have been here eleven months and still no bank account, and we are not Americans !

Pgthefatman :

Americans have more hoops to jump through,  I don't believe that one for one second, it's a frustrating procedure for all, we have been here eleven months and still no bank account, and we are not Americans !

I made that comment based on my long frustrating experience 1st failing to get a domestic account but then being able to get a much less useful international account. That along with Canadian posters here stating their seemingly easier experience. 

Perhaps if you read previous threads here on banking, then actually post your own experiences attempting to get an account(s) we all will gain from it.  :top:

The reason it is more difficult for people from the states is because of changes in us banking regulations and requirements on Belize banks to report on the accounts of all us citizens to avoid tax evasion. They don't get paid extra for all the extra work, so many of them are starting to feel it's not worth the hassle.
There's also a banking article in the Belize expat guide. I recently rewrote all of those articles as they were, um, outdated. I'll try to post a link.

Monkey Town Brew,

Your post to Heidijo was refreshing, and honest. I respect your awareness of the environment in Belize, and your ability to adjust. Far too many people live in fear to the point of not living at all. There are issues everywhere but, if one identifies them and deals with them life is much easier. I also commend Heidijo in her appreciation of your experience. As a male I am fully aware of our behaviors, good and bad. I also understand it is distasteful to women to be oggled, and have suggestive remarks made to them. Personally, when guys have done that around me I usually respond "do you like it when strangers do that to your mother, wife, or daughter?" It stops. Not every woman is a Kardashian.

Thanks, Ray. It doesn't bother me as much as some, but I'd much rather not feel like a hunk of meat hanging from a tree in a forest full of wolves. It's just gross and disrespectful. And it helps to know that some men are speaking up to it. Lord knows they don't listen to me. But there's very little that can stop me from living my life. Some call me fearless. Some call me crazy. Both, I suppose.

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