Kingston, Jamaica Report of what it's like to live there - 04/05/16

Personal Experiences from Kingston, Jamaica

Kingston, Jamaica 04/05/16

Background:

1. Was this post your first expatriate experience? If not, what other cities have you lived in as an expat?

No

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2. What is your home city/country? How long is the trip to post from there, with what connections? How easy/difficult is it to travel to this city/country?

East Coast, no direct flights, must go through Atlanta

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3. How long have you lived here?

1 year

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4. What brought you to this city (e.g. diplomatic mission, business, NGO, military, teaching, retirement, etc.)?

Government

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Housing, Groceries & Food:

1. What is your housing like? What are typical housing sizes, locations, and commute times for expatriates?

Beautiful large apartments, and some nice houses. Everyone is happy with housing.

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2. How would you describe the availability and cost of groceries and household supplies relative to your home country?

twice to three times as expensive as the U.S. We have a low COLA so expect to spend about 40% of your income on groceries.

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3. What household or grocery items do you wish you had shipped to post?

Tires, food, consumables, light bulbs

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4. What typical restaurants, food delivery services, and/or takeout options are popular among expatriates?

Wendys, Subway, Pizza Hut, Kentucky Fried Chicken; however at double the prices. Food is SO expensive here.

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5. Are there any unusual problems with insects or other infestations in housing?

There is zika virus and Chick V, many colleagues were extremely sick, you have to take precautions

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Daily Life:

1. How do you send and receive your letters and package mail? Are local postal facilities adequate?

DPO and pouch, great mail room team at Embassy

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2. What is the availability and cost of household help, and what types of help are typically employed by expatriates?

Relatively cheap--US$500 to 600 a month for full time.

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3. What kinds of gyms or other sports/workout facilities are available? Are they expensive?

Yes. There is a nice gym at the Embassy housing complex, Powell

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4. Are credit cards widely accepted and safe to use locally? Are ATMs common and do you recommend using them? Are they safe to use?

I use credit cards all the time

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5. What English-language religious services are available locally?

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6. How much of the local language do you need for daily living? Are local language classes/tutors available and affordable?

None but some people don't speak or write English very well.

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7. Would someone with physical disabilities have difficulties living in this city?

Yes, very hard to get around.

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Transportation:

1. Are local buses, trams, trains or taxis safe and affordable?

NO, not allowed by RSO

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2. What kind of car do you recommend bringing to post, given the terrain, availability of parts, burglary/carjacking risks, etc.? What kind of car do you advise not to bring?

All cars seem to do well but many of us have been in car accidents. Ship extra tires as well. The bad roads will lead to your car getting ruined in a short amount of time.

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Phone & Internet:

1. Is high-speed home Internet access available? How long does it typically take to install it after arrival?

Yes, US$80 a month

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2. Do you have any recommendations regarding mobile phones? Did you keep your home-country plan or use a local provider?

Embassy phone and a few local providers

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Pets:

1. Are qualified veterinarians and/or good kennel services available? Do animals need to be quarantined upon entry to the country? Are there other considerations regarding pets that are particular to this country?

NO PETS and this is really a HUGE hardship.

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Employment & Volunteer Opportunities:

1. What types of jobs do most expatriate spouses/partners have? Locally based or telecommuting? Full-time or part-time? Can you comment on local salary scales?

No.

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2. What volunteer opportunities are available locally?

Maybe at the schools.

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3. What is the typical dress code at work and in public places? Is formal dress ever required?

Some people really do not dress well. Local staff is a bit more attentive to dress. Ties for men, dresses for women. Only the section chiefs seem to wear suits.

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Health & Safety:

1. Are there personal security concerns to be aware of at this post? Please describe.

Yes, very violent country. Most of my local colleagues have had a relative murdered. There was a murder near Embassy housing last year. It just isn't safe to go out and you cannot walk anywhere, ever.

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2. Are there any particular health concerns? What is the quality of available medical care? What medical conditions typically require medical evacuation?

Medical care is really really poor here. Lack of facilities, lack of water in the existing facilities, no soap, unnecessary procedures, botched surgeries, etc. Awful. However, Embassy just hired an MD.

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3. What is the air quality like at post (good/moderate/bad)? Are there seasonal air quality issues? Does the air quality have an impact on health?

Great, except when the trash dump gets set on fire

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4. What do people who suffer from environmental or food allergies need to know?

Some allergies and the fires burning seem to affect many of my colleagues.

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5. What is the overall climate: is it extremely hot or cold, wet or dry, at any time of year, for example?

Rains are brief, almost always sunny and beautiful

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Schools & Children:

1. What is the availability of international schools? What has been your general experience with them, if any?

2 good schools, one very small and all Embassy kids go there. The other school is much larger and seems to have a lot of sports, but only one family has kids there, families at both schools seem pretty happy.

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2. What accommodations do schools make for special-needs kids?

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3. Are preschools available? Day care? Are these expensive? What has been your experience with them, if any? Do the schools provide before- and/or after-school care?

yes and most colleagues are happy with the preschools. Reasonable too.

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4. Are local sports classes and/or activities available for kids?

There appear to be all sorts of activities.

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Expat Life:

1. What is the relative size of the expatriate community? How would you describe overall morale among expatriates?

Medium Embassy. Morale was very poor but seems to have improved after some junior officers worked very hard to get our differential looked out. We are now a 20% differential post. It makes a huge difference both for money and for morale. We can now bid first on our next posts.

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2. What are some typical ways to socialize, either with local people or with other expatriates? Are there groups or clubs that you can recommend?

Drinks with friends, lots of Embassy parties. CLO trips and basically everything CLO organizes is good. She is really good and helping spouses get jobs and organizing parties.

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3. Is this a good city for single people? For couples? For families? Why or why not?

Yes, good for all

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4. Is this a good city for LGBT expatriates? Why or why not?

No. Extremely homophobic but the Embassy is putting a lot of stress on full citizenship for all and so at least now there is a dialogue.

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5. Are there problems with ethnic, race/racial minorities or religious prejudices? Gender equality?

Jamaicans seem overly preoccupied with skin color, many lighten their skin. Generally the lighter you are the closer you are to European ancestry and more money you have. It is sad. However, no overt racism that I have witnessed. Lots of sexism. Little value for women.

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6. What have been the highlights of your time in this country? Best trips or experiences?

Getting to know the Jamaican people-- a fun, dynamic, outgoing culture, trips to Montego, Ocho Rios, Negril and Portland

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7. What are some interesting/fun things to do in the area? Can you recommend any “hidden gems"?

No. There is nothing to do but go to resorts and beaches. Resorts are VERY VERY expensive.

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8. Is this a "shopping post"? Are there interesting handicrafts, artwork, antiques, or other items that people typically buy there?

Massages at nice resorts.

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9. What are the particular advantages of living in this city?

Great weather, sunny and beautiful all year long, tourism is great too. Awesome beaches

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10. Can you save money?

Absolutely not. I rarely go to hotels but am broke because of work on my car and groceries.

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Words of Wisdom:

1. What do you wish you had known about this particular city/country before moving there?

Nothing. I love it here and feel fortunate to be posted here.

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2. Knowing what you know now, would you still move to this city?

Absolutely. Love it here.

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3. If you move here, you can leave behind your:

Pets. Expectations of living in paradise. This is a beautiful country and while it was hard in the past to travel, it is better with the new highway. However, it can be expensive to travel here and there is a ton of gun violence, making it hard to leave your apartment.

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4. But don't forget your:

Open heart and willingness to collaborate. It is so easy to work with staff and Jamaicans are just fun, open people.

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5. Do you recommend any books or movies about this city/country for those who are interested in learning more?

A Brief History of 7 Killings

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