What is it like to move to a foreign country? To start over? To build a new life? Everyone’s experiences will be different and that’s why I thought it might be interesting not only to share my own stories and experiences but to also ask other expats about their experiences.
That’s why I started the Ask an Expat Series.
I lived on the island of Sint Maarten twice myself: in 2008 and in the winter of 2014-2015 (to enjoy a tropical Caribbean winter). I’ve met a lot of lovely expats while I was there and I’m happy I can share one of their stories here…
Expat life on the Caribbean island of St Maarten
Location: St Maarten (Dutch side of the island)
Home town: Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Debbie first moved to St Maarten in 2013 but stayed for only two months, continued traveling and then decided to come back to St. Maarten at the end of 2014 where she is now working for Captain Alan, a company organizing snorkel trips on power-boats. “I have been traveling around the world for about 7 years now and when I first came to St. Maarten I never planned to stay here long. But for now I’m enjoying the island and my job. How long I’ll stay? I have no idea, we’ll see what happens…”
Why St. Maarten?
“I was living in Australia for about 3 years and got really fed up with their visa system. So I eventually decided I wanted to live somewhere where I don’t have to think about getting a visa and can just enjoy my life there!”
Debbie is right, as a Dutch national it’s quite easy to legally live and work on St. Maarten and you don’t have to apply for a visa. Unfortunately it’s not that easy for most other nationalities. Check out Sintmaartengov.org for more information about living and working on the Dutch side of St. Maarten.
What do you like about St. Maarten?
“I like the fact that we spend most of our time outside. The weather here is good most of the year allowing us to spend most of our days outside, on the beach and in the ocean. Plus St. Maarten is a very lively island and offers a lot of good opportunities when it comes to work and enjoying life”
What do you dislike about St. Maarten?
“I have to say: it is an island and it’s really small. Everyone knows everything about each other! And it’s not that easy to escape for a little bit… unless you have a lot of money to spend on expensive flights out of St. Maarten…”
What is your favorite place to eat in St. Maarten?
“Bamboo Bernies without a doubt! But i have many favorites, St. Maarten has a lot of options when it comes to restaurants. But I love sushi and Bamboo Bernies does that very well!”
What is your favourite bar in St. Maarten?
“Lagoonies in the Lagoon Marina. It has amazing staff, a cozy atmosphere plus nice food and cheap drinks. I’m here every day! 😉 ”
Is there something you just have to see or do when you are on St. Maarten?
“Book a trip with Captain Alan Boat Charters of course! It really is a lot of fun: you get to swim with turtles, feed iguanas and snorkel over nice reefs.”
Any tips for moving to / living on the Dutch side of St. Maarten?
“Its worth a try! It’s a fun island and you’ll definitely meet some great people. I’m pretty easy going myself and look at it this way: try it, and if you don’t like it, you move again!”
I love Debbie’s relaxed attitude and really I think she is right: whether it’s St Maarten or any other location you would like to move to, just book a ticket. Visit the location of your choice, speak to as many people as you can while you are there, ask them for information about how to find a job, where to live, etc. and see if you still like it enough to stay.
If you do decide you love it enough to stay, a possible accommodation is a St. Maarten timeshare. There are tons available in Philipsburg to buy or rent via private owners, and they offer tons of homey amenities. Also, if you buy one you’ll be able to visit every year for less than the cost of a hotel stay!
And if you don’t decide to stay, there is no shame in going home! At least you have tried something new and I guarantee you will walk away feeling you have experienced something unique!
About St Maarten
St. Maarten is an island in the northeast Caribbean, approximately 300 km (190 mi) east of Puerto Rico. The 87-square-kilometre (34 sq mi) island is divided between France (53 km2, 20 sq mi) and the Kingdom of the Netherlands (34 km2, 13 sq mi). The Dutch side is called Sint Maarten, the French side Saint Martin.
The island has a tropical monsoon climate with a dry season from January to April and a rainy season from August to December.
St. Maarten’s Dutch side is known for its festive nightlife, beaches, jewelry and casinos. The island’s French side is known for its nude beaches, clothes, shopping (including outdoor markets), and French and Indian Caribbean cuisine. The official languages are French for Saint-Martin and both Dutch and English for Sint Maarten.
For more information about what to do when visiting St Maarten check out my blog post Things to do in St Maarten & St Martin