5 Habits Normally Considered Abnormal

Written by: Melissa B


I recently had visitors coming in to town and found myself in a massive panic preparing for their arrival. So much to do, so little time to do it! I needed to clean my apartment to a state that would be considered clean in the eyes of non-island dwellers; I needed to pick up groceries that weren’t completely foreign-sounding; I had to make sure I had 4 un-flat tires and a spare; I had to make sure my beach towel supply was clean; and I had to make sure they knew the often intimidating and always confusing drill for clearing through Customs and Immigration. In the midst of my flurry, I had a moment of clarity as I had to laugh, realizing that so many of the new habits I have formed over my time here would probably be considered abnormal anywhere but the islands…

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Habit #1 – Mind Those Expiry Dates

I will forever have it ingrained in my head that I must obsessively check the expiry date on everything I buy, lest I end up at home having actually paid for an overpriced, 3 month old carton of yogurt. I can confidently say that I can find the expiry date on 99% of items with a swiftness I never thought possible. Everything has an expiry date. Sure, some are more flexible than others, but don’t even think about buying something that doesn’t have one listed at all because you literally have no idea how long it has been here, what’s growing inside, or what adverse effects it will have on you.

Habit #2 – Never Leave Home Without a Beach Towel

I have a beach towel in my car at all times. You never know when you need to dry off after a downpour, use it as a carry-all, need it to wipe your hands after changing a tire, and even sometimes, actually use it at the beach (go figure!). I have never once been disappointed to find my trusty towel tucked in the back seat where it belongs.

Habit #3 – Keep Your Bottle Openers at the Ready

It is no secret that the spirits flow bountiful in the islands and you become pretty accustomed to always having a bottle opener nearby. They come on key chains, they come on the bottom of sandals, skilled (read: not me) people can open one bottle off the top of another, and you can even find them attached to a string at the grocery store checkout counters (where you’re used to seeing a pen, in the islands, we use those strings for bottle openers. Who needs pens anyway?!). After a few months here, you’ll likely always have something nearby that you can open a bottle with.

convenient to-go beer opener

convenient to-go beer opener

Habit #4 – Accepting That Everything’s Disposable

This one makes me cringe. You can literally buy a plastic reproduction of everything in the islands. I hate disposable items that shouldn’t be disposable, but sadly, you get used to it awfully fast here. Coming from Vancouver (the land of self-proclaimed hippies), I was an expert in recycling and could get away with only one small trash bag a week. No longer able to recycle most anything, I’ve come to tossing out plastic everything with reckless abandon. Looks like metal? Surprise – it’s plastic! Throw it out! Plastic plates, plastic utensils, plastic cups… hell, even the plastic bags to hold all the plastic are extra plastic-y here – and, might I add, extra-large to hold all that extra plastic. All this waste makes for one yucky habit.

Habit #5 – Frequent Lost Stretches to the Island Time Vortex

For some reason, it never fails that once your cell phone is dead, the time will go from acceptably late to “what the hell was I thinking?!” faster than you’ve ever imagined. It starts with those spirits flowing (see Habit #3), then, because you have that handy beach towel at the ready, you figure why not use it? (see Habit #2), then you are surrounded by other imbibing island dwellers or visitors or random strangers… add to that a beach, a boat, or a pool, and you’ve got a recipe for 4am skinny dipping and the dreaded next morning hangover. I don’t know how it happens – and I hate to call it a habit – but I have to admit that I’ve seen 4am roll around more in the last year than I have in the last five!

–   –   –

My visitors came and went and while I know they appreciated the non-expired food, I’m confident they are questioning whether the other quirks I’ve developed are truly normal in my abnormal world or if I’ve become abnormal in order to normalize. I can’t say I’m sure of either option myself…

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What habits have you developed over your island years that others (ie. those in “the real world”) would likely consider abnormal behavior?

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15 thoughts on “5 Habits Normally Considered Abnormal

  1. Hi Melissa,

    I too am from Vancouver, BC and I am curious what led you to Tortola and what you do for work there. I first went to the BVI in Feb of ’09 for my daughters wedding and went back for a month in ’11. I would love to make the move like you have so am curious as to how you managed it.

    • Hi Sandra, I work in the finance industry and have NO idea how I ended up here! BVI is not the easiest place to relocate because unless you’re very well off you need to have a work permit before you can immigrate. I see from your blog that you sail which of course is a huge industry here, throw your hat in the ring with some charter companies and your dream of the Caribbean could be a reality before you know what hit you!

  2. I keep just about everything no matter how unusual in the fridge. When my sis came to visit and she was looking for a particular food item, after about the 2nd day, she would laugh and say – It’s somewhere in the fridge, right?

    • Everything is in the fridge! Cereal? In the fridge. Crackers? In the fridge. We don’t live on the islands but we vacation there. At home (in NJ) the kids will pop in the fridge and just stare at what’s in there. On island time, you’re not opening the fridge every hour. I also find we drink way more than at home and it’s perfectly acceptable to have something containing rum at 10am. We’re up at like 5am so technically, it’s the home equivalent to noon.

  3. Only admitting this to fellow rock dwellers:
    I don’t shower every day. Or every other day…yikes! What would my mum say?
    I wear clothes that aren’t exactly clean (“It’s only a coffee splash”).
    My truck is full of sand and beer cans (empty of course).
    I don’t carry a purse; just stuff small wallet and cell phone in a pocket.
    OH, and we don’t lock our house, or truck, the rationale being that if it’s locked someone will assume there is something of value in there and break a window.
    My dog is nearly always sandy and wet.

    • Desire, I’m with you on showers; we didn’t have water supply via ‘city water’ for 2 years (the irony is there aren’t too many cities on an island 6 miles by 1 mile!) – yes, that is 24 long dirty, smelly months when I had a ‘lick and a promise’ every day. I am too embarrassed to say how often I washed my hair-suffice to say I investigated the possibility of NEVER washing my hair, I gather it takes about 3 months for unwashed hair to become soft and silky.

  4. “I don’t know how it happens” Me either. I call it going public and you just never know where you’ll end up or how long it will take., but I can guarantee you it usually involves lots of laughs, drinks and dancing.

  5. No critter-free flour is not an option in the TCI so I put flour in the freezer-it kills those pesky critters-HAH!, then move to fridge after a few days. Nail varnish doesn’t get so sticky if kept in the fridge.

  6. I had a friend visit in April and she thought it was odd that I keep towels placed in certain spots on my floor – next to the bed, in front of the couch, in the bathroom, next to the front door… .It’s to wipe the sand off my feet.
    I sweep constantly, but it NEVER GOES AWAY 🙂

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