Livin’ the Limbo Life

No, I am not referring to a neighborhood dancing contest. Though that would be a fun life to be livin’, wouldn’t it?

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The state of limbo I am referring to is the reality of leaving one’s home country and taking up residence in another. You’d think it would be easy in this day and age of online banking and connectivity, no? Settling into a new country should be as simple as packing up your stuff, contracting a shipper, shipping your stuff to your new digs, getting on a plane, and voilà! Treat yourself to some rum punches and bask in that island sunshine, you made it!

Except… it’s not quite that straightforward. Especially when the destination of your move happens to be a small island nation in the Caribbean. The problems you face aren’t just related to your new country of residence though. Sure, there are hurdles one must jump through to purchase a home and acquire residency permits – that’s a whole other chapter of adopting the rock life – but what I’ve found to be one of the biggest challenges is that while I am still a citizen of one country (Canada), I am no longer a resident of that country and at the same time, I am not (yet) a citizen of my rock (St. Vincent), but merely a permanent resident.

So what’s the big deal, you may ask? Well, let’s start with a driver’s license. My Canadian (provincial) driver’s license technically became null and void a week after I left the province. But to obtain a driver’s license on the rock is a bit of a stopping point, I’m afraid. If you are a new driver, it works pretty much like everywhere else: you pay your money, obtain a learner’s permit, and then, with a good record, you obtain the final permit. Because I have been driving (accident free, may I add!) for over 40 years, I just assumed that I should be able to get a permit. And I am – all that I am missing is a national ID card. So how do I get myself this ID card? Turns out, I must either be a permanent resident AND have been born in a commonwealth country, OR I must be a naturalized citizen. I don’t fit either scenario. See the dilemma?

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Alas, the limbo life is not limited to government regulations. Credit card companies who extol the ease and convenience of using their cards internationally are only partially telling the truth. There is a reason they include a 40 page “Terms and Conditions” manual when you obtain your card. I learned this the hard way when attempting to make an insurance claim on my Canadian-issued platinum credit card. I was referred to page 5 of the manual to a paragraph that basically stated that if I was not a permanent Canadian resident, I was entitled to, well, diddly-squat in terms of insurance coverage.

Fine. Time to shop for a new credit card then. I assume it should be easy, considering that in my previous life, I used to be deluged by offers from various banks and other assorted lending institutions. Everyone, it seemed, wanted to lend me money and provide all sorts of incentives if I only signed up for their brands of credit cards. Even my own credit cards seemed to magically have the credit limit increased on a regular basis. Enter my new island refrain: That was then, this is now.  

On the rock, it seems like I have to provide every piece of personal and financial documentation I have just to open up a bank account. One bank my husband and I visited even gave us a stern rebuke for the audacity of wanting to open up a checking account. We were told we could only get a savings account to start with because checking accounts have all sorts of fees associated with them and how on Earth could they be expected to trust us with something like that?

Guessing that a credit card with this particular bank is out of the question, I took my research online. I found the perfect credit card for our needs and, bonus, it happened to be offered via our Canadian bank and its local affiliate. As I eagerly opened up the online application form and began to fill out the mandatory fields, there came the dreaded phrase: “Not available in St.Vincent and the Grenadines”.

It was at that point that I closed the laptop for the day and went for that rum punch.

See you tomorrow, Limboland.

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I earned this.

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Ivona Bradley

About Ivona Bradley

Ivona (along with her hubby) has retired from the rat race and calls the island of St. Vincent her home. She now pursues an entirely different kind of rat race - mostly dealing with roof rats, mice, bats, and other various critters that seem to love her home as much as she does.

Ivona has swapped her power suits, high heels, and regular salon appointments for elastic waisted shorts, tank tops, and flip flops. Salon appointments now consist of biannual haircuts during her visits to her past home in Canada.

When Ivona isn't busy taking care of her three rescue dogs and volunteering with the local SPCA, she gets creative in the kitchen using whatever local and imported ingredients she is able to snag from the markets and grocery stores. She gets as excited as a child on Christmas morning when rare goodies such as panko crumbs, gouda cheese, or hoisin sauce appear on the shelves.

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9 thoughts on “Livin’ the Limbo Life

  1. Good information, I guess we will get all our ‘rocks” in a row before we pickup and leave Dubai for St. Croix. Good luck with your banking and driver’s license.

  2. Ivona…
    Your post was right on! We thought we would be very organized and open our bank accounts at one of the indigenous banks while we were on vacation here, prior to actually moving to Anguilla. Like you, we gave them every piece of personal and financial information they required, which included a police report from the State of CA! We kept emailing and telephoning the bank and finally we were told that there was a freeze on opening new accounts! We ended up waiting until we moved here and then went to Scotiabank.

    We decided not to buy a house here, so we are citizens of the US, but only visitors to Anguilla. We don’t even have residency status!!

    Sometimes it seems that it is made so difficult to live here. We feel that we contribute to the economy, and we do not present any drain on local resources. We just came here to enjoy our retirement in a tropical setting.

    Good luck getting your residency in order!

    • Susan,
      It’s the same situation with us. Hubs and I are both retired and we bought a house here. We shop locally as much as possible, we hire local workmen and we support local causes. We are definitely not a drain on this economy! And yet, the bureaucracy is maddening…not just for gov’t services, but services in general. Like you, we’ve had decent luck with Scotiabank. They seem to be one of the few banks here that is actually willing to work with us and also has a decent online presence. We were so used to online banking and bill paying in Canada. Down here it’s still pretty much a paper based society.

  3. Been there and done that! When I first moved to St. Maarten, to get a drivers licence I had to go to Saba (which is an island 26 miles off its coast) See Major Brown ,(Bring him 2 bottles of rum) and then get into a borrowed shift stick VW (which I hadnt driven a manual car in 30 years at least)…then go back to SXM and bring them my good report from Saba and hurry up and wait! Things have changed on island(u can take a test on SXM now without the Rum!)… but waiting on line for an ID card (also needing a Police Report from Sunrise FL..previous residence) etc. etc. then get a birth certificate with an Apostle stamp (no more raised little mark on your birth certificate., that is no good), etc. etc. etc. Boy could I go on and on! Anyway good luck with your settling in (even though it may feel like forever) You must take the island creed of Hurry up and wait mentality… At least in SXM you don’t have to drive on the wrong side of the road! LOL! Best wishes and have fun.. and read the book about the war in Anguilla where there was never a shot from a rifle (with a nude soldier on the front) its funny! I just forgot the name:-) Ciao for now, Nanci J

  4. Well, as for a driver’s license, that wasn’t so hard in Nevis. I paid for an annual license for so many years, then was allowed to get a permanent license. Heaven forbid if I did it the traditional way, I may have used a teacher that was not liked. Then it would take forever to get a license.

    Bank accounts are a huge issue. My husband is from Nevis, so when his father died, he opened up a new account. Then we went for a visit and added me to the account. (That is with all the information required!) Then we moved there, and I went to the bank to make a transaction. I was not on the account, so not allowed. We both went in and spoke to a person who said they did not have all the required information to add me, although we had provided it years earlier and I had written checks that were approved. We got all the information together again and they eventually added me. In time, we closed that account all together, as they just messed up way tooooo many times, even for my husband. Finally, I am a citizen by marriage, but that comes with risks, Lol!

  5. Even in the U.S. Virgin Islands, a USA territory for 99 years now, I am often stymied by dealing with stateside companies who won’t ship here,even though US Postal rates are the same as stateside, or even state that positively “we are not able to ship to offshore addresses”.
    FedEx,UPS etc. charge exorbitant International Rates – many items being shipped here have to clear Customs and are subject to Excise Taxes.
    Many websites don’t even have a way to enter any USVI information .
    My Virgin Island drivers license is routinely questioned in the states and I am often asked if I have a REAL drivers license.
    I only deal with an online bank as even after 40 years here the local hurdles and banking practices became too bothersome, too often.
    We are considered US citizens, serve in the Armed Forces, follow Federal tax laws, pay Social Security, Medicare etc but cannot vote in National Elections.
    The good things here far outweigh the frustrating things, which by now are usually just amusing to me, and I wouldn’t trade it for anyplace on the ‘Big Island’ up north!
    Don’t Stop the Carnival by H. Wouk is certainly an excellent primer for living on any of these island rocks!

  6. St. Kitts-Nevis postal service is now selling (inexpensively) a Miami address for people to shop and have things delivered to. Then Amerijet flys in weekly to deliver them, and the prices are not bad, at least for smaller items. We also go to FL. and get a 55-75 gallon barrel that we ship through Tropical shipping. That works very well also, and not very pricey.

  7. St. Kitts-Nevis postal service is now selling (inexpensively) a Miami address for people to shop and have things delivered to. Then Amerijet flys in weekly to deliver them, and the prices are not bad, at least for smaller items. We also go to FL. and get a 55-75 gallon barrel that we ship through Tropical shipping. That works very well also, and not very pricey.

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