Here’s How to NOT Annoy People (and Get the Help You Want!)
I realize we sometimes give the impression here on Women Who Live on Rocks that we island people don’t like answering any questions at all about our island life. And yes, when it comes to the repetitive, not-so-well-thought-out questions (see: tourons), that impression would be an accurate one. But overall, most of us really do enjoy the opportunity to connect with interesting people who share our love of the tropics – whether they currently live on a rock or not.
If you are someone who has designs of one day moving to an island, whether it be in the near or distant future, I’m sure you have plenty of things you’re wondering about in terms of what the lifestyle actually entails. And who better to ask than fellow humans who have already made the leap themselves.
Personally, I receive quite a few messages from people looking for just that – my insider island knowledge to help better prepare them for their desired relocation to Barefoot Country. Many of the other contributors to this site have individual blogs as well (you can find them in the side bar under the “Blogs We Follow” list) and receive similar requests for their specific rocks of residence too.
And while we are all generally happy to help when we can, we often can’t give everyone quite the attention they’re looking for. We aren’t relocations experts who lay in hammocks all day waiting for emails to come in (although that would be a damn sweet gig if it existed…). We may be stationed on a picturesque rock, but we still have demanding jobs and busy lives and dreams of our own to chase – things that tend to put the dreams of others on the back burner. With this in mind, I thought I’d take a moment to cue you aspiring island peeps in on a little secret: there is a right way and a wrong way to ask for advice. One way will get you a reply, and the other will get you crickets.
Take this for example. I received the following message through an expat blogging site:
Hi:My husband and I and our 13 year old boy are ready for a big move from California. We’ve somewhat narrowed it down to your area. We desire
1) Gorgeous TROPICAL area that is not completely overrun with tourism
2) A breezy ocean-front cottage (right on the ocean front): not a mini-mansion but a pretty little breezy thing…
3) Other teenagers and families, and a friendly attitude toward expats.
Can anyone speak to the following points for me? SO appreciate it!
– Quality of schools
– Is the culture upscale/entitled/wealthy, or more down-to-earth?
– Is there an attitude toward “Gringos”? : mostly concerned that my son won’t get treated harshly for being American
– Safety: crime
– Beachfront rentals: affordable? Available?
– Alcoholism, drugs, etc.
– Are American kids excluded at all?
– What side of the street do cars drive on? Can we keep car?
– Can we bring our pet dog (fully vaccinated, etc.)
Thank you so much!
After I finished laughing, I shared this with several island friends, almost believing that one of them had to have sent it to me as a prank. I mean, really – if this is a real person, it’s pretty damn clear that she didn’t even take the time to read anything on this site in the first place. An “oceanfront cottage”, a “pretty little breezy thing” “right on the ocean front” “not a mini-mansion” – don’t we all dream of that, darling. Don’t. We. All. This site is about island realities, yet so much of this letter is straight out of FantasyLand.
My intention in sharing this is not to be mean-spirited towards this woman, who sounds like a perfectly nice person. It’s an innocent enough request, though ridiculous on so many levels. Especially if, like me, you receive requests for help all the time. This is a perfect example of the type of request that gets put off and/or ignored. I noticed that she posted the same message publicly in several other forums and has received practically zero response from anyone. She may be thinking, “How rude these island people are! How unhelpful! How unfriendly!” But essentially, she dug her own grave and is responsible for the radio silence she is now receiving. It’s a shame for anyone to feel so blatantly ignored, so I thought I’d use her letter as an example of what NOT to do, and show anyone in the same boat how you can actually garner a reply.
Here are a few of my Helpful Tips in Asking for Island Relocation Advice:
Do the basic research on your own time.
If you want people to help you, don’t waste their time by asking simple things you can find in a quick search on the internet. That’s a surefire way to turn people off and make them think you’re lazy and are just wanting someone to spoon feed you – something none of us have time for, especially for a relative stranger. A question like “what side of the street do cars drive on ___ island?” popped into Google can get you your answer faster than you can email it. I know this and thus will not waste my energy to reply it to you, knowing full well that when I don’t respond, you can and will find it yourself, like the grown-up that you are.
If there’s a specific website devoted to moving to the rock you’re interested in, start there.
I live in the British Virgin Islands and an amazing resource has come on the scene in recent years called BVI Newbie. If you Google “BVI” and “relocation”, it should be one of the first sites that pop up. Their whole business is devoted to providing all the minute details that you need to know to relocate to this territory from employment requirements, to immigration laws, to relocating your pets, to quality of schools, etc. These are the people whose job it is to answer most of the questions you have. Use them. Many other islands have their own version of this as well.
Check out our sites and see if we’ve already answered your question before. And then please do not email us with the exact same question.
Many of our contributors have their own blogs where they share their experiences of life on their particular island, many offering relocation advice and answering FAQs in the process. For example, one of our Roatan women, Rika, has a fantastic site called Cubicle Throwdown. She has many readers who long to do just what she’s done – escape the cubicle life and set sail for the Caribbean. She has made herself a useful resource by writing articles on the cost of living in Roatan, apartment options, what it’s really like to work as a scuba instructor there, etc. If you have questions after you read her articles, by all means, send them over and I’m sure she’ll try and answer them. But just don’t send an email asking how much rent generally runs in Roatan when she’s already written about it and it’s out there for the taking.
Ask one or two specific questions at a time. Have some patience and wait for a reply before sending more.
Please do not email me a list of 20+ questions you have about the island, especially questions that require detailed responses. Remember – I am not a relocations expert being paid to help you and will not spend an hour of my weekend answering essay questions that do not serve me any purpose other than nice person karma points. The easier you make it for someone to help you, the more likely it is that they will give you a response. An email like the one above littered with vague bullet points such as “alcoholism, drugs, etc?” and “safety: crime?” is sure to be put off for later, if answered at all.
Save the philosophical inquiries for your close friends/family/therapist.
I do not know if moving to an island is “right” for you, mostly because I do not know you. It is shocking to me how many perfect strangers will ask me things like, “Do you think this is the right time in my life for me to move to the islands?” and “Do you think it is the right career move for me to relocate at this time?” and “Do you think my kids will adjust well to island life?” Sure, it’s mildly flattering to be treated like an all-knowing gypsy fortune teller, but really, how the hell am I supposed to answer something like that? Most of us are in a constant dance in our own heads if living here is even “right” for us (whatever that means…). Soul searching is best done within your own soul – the souls of others are decidedly cloudier to read. The hemming and hawing over whether or not you should actually take a chance and move to an island is not something I need to be involved in. I realize it’s a huge decision, but input from me is not the way to make it.
Personalize your inquiry so it doesn’t feel like I’m receiving a blanket email campaign.
When you can’t even be bothered to address your note to my name, it decreases my motivation to respond to you by at least 90%. If you’re too busy to actually acknowledge that you’re reaching out to me, the individual, I’m too busy to spend my time engaging in your email blast. In the letter above, the woman seems to have sent it to a variety of people on a variety of islands. Sending me a letter asking “is there an attitude towards ‘Gringos’?” is borderline obnoxious. This is not a Spanish-speaking country. There are no “gringos” here.
Read our site. Compliment us. Or at least show that your interests aren’t entirely self-serving.
No one likes to feel used and abused. If I’m going to help someone, I’d like to think that the reason they are reaching out to me in particular is because they feel a connection with me through my writing in some way, shape, or form. I’m not asking you to blow sunshine up my ass (insincerity is both insulting and extremely easy to sniff out), but if you did like something I wrote, mention it. Those of us in the blogging world all have moments when we feel like we’re speaking to an empty room. Hearing from a reader who related to something I wrote is always a day brightener and forms more of a connection between us (ie. makes me want to help you!).
Last but not least, mind your manners.
Please don’t get snotty with me and assume I exist for the sole purpose of serving your needs. Passive aggressive remarks like, “Oh, I was starting to think you weren’t going to actually reply to me…” after a mere 48 hours is a real turn-off. Again, I am giving you my time and advice out of kindness alone. If you want to boss someone around, you can go hire an expensive real estate agent to answer your plethora of questions. Please, thank you, and other pleasantries (especially over the famously misinterpreted email sphere), always go a long way. Gracious people tend to get treated graciously.
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Women Who Live on Rocks celebrates the humorous quirks of island life. So while we may share a list on How to Move Your Car to the Islands, it’s intended more to showcase the frustratingly comedic island procedures than it is to provide specific instructions. We may not be a resource devoted to relocating to a rock, but we are all about the lifestyle. If you connect with one of our writers, please don’t ever hesitate to reach out. We love sharing our lives with all of our readers and are SO grateful to you for your interest. And meeting a cool new island friend before they even move down is always a treat. Just Google the mundane crap first, please. And then come to us when you want the absurd war stories…