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…

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…

*click for image credit

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

Written By:

Current Rock of Residence:

Tortola, BVI

Island Girl Since:


Originally Hails From:

Western Canada

Melissa lives on Tortola in the BVI where she finds there is never a shortage of oddities and quirks that often make her question her thought process, or lack thereof, which got her here in the first place. While adapting to the ways of the island, she finds herself smiling and nodding regularly while having no idea what someone has just told her, drinking far more fermented beverages that one probably should, and in constant struggle to avoid the island’s one rogue white horse. Her life on a rock may not be what she had first imagined, but it comes with no shortage of amusement, delight, and the occasional good lesson.

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