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