When I moved to Placencia, Belize from Canada just over a year ago, I had an idea of how life would be here. I knew the people would be easy-going and friendly and that life would be a lot simpler – certainly much less stress than the daily grind of my corporate job in Canada. But even the most basic activities – eating out, shopping for food, going to the bank, cleaning my clothes – are different from what I was used to.
But, no matter how much research you do or how many visits you made before the move, it’s going to take a while before you feel like “you get it”. It’s been over a year for me and I’m not there yet!
But, you know that the adjustment is happening when you start doing and thinking like this:
When something breaks, you don’t think about replacing it, you think about how to fix it
When I lived in Canada, something would break and I would either drive to the nearest store or hardware store and get a new one. Or order it on Amazon. If it was more expensive, I would call my building’s handyman.
Here in Belize, I think twice (or more) before ordering from Amazon as it takes at least two to three weeks to get here and is more expensive once the shipping and customs duties have been added onto it.
And to find a handyman is another challenge. You can’t just google “best handyman in my area” – it’s word-of-mouth and actual phone calls. If you do find such a treasure, buy him/her a house! This goes for a good mechanic too. And don’t expect instant service – you could be waiting a day or two or more.
In Placencia, the sea air chews away at everything. I have pried open all sorts of things that shouldn’t be opened, from cell phone chargers to digital clocks, in case there was rust I could blow out or a wire I could wiggle. For larger things, there’s a whole lot of jerry-rigging going on.
An invitation for your neighbor’s baby shower says 3 pm. You arrive at 5 pm and you’re still the first one there.
Time is relative here. Right now means later today, tomorrow or never. Fifteen minutes means sometime today. Tomorrow means sometime this week, and the most elastic time segment of all – two weeks. Two weeks can mean three weeks, two months or next year, but never, ever does it mean fifteen days.
For different events, it means different things. A Placencia town council meeting might start 15 – 30 minutes later. A nigh time party – 2 -4 hours after the time specified. Everyone Belizean seems to know this but you.
You come to a screaming halt to allow a dog/iguana/snake/crocodile to move out of the road – or not
Animals here love to lie in the middle of the road sunning themselves. On a busy street, you’ll find an elderly, mostly deaf, potlicker lounging on a heavily trafficked road. You might stop, he might get up and amble to the curb. But maybe not.
You can call your doctor and get an appointment in 20 minutes
What a change from Canada. That goes for specialists too! We called a cardiologist in Belize City and were given an appointment for the next day – no referral required!
When you order a beer, you mean Belikin regular – duh
In 2009, CARICOM beers were allowed into the country for the first time. Presidente, Red Stripe, Heinekin, Carib – the brands come and go.
But when you order “a beer,” you always mean Belikin. After a good long total monopoly, it is the beer of Belize.
If someone asked, you’d consider coleslaw and potato salad your daily vegetables
If you eat local (and I do), you rarely get a green vegetable on your plate. Breakfast could be burritos, johnny cakes or beef pies, lunch, stew chicken, rice & beans with coleslaw and potato salad, and dinner more of the same.
If you want broccoli, lettuce , asparagus or any other imported vegetable, it’s going to cost you.
You wave at almost everybody you pass – especially in September or October
Placencia is a small village. There are approximately 4,700 people here. Maybe more? But if you have been here long enough, especially in the “slow season” when there are very few tourists, you know who lives here full-time and you wave.
You start to understand how everyone in Placencia is related.
There are a few prominent names in Placencia – Garbutt, Wesby, Eily, Cabral, Leslie – to name a few. You might find that your grocer is related to the cousin of your handyman who is the uncle of the head of police. Personal relationships are everything here, and it takes a long time to find out how everyone is connected.
When you walk into the Bank and there are 10 people in front of you and you think – meh, not so bad
Like I said, time moves a bit slower down here, and going to the bank is a perfect example.
In my 25 years in Vancouver, I don’t think I actually went into a bank more than 2 or 3 times. Everything is done online. Everything.
In Belize, if you want to cash a check or make a payment, you actually go into the bank. You know when the lines will be long (end of week or end of month) and you do your best to avoid them, but during high season, a line of 10 or less is a home run. Don’t worry, they have the AC pumping, the TV on and there is always someone in line to chat with.
Gecko poop on your bed is no surprise, in fact, it’s a positive
Go away for the weekend and odds are, that on your return, there will be small turds on your bed. No, you don’t have rats! Rats don’t go on the bed! You have geckos and you should rejoice. They eat sand flies and mosquitos.
You don’t expect the power to be on ALL the time
The lights go out in Placencia at the most inopportune times. Our electric company, Belize Electricity Limited (BEL), schedules outages for maintenance. Usually at 6am on one of the hottest Sundays, so when your fan and AC go off, you wake up immediately drenched in sweat.
It also just goes out. You can count on a power outage (or as the locals say “the current”) on Christmas eve, when Placencia is packed with power-hogging tourists. 😉
In the same vein, the water pressure is usually very low for the busy Easter weekend. This year, the people without a cistern and a pump, couldn’t take a shower.
You no longer do a double-take when you see a baby on a motorcycle or in a bike basket
In Canada, we are used to lots of safety measures – in moving vehicles especially. Kids and adults alike wear helmets on bicycles and skate boards.
In Placencia, a lot of residents drive golf carts, motorcycles or mopeds, or bicycles to work, town, to school and everywhere. Car seats aren’t really a thing, so you’ll often see a baby in a front bicycle basket sitting on a pillow riding with Dad to town, or a toddler seated in front of his mom on her motorbike heading to work. My visiting friends often gasp, but me? I think it’s super cute.
Rain brings about a wide range of emotions
During the busy season (December thru May) we see almost no rain. People rejoice when it first comes – the flowers, the cisterns! And that road dust that plagues everyone in the drier season just disappears.
But when it starts raining hard, things change. That road dust? It’s now mud flicking up your back as you bicycle or walk in flip-flops (we certainly can’t go out in this!). Because there’s very little drainage here, properties and roads are likely to be flooded, leaving us to take off our flip flops and slosh about in it to get to the main road.
And then, the mosquitos. Oh the mosquitos.
I know there’s so many more you can help me with. Please feel free to comment about how you know you live in Placencia.