How I Stayed in Belize (Getting a Job) – An Expat’s Move, Part 2

Ok…so where did I leave off…I was single (still am), 32, with no kids.  I put everything in storage, sold my car and moved to San Pedro, Belize in early 2007.  I was ready to take a year off and enjoy my new country.  I had met lots of Brits, Canadians and Americans who had moved here.  So what if I was one of the youngest ones or one of the only single ones?  So what if lots of them seemed a little bit wacky?  All I wanted to do for one full year was relax and have fun.  Get acclimated to the island.  And figure out if I could make this my new home.

I did some snorkeling.  I did some sailing.  I had friends down to visit.  I baked 800 cupcakes for the island’s first lobsterfest.  My family can to visit.  I went fishing.  I got certified in diving by Amigos Del Mar.  I visited Cayo, the Belize Zoo and the Mayan ruins (Xunantunich and Tikal). I met lots of locals.  I sampled all the rums and beers that Belize has to offer.  A few people talked to me about job oppurtunities but they were usually more than a bit inebriated and were usually talking about coming down here to revolutionize some business in Belize. (You don’t know how many people I’ve listened to over the years saying that they were going to change the bar business in San Pedro.  THEY were going to make it really work.  Whatever.) I was perfectly content relaxing.  I never wanted to work again.

Here are some random pictures of 2007.

Me and the family at Xunantunich.
View outside my old condo at the BYC.
Josimar at Changes in Latitudes helping a big iguana relocate outside the yard.
The sign from our LobsterFest booth…and the name of our award winning cocktail. 
Recipe for the Mermaid’s Kiss: 1.5 oz. coconut rum, 3/4 oz blue curacao, 1 oz lime squash, 4 oz. water, 1/2 oz coconut cream.  Add ice and shake.  Delicious and sweet.
Junior the Jaguar at the Belize Zoo.  (I have no special camera, this is how close you are to him).
 Tikal in Guatemala.
No really, I never wanted to work again.  December 2007 rolled around and I hadn’t worked since May 2006.  It was awesome.  Except for my Lehman Brothers stock that was beginning to tank. 

When you are not working and not worrying about working, it’s amazing how you can fill your day will the little things.  Walking into town to go fruit shopping, going to the gym and a swim in the ocean?  All in one day?  Impossible.  I took a whole new approach to life.

But not many around me seemed to enjoy it.  Aren’t you getting restless?  How do you think you are ever going to find a job?  And my favorite:  “I could never do what you are doing…I would get too bored”.  Ummmm…THEN DON’T DO IT! 

Ok, maybe they had a point…so I opened my mind up to the possibility of getting a job.  And incredibly one popped up almost instantly. 

One of the oldest and more popular bars in town, The Tacklebox, has had many owners since it opened in the late 1970s.  In the summer of 2007, the previous American owners (who had done so pretty big renovations) closed the doors and put the place up for sale.  It was purchased at the end of December, an acquintance recommended me to the new owner, I met him and had a 4 minute interview and we opened the bar two days later.

I had never run a bar and never worked at a bar or restaurant.  But hey, I love bars…I always loved this bar.  It could work. Plus, the owner was willing to sponsor my work permit.  As the owner of the bar, his permit was almost a given.  But if you are a foreigner and non-business owner, it is a much more tricky to get this permit that allows you to work either for pay or even as a volunteer.  Plus, it costs $2000bzd or $1000usd a year.  Again, I got lucky.  My work permit came through relatively easily as General Manager of Tacklebox Bar & Grill and my work paid for it.

I worked for 5 months before I went home in May of 2008 and had a huge garage sale.  I sold all of my stuff.  Clothes, shoes, books, pots and pans…almost everything.  I now have only 3 boxes at my mother’s house.  And only two winter outfits.

My advice to you when coming down here for work.  Give yourself time.  Finding a job is not easy.  Meet as many people as you can.  Yes, most of this networking takes place in bars in this town.  But the more friends and acquaintences that you make, the better.   Ask one million questions.  Make it known that you are looking for a job. You never know where an interesting oppurtunity is going to come from.  Hang out with locals, tourists, local gringos…this town, like most places, is often about “who you know”.  Take advantage of that.

You never know what is going to pop up.  But you also need to be prepared to wait.

I guess my next installment is:  How I Got My Residency in Belize (the equivalent to a US Green Card).

Again, feel free to send me any questions that you might have.  I’m sure I left a bunch of things out. 





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  • Rian Jaskiewicz

    Hello, My name is Rian. I am from Ohio. I moved to South Florida about a year and a half ago. I still don’t feel I’m far enough away from reality. I have been thinking about an Island life. I have only one question. Would you do it again?

  • Me

    Hi Rian, Yeah…I’d do it again. Rebecca

  • LazyOldCuss

    I’m wondering, how do the locals feel about a ‘gringo’ selling stuff to the tourists? Kind of a self-employment thing, y’know? A table off to the side with some handy craft trinkets and such? Nothing illegal, of course! Could a guy set up a ‘lemonade stand’ type of little business without to much trouble?

  • Me

    You need to have a work permit or residency to sell anything…so that would be the major stumbling block!

  • LazyOldCuss

    Well, I’m not worried about the permits, more about the stepping on of toes of the locals. I’d probably hire at least one local to help…

  • Steven Dionne

    Hi Rebecca,

    What advice do you have for a self-employed, young couple looking to move to Belize but continue earning an income from Canada.

    I’m a public speaker and financial planner and plan to come back to Canada 3 months a year. My gf has a internet business.

    What would you say would be needed in terms of a salary to support ourselves in Belize, but still be able to have the money to fly home once or twice a year.

    Also, do you know of any foreigners who sell Real Estate?

    Thanks,

    Steve

  • Me

    Are you thinking of living on Ambergris Caye? If so…it’s the most expensive area in Belize. It all depends on how you want to live…rent can be anywhere from $600 to $1000 US a month. Electric and cable $200 to $300. Internet is tricky…for decent speeds it is EXPENSIVE. I’d say for the two of you, you will want $2500US a month. (That is not counting the trips “home”.)

    There are quite a few real estate companies on the island and many expats working at them. I’d guess more than there are Belizeans. That is a viable route to go but competition is STIFF!

    I wrote (and underestimated) about my budget a while ago: http://www.sanpedroscoop.com/2011/09/how-much-does-it-really-cost-to-live-in.html. There are some other blog posts out there too…