You are here:
Home Articles Reality Check at Five Years
Reality Check at Five Years PDF Print E-mail

When we moved to Belize we made a commitment to ourselves and to Belize to stay for 5 years and then re-evaluate our move. We have now been here 5 years ... have we decided to leave and return to the United States? No, we are staying. Don't get me wrong, the last 5 years have not been without frustrations and bumps in the road. Belize is definitely not for everyone, but we love it. Our advice to anyone thinking of moving to Belize is to visit here many times before moving and visit different areas of the country. The variety and availability of items has increased significantly since we arrived.

Now, with that being said here are some of the frustrations and bumps in the roads.

Grocery Shopping

The first lesson learned: No quick trip to the grocery stores. This is true because we live a few miles from town with no stores within walking distance. Notice I said stores, because normally whatever you have on your list will not be available at the first store you go to. A trip to the stores almost always takes 2 hours; it's a social event not just a shopping trip. If you are determined to use all those brands that you used wherever you moved from, you will encounter difficulty finding them and they will also cost you a lot more money than you think they should. Remember, everything has to be shipped in, duty paid on, taxes paid on and the shopkeeper expects to make a profit and pay their employees. If you are flexible on products you can keep your costs down.

The second lesson learned: Ingredients first, then the recipe. If you decide what you want to cook and then go looking for all the ingredients, chances are you will be disappointed. I get up and, unless I already have all the ingredients in the pantry, go to the stores with a "suggested menu" in my head. If I can find it, great, if not, we are on to Plan "B". If I can find half of what I think I need, I buy it, the other half will be available sometime. The joke around our house is that one year in July I came home with marshmallow creme. When asked by my husband what I was going to do with it I proudly announced "Make fudge!" Yes, the question he asked was, "In July?" "Of course not! In December," I replied. I had bought it in July because the store had it and I didn't see it in the stores here again for another 3 years.

The third lesson learned: Shopping is educational. Most fruits and vegetables are purchased in the Mercado (open air market), meats from the butcher shops, and canned goods in the grocery stores. I learned quickly that it was not only a shopping experience but an educational experience. I was always asking "What is that and what do I do with it?" Ask those questions and try the local fruits and vegetables. You might like them and at worst, you learned that you didn't and won't buy them again. It is also a lesson in Spanish. Because we are located in Corozal there is a fairly large population that speaks little if any English. So I practice my Spanish.

The fourth lesson learned: Supply and Demand. After 5 years here I have learned that food items go missing (are unavailable) for what I originally thought was no apparent reason but there truly is a reason. It's a lesson in supply and demand. Eggs may go missing at Easter, at graduation times and at Christmas time. This is due to the fact that here in Northern Belize we have a large Hispanic population who cook a dish called "black relleno" for special occasions and this dish requires a large amount of eggs. The lesson is to buy your eggs early! Do not wait until the last minute or you may very well be doing without. Sometimes it's a simple matter that the chicken truck, the fruit/vegetable truck, the delivery truck carrying toilet paper, mouthwash or a multitude of other items just didn't show up. Smile, and remember to always buy what you need before you run completely out of it and keep an extra in your pantry.

Bill Paying

This is another social event. Because we live 6 miles from Corozal Town our bills (like telephone and electricity) are put in our PO Box. However, if you live in town, chances are that your bills may be stuck in your fence or whatever is handy when the bill delivery person goes past your house. Hence, you have to be aware of when your bills are due because there is no past due notice. Here, the past due notice is one day you have no current (electricity) or no telephone when you go to make a call or no water when you turn the tap on. There is no grace period and no agency that says it is an essential service so it cannot be disconnected. Oh yes, a large re-connection fee will be charged. Land tax bills are not sent out, you have to remember to pay them. Here is a list of some bills that you may never get notice of:

  • Insurance renewals (auto and premises)

  • Drivers license renewal

  • Car registration renewals

  • Land tax

  • Cable TV

It's your responsibility to know when these bills are due and to make timely payments. On the other hand, life is more relaxed and sometimes it's the end of the month before your ISP comes to collect for the current month and the garbage collection company has yet to collect for the past 3 months of service.

Eating Out

Most restaurants do have published opening hours; but there is no guarantee they'll actually be open. It's not at all unusual to decide to go to our favorite restaurant on an evening they say they are to be open only to find them closed. On to Plan "B" again. Why are they closed? Someone got sick, the cook didn't show up, yesterday they didn't have any business so they decided today there wouldn't be any business either, or they simply decided to take the day off. Frustrating? Yes, but we've managed to not starve in the past 5 years. Besides, they most likely will be open one day they are supposed to be closed. Just keep checking, and eat there when they're open.

Networking

This is a must! We have a relatively great group of retirees, ex-pats, gringos, whatever you want to call them, that have discovered the art of networking. It doesn't matter whether it's simply for information or items needed. I have several friends that when one of us makes a trip down to Belize City, we e-mail others to see if there is anything we can pick up for them. It's not an enjoyable trip, but that's a whole story in itself, so if we can limit our trips and help each other out, it's great. This also extends to bringing items from the United States that we simply cannot find at all here. Because life is much slower here there is more opportunity to connect with neighbors and friends. This is a great plus!

Small Lessons Learned

  • Elastic in all clothing stretches out faster here than anywhere else in the world.

  • Everything will rust, it's just a matter of time.

  • Everything fades, some colors faster than others.

  • Red (fire) ant bites hurt a lot, so it's better to not stand on their nests.

  • Electricity will go missing at the worst possible time, like 5 minutes before you turn the coffee on.

  • Tropical downpours will challenge how quickly you can take clothes off the line.

  • Cane fires will happen only after you just finished cleaning all the windows and screens.

  • Window coverings fade at lightning speed.

  • If you need it now, you cannot find it.

  • Weathermen here cannot predict weather any more accurately than anywhere else.

  • Plan "B" is usually what we run on.

  • Most stores actually close on Holidays and Sundays or run on shortened hours.

  • You can start any plant or tree from seed or a clipping.

  • Nothing you are doing is so important that you can't quit when friends come to visit.

  • Strangers are only friends waiting to be engaged.

  • Many websites have very outdated, misleading and erroneous information on them.

 

People are always asking what do you do since you are retired? My normal answer now is that "We aren't retired, just tired." There is no such thing as a "normal" day because we tend to run on that infamous Plan "B" more often than not. The only "normal" thing that happens daily is we have coffee on the veranda first thing in the morning with the puppy (he's 95 lbs now but who's counting?). We love our life here, the pace is much slower, the weather is warmer, we are more connected with friends, we are able to volunteer at our church and school as needed and we do much more of what we want to do, not what we are told we must do. Is there a downside to living in Belize? Of course, there is! I would not be honest if I told you no, but the pluses far outweigh the minuses.

If you have specific questions or specific areas you would like addressed please contact us at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it or just click on "contact us" and we will do our best to provide timely, accurate information, at least as it pertains to Corozal. Unless, of course, we are running on Plan "B" because for some unknown reason our ISP is down.