The Great Divide: Expats vs. Caymanians

| 01/06/2009

I find it highly disturbing that there is such contention between Caymanians and expats and "paper Caymanians". The more we concentrate on "us" vs. "them", the more we will find to divide us.

To bring it home, for those women who go to that salon where her stylist knows exactly how she likes her hair done or how you always have toenails done, do you realize that they will be rolled over too? Which Caymanian do you see fighting for that job? How frustrated do you think you will be having to explain yourself over and over till you find another stylist or nail technician just how you like your hair and nails done? For those with helpers that you and your kids love, for those whose children are learning much better from the teachers and tutors….. How can you not see that in 4, 5, 7 years from now when that person gets rolled over, your child’s life, and your customer service experience will be negatively affected? How do you think the tourist feels when they come to check in and no one knows that they’ve been coming to Cayman every year for the past 15 years?

How many Caymanians do you know that are clamouring to be housekeepers and make USD$4 an hour? But a clean room is essential to tourism dollars, one of two economic pillars of which we all enjoy the benefits. What happens when Jamaicans, Hondurans and Filipinos no longer feel welcomed in our country and leave for home, where they make just as little money but are far more welcome? What happens when your favourite bartender leaves and returns to Canada?

These things add up people. Yes, it is quite true that if there are capable, willing, reliable and qualified Caymanians, they should get the job. But in some cases, one of these elements is missing — Caymanian business owners, you know it’s true. Our own people sometimes want to pick and choose aspects of their job and tell the boss what they will do! And you know it’s true. Yes, immigrants need to be managed — diversity in immigrants should be encouraged as a means of enriching the pot and not being overly-dependent on workers from any one nationality. It is never a good idea to have all your eggs in one basket, any finance person will tell you that. But you don’t need a rollover policy to accomplish that.

I think that it should be a wake-up call to Caymanians that despite the fact that Government has a rollover policy, and has both raised the cost of work permits and made it harder to justify getting a work permit, that both Government and private sector businesses alike find it more beneficial to hire expats in many cases. Wake up, Cayman! The Government has put stringent measures in place and still expats are hired. Do you think businesses wouldn’t love to have fewer expenses and more profits? Do you think businesses and Government would do that if there were capable, willing, reliable and qualified Caymanians to fill the positions?

I cannot understand for the life of me why we cannot look at the bigger picture. For crying out loud, can’t you see that we all, expats and Caymanians, have a role to play in making Cayman successful? The more successful Cayman is, the more opportunities there are for everyone, Caymanian and non-Caymanian alike. Like other Caymanians, I am tired of hearing a lot of expats speaking ill of us and our country. However, I am sick and tired of hearing Caymanians doing to same to expats. If we treat expats negatively, mimicking how some of them treat us, we are no better than how we perceive them to be.

I challenge expats to find the good in Caymanians. Don’t be so quick to believe the worst of what you hear or see. Caymanians are still a good people and you shouldn’t bite the hand that feeds you. And as long as you are working in Cayman, Cayman is the hand that feeds you. You are just as dependent on Cayman’s success as Caymanians are. So learn to work with us. By the same token, Caymanians, please, for love of God, stop being so hostile to expats. I wish that we would stop blaming others for where we are as individuals today. If you really want something, you can find a way to get it with integrity. To me, that is where we as Caymanians are failing. We are losing our integrity. And that saddens me. When we drive away people who help us make our country successful and who we can learn from, we do ourselves a disservice. Business will go elsewhere. When business goes elsewhere, there will be fewer jobs, which means there will be fewer jobs for all — Caymanians included.

If your Government department or business/company doesn’t have succession planning, demand it. It creates a business structure that helps people understudy key positions, learn the ropes and get experience with the idea that one day they will be in a position to take over jobs as capable, deserving, experienced and hopefully educated individuals, who also happen to be, guess what, Caymanian. Remember when you accept a position with any entity, it is because they found something beneficial in hiring you and you found something beneficial in being with them. It is not just about money for the employee. So, if your department or company doesn’t have succession planning and your demands for it aren’t going anywhere, let me share this with you:

My former (Caymanian boss) once told me, sometimes the journey to the top is not always straight. And she was right. We might have to become an expat in someone else’s country to get the world experience we need to assume the job at the helm. These days you have to be competitive, you have to think strategy. Victor Frankl said, "When we can no longer change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves." We should be flexible, resilient, determined. We should remain true to wholesome, Godly values. The way we treat some expats…it can hardly be called wholesome or Godly and for that we should be ashamed.

I am not yet 30, I am a woman, I am Caymanian. When I first started working in 2006, I was underpaid; my degrees did nothing to get me extra money. But I didn’t bash expats; I didn’t kick up a fuss and demand better pay or a better position. I learned all I could for two years at that job and then I applied for another job. The pay was better. There again, I took in as much as I could before applying for yet another job. This year, I started another job. Am I where I would like to be? No. Am I in management? No. But I am sure as heck on my way there. I take knowledge and work where I can get it. And guess what? Expats are very willing to share what they know and contribute to my development. I have to say, the pay is not at all shabby either. So you see, if one young female Caymanian can do it, others can as well.

This is hardly the time to tear each other down. Bring down the divide and let’s learn to work together already because all this bickering between both expats and Caymanians is only creating tension, dissent and an awfully hard pill to swallow. The rollover policy only reinforces that divide and an increasing sense of expat alienation. "United we stand; divided we fall." I hope we can all be mature and move forward for the betterment of the Cayman Islands.

I hope Government and Private Sector read this. I hope expats and Caymanians read this. And I hope we can all be mature about it and move forward for the betterment of the Cayman Islands. God bless us all. We need it.

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