Foreign relations

| 08/11/2009

It’s never easy moving to another country. I arrived here shortly after Ivan. I recall being excited at the prospect of working for a while in the Caribbean. But as the aircraft approached over the azure sea and I peered out the window, it wasn’t quite what I expected. Lush? Oh, not really. More like Vietnam after it had been “liberated”.

I wondered why there were no leaves on the trees and the strange location of some of the boats. You see, you have no idea of the actual damage a hurricane can create through news outlets. And, as you well know, Cayman didn’t get much attention in the media. And it was hot. Real hot. Yes, I’m a gringo and as we headed from the airport on the wrong side of the road, I shed layer after layer. I was fortunate enough at that time to obtain a work permit because many of the requirements had been waived in the need for massive amounts of labor.

And I tell you, without a doubt, in spite of the destruction I saw everywhere, I was intrigued, and also enchanted. Not by the surroundings! By the people. When you come from a country, as I did, where the vast majority are homogenous, you’re looking through different eyes. And what I found was something that supported what I had always believed: We’re basically all the same. Given the opportunity and the right frame of mind, we’re also color-blind.

Now, if you’re a tourist, which many of us have been, arriving in a different culture and surroundings is interesting. But you do tend to gather together in flocks, take the requisite amount of photos to prove your arrival to friends back home, and approach the experience in many ways as a film you’ve gone to see. But when you move somewhere and work somewhere alongside others, that’s where the experience becomes real and immediate.

Most of us ex-pats are here, in reality, because of work. And very many of us have diverged from that initial purpose in that we have become attached in other ways than through our paycheques. That is a difficulty that many of us have encountered and it’s very personal. From our outlook, we are only here for a period of time. And, as many of the posts on these forums have hurtfully pointed out, in many cases we’re not completely welcome, or at best, seen as a hindrance. On a personal level … it does hurt, because you’re not sure what you’re guilty of, and if so, don’t know how to correct it. I’m open to suggestion.

But I’m not crying the blues, I feel most grateful for being given an opportunity, because I’m not rich, to live here. It’s difficult to express that. Both on a personal and, more importantly, a social level, that’s a serious problem for ex-pats. Other than to show respect, there is a desire on the part of many ex-pats to participate in what I guess we could call an adopted culture, or a culture that has adopted us – sometimes begrudgingly.

But many of us try and many of us are sincere. Home has different connotations to people. Sometimes it’s the place you were born. Sometimes it’s the place you have chosen. Sometimes it’s the place you would defend against all odds. So I am attempting to express my own personal views on the matter. It’s hard work sometimes in the heat, but I enjoy it. Not the sweat – no mon, that’s different – but the fact that at the end of my day I can stop by the store and see Caymanians, Filipinos, Jamaicans, Guyanians, tourists, and any number of the mix of people that make up our world mingling and shopping, checking out the produce, saying “sorry” and chasing their kids who have headed straight for the candy aisle.

No matter how hard my day has been and whatever mood it’s left me in … I have to smile. This is a world we envision – or should. And we’re actually living in it! Hard to remember that sometimes when there’s heated conversations going on.

While we talk about the practicalities, and yes, inequities, because they are present too, we should not lose track of the opportunity. For whatever reason, we have all gathered together here on this tiny dot in a world filled with strife.

Cayman has forever changed me, as it does everyone. Whether they arrive here as workers or tourists, I’m certain that everyone looks back on it at some point and says, “ That wasn’t a bad place at all … in fact it was kind of wonderful … and I thoroughly enjoyed myself.” And you can bet, it wasn’t because of the attractions – or even the lack of them. It was the people.

We all make up this society that no one can ever forget. And I am grateful for CNS in going a good way to helping us realize that. Now let’s continue to argue!

Because if I don’t hear from you, and you don’t hear from me, how are we supposed to know each other?

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Category: Viewpoint

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  1. Animosity says:

    Allan: Just look at all the animosity and expat bashing and tell yourself " Mon No Problem"

    One thing I can guarantee you is that irrespective of what Caymanians are presently saying with respect to expats, you can get up every morning and go about your daily life and not worry that anyone is waiting to bash you on the head because you are an expat.

    The old folks used to say "Words are wind but blows are unkind". Like everything else this period of animosity will pass and Caymanians and expats will return to the peace and harmony that Caymanians are known for.

    It only takes one bad apple to spoil the crate and a single expat expressing ungratefulness for what these islands offer them is all it takes to push Caymanians into a defensive position.

    Your post is very balanced and gives one the feeling that what you say comes from the heart.

  2. Allan Creasey says:

    I am blown away by all of this. But I’m not surprised. To quote or paraphrase an old cartoon strip:

    "We have seen our friends. And they are us."

  3. Leb says:

    To Allan C.

    As a Caymanian I felt honored to pass on your universal insight, I assume my fellow Caymanians will do same. 

    Joseph (Lebbie) Yates

    GCM, CYM Isles.

  4. Anonymous says:

    Some great points made Allan – you should send this to be published in one of the papers so everyone can read.   I moved here 5 years ago like you and feel priveleged to have been given the opportunity to live and work in such a diverse and wonderful (if not too small sometimes) country.

    I do believe that expats are split into categories.  There are some that come to make a quick buck, send their money home, live as cheaply as possible and do not contribute to the society.  There are some who live here purely for the tax and other financial priveleges these islands provide (they tend to be the more wealthy among us).  Then there is the third kind – those that have made (or want to make) this place their home.  Having uprooted my life, brought my wife and child into a strange environment, selling my home in my native country and buying a new one here and embracing this country for what it has to offer, I begrudge being tarred with the same brush as the other types of expat.  In a couple of years I will be forced into a decision I should not have to take – having said that, the decision will be made by others and is out of my hands.  I consider Cayman to be my home now.

    • Rufus B. Saye says:

      I agree on Allan’s points and this writer’s… I agree with the division into three broad groups…

      What made/makes Cayman unique is the diversity of nationalities combined with the presence of a middle class (made up of both Caymanians and expats) who have the greatest emotional AND economic investment in a country. People who can afford to walk away (either because they have nothing invested OR are wealthy enough to not have as much to lose, percentage-wise) will tend to be less loyal to where they live…

      My wife and I had made a point of taking vacation trips to see first hand what various parts of the Caribbean had to offer before coming here. We’re lucky enough to have portable skills that make us employable anywhere. There are many attractive places out there… with populations of lots of "haves" and "have-nots" with few in-betweens. Cayman was/is a choice primarily made for reasons other than money.

      Some thought must be given to refining immigration policies further to prevent the loss of those willing to contribute more to making/keeping Cayman the special place that it is…

  5. Caymanian to the bone says:

    CNS can you put this article and all comments somewhere where ALL can see please?? Maybe it’ll help foster some more positive vibes 🙂

    CNS: Perhaps you could use the "email this page" button to forward to everyone you know. That would be a start!

  6. Anonymous says:

    It is comforting in these trying times to see this article and its responses,  both from locals and expats. Some thoughtful stuff.

    Caymanians have made me feel at home. I really don’t want to live anywhere else, even though I have the option, which is sometimes tempting. But…this is home. It is home because  for me it’s the people that make the difference – not  the place. I want to be among my friends, who are expat and Caymanian – both old and new. The fact that it is so attractive is the icing on the cake.

    But how do we keep this very special balance?  I won’t offend nationals of other territories in this region – but where else can you find as tolerant a place as this? Yes, I’ve read the blogs both ways on this site – and there is unhappiness.

    There are divides – and the biggest is the Public/Private Sector one. Too few Caymanians are in the private sector – too many in the Public. Not easy to change this. There are many dedicated and decent people in the Civil service…but there are also many capable individuals who are not being tested by reality – and private sector IS feeling the brunt of this recession. Don’t look at lawyers,accountants and bankers. Look at the many small businesses serving the tourist industry, many of whom are holding on by their fingernails. Some are not going to survive.

    We can’t afford this safety net. This is a wonderful opportunity to cut it back, balance the budget  and make Caymanians what they always used to be ….tough and resourceful survivors. Then we’ll all be able to look each other in the eye – as equals. 

  7. kd says:

     Honest to God I almost cried when I read this. Cayman could never exist as it does, i.e. enjoy the economic success & high standard of living, without the help of people from other countries. Almost half of the workforce are work-permit holders… you’d think that would speak to the obvious need.

    In any place, especially an affluent one such as this, there are going to be jobs that people just don’t want to do. However, you tell someone from a less affluent country that you will pay them 4 times more to be your nanny than they could make as a nurse in their home country, of course they will do it. Seven years of their life here, especially if they are a live-in nanny, can possibly pay for education for 3 of their children and then some. I think sometimes people forget this. 

    In the name of continued cooperative relations, I won’t tell my Guyanese friend you called them a Guyanian. Ha ha 🙂

  8. Tanya says:


    As a fellow ‘furriner’ (from the UK) much of what you’ve written has rung many a bell with me. What a wonderful place we have the honour of living in, with such diverse nationalities (I think I heard there are now over 90 on the three islands, wow) and, most of the time, all getting along. I came here from London, UK having lived there all my life and thought that I had come across a fair mixture of nationalites. How closed my eyes had been. London is nothing like Cayman. Although, like others have posted here, not all of us get along all the time or have had friendship thrown back in our faces (yes, it happens to ex-pats too).

    Or, as another person said to me recently on vacation in South Africa, "how does it work that you have all these nationalities living on such a small island and it doesn’t cause problems?" He genuinely could not understand it.

    I even met my husband here and he’s South African …

    Lets hope that some good will come from open, honest discussions. God bless.

  9. A shimmer of hope! says:

    Thank you Allan for the great thoughtful post, and thank you also to all those who responded, CI originals and expats alike. While I do get a bit of a kick out of reading the passionate posts on this site, most of the time they make me sad, because it looks as if the rift is too large to be fixed, be it in this generation or in those to come.

    These words were very encouraging and it reminds me of something I feel that many newer residents have forgotten, we are to a large degree guests of the people of the Cayman Islands. In my mind it does not matter how long one has lived here, there are ways to behave and ways not to. Hearing a young CI woman on a radio talk show speak out about being treated badly at work and feeling discriminated against, that is just wrong. I have been to homes in fancier neighbourhoods and heard the remarks about the locals, they would make your stomach turn. Why live here if you don’t like the people?

    After 12 years of being here I have been privileged and very lucky indeed! I started out as a permit holder, not a key employee kinda permit, and am now a proud PR holder and also in the position of interviewing and recruiting on this island. Truly blessed!

    Now if only it were easier to recruit and retain CI original staff in the service industry, that would really make me happy, but hey, if I was bornhere, I wouldn’t wanna work in this industry either but get the cushy financial services gig.

    Are there solutions, who knows? But what I know for sure is that a healthy dose of empathy and a whole lot of understanding of the predicament the local population is faced with might be a good start… After all, us expats will always have a Plan B, C or D!


  10. Anon says:

    Allen, what a fantastic post. It really does sum up how many of us expats feel. Cayman is a wonderful country and I always feel very lucky to be allowed to live and work here. I have met a wide variety of nationalities and met many good people (and sadly a few bad) in every group. I have nothing but respect for the hardworking Caymanians I know and work with.

    I too struggle to know what I can do to bridge that gap between expats and Caymanians. I want to bridge that gap, but I don’t know how to. 

    I guess just being polite, respectful and friendly will go a long way to help.

  11. Caymanian says:

    You will always be welcomed to Cayman, Allan! Great piece! Thanks for taking the time to try and understand our culture! Like i always say, you treat us with respect in our home, and we will make it feel like your home!  If i ever get the chance to meet you, i will be buying you a beer for sure! I just hope you’re used to driving on the left now! ;)..  Take care buddy, and may cayman continue to treat you well!

  12. Anonymous says:


    In reading your view point I am feel a mixture of sadness and happiness. Sadness because "I remember when" and happiness also because "I remember when". 

    I am only 38 years old, and I remember when someone would not have written such a view point, because it simply did not cross our minds, and to clarify I am talking about a really mixed bunch in our High School Class:

    me, the son of a fire and brimstone local minister

    "Paki" the son of the expatriate Banker (their smallest bedroom was 3 times the size of our largest bedroom), funny thing is I did not know that calling him "Paki" was not PC until I went to college in the UK

    Siggy, from Jamaica, etc etc etc, the list goes on.

    We never knew that we were to feel any animosity or mistrust in each other, and as far as I can remember, neither did our parentsor any of the significant other grown ups around us (including Sam Puk Puk).

    Thank you for your thoughts.

  13. Anonymous says:

    This post made me smile! It was thoughtful, sentimental, appreciative and optimistic.


    Thank you so much for sharing your perspective, and hopefully, others will be educated by it, be they expat and / or Caymanian.

  14. da wa ya get says:

    Welcome Allan Creasey!

    It is obvious that you have taken the time to pause and look at the situation of the Cayman Islands from a standpoint more amienable to Caymanians than what is common. Thank you for having a look for yourself.

    You mentioned that you don’t know how to correct the situation of the expat/Caymanian problem and that you are open to suggestions…I think what you have done by writing this viewpoint plays a great role in correcting or mending the relations between Caymanians and expats.

    As a Caymanian, I say thank you for extending this olive branch 🙂

  15. Maurice says:

    Well said Allan a nice piece of measured and thoughtful writing on the whole subject of tolerance of our fellow man.

    As an expat, married to a Caymanian, this is my adopted home and its people have always made me very welcome and embraced me in their country and way of life. When I see some expats penning such poisinous remarks on these boards I often wonder what kind of people they really are and why, if they hold the nation and its indigenous population in such low regard, they feel inclined to stay here. Of course, such behaviour breeds retorts from Caymanians, as it naturally will in any such discourse.

    When we choose to leave our place of birth we will inevitably face many differences and embracing those differences and accepting that lives are lived in a multitude of ways should be viewed as a path of enlightenment. It does not follow that one will agree with everything one finds, nor that all aspects will necessarily be labelled better or worse than another in your life’s experience but I do think that respect and tolerance is due to and from us all in our communities.

    Cayman functions extremely well when you think of the cultural diversity of its population, far better I would suggest than many other countries where tensions are far far greater. Personally, I love these islands and can no longer imagine spending my life anywhere else. Home is definitely where the heart is for me and I agree that it is largely due to the people of Cayman that I feel this way.

  16. Caymanian to the bone says:

     Welcome, Allan Creasey, welcome!  

    Thank you for taking the time to get to  know us – we weren’t always ‘anti’ expat and even now we’re not totally ‘anti’ expat but what we are is wary of expats.. too many times we have extended the hand of friendship only to have it thrown back in our face – too many times we have seen the buddy system at work – it doesn’t matter that you, as a Caymanian, have the qualifications if you are not an expat the majority of times you will not get the job – it really is as simple as that.

    Many a time I’ve listened to the anti Caymanian comments from ‘friends’ who then turn to me asking me what i think and where I’m from – and once I reply ‘I’m from here, I’m one of those Caymanians"  – "oh but you’re different, you’re not like ‘them’! Once they know I’m Caymanian their attitude changes – I’ve suddenly become the ‘enemy’ – like most Caymanians I know how to speak english english or american english in order to be understood by the ‘furriners’ and expats have therefore just assumed that i am one of them. The things I’ve heard coming out of the mouths of many an expat would make you hang your head in shame to be considered one of them.

    So, it’s not all a one way street from us to you – we, are many times, on the receiving end and after many, many years of hearing this are now fighting back. This is not to say that there aren’t, as in all nations, some that take things too far, that have a sense of entitlement, that think being Caymanian will get them the job, no qualification or experience necessary, but in the main once we are treated with respect and see that there are actual programmes in place to train us and not just words to placate immigration the majority of Caymanians will give their all.

    This ‘anti’ expat attitude is seen the world over – England has its West and East Indians, Europe has the Turkish and Eastern bloc, Japan has even offered money to their Argentinean Japanese workers to go home and not come back. Canada has the Japanese, the Jamaicans and the East Indians. And if you think about it black Americans have only been free for the past 40 odd years, women have not long been allowed to vote, and stats show that women are slowly surpassing men in both the workforce and in income. 

    I ask you to sit down for a moment and think about your attitude (or your country’s attitude) to expats in your home country – isn’t it exactly the same as ours?

    • Expatation says:

      allan replies:   in answer to you.. you’re right.  it takes place from india to indiana.  i have sat down and often i’ve had to just sit and think "don’t they get this??"  where ever we go there are obstacles in attitude or what we refer to as "networking".  if you’re not part of that network good luck. don’t misunderstand me. not all furriners are great people. i’ve had them spout off not only about caymanians, but jamaicans, trinidadians, phillippinos, guyanians anyone who is different. my usual response is to leave. because if i told them they were racist idiots i might not be able to "network" myself.  the price we pay for ignoring.  but what we have to realize is that these people are an exception. or an aberration?  let’s just politely call them different.  the majority of us- i mean all of us – would much prefer to live in peace and harmony. sometimes, we don’t feel like we’re the majority any longer.  because there are people with agendas. don’t forget wars. people whogain influence through divisivness or for some strange reason feel superior. tell you what….i didn’t even know i was an ex-pat for the first six months!  ex-patriot? what’s that??  but i liked the sound.  made me feel like i didn’t agree with the so-called majority that i could never really find.  none of us can.  because most of us feel like we’re all the majority!  that’s a much healthier attitude and it prevents following leaders that don’t where they’re going.  but if i’m going to be an ex-pat they got that part right.  the only patriotism i’m left to feel is toward my fellow man.  thanks for the welcome.

      as an aside a young man came on the sight last week.  he was applying for a job as a plumber’s helper.  yes he was caymanian.  nervous, but sure of himself and needing a chance.  i saw myself in him.  i hope he got the job.

    • Anonymous says:

      I’m sorry, I don’t agree that there is ‘anti’ expat attitude in Canada.  Yes there are many Japanese, Jamaican and East Indians and Phillipineos and Chinese etc., etc., etc. in Canada but in all the many years that comprise more than half of my 38 years that I lived in Canada never did I ever read, hear or witness any "anti" sentiment toward any of them, myself with an ethnic background included, except in Quebec.  As for the people in Quebec and their ‘anti – foreigner’ attitude – all other Canadians are sorry and ashamed.  It’s best if we don’t count Quebec as being a part of Canada: Quebecois have wanted to separate for years and many in western Canada at least also think they should separate.  Canada as distinct from and exclusive of Quebec know that we all come from some place and do not generally discriminate based on ethnicity.  In fact to do so would be considered very shameful by the vast majority.