Faces of tourism

| 30/12/2009

I was in a very popular seaside bar on the other afternoon. I was served by a very pleasant young lady who spoke excellent English even though it was obviously not her first language. She told me that she was from Latvia and had only been on the island for two weeks.

This made me wonder how she had managed to get a work permit when there are a number of unemployed Caymanians perfectly capable of performing the unskilled and less than onerous duties that she has. Now that I come to think about it, I realise that every bar worker I have ever come across here, and there have been quite afew, has been an expat. They are American, Canadian, South African, Australian etc.

There is a similar situation in restaurants. I have never been served by a waiter or waitress who is not an expat. Austrians seem to dominate here, although there are many other Europeans. Never Caymanians.

Why are there no Caymanians?

This is an island that relies heavily on tourism and yet young Caymanians are not working in that industry. Certainly, working as a bartender or a waiter means starting at the bottom but there is experience to be gained that could be of benefit elsewhere and there is also the possibility of promotion. It must be a better prospect than unemployment.

I was talking to a restaurant owner recently about why he had no Caymanian staff. His response was interesting, instructive and depressing. He told me that he advertised a position and (as a long time resident and a status holder who is concerned about rising local unemployment levels) stipulated that only Caymanians should apply.

He received three applications; one from a young man and from two women whose ages ranged from 18 – 21. He interviewed them all. Then he made a difficult decision, as all three applicants were suitable. Later he phoned the successful candidate and told him that he could start the next day. The Caymanian applicant declined the offer. The reason, he told the restaurateur, was that he had not realised what the job involved when he applied and he did not want to work on Friday and Saturday evenings. That was when he went out with his friends. The other two gave the same response for the same reason when called to be offered the job.

Why they applied for the job in the first place is a question that I don’t have the answer to. Didn’t they realise that working in a restaurant was not a Monday to Friday, nine to five job? The restaurant owner has hired a Spaniard.

I am not going to attempt to draw any conclusions from this but I do find it ominous and deeply depressing.

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  1. Anonymous says:

    160 Caymanians were employed at the Holiday Inn which was closed down to be replaced by the much bigger and better Ritz Carlton. They filled all roles and did it effectively.

    These were not Cabinet status grant recipients. They were traditional Caymanians working hard and well in tourism, and they did so for over 30 years, until…

    So what happened. Those Caymanians are still here. This is not all the fault of Caymanians – there is plenty of blame to be shared by everyone.


  2. Anonymous says:

     I love reading these comment pages!  Maybe I need a job. Oh, I forgot……I’m retired!!  (Been there, seen it all.)

  3. Anonymous says:

    It was interesting for me to read the comments posted, I witnessed a restaurant owner, before opening his restaurant here in Cayman, advertise for all his staff, wait staff,bar staff, bus boy, dishwasher, etc. He put the advert in the paper at least twice and guess how many Caymanians responded? Guess! ZERO!

    I was surprised at that, surely there are Caymanian students who want to earn a little extra? or young people between jobs? or people out there in the community who want to progress in the restaurant industry? be a manager some day? It seems not, as the restaurant owner got zero replies to his adverts.

    The result is that the restaurant owner has employed an entirely foreign national staff. Those staff will take their skills and experience gained here in Cayman and take them elsewhere off this island when they leave or are rolled over.

    Personally, I worked while at University, mostly in restaurants, not because I had to, I was already taken care of financially, but because I wanted to and I understood it was a good thing for me to do. It appears the view I had as a student is not shared with the local population?

  4. Anonymous says:

    Simply put, I have worked in the hotel industry as a waitress for a few years while at school and you know what? I have only worked with one other Caymanian on the floor other than myself and she lasted a day and three hours. She calimed they refused to work around her schedule because she has a three year old daughter. Now, she  got the job because the expat manager felt sorry for her as she couldn’t find work for overa year. (this was just after Ivan).

    She had no training and he agreed to train her.  But come the first day she would not work past 12 until she had lunch (although it was extremely busy), which she insisted should last for an hour, although every other worker there would do 15 to 30 mins so they could be on the floor making more money. She did not want to check the customers more than once, "whats the use?" she said. By the second day she heard of a function planned for the next evening and that she was required to work, she got upset and left. Any one working in this industry knows that is a norm.

    All the expats come down and do what they have to in order to make money and leave. They don’t take out rediculous loans on expensive cars or travel every long weekend. thay save until  they can turn it into more, turn around and start a restaurant. CHECK THAT OUT!!!

    She did not get a job after that and I still see here periodically and she still hasn’t a job. I asked why and she said "cause her daughter, she need spend time with her" and that no one wants to pay more than $2000 a month.

    I was shocked she even got an offer for $2000 a month, she does nothing and can’t do anything either, no let me rephrase that , she does not want to do anything. My Fellow Caymanians why?

    This is not for you who work and are happy your a_s has a job. I am talking to the ones who do not like to work but want to get PAID. Work here is not as hard as thay make it out to be try working in New York, where you get fired 3 hrs into your first day if you do some dumb s_it.

  5. anonymous says:

    Many Caymanians fail in these industries because as Woody Allen put it, "80% of success is showing up".


  6. barry heywood says:

    Trust me i am a bit confuse after reading all this ,quiet funny how we stray from the point of the arguement to people just venting their anger and frustration and being critical with no real solution , maby that just goes to show that this problem is just as complex as trying to explain the credit crunch and needs to be delt with seriously and responsibly . As a born jamaican ,naturalized caymanian living in the uk with a caymanian son ,i do understand the problem and fell that only through our children we can change this culture of wots hot and wots not by instilling  good values and proper work ethics for the next generation as only through them i feel we can make a change.  BY THE WAY , BUILDER BY TRADE.

  7. work is easy says:

      You can’t make enough money working at these jobs so you don’t work.  that makes perfect sense to a lazy person but not to everyone else.

      Get a job!  And stop complaining!

     The fact that every person working these " too menial, depend heavily on tips, and depend soley on commissions" jobs are makeing it in the world and doing their part is totally lost on you.  Or maybe you realize that you are the kind of person who would not be worthy of a tip and just don’t have the basic attitude to do the work nessasary to make a sale.  Thats your problem and not anyone elses!   Get over it, get to work, and learn something new!

  8. Anonymous says:

    Manyjobs including those in the hospitality industry were allowed to develop in a way that is unsustainable for Caymanians to accept these positions.

    It is a common fact that waitresses, bartenders and many others depend heavily on tips/gratuity to survive. This is great for persons looking for seasonal employment or a saving binge for a few short years. Caymanians often shy away from these jobs as banks are reluctant to extend loans/mortgages to workers without a "steady income".

    The same goes for the local Real Estate industry. How can Caymanians be expected to work for no salary/wage and depend solely on commissions when they have fixed monthly expenses?

    Needless to say mainly expat spouses with a partner who has steady employment accept jobs selling Cayman Real Estate.

    The Department of Employment Relations and the government can no longer ignore the fact that the terms and conditions of some jobs need to be brought more in line with reality, making them a viable option for Caymanians and all those who wish to stay here in  the long term. 

    • two cents says:

      Both of the examples you state are common scenarios-especially in US, Canada and parts of Europe.

      Real Estate agents work on straight commission and often have to pay for their office space etc.

      Likewise for waiters, bartenders etc. – they rely primarily on tips etc. The difference is these people have adapted, managed to save, bought homes, etc.

      This style of earning income is not for everyone, but like all jobs, if you are dedicated and work hard, you will be rewarded. Motivation is key- to work  hard, and to mind the finances so that you can ride the waves- low months balanced against the better months.  And many of these workers have fixed monthly expenses too. 

      The bottom line- that is why expats manage in these positions- because they have worked (and have attained their 10,000 hours so to speak) under this format previously and have the stomach for the uncertainty. That is what experience does for you. 

      Cayman is not an isolated case in this example. 


    • O'Really says:

      What " needs to be brought more in line with reality" is Caymanians’ understanding of how businesses run outside Cayman and what are sustainable business models the world over.

      In most developed and for that matter, developing countries, the practices described in this post for the hospitality and real estate industries are the norm and millions of people make a living and keep these industries viable.

      Instead of expecting government to mandate that these industries should change their globally accepted operating methods to suit Caymanians, maybe Caymanians need to address how they regard these industries. More importantly, they should stop expecting government to micromanage their lives and take responsibility themselves.

      This sentence has me baffled: "Needless to say mainly expat spouses with a partner who has steady employment accept jobs selling Cayman Real Estate."  Is a partner with steady employment so hard to find in the true blood community? There must be thousands of Caymanians with steady employment so surely their spouses should be interested? And if they are not, maybe they need to spend some time understanding why?


    • Anonymous says:

      you have no idea what you are talking about!!! many of my friends including me work in the restaurant industry and we all depend on tips. most of us have bought apartments, and some of us have started their own restaurants!! as a matter of fact most restaurants in cayman are started by expat waiters and chefs………..but guess what you have to work weekends and holidays and you have to serve people which most locals find beneath them and thats a fact too!!!

    • Anonymous says:

      There are no Caymanians with spouses that have steady employment? 

      By the way, I have worked with three different real estate agents in Cayman and none of them fit that description.

    • Anonymous says:

      in the real world we all have to do jobs we dont really like and have hours that dont suit us…

      actually quite a few of us do it here too!

      That’s what you get paid for, if you want to pick and choose hours volunteering may work for you?

      However people still need reliable volunteers

      It is a quandry isn’t it? LOL

  9. what a mess says:

    And this mentality of certain jobs being beneath us Caymanians is passed down through the generations.

    Parents and Politicians are the main perpetrators that have, and continue to, nurture this attitude.

    The majority of the Immigration laws are designed to facilitate same…and set the Politician up as the protector/saviour.

    However, there are caymanians who willingly work in the construction and repair (auto, marine, home) industries, but have no school to gain the knowledge and experience to move ahead. While there has been "talk" for decades about providing such a Trade School…more evidence of out political leaders being more interested in themselves than in the good of the people.

    Even so, it is disheartening to hear that people who are unemployed are turning down jobs because it requires working evenings and/or weekends. I’ve worked many different jobs and times and am the better for the experiences. And at the end of the day "i" am responsible for the life i lead.


  10. Anonymous says:

    There are many occupations that Caymanians see as ‘beneath them’: gardeners, cleaners, shelf-stackers at supermarkets, divemasters, bartenders, waiters, to name just a few.

    You would think that if someone were genuinely unemployed they would jump at an opportunity.  But no, it’s much easier to sit around and whine about how hard done by they are. That’s why the whole "hundreds of unemployed caymanians" story is just that, a story, it’s simply unture.

    At a recent job fair at the Ritz Carlton, designed to attract locals into the tourism sector only 3 interested people showed up. Three!  For literally dozens of jobs.

    • anonymous says:

      Do not be fooled by the Ritz Carlton’s SHAM of a "job fair".  No one , not even those in the media industry knew about this. I read the media daily, both print and electronic, and I did not see this advertise either.


      In my opinion, that was just an immigration stunt carried out by the Ritz. 


      I was recently ‘exposed’ to a Caymanian server at one of my favourite Seven Mile Beach restaurants which I go to every week. It was clear that in her 4 days on the job she had received no training. The service was terrible( trying to serve dessert without removing the main course plates as an example), she did not have any enthusiasm and she literally was not up to speed.  I have not seen her again and only assumed that the complaints got her fired or she quit as she literally showed no interest in the job.  I certainly blame the restaurant as they clearly provided no training before letting her go "solo" or hired someone that was not suitable in the first place.  No one seems to have replaced her interestingly.  As a Caymanian I find that we need to do better than that. As a business person I too know that based on the responses to advertising  only the Newspapers are getting richer and the difficulty of getting our folks to work, to stay off the cellphone, to show up everyday and to come back the next week is almost impossible.


      I have watched the debate back and forth between Caymanians and Expats on thistype of issue.  Many of the Expat comments are silly and overblown and many of the Caymanian comments are blind without reason. The reality is that we do have Caymanians that do not want to work (or at least not seriously) and we have many that have very poor work ethics.  We need to get serious ourselves and sort out this problem.


      Then we need to ensure that many of the bad business practices  (I do agree these exists) that disenfranchise Caymanian workers are dealt with severely.


      The good news?   we do have more jobs than people and few countries can say that.



      • worker says:

        What a load of crap!  You know nothing!  Who is this "we"?  Talk is easy. work is harder.  Bushis hireing a cook.  Sounds like your "qualified".  He seems to like sorrounding himself with fools.

      • Please! says:

        Thinking you have the skills and attitude only work if the person/company also think that.  Thinking that the decision should be yours is stupid and the basis for all of you "its not my fault I can’t get,find,or hold a job" untrainable cry babys out there.  If you don’t want to work then don’t but don’t try to put down all the people that are working everyday at the jobs that you can’t get because of your attitude or lack of skill.  Employers want proof you can do a job BEFORE they start to pay you.  Kind of like everyone wants you to pay for things BEFORE you take it home. If this doesn’t make sense to you than nothing will help you find a job and take responsibility for your life.

      • Anonymous says:

        I was a waiter for 5 years and help pay my expenses through high school and college.

        What possible training do you need?  Anyone who has eaten at a restaurant has an understanding of what a waiter/waitress does and how to do it?

        • Anonymous says:

          I am not sure where you plied your trade and what level of service it was however you are completely wrong. We have all experienced good service and bad service. There are professional servers who understand table management, wine service as well as what elements go into the preparation of the food. I great server makes for an outstanding dining experience.

  11. Work your up! says:

    Every teenager should be enrolled to compulsory ‘community service’ for at least a year…. and waiting attables would be an excellent place to start. Waiting at tables is an excellent wake-up call to dealing with people… at their best and worst.   There is nothing wrong with starting ‘at the bottom of the ladder’…. Richard Branson of the Virgin ‘Empire’ used a public ‘phone box number for his first dealings and stood on the street to conduct his business.  J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter’s creator) started writing those stories on serviettes in a coffee shop.  I admire the kids doing the bagging at the supermarkets on Saturday’s.  Some are pleasant, chatty and helpful… others aren’t at all, but they are at least out there. 

    "Experience is what you get when you didn’t get what you wanted"…. and every employer would prefer a candidate with life experience. 

    Get out there…

  12. Anonymous says:

    Caymanians have long failed to recognize that a job as a bar tender or as a waitress can be the stepping stone for a position as a restaurant manager or even a bar or restaurant owner later down the road. Many expats have come to Cayman, started out in the restaurante industry and ended up with their own successful business. It seems that there is still a notion that the only feasible jobs are in the banking and financial industry. School leavers prefer to sit in airconditioned offices with predictable working hours, desperate to get their hands on the loan and mortgage benefits a lot of the banks offer to their employees. After all, it is a shiny spanking new car they are after. Five years down the road, when they got stuck in a dead end job as a teller, they are wondering what happened.

    I used to work as a waitress in addition to going to school and LOVED it! It was hard work but I mad good money, especially when working on the weekend and at night (the busiest time). The money I made as a waitress afforded me some nice trips, share a condo with a flatmate and live a life mostly independ from my parents. Something, that seems to be a strange concept for a lot of young Caymanians. Perhaps, somethint to ponder……

    Oh – yes, I am Caymanian, so please don’t bother to tell me I should up and leave as I feel very much entitled to have an opinion.  

  13. Anonymous says:

    As this comment shows, every unemployed Caymanian is unemployed by choice. 

    • Anonymous says:

      Except perhaps for several professionals and support staff laid off from a law firm which it seems continues to employ foreign nationals with permits – even though they are no more skilled then those let go.



      • Anonymous says:

        No, even they can get a job if they want a job, just maybe not the job they want. It is a recession get over it.   For most decent business relative productivity and future proofing is more important than skill sets.  And don’t bother quoting "the Law" because we just don’t care.

        • Anonymous says:

          Good – so on your analysis we can all ignore the law and tell law firm partners that burger king has vacancies.

          And I am not talking about lesser skill sets or productivity. I am talking about 2 secretaries turning up for work every day and both typing 80 wpm.

          Do you not see that that attitude is the very cause of the venom so frequently espoused on this site? At what point do you admit that someone from here (whether they are from here originally or not) ought to be preferred (as also required by law) over someone who is not.

          That isthe law  also in England and pretty much everywhere else on earth.

          • anonymous says:

            BULL XXXX!

            I’m caymanian and I type 100 words per minute. I type my own confidential correspondence "Myself". It so happens that I work at the corporate level, as I consider a secretarial life time career as playing second fiddle to a dick head jerk! most of the time. Bosses should make their own damned coffee and go buy their own   f—ing  lunch, they’re no better nor no more busy than I am. That’s one of the male macho perceptions that exist in these islands that a Secretary is not only your personal office manager of assistant, but that she is also your maid, your housekeeper and  candidate for office rape as well! Thanks Ms. Juliana Occonnor Conolly for dealing with legislation for gender violence, and women’s rights.Is there a copy of this law posed so that the women of the cayman Islands can read it.?

            I decided to move up the corporate ladder and I had to kick some Caymanian and X-pat asses to get there because both sides of the coin is full of envy, malice, strife, selfishness and of course Bull xxxx.  Its up to you how far you want to go in life and no one can stop you if you are determined.



            • Local Vocal says:

              Congrats on making it to the top.

              How come you still sound so unhappy? Not what you thought being at the top would be?

              Oh, and if it’s 100 words per min with type-Os..then it doesn’t count…sorry:(

              Don’t worry….be happy :)…it’ll all be over soon enough!


            • no thank you says:

              Sounds like the "Poor work Attitude"  To me.  The fact that this is O.K. with you proves that this is one of Caymanians unsolvable problems to getting and keeping a job.  Anyone with this attitude anywhere in the world will end up unemployed and blameing everyone else for it.

            • no longer hungy says:

              Imagine this person as your waitress!  Any questions?

            • English Ex Pat says:

              Good on you.  Cayman needs more people who can type at these speeds, with >90% accuracy, and who can put together a decent CV and supporting letter, and can be depended upon without supervision in the workplace.

              Whenever my permit comes up for renewal these seem to be the main issues, max speeds of <50 wpm and <50% accuracy, compared to my 85 wpm with 98% accuracy sitting the same test.  I’ve no doubt with these skills you should have no problem obtaining employment as there seems to be a real skills shortage in this area.  I understand there is secretarial and paralegal (ILEX) training here in Cayman, but only to speeds of c.40 wpm, which won’t cut it in most workplaces here or elsewhere.  That was onlythe first of many exams I sat before being qualified as a Secretary and Paralegal many years ago in England.  Cayman needs further education/training in this particular regard as this is what is needed to get the job in the first place, and then you pick up more skills and increase your speed and accuracy naturally as you work.  If someone applied for my job and could achieve the same speed and accuracy as me in the test we all have to sit, I can guarantee you I would be on a plane home before you could say ‘discrimination’… as this is what is required to get the job, and my employer would not hesitate to hire a Caymanian over me and save the cost of the work permit. 

              As you are no doubt aware productivity, accuracy and good English grammar are essential qualities for a secretary to have in any business today.  You’ll also be aware that contrary to common opinion, secretaries don’t usually sit filing their nails and chatting to people on the phone all day sitting and looking pretty – its actually quite often a very stressful and fast-paced job.  They’re mostly overworked, underpaid, often have non-secretarial stuff delegated to them by their boss if considered efficient to the work.  A secretary holds the fort when the boss is out/away, and can often deal with client enquiries meant for their bosses.  Most businesses would fall apart without good secretarial and admin support.  And you are quite right, some of these bosses do treat us as maids.  I once had an (ex pat) female boss treat me like this (pop out and deliver this; go pick up my lunch; run downstairs and load up my (heavy) shopping into my car; get me coffee, etc.)  I also once had a very young and inexperienced Caymanian boss who seemed to think he was already at the top of his profession,  rolled in late from day 1, came and went from the office as he pleased,  and clearly considered secretaries to be lowly and menial creatures unworthy of any real respect in the workplace.  Although he said it very politely, when you actually broke down what he said he was rude, insulting, patronising, sexist, arrogant and very demeaning, even in the opinion of my female Caymanian colleagues.  He told you how to do your job (even though you’ve done it every day for 30 years).  And he had no idea of prioritising – everything was "urgent" and transpired not to be, which would often cause clashes with the other bosses, who had real urgent deadlines to be met: closings, filings, contracts, etc. which would have huge financial consequences to the firm if not dealt with promptly.  Who ended up in the middle of it all trying to do miracles and keep everyone happy?  The secretary.  Funnily enough, I have only experienced this attitude with bosses in Cayman, never when working for 20+ years in England prior to coming  here.  If you have ever worked in the states or UK you’ll probably know that the ‘pace’ for all staff at work in any industry is usually significantly faster than here, which for Caymanians travelling abroad to work and train, can provide them with invaluable skills to bring back home.

              I hope my comment has not caused insult to anyone.  My sincere apologies if this is the case, as that was certainly not my intention in making this post.  I was hoping to demonstrate what some young Caymanians can do to improve their work prospects if they wish to move into the secretarial/paralegal field here.  Some free online speed and accuracy tools can be found on the internet for anyone wishing to know and/or improve their skills in this area.  Invaluable training and experience can be obtained from abroad.  Either way, be prepared to work your butt off!

            • Don't let her near sharp objects! says:

              This one is scary!  I hope she does not work in my business.  From the bizarre use of inverted commas in "myself" (why did you do that?), I sensed the faint whiff of BS mixed in with all that anger.

          • Anon says:

            "That is the law  also in England " – Sadly, no.

            Thanks to the Labour government, it is common, especially in the IT sector, for British people to be made redundant and replaced by someone from abroad.  Not only is this allowed by the Labour government, they actively encourage it.
            • Shell Wynn says:

              This is simply not true.  You can’t replace someone who has been made redundant otherwise they would not be redundant and you would face a lawsuit (aggrieved low quality British workers are very good at making bogus employment law claims).  There may be businesses who have lost contract and the work is outsourced to other businesses who use more relatively productive labor.

              • English Ex Pat says:

                Ah but in England the companies have very clever ways of exploiting the law to make it work for them (I think this happens here too).  For example, they will "restructure" and give another person your job, but with a slightly different title and perhaps a slightly different job description so that its not strictly speaking replacing you.  I have seen it so often in the 20 or so years I worked there. 

                Having worked in the IT sector too, it is becoming very commonplace for temporary contracts to be assigned as opposed to permanent ones, and more often than not you’ll be replaced at the end of the contract or at least before you have reached the relelvant term limit to gain any substantial employment rights under the law.  Many IT and communications jobs have suffered redundances in England for the whole operation to be outsourced to India and other locations too due to cheaper operating costs.  The end result is a customer calls a helpline and end up talking to someone in India who quite often barely seems to know or understand your complaint… can be very frustrating! 

                • Madam Smith says:

                  The best businesses use a downturn to trim the fat even if it is not strictly necessary.

          • Oh no it's not says:

            That is not the law in England and the law in Cayman is currently a breach of the Cayman government’s human rights obligations when it comes to discriminating between existing residents on the basis of nationality.  England and Cayman can discriminate about allowing someone into a country to start employment.  However once they are resident an employer cannot be made to discriminate on the basis of nationality by an organ of the UK (like the Cayman Islands’ government).  Anyone who has been made redundant in Cayman because they are not Caymanian should have a cast iron case to sue the UK government in the UK for their losses under the Human Rights Act.  Hopefully if a few people do then the law will change here promptly.