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Experience Dominica – The Nature Island: Dominica Vacations | Exotic Vacations | Honeymoon Destination

Dominica weekly is a personal weblog about the nature island of Dominica.


family in the park

I’m not a complainer. Really, I’m not. But having lived my first 68 years in the USA, I find that things being different take me some getting used to. Understand, please, I’m not asserting that “different” is wrong. It’s probably right for here; only I’m unused to it.

So, I’m sucking it up and learning to accept those different things. Still, I think it may amuse Dominicans reading this and help inform and prepare Americans, and Europeans and other “1st-worlders” wishing to settle here as well.

I’ll write about those differences – big and small – from time to time, and will preface it with this paragraph so that you know I’m not complaining.

Dominican Difference #7. The feeling of community. This is a difference that we like. In the US, we lived in a small New England town for the last 31 years. We knew most, but not all, of our near neighbors and quite a few people in the town. But we had some near neighbors whose names we didn’t know and a few who we would not even recognize. And perhaps we knew 10% of the people in the town. Most of them would come and go and pass without even a greeting. And small New England towns are renowned in the US for being friendly, close communities. In the big cities, it is not unusual for one never to know even their next-door neighbors.

The difference in Dominica, and we have found especially in our village of Calibishie (but it’s pretty much the same in every village, and probably even in Roseau) that villagers know one other and always have a friendly greeting. We’re trying to learn everyone’s name and face; not an easy task for a newcomer – the villagers were born and raised here and learned while growing up.

In the US, “How are you?” is a “throwaway phrase”. You may say that to someone in greeting, or have it said to you, but it’s not meant as a genuine inquiry. In the US, you’d become very unpopular very quickly is you answered by saying anything other than “I’m fine. How are you?” Here in Dominica, people really mean it when they ask. They actually care.

This is a Dominican difference that makes it a joy to live here.

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ship side view of Roseau, DominicaPhoto by gailf548

Ruth and I love being near the ocean. In the US, all the good spots either cost too much or have become tacky, or have unpleasant weather. For example, in Florida or Southern California, what separates the nice places (far too expensive for us) from the tacky places (trailer parks and strip malls) is money – far more than we have.

The Pacific Northwest is nice to look at, but it rains there most of the time and the ocean water is always cold – and dangerous too, with only rocky beaches, rogue waves, and great white sharks and killer whales).

The New Hampshire to Maine coasts in the Northeast also have only rocky beaches and cold water, and below zero Fahrenheit temperatures in winter. Florida and the Southeast and Gulf coasts are low and sandy, mostly prone to storm flood damage and erosion – it doesn’t even take a hurricane to destroy your house to wash your land into the sea. So, we started looking around in the Caribbean in the mid-1970s.

We had a number of criteria for where we wanted to settle in retirement:

  • The country had to be English-speaking. From what I’ve heard you don’t want to be a gringo.
  • The country had to be politically stable. We wouldn’t want to be caught between sides in a civil war.
  • The country could not be on a land drug-traffic route. We definitely wouldn’t want to be in the way of those types!
  • The country had to have good soil, because we like to see trees and flowers and be able to find produce available at a fair price.
  • The country’s currency had to be stable, based on the US dollar. Our savings are in US dollars, and it’s nice to always know how much money we have.
  • The people had to be nice. In Dominica, they are. We’ve made wonderful new friends here.
  • Finally, the country had to be off the main tourism maps.

Dominica is the only country we visited that met all the criteria. And we visited Grand Cayman, Nevis (which met the criteria, but is too tiny, and which has become a playground for the wealthy), “Provo” in the Caicos, Ambergris Cay in Belize, Bonaire, and St. John (which also met the criteria, but is too expensive). For us, Dominica is the prettiest and its people the nicest. Plus, the calypso is great!

At livingdominica.com you can purchase an e-book by Jen Miller about retiring to Dominica. We found it somewhat useful, but because we’d done careful research ourselves, it didn’t tell us anything we didn’t already know.

Jen and Roger Miller only lived in Dominica for about a year renting a place. They never succeeded in building a house. In fact, their land was too steep and suffered landslides after a hurricane and was condemned for building by the government. They bought a used car in Dominica that never ran. They ended up returning to the US, and as far as I know are still trying to obtain compensation from the government for having condemned their land.

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