10 Unexpected Things About Living in St. Kitts
1. Animals everywhere.
Literally everywhere. Monkeys walk across my roof at night and roosters call me awake in the morning. It's not uncommon to see unsupervised herds of goats crossing the road, or lone cows wandering around the hiking trails. Many Kittitians (the local people here on St. Kitts) allow their dogs and cats to roam streets, adding to the diverse mix of animals running wild.
2. The pedes.
Although I didn't particularly love the centipedes that live in the United States, they're a walk in the park compared to the ones that hang out on the island. Here they are vicious, venomous, territorial creatures that can grow up to a foot long. Don't touch them unless you want to end up in the hospital. They like to sleep in places that they shouldn't be, such as the shower, the bed, and in the laundry room. Show them no mercy.
Tip: Drowning them in a cup of vodka, setting the body on fire, and then flushing the ashes down the toilet has proven to be an effective method of destruction.
3. Free food!
You can seriously cut down on your grocery bill if you know where to go. Eggs from the aforementioned chickens can be eaten, as long as you know they're relatively fresh. Fruit such as mangoes, coconuts, and starfruit can be found growing in the trees. If you're into snorkeling, you can even go spearfishing on the edges of the islands and catch yourself a lionfish dinner (lionfish are invasive here, so it's cool).
4. You can get almost anything you want - if you work for it.
When I first came to the island, I was worried that I wouldn't have access to the necessities of life. Examples include water, ice cream, and Netflix. Contrary to my beliefs, living here isn't much different from living in a small town in the U.S....as far as convenience goes at least. There were a few adjustments, like making sure to shower before 10pm because if you don't, you're sleeping with shampoo in your hair (that's when the water goes out). However, most stuff is pretty accessible. The downside is that if you want things that cost more to ship to the island, such as brand name or cold foods, you'll have to pay more. The other consideration is that there is no Walmart in St. Kitts. If you want something special, you have to wander the shops in town to find it or pay to ship it here.
5. Island time.
"Island time" basically means "late." In fact many businesses don't have set hours, and if they do, don't tend to follow them. A lot of places in town won't even open unless a cruise ship is in port. The island definitely teaches you how to be patient and what to do to plan ahead. If you call a taxi, be prepared for it to arrive at least 20 minutes after they said they'd be there. If you go out to eat, know it will be an adventure that lasts a few hours. Rush slowly.
6. Earning a honorary degree in mechanics.
Before living on St. Kitts, the only thing I knew about cars was how to drive one. In the few months since I purchased my little island car "Squeaks," I've learned how to change the oil, fix a broken window, pop out a dent, deal with an overheated vehicle, and effectively ignore the little check engine light. I'm sure there will be many more joys to come.
7. Tourists will be tourists.
Have you ever wondered what wild animals think when they see groups of tourists on a safari? Because I'm pretty sure I know exactly how they feel. For a few bucks, you can take a tour of the hot spots on the island. Whenever a bus goes by, I can feel the stares on my back of people wondering what a white girl is doing walking on the side of the road in the middle of the predominantly black island of St. Kitts. The other thing you realize is that most people who are on vacation don't think of this as a "real place." They can forget that humans actually make their lives here, and therefore sometimes don't treat the island or it's inhabitants with as much respect as they should. Despite this, it can be really cool to meet new people and hear the stories of what they do for a living. The crowd changes everyday and you never know who's going to cross your path.
8. The locals are on point.
The friendliness of the Kittitians goes above and beyond anything I was expecting. Coming to this country, I was worried about crime. Fortunately, the vast majority of the locals I've met are good people. They've come to my rescue plenty of times, including giving directions and telling me where to find the best prices. When our car broke down and we were stranded on the side of the road, three people stopped within five minutes. They fixed the vehicle and we were able to get back safely. These are just a few examples of the locals making me feel at home in their country. I feel like I've made some unexpected, but lasting connections.
9. The language barrier.
People who live in St. Kitts speak English, but sometimes it seems like an entirely new language. Between differing accents and lingo, it can be hard for someone who speaks with a U.S. dialect to decipher the conversations happening around them. After being here for a while, I'm starting to get used to the new sounds and "sing song" way of talking. However, my comprehension relies heavily on context clues and the patience of the person I'm conversing with. Luckily if I'm having a hard time, most Kittitians will slow their speech and make annunciation a priority.
10. Beer can be cheaper than water.
The tap water is generally safe to drink, but some people are more comfortable drinking only out of bottles. If this is the case, be willing to pay a bit more for that luxury than you would for a local beer. The average cost for a bottle of water is about $3, while the cost for a locally made Carib is about $1.85. This makes drinking alcohol instead of water awfully tempting, especially when relaxing on the beach.