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An Expat Guide to Jamaica

If you’re looking to relocate to a tropical climate, consider the island nation of Jamaica. sunset on a beachIt’s one of the biggest islands in the Caribbean Sea and due to its British history, the largest English speaking country in the region. Its culture continues to impact the world and is a sought-after tourist destination. But don’t discount this popular island country when it comes to a permanent move. Whether you’re looking to retire in sunshine, relocate for work or need a change of scenery, Jamaica has a lot to offer.

Working in Jamaica

The services industry is Jamaica’s largest job sector and accounts for 70% of the GDP. As you might expect, tourism is the country’s single most popular industry. Yearly visitors boost the local economy by supporting resorts, hotels, local shops, bars and restaurants. Exported goods like rum, sugar, coffee and jerk spices help drive the economy. And they are one of the world leaders in bauxite production, an aluminum ore found naturally in Jamaica. The music sector continues to thrive here along with fashion and film. Although Jamaica has seen a slow and steady growth in its economy since the 1990s, the public debt is a great challenge and the unemployment rate is high. Positively, the government is making great strides to reduce the debt.

Despite the humid temperatures, work attire is conservative, and men and women are expected to wear suits or other business-like attire. Uniforms are often provided by employers as well. Promptness is expected for meetings and expect amiable yet direct business interactions. 

For several nations, including the United States, you won’t need a VISA to enter the country for a certain duration. You can find specific details and requirements here. To obtain employment in Jamaica, you will need a work permit. Foreigners must get these through their employer and the permits themselves are issues by the Ministry of Labor and Social Security.

Life and Lifestyle in Jamaica

English is the official language. However, if you learn pieces of Jamaican Patois, a mix of West African languages and English creole, life will be smoother. The people are known to be friendly, welcoming and hospitable.

Even though Jamaica is a small country, its influence is globally famous. Jamaica is the birthplace of reggae, ska, rock steady and Mento, a traditional Jamaican folk. Food is a large part of the culture and has African, Indian, Spanish, French, Irish, Chinese and British influences. Many expats delight in the local cuisines which include plantains and “jerk” dishes.

The climate is hot and humid. The terrain is very mountainous with the Blue Mountains on the eastern half of the country. Other natural landscapes include Jamaica’s coastal plains and beautiful beaches lined with reefs. If you love the outdoors, enjoy several recreational activities due to Jamaica’s natural features like hiking and climbing mountains, fishing, cycling and more.

Expats are generally surprised to learn the cost of living isn’t as low as they expected. Plan on shipping things like appliances and furnishings if you can. If you look for housing outside of top tourist areas, it’ll be less expensive, especially if you rent. And you won’t be far from necessary and recreational amenities.  

In terms of where to live, there are several options. Kingston is the nation’s capital and the largest city.  As such, it is vibrant area with several shops and restaurants. Crime tends to be higher in big cities like Kingston and you’ll see a large economic disparity between wealthy and poorer areas in Kingston. Mandeville is a decent sized city known as a retirement community for many expats. Other great expat cities are Negril on the east coast, Ocho Rios along Jamaica’s northern coast and Montego Bay, a known resort town.

Moving with Kids

Uniforms are required in all Jamaican schools. Most expats opt for private or international schools over public. Among these are the Hillel Academy and the American International School, both in Kingston. All schools require a uniform.

Moving to Jamaica

Consider the unique, scenic and welcoming country of Jamaica in your next relocation. No matter the reason for your next move, you’ll need an experienced moving company to handle the transportation and moving process.

Categories: International Moves