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Last updated: 19 June, 2009 - Published 11:58 GMT
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Forum: The returning diaspora
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Heading home ...or opting for the adopted country?

Over the years Caribbean nationals residing overseas have been returning to their home countries to live.

This has been driven by a variety of reasons including retirement, setting up business or just to satisfy that yearning for ‘a Caribbean way of life’.

Some have stayed on in the region, but others have ‘re-migrated’ back to their adopted countries, also for a variety of reasons.

BBC London Radio, in collaboration with BBC Caribbean, broadcast a special programme on Sunday June 14 looking at the experiences of returning Caribbean nationals.

The debate continues.

What’s been your experience? We’d like to hear from you.

Have you returned to the Caribbean and stayed, or subsequently ‘re-migrated’ back to your adopted country?

Do you feel ‘at home’ in the Caribbean?

Are you satisfied with the arrangements governments have put in place for returning nationals?

How is life different and how have you adjusted?

Have your say

I think that a lot of West Indians would return to the Caribbean islands in a heart beat. However, attitudes remain the same. You are always suspect by the natives. They seem to have forgotten that you are part of the solution, not the problem. I blame most of the present governments, who have not done much in preparing for the events that are now occurring. If you don't treat your expatriates very well, they will return to whichever country they were previously living in. Economically that is a fundamental loss of capital for these islands, which they cannot replace in a hurry. What then happens is the start of criminal enterprises, and you can now see this occurring in most islands. I hope that if I decide to return to the Caribbean, people will be more inclusive, and not so negative.

From what I have been reading, the problem lies with you (for those of you complaining about Caribbean life). The same way you or your parents left the Caribbean and settled in the UK/ USA/ Canada with an open mind, that is the same mentality you should apply when (re)settling in the Caribbean. You're not moving to the land of Utopia. The adjustment can be very rough for some people. No matter how good you've planned your migration, you should always have an open mind that things may not go as smoothly as you would like.
As far as the service goes; I must admit at first I thought (or so it seemed at the time) that people were very rude and had no sense of customer service. If you take the time to mingle you will notice that they're not being rude, it's just that we're accustomed to people talking in a particular manner, which they don't, and to many of us it may be perceived as rude. On the other hand, time and time again some returnees look down upon the locals, and people talk about it. Hence, you may wonder why people are treating you differently.
All I can say is, it's either I've been very fortunate, or this is just for me.

After a decade of making a 4-to-6-week hajj to Trinidad Carnival every year I could, I relocated here from New York City two and a half years ago.
The manageable scale of things; the sense of profound connection to everything and everyone (even the rude clerks); the sense that it won't be easy, but you could really change things (the lack of problem solving, the gatekeeping, the obsession with stratification) with like-minded people -- those are the ineffable reasons for being there.
But, as a friend put it recently, Port of Spain is the capital of nepotism. In 29 months, I've been interviewed and turned down for 17 jobs in international organisations. I was often either too foreign or not foreign enough.
An employer had me fly down from New York for an interview, decided she needed someone with more local experience, and hired a Nigerian.
Trinidad and Tobago

Returning to Dominica is not for everyone. I will go there as long as I can. Settling in America with my home family nah. This Dominican life style is hard. After six in the evening, everyone (is) sleeping. Nah, that is not for me papa.
Lee George
New Jersey, USA

I am Bajan living in Toronto Canada retired. I’ve been contemplating going back to Barbados to live in a few years but just a bit worried about the health care system. Hopefully, the availability to medical facilities will improve. That is getting to see a doctor when needed
Steve Coward
Ontario, Canada

After 20 years of hustling in the UK I have decided to move back home to Dominica. In preparation I will visit every year for the next few years while I formulate my plan. There is no place like home. If nature, simplicity and being laid back is your thing then it can work. However, if you return with the expectations of life like that of across the Atlantic, then forget it!
DL Douglas
London, UK

I am Bajan living in Toronto Canada retired. I'm comteplating going back to Barbados to live in a few years, just a bit worried about the health care system. Hopefully the availabity to medical facilities will improve.
That is getting to see a Doctor when needed.
Steve Coward
Ontario, Canada

I am a younger generation returnee and I initially had the stand-off complaining attitude.
And surprisingly the rude and unhelpful attitude came from my island and Caribbean folk. The better treatment came from the Whites and the Indians...(that was my personal experience).
The most I got from the Caribbean people was complaints about the British system and the expectation that the system owed them something. I couldn't associate with such negativity and had at times encouraged some of the complainers to pack up and ship out to where they came from.
The British System has measures in place for most persons to get an education and develop themselves no matter what jobs they were doing...And some chose not to develop themselves here again making excuses. I learnt as much as I could and returned to my country...and yes unfortunately I had the similar attitude with the system in Dominica. Most persons assumed that being in a foreign country automatically made one rich...not so always.
I did not like the customer service in most of the professional business places because I had higher expectation from my country.
I won't give up on my country I prefer home anyday to living in another country.
Tranquil Ezranic
Canefield, Dominica

After 20 years of hustling in the UK, I have decided to move back home to Dominica. In preparation I will visit every year for the next few years while I formulate my plan. There is no place like home. If nature, simplicity, and being laid back is your thing then it can work.
However if you return with the expectations of life like that of across the Atlantic then forget it!
DL Douglas

I am a Dominican away from home for a while. I return very often and I like the place but every time I leave, I get the urge to return home. This is the only place that I can relate to. I have developed myself to some extent thank God and my hope is to be back home I am just praying for the day when I say that's it.
Josephine Lewis

I am nowhere near retiring age and the aim of myself and husband is to return to Dominica asap.
The Williams

The lesson to be learned from our ancestors who migrated in search of a better of life is one which resonates after reading the commentary here - there is no utopia. I grew up in Trinidad, and have experienced life in both the US and the UK (and have been part of the ranks that have returned and re-emigrated).
I meet many second and third generation persons of Caribbean parentage who idealize Caribbean life, based on the stories of their parents and grandparents, and their brief visits to their home island where their stronger currency gives them "more bang for their buck".
If life in the Caribbean was so idyllic, why did all those immigrants leave in the first place? Many are unaware of the harsh socio-economic realities facing the Caribbean; they are unaware of the dark side of leapfrogging, and the hidden toll that capitalism has taken on the very fabric of the society.
The diasporic return to the Caribbean needs to be twinged with a large dose of realism.

The majority of comments that I have read seem to be centered around what may have been lost in a material sense. I believe that we should start to rethink what's really important in life; the hustle and bustle of an industrialised country; or finding the pleasures of wellbeing in a peaceful and happy Caribbean country such as Dominica?
Life is not just about making money and having material things... I am certainly thinking of returning to the nature isle to connect to the earth and the land of my birth

Returning home is not for everybody. I think people who live abroad get caught up with the party lifestyle and 'free for all' way they hear about from their friends/family and they yearn for that. I also yearn for that same feeling but I know that when I eventually return to live in TnT, you still have to WORK HARD to re-establish yourself. I hear complaints about customer service and transport, crime, etc but home is home....can’t live in Uncle Sam dealing with crappy, corporate America with their back biting politics till I’m 75. As far as I see it, a lot of people from Trinidad and Tobago seem to get the opportunity to travel and do a lot of stuff way more than I do, and here I am in the so called land of opportunity where the dollar is 6 to 1 but you work 6 times as hard!
Atlanta, GA

I have migrated to the country of my parents birth Jamaica, just under a year ago. Has it been difficult? Yes. Is there lots of red tape? Yes. Do the people sometimes get on my nerves? Yes. Do I sometimes want to return to the UK? Yes. Will I do so? No. Why do we who migrate think it should be easy? When my parents left Jamaica in the 50's and went to the UK did they find it easy? No, it took them twenty odd years to settle. I was born in the UK do I feel its home? NO. Do I feel Jamaica is home? Not yet but it will do in time, and the quality of life that I experience here, far outstrips anything I can establish in the country of my birth. It’s not perfect but why are we pretending that the countries we migrate from was easy and simple. Many of us left because life just became too hard. Life in Jamaica has its challenges but I am giving myself at least five years to see if it can become home.
Cynthia Cole
Huddlesfield, St Mary, Jamaica

It does take a lot of readjustment for most of us depending on where we lived prior to returning home. However, the most important question (or thought) is why did you return? If you came home under distressing conditions you may not be able to re-adapt in a successful and positive way, but if the return was with the hope of making a contribution to national development, putting aside the things that may not be as easily available as in the US or whereever you might have been is inconsequential. I believe that we have it so good in the region that can't help but complain, the lifestyle of the developed world is so draining and on the go all the time that I am happy to be able to relax. The sad thing is we are adapting some of the most negative qualities of the developed countries without the resources to deal with them. The US is not that great, true blue Americans are moving to our islands by droves to retire and develop businesses, we need to take a step back and consider doing the same after living in these countries and returning home. I am happy to be back and want to take advantage of any opportunity to develop my Dominica.
Roseau, Dominica

It seems everyone is geared up to make their day's earnings off the returnees. There is this mindset (right across society) - yes help/assist; but never effectively in order to keep them coming. The Gov't, Lawyers, Accountants, Architects, Building Contactors, Motor Mechanics, Churches, Gardeners - just to name a few, they are all rip-offs. You might say I'm generalising, but unfortunately this has been my experience and all I've got to share is the TRUTH. You feel all alone and isolated and soon depression creeps in. You are faced with relentless barriers – red tape and bureaucracy and it appears nothing works.

It seems there are two sides to this.
Those who go back with the attitude of believing they are there to "save" the country - because everyone local will tell you they don't need saving! Those who return and ignore people they grew up with, passing them on the street with so much as a hello. Which for local people is just rude. Those who return and want to complain, criticise and run down the local people and/or country because it is too slow, too this, too that. Then there are the local people who seem to think we should hide our cars, furniture and money.
Who have no idea what black people in England went through because they were never told. "Why worry them back home" was the attitude - so they don't know or understand the hardship.
Those who believe about the "streets being paved with gold" stories who want returnees to put their hand in their pocket and will charge them four times as much for something in the shops.
From our discussion I learnt that the people who return and have the best time are those who return without expectation and do their best to adapt to the local community, they spend their time integrating and accept that they are no longer in England (or wherever they left) and things are different. These people report that life is good and they are having fun.
Diane Corriette
West London, England

After reading Nadine from Barbados' article, I must say, I couldn't have said it better, after making similar experiences on the island of Dominica. The living truth!
Mary Sylvester
Freiburg, Germany

I see both sides of the coin. I live abroad but love the Caribbean so very much. I visit often enough to make me want to return to settle, but with each visit I realize it won't work for me. My expectations are such that I will not realize them at home. Not high expectations, but different from what the country can offer, through no fault of its own. So I'm happy to maybe go more often and stay longer on visits, but to maintain my home here in the diaspora. Further, my children are older adults and not looking at the Caribbean as home. 1 of them likes visiting, the other 2 are not really interested because they moved around the Caribbean so much that no one island is home for them, whereas they have found a home in the US and are happy to hook up with other island kids. I don't knock them. They are not disrespectful of the culture. They embrace it. My daughters in their teens joined me in carnival band on the road. Going to live there is just not their thing, and since I want to be near my grandkids, then I'm happy to stick around. As I say I satisfy my need for "home" by visiting often. By the time the frustrations begin to creep in, I'm long gone. Kudos to those who make the journey back and stay. Enjoy.
Tandridge Button
Detroit, USA

Though I have not returned home to stay, I have seen those who have, and even visiting home, there is a tendency by those at home that, since you are in town, you are better off than them, so they are trying to extort whatever you have. You are charged exhorbitant fees for services, while, if you would try to seek answers to certain questions, you are branded as one who abandoned your homeland to develop another's land and now you return to impose yourself upon them. Most times, it’s not encouraging because you don't feel at home, even in your homeland.
Clayton Florent
Baie Mahault, Guadeloupe

I am of Caribbean descent(Jamaica & Dominica) but was born and raised in London, England.
I moved to the Caribbean just over 5 years ago and the place which my parents spoke of is not the Caribbean, which I have moved too. The Caribbean has become a small product of America. The people have become so dependant on imported foods that I wonder if the younger generation know how to make the foods, which we were raised on. Is anything really "fresh" in the way that everything is packaged in plastic?
Basic foods & general purchases are too expensive and don't offer you value for money here in Barbados.
The region is also slowing being taken over with guns and crime, against tourists and returning nationals, in some islands you feel as though you should have stayed in the UK.
Although I am not of Bajan descent, I moved to Barbados after purchasing and starting a business and the reaction and treatment of the people has been harsh to say the lease.
I can't speak of the other islands but I have found that the people of the island are only interested in you if they believe that your here on a two week holiday. Once you have to deal with the people on a professional level things are very different. Their attitude towards you is a level of rudeness that I have never experienced before. Many of the official places are laced with "red tape" that even the employees can't explain why these practises are in place. Please don't get me wrong, I really do enjoy living in the Caribbean, but I feel that the people of some of the islands need a SERIOUS lesson on how to treat people.
One last thing, why is it cheaper to fly to the USA than other island which is 20 minutes away. Something needs to be done to get the people in the region moving around to help each other rather than looking to America, England & Canada for help.
Come on Caricom, what are you guys doing out there!!!
Bridgetown, Barbados

My spirit is with those of the Caribbean diasporas returning to do their best for the Caribbean economies and markets. Just leave my space for when I too will join you to play my part. Thank you for being courageous to start the long march home.
Kuwassi Hutchinson
Toronto, Canada

If Ms. Williams is correct and it’s all the returning residents' fault, her comments should serve as notice to all would be returnees. The poster should read..."All those disillusioned and ill-equipped need not return as the English Caribbean is not Europe set on a sunny beach with friendly natives. The Caribbean is not the utopia of the tourism advertising - that our own tourist industry and our tourist board promotes. You have been forewarned"
I wonder what the government whose current aim is to engage the diaspora in investment opportunities will think?
London, UK

Unfortunately, many returning residence arrive ill-equipped, having not done their homework. Often disillusioned by the country they had migrated to, over the year they mentally turned the Caribbean into the utopia of the tourism advertising. Often, but for infrequent and brief returns for vacation, they are totally out of touch with the reality on the ground. Returning to a country you have lived apart from for decades is no different from migration to a new country and requires the same preparation. Most of what people are complaining about are things that they could have identified before returning. It seems as if some of the returning residents sought Europe set on sunny beach with friendly natives.
Elizabeth Williams
Kingston, Jamaica

I am of Caribbean descent and have came to Barbados for a 2 and half year post in March 2009. I have found the experience during my 3 months here one of severe disappointment. The level of bureaucracy here is dysfunctional and stops the normal conduct of business. Also I have found that contrary to the idea of friendliness, I have often encountered hostility - often based on some idea that a black British person is some kind of alien. The cost of living here is very high and as a professional person - I am finding that the wages simply do not cover the high costs of living. This is addition to the duty added on to things like DVDs. The employment law and general culture of 'rights' for women etc is not present either in the public sphere or in the work place. This adds to the feeling of a colonial mindset and country stuck in the past. I also came with a child and am completely shocked at the poor and rigid education system here - I am paying for this contrary to popular myth and it is not equivalent to what my child was receiving in an inner-city school in the UK. This I think will surprise many Caribbean descent individuals in the UK - but the 11+ system is rigid, rote learning and uninspiring.
Janice Cheddie
Bridgetown, Barbados

I moved back to St. Croix for 2 years, but re-migrated back to the US mainly because of my kids. I felt they would have a better opportunity to build a life for themselves in the US than in the islands. As for me, I feel at home in St. Croix. It is a mistake for someone to expect the same in a small island as what exists in a major country such as the US, Canada or the UK. For some, what matters is if you feel happy when you wake up in the morning. This may not necessarily mean a nice house, new car, and money to burn. For some it’s the simple lifestyle as you go through a typical day; any day of the week. It’s the food, people, weather, lower stress, clean beaches, extended family, friends, and so much more. I don't know what the future will bring, but I am also one of those that always has "home" in mind.
Ashmead Ali
St. Croix, USVI

As part of the Jamaican diaspora, I too one day dreamed of returning to my ancestral homeland. Sadly, though due to the island's less than welcoming attitude, it's red tape, it's corruption and the hassle this creates, I am re-evaluating this dream. With regards to assisting and welcoming returning or retiring nationals, it seems to me that places like the Dominican Republic and Panama are light years ahead of most Caricom nations.
As a result many talented and giving Caribbean nationals are ending up in places like Georgia and Florida. While Caricom nations... well you are know the direction it's headed in.
London, UK

This was the greatest mistake I have made in my life. The Caribbean I left twenty years ago is today a region in confusion. As soon as I arrived home, the begging started. People I do not know keep asking for help. Customs officials will not clear my personal effects unless I give them a "small piece".
Were it not for the fact that I am an old man now and sold out my property in the UK, I would pack up and return. I want to advise anyone who is thinking about re-migrating to forget it. The culture of gutter sniping, begging, and low morals is what the Caribbean has come to. I feel that we have retrogressed in twenty years. Just imagine, policemen openly soliciting bribes and young girls offering themselves to me for money.
I really think Independence came too early. I recommend that the British re-colonize Guyana to save the people.
Georgetown, Guyana

I am a returnee who has spent forty (40) years living and working in the United Kingdom (UK) after which I retired just over fourteen (14) years ago and returned to live in Antigua the land of my birth.
Have I regretted it? Not a bit. You see, I was one of those individuals who from day one always had the intention of returning and so although I did not make a song and dance about it, the idea was never far from my thinking; consequently, mine was not one of those haphazard, knee-jerk, spur-of-the-moment decisions. However, in spite of fairly detailed planning, I still experienced minor reservations on my initial return, but I reasoned to myself that I had even bigger reservation when I first arrived in the UK, so much so that had I the wherewithal to return, I would have done so instantly.
One of the biggest hindrances to settling in is the fact that most returnees tend to focus too much on comparing a relatively small developing nation with the well established country that the UK is and has been for an eternity.
Another hindrance is the fact that many returnees take the view that to retire means exactly that and so not only do they end up being bored, but in many instances they become ill and ultimately pass on to the great beyond.
I have been most fortunate that from day one I have kept myself fairly busy doing one thing and another and have not regretted one moment.
My biggest disappointment? Surprisingly enough, this is with the British authorities for having “Frozen” my pension so that I receive no annual increases whatsoever. They have refused to give any rational explanation as to why returnees to Barbados and Jamaica receive the increases and yet we have all paid-into the system exactly in the same manner.
Other than that irrational blemish, I am happy to have made the move and continue to enjoy life in the Caribbean.
Harold Williams
St. John's, Antigua and Barbuda

This and this alone can save the Caribbean from slow death.
Ocho Rios, Jamaica

I returned to my home country Belize thinking I would do my part to reverse the brain drain and fellow lawyers or the profession have treated me with mistrust and have done everything to exclude me... and I find the politics that permeates everything to be unbearable... It has been rough for me. Would not have thought that I was returning home... And lets say that 3rd world socializing takes quite some adjustment - when your socializing is in the 1st world. But I can claim my home as much as anyone else... and have been fighting to make it truly home for me.
Rondine Twist
Belmopan, Belize

Duty free on house hold goods/car, free medication for over 65 & under 18's... Sometimes the problem is with the returnees.
Billy Gachette
Wallhouse, Dominica

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