Forum: The returning diaspora
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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.
I am a younger generation returnee and I initially had the stand-off complaining attitude.
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.
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.
I am nowhere near retiring age and the aim of myself and husband is to return to Dominica asap.
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).
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?
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!
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.
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
I am of Caribbean descent(Jamaica & Dominica) but was born and raised in London, England.
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.
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"
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.
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.
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.
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.
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".
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.
This and this alone can save the Caribbean from slow death.
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.
Duty free on house hold goods/car, free medication for over 65 & under 18's... Sometimes the problem is with the returnees.