The following excerpt was provided by Laura Schroeder, a new resident to Grand Cayman, to give her first impressions and account on what it is really like in Cayman.
“Many visitors find it surprising that those of us living in the Cayman Islands actually have ‘real’ jobs. The reality is that many people do have to work, and they often work very long hours. Fortunately, life in paradise comes with many perks— the sun, sea and of course those miles of powdery white sand to lie out on with a tropical libation or two. You may have to slog away at the office until after dark, but be sure there will be an outdoor bar or a lovely restaurant by the sea to stage a healthy recovery.
For those of you new to the Island, once you have settled in, you will begin to acclimate to the flow of island living. Due to the close proximity to the United States, you will see many familiar looking landmarks—fast food chains, petrol stations, supermarkets; however, Grand Cayman is very much its own country with its own unique flavour (as are the other two islands). In fact, we share very little with our Caribbean neighbours— all being unique in their own ways. The reasons Cayman is special are obvious— a stable economy, solid infrastructure, safe and close nit communities, not to mention clean, well looked after and beautiful. Furthermore for such a small Island, and we are talking about Grand Cayman here, the services available are surprisingly comprehensive and plentiful. [Editor: see our Shopping section for more information.]
Cayman living, however, does have its challenges. For one, new arrivals to the Island are shocked at how congested rush hour traffic can be on such a small Island. Also there are few pedestrianized areas to travel by foot, most being found at Camana Bay. Also Cayman does not have a centralized public transportation system [Editor: it does, but it is not sophisticated nor as reliable as it could be] so most people rely heavily on cars— most families own at least two. So despite its relative small size, getting from point A to point B in George Town can sometimes feel impossible during rush hour— lunch time being the most congested period. Once you have learned the rhythm of Cayman life however, you will become familiar with the best times to leave the office to run that errand. The good news is that comparative to most cities in North America, Europe and even the Caribbean, traffic in Cayman is relatively slight. You can put the world of two hour commutes behind you. But for those of you coming from a small town, getting around in Cayman will be an adjustment. So buckle up and of course avoid hitting any feral chickens and green iguanas along the way! [Editor: Always give way to the right on roundabouts. Read our Rules of the Road page for more information on roundabouts if you have never used one.)
The Cayman heat can be relentless. The compounding factor is the humidity, which can feel brutal during the summer months when the rains arrive. Geographically, the Cayman Islands are located in a tropical zone, so expect the rain to be heavy and even torrential at times. When a continuous rainy period has occurred, certain low lying areas and even some main roads will flood. Luckily Cayman has no rivers or elevated areas to cause any landslides. Live here long enough and you will begin to look forward to the rain, as it often ushers in cooler temperatures; and like any seasoned local, you will become an expert in detecting the slight variances in a few degrees. In fact there is a mild seasonal shift that happens after the summer. Yes, the Cayman Islands do experience an increase in temperature during the summer months and a significant drop in late November. The winds shift to a northerly direction; locals refer to this as the “Christmas breeze.” You will know it’s arrived when a kaleidoscope of sails, from kite-surfers, windsurfers and sailboats, open up across the horizon in South Sound, East End and the beaches off Barkers National Park in West Bay. For those of you hailing from northern climes, you will have fully assimilated into island living when you return home for a visit, and have to bundle up more than usual. Be prepared to be teased by your family and friends!
While the infrastructure is modern, amenities first class, you are living on a small Caribbean island; some services will be delivered in a far more efficient manner than you have ever experienced, others will not, which is sometimes due to the lack of automation. The up side is that when you call a service provider, chances are you will be speaking to an actual person. Island charm will necessitate adjusting your expectations of what you may have once deemed a ‘simple’ service. For example, mail is not delivered to your door or mailbox; you will have to pick up your mail from a post office box and collect your parcels from the post office— and you will be charged duty on large bulk items. Navigating those minor inconveniences, however, will soon become second nature— a small price for living in a country with one of the best qualities of life in the world.
Not today Bo-Bo! Ask a real local to explain that idiom. You will hear vernacular that may confound or even amuse you at first, but once you have integrated, you will begin to incorporate the local lingo into every day speech. When in Rome as they say… The good news is that “CayMAN” (never the Caymans) is a welcoming place and that ‘Caymankindness’ is embodied by many, so be sure to engage with people you meet. Stop in at the National Museum to get a good visual overview of the history of the Cayman Islands. The National Gallery and the National Trust are also great weekend stops if you want to familiarise yourself with the distinct character of the Island. Also, always buy local when you can. Patronise the Farmers Markets at Camana Bay and in George Town (next to the cricket pitch) and you will be rewarded with produce that is not only organically grown, but delicious and cheap—CI$3 for a dozen organic brown eggs! Also do not hesitate to try the conch fritters [Editor: There’s a great local food glossary on Cayman Good Taste] or other local favourites when eating out and seek out those jerk chicken stands after a night out. Sampling the local flavours of Cayman is all a part of the adventure. You will not be disappointed!”