St Maarten Escape
An Adventure in Paradise
The island of St Maarten/St Martin is located in the Leeward Islands which are in the northeastern Caribbean. The island is unique because it is half Dutch and half French. This gives a certain European flair to the island.
Another thing that is great about the island is that it is so multicultural. You can find people from every corner of the planet living on St Maarten/St Martin. There are approximately eighty different nationalities living and working together on the island.
When most people think of life on a Caribbean island they picture a third world type of environment. This is not completely true with this island. Though there may be some parts of the island that look less than desirable, the standard of living on the island is pretty good.
With tourism creating hundreds of jobs for locals, many are able to have middle to upper middle class lifestyle. This is especially true among the native Antilleans.
Tourism has also provided lots of jobs for the foreign locals. Many of these jobs are in the boating industry. People who visit St Maarten/St Martin not only fly in but they come on cruise ships, private and chartered yachts, sail boats and ferries. This creates opportunities for those who have boating skills or who are willing to learn the skills.
Working with boats is not the only place you can find foreign locals working. I had many friends working in the construction business and selling time share and real estate. If you want to live on the island bad enough you can find work.
For me having the right job was the key to surviving on the island. Sometimes survival meant not only the right job, but also being able to do more than just one job. Mainly I worked in the diving business as a dive instructor/boat captain. The island is not typically known as a dive destination but thousands of divers show up every year for St. Maarten diving.
When I wasn't or couldn't dive I was able to find work in the construction trade as a carpenter. This was handy during the slow season or after a brush with a hurricane. The ability to do two different jobs enabled me to live on the island year round.
Quality of life is what makes St Maarten/St Martin unique and different from other Caribbean islands. Having a good job gave me the opportunity to experience the great quality of life the island had to offer. If you're going to live on a Caribbean island, you have to enjoy what the island has to offer. If you can't enjoy it, why even bother living there.
One of the first things you have to think about when you live in paradise is where to live. There are several choices available. You can choice anything from a tiny one room apartment to a fancy villa. If you like the water you can even live on a boat. Your quality of life on St Maarten/St Martin will sometimes depend on where and how you choose to live.
I was very lucky to live in some nice places on the island. But the best was the last place we lived. For the last six years on the island we lived in a small but nice apartment high above Simpson Bay. From our deck you looked right down the run way at the St Maarten airport. The jets took off right at our house. The small planes where not so bad. It was the big Air France, Corsair and KLM jets that looked like they where going to take the roof off of our tiny hillside apartment. There are so many flights to St. Maarten there was always an air show.
One of the great things about living on the island was the hundreds of eating establishments. If you like good food, this is the place to be. It has been said that there are so many restaurants on the island that you can eat in a different one every night and never eat in the same one twice.
These restaurants offered Italian, French, Indian, Moroccan, Indonesian and Oriental menus. Not only do these eating establishments have great food but also a great view. Most are located on or near the water at marinas or beaches. With great food and a great view, what more can you ask for.
For the times that you do not want to dress up and go to a chic restaurant, there are always the roadside grills. The grills are owned and operated by the native locals. They will have ribs, chicken, lobster and some times fish cooking on a home made grill. You can find them in parking lots, people's front yards and some times in a wide spot in the road. Do not let the look fool you. You can find some really great food at these grills. Check out Johnny Be Under the Tree. You will find some of the best ribs you have ever put in your mouth.
The only thing better than having a great meal, is having a great meal on the beach. For me Sunday was beach day. Since I am not one to hang out on the beach and catch a tan (I got enough sun working on a boats all day), I would find a nice beach side grill. I would have a couple of racks of ribs or a big fat lobster, throw back a few cold Coronas and enjoy the day.
There is no shortage of night life on St Maarten/St Martin. For the night crawlers that live on the island there are dance clubs, live music, casinos and hotels that offer comedy clubs and floor shows. My favorite was to join friends for happy hour at one of the many beach bars on the island. There is never a shortage of places to go and things to at night.
There are several special St Maarten attractions through out the year. These events include sailing regattas, boat shows and live concerts. And if that is not enough, there are always day trips to the neighboring islands of St. Barths, Saba and Anguilla. There is always something to do or some place to go on this island.
Everyday life on the island is not always glitter, glamor and fun. To live here you had to get legal residency, pay taxes and get a Netherlands Antilles driving license. This part of island life is the same as back home. Dealing with all that legal stuff is never fun.
I found the best thing to do was to be patient and understanding. Be patient because island time slows way down. No hurry mon. You need to be understanding because this is their island and to live here you have to abide by their rules.
Another thing that concerns those who live on the island is hurricane season. Every year around the 1st of June (the beginning of hurricane season) the locals start watching the weather. This continues into November (the end of hurricane season).
A close call by a hurricane is not so bad (depending on how close). You get a lot of wind, the sea gets rough and then it is over. It is the hit that hurts.
When the island gets slapped by a hurricane everyone's life gets turned upside down for a while. The tourist and time share owners disappear. Jobs become hard to find. The island becomes a ghost town. The important thing during this time is to do your best to keep working. This is where you find out if you have what it takes to survive.
Hurricanes do not visit the island every year. You may see several years without a major hurricane. I lived in the Caribbean for 15 years on two different islands and survived six hurricanes. Three of these came in one year. The rest where scattered out over the rest of the time I was on the island. Hurricanes do not come around every year, but they do show up from time to time.
Rewards of Living on St Maarten/St Martin
People often ask me why I left the Caribbean. Some ask why I moved to the Caribbean in the first place. Very seldom does anyone ask why I stayed. When they do ask I have to it was because living and working on the island gave me so much.
My time on the island gave me the chance to make a living doing something I have a great passion for, scuba diving. I was able to make friends from all over the world. I lived on an island that had white sandy beaches surrounded by a warm, tropical sea. And last but not least it was during my time on the island I met and married my wife of 13 years. The time I spent on the island was very good to me.
Someone once told me the island was like a big bowl of gumbo. You put people from all over the world on this tiny rock in the Caribbean Se season it with some native Antillean culture and let Mr. Hurricane stir it up just a bit. When it all comes together just right you can get the real taste of St. Maarten/St. Martin.