Relocation, relocation, relocation

The decision to move to a Caribbean island with idyllic beaches, swaying palm trees and balmy sea breezes may seem like a no-brainer, but the same relocation concerns apply to Cayman as to anywhere else.
 
New arrivals must deal with the chore of finding a place to live, getting a car, opening a bank account, securing a place for children in schools and kindergartens, and all the other niggling and time-consuming little details that relocating entails.
 
Martinne Mills moved back to Grand Cayman last year, 13 years after she first stepped foot on the island. When she first lived here, she came as a single woman in her 20s. After a break of several years, she has returned with her husband and toddler.
 
As a previous resident, she had a good idea of what to expect in terms of getting started – a local driver’s licence, references to help her open a bank account, where to find rental housing and what websites and papers to look at to find cars.
 
But she admits that without friends and contacts here, she would have found it much harder to get started.
 
“The two things I was checking before I came back here from the UK were schools [and housing]. I was looking for a nursery for [my two-year-old daughter] Gabriella. There’s not much information listed online about pre-schools or at least their email addresses.
 
“The one I send Gabriella to now doesn’t have a website. I found it through friends after I arrived on island,” she said.
 
A large baby boom among pals she knew from her first time round in Cayman means she has a large pool of young mothers who are happy to share recommendations on kindergartens, where to shop and paediatricians to use.
 
Housing was her next concern and while she was able to check rentals online, she said the sites of realtors on the island did not prove particularly helpful when she was still overseas.
 
“There are loads of realty sites with information on housing, but… I’m not sure how helpful it would be to people who have never been here before. There are no maps to tell you where the houses or apartments are located, so if you don’t know where a road or complex mentioned is, you have no idea how far it would be from where you’re going to work,” she said.
 
Finding somewhere to live that she and her family could move into immediately upon arrival also proved problematic. “I wanted to find a house, pay a deposit, arrive and be able to get the keys from the realtor at the airport and go there straightaway. Instead, people kept saying to me ‘get here and we’ll sort you out when you come’”, she said.
 
The employers of many new recruits organise accommodation for them for the first 10 days or two weeks. Realtors who are notified of a person’s arrival can already have a slew of properties lined up for viewing, but those in the market for rentals – as most new arrivals are – should be aware that the time of month they arrive is an issue.
 
Most rentals are available for the start of a month, so if a person arrives on the 9th of the month, for example, he or she may have to wait three weeks before moving into new accommodation.
 
Tessa Hydes, of Tessa Hydes Property Management, a company that deals in rentals, explained: “We usually recommend that new arrivals have temporary accommodation arranged for a week to 10 days when they first arrive.
 
“This is sufficient time to get a feel for the island, view properties with your agent and secure a place with all the necessary documentation needed to move into your new home. Many companies actually pay for this temporary accommodation, so ask ahead.”
 
Most rental homes in Cayman come fully furnished, so expats moving here should bear that in mind before packing all their old sofas, beds and kitchen sinks into a container and shipping them to Cayman.
 
Mrs. Mills did just that, but said she was lucky enough to find a furnished home that could nonetheless accommodate a lot of her family’s furniture.
 
Cayman is a friendly island, where meeting people and getting contacts is quite easy, but arriving anywhere on one’s own for the first time can be daunting.
 
Stacey VanDevelde, the senior manager of human resources at KPMG said many new arrivals mentioned concerns about the cost of living in Cayman, as well as issues about safety, stemming from reports of rise in crime, hurricanes and, now, earthquakes.
 
To help combat some of those fears and to smooth the way for new arrivals, KPMG arranges for new expat employee to have a “buddy”. This is someone within the company who has lived in Cayman for a while, knows the lay of the land and can offer advice on the practicalities of setting up home here.
 
“We find a buddy for them before they arrive… Sometimes, there can be a lag time of several months between the offer of the job and the person’s arrival on island. It may feel like they’ve heard nothing from the company so having a buddy here eases their mind,” said Ms VanDevelde. “Once they get here, the buddy picks them up at the airport.”
 
She said buddies were given guidelines and training on helping new arrivals settle in.
 
The buddies also give advice on accommodation, transport and the various bits of red tape and bureaucracy every new resident needs to work through.
 
The president of the Cayman Islands Society of Human Resource Professionals, Philip Jackson, said the buddy system worked well and was one that many large firms used.
 
He said human resources departments also helped new recruits by directing them to websites and publications where details of rental properties and second-hand cars, as well as advice on settling into a new place, were available.
 
“Most companies will have their own policies and ways of familiarising new recruits with Cayman,” he said.
 
He said new arrivals should be sent information from their potential employers on the norms in Cayman. “They can find out a bit about the culture in Cayman, that Sunday is a day of rest, and get advice on immigration policies.
 
“They should also have advice on the seven-year residential limit for expat workers. Employers should be advising their expat labour force on these things.”
 
Some detailed information on the cost of living is available from the government’s Economics and Statistics Office, which updates figures its cost of living tables at least yearly.
 
For those moving to this land of “soft, fresh breezes and verdant trees so fair”, the transition period is usually brief and most find themselves well ensconced and settled within two months, so they can relax and enjoy life here.