Jobs for American in Belize
In 2006, Lara Goldman’s husband was killed in a plane crash. Two years later she was ‘not getting any better.’ Around this time she had a conversation with her sparring partner. It reminded me of a conversation I would have with myself every time I was on a hour plus commute (one way) to work which was, ‘how much of my life would really change if I was a barista?!?’ Except for Lara’s conversation was, ‘how much could it really cost to live on a tropical island?’ Unlike me who could never quite get an answer to that question, Lara’s sparring partner had real intel. He recommended living in Costa Rica, El Salvador or Belize as low cost but solid tropical options. At the time, Lara did not even know exactly where Belize was. Two weeks later she lived there.
Here is a bit of her story.
You have been living in Ambergis Caye, Belize for over four years now, what keeps you there?
Everything. The not so pleasant human things that happen to everybody everywhere still happen here, but no matter how bad it gets I still get to be near the reef, the ruins and in Belize.
Nobody here asks what you do. Nobody cares. Nobody evaluates you based on that like they do in the first world. One of my closest friends is Coconut Leo. He is literally our friendly neighborhood addict. You will see him, me and the richest guy on the island sitting together having a beer. You see souls here. All we have is each other.
Our Thanksgiving dinner is mostly expats and that includes you know, crazy cousin Linda who has her dress over her head and everyone is like, ‘Ok who is taking crazy cousin Linda home?’ No one is evaluating you based on whether or not your shoes are nice. It is more like, ‘Oh you have shoes? EXCELLENT!’
When people come and visit and I ask if they want to go out on a boat they will ask, ‘Is the boat nice?’ And I say, ‘YES! It floats AND it has a motor!’
When I go to the States I get caught up in the noise and the fastness and I think you end up feeling a little bad about yourself. No matter how much you love your bathroom remodel when you see a nicer bathroom you want that. You do not have that here. My property taxes in the US were 7500 US dollars a year. My property taxes are 65 dollars a year here. My transportation in Belize is a bicycle.
How do you handle earning a living and working in Belize?
Originally I came down here and I just needed to stop. I did not work at first. I was 32 when my husband was killed. I am 40 now. You are just getting started at 32. I was still cooking, if you know what I mean. I took a lot of time to heal. I traveled all around Central America by myself.
When I used to go on the one week island vacation from my corporate job I would look at the girls who were clearly not from there but were living there and would just think, ‘How do you get to do that?’ Once I got here I lived that life. When someone asked me if I wanted to go sailing I went. I learned to spin and dance with fire. I pierced my belly button.
How do you get a visa to live in Belize?
Americans and British do not need a visa in Belize. When you first arrive you get a 30 day tourist visa and then every 30 days after that you have to go to immigration and pay 25 US dollars to get a new stamp or you need to leave the country and come back in for a new stamp. I decided I would rather spend my money traveling than going to the immigration office to get the stamp.
So for the first two years I would leave the country every 30 days and when I came back, I would get the stamp. After a year you can apply for your permanent residency which I now have. I own a home and land here. After five years I can get dual citizenship and can keep my citizenship with the US if I choose.
The thing about Belize is that people do not know we are here. We are the St. Barts of ten years ago, the place where the rich and chic would go to because it was yet to be discovered by the masses. We have the largest living barrier reef. It is more alive than Australia’s. Theirs is longer, but ours is more alive. It is the second largest barrier reef in the world. We have over 600 Mayan sites. We are the only place with Mayan sites and a reef and we are the size of Massachusetts. It is this amazing little country. It is really amazing.
What recommendations do you have for someone who wants to move there and get a job in Ambergis Caye?
You have to get a work permit which is not horribly hard to get. There are certain jobs you cannot get being an expat such as being a tour guide. They want all tour guides to be Belize nationals, although they are changing that if you get your citizenship. I think a work permit is for one year and an employer can help you get it. With the work visa you do not have to go get the stamp every 30 days.
Do you know of any resources where people would look for jobs online in Belize or Ambergis Caye?
No. There is a message board amergiscaye.com. People are always posting that they can do hair or construction work or other types of work hoping they will get work that way, but that never happens. You need to come down here. People need to see you or you need to know someone before you get here.
Unless you are looking for the higher end jobs such as an international property manager, those types of jobs can be found before you arrive, but the lower end jobs you will never get unless you come down here.
If you just want to tend bar or be a waitress or do something that is a little more entry level, are those jobs hard to get in Belize?
A lot of people do get them. It is not the most difficult thing in the world. It so depends on the individual. You live in Barcelona, but you are not originally from there. Where are you from originally?
Now that you are in Barcelona you might have seen the expats that arrive there like they do here and are like, ‘in the US this and in the US that, ’ and I am just like, ‘Honey, you aren’t in Kansas anymore. You are in the middle of Central America. You are in Mayan Country. What you did in the US is completely irrelevant.’ When someone comes down with that attitude they will fail. No one will work with them and they will fail miserably.