When people find out I left my life in the U.S. to move to Placencia, Belize, one of the first questions they ask is how it has changed me—and what life looks like compared to the U.S. The truth is, life is very different in Belize. Here is a look at three aspects of everyday life that I experience differently because I live in Placencia.
My grocery shopping this week consisted of several stops at local farmer’s markets that are scattered throughout the village. The fresh fruits and vegetables come in twice a week, so you really want to get there that day. The grocery stores in town have all the basics, but produce isn’t sold in the stores, so you have to make several stops to get everything. This week, I spent about $35 for eight small grocery bags of fruits and vegetables. My grocery bill here overall is about 60% of what I spent in the U.S. However, brand name foods that are imported are expensive, and you are much better off learning to cook with the locally available foods.
I don’t like to use an oven here because it gets too hot, so I do a lot of grilling out, salads, or crockpot meals. One of the things to note about cooking here is that everything is made from scratch: there is no pre-bagged salad, frozen dinners/vegetables, or shortcuts. I generally make my own chicken stock and I bag and freeze vegetables as I go so I have them on hand. In the U.S. I would just throw a steamer bag of veggies in the microwave, but here there are a few more steps than that. If you enjoy cooking and are willing to make this a part of your routine, and a hobby, this can be enjoyable.
There are plenty of expats in Placencia. The majority are between 50 and 65 years old, with a smaller group from the ages of about 35 to 50. There are options for socializing every day of the week, most often at outdoor or open-air places. Karaoke and music are two popular events here, along with trivia. There are also many resorts in town that will open their pools to the public for different events; this is a popular way for friends to get together.
This week I met friends at a resort pool for a pool party with karaoke and a cook out. I also went to dinner at a local casual beach bar, which is open-air. When you eat at casual places here, it is normal for dogs to be brought to the restaurants, and for there to be a mix of locals, tourists, and expats. You will often see people barefoot or in their swimsuits.
This is an area that is quite different from the U.S. While in the U.S., I would spend a lot of time driving around to do errands; here I walk or bike. There are still bills that you pay by visiting the local business, waiting in line, and paying a clerk. I had to pay for a service this week, which was for shipping something (a part for the air conditioning) from Belize City to Placencia (Belize City is where most of the stores and services are located—you can ship things down via truck or puddle jumper flights) and this required me to wait in line at the local bank.
There is a mental shift needed with regard to time when you move to Belize. The mindset is to relax, take your time, and enjoy the journey. It took some time for me to shed my U.S. “urgency” but I find it to be one of the best changes about living in this laidback Caribbean country.