Hi again, here are some more things we learned! As always, please be sure to ask your questions. We learned the hard way so you don’t have to!
They don’t tell you that the food can be contaminated
Food is grown and raised in Belize by Mennonite farmers and local families. Shopping is conducted at the outdoor market or at small roadside stands. Many of your veggies, particularly root veggies are contaminated with Ecoli. Those who have healthy immune system and practice proper cleaning, storage, handling, and preparation of produce and meats will be unlikely to have problems. However, those who have a compromised immune system or GI health concern may end up fighting Ecoli.
If you get ecoli, it is very hard to get healthy!
The ecoli issue with the food becomes very difficult. Powerful antibiotics, like the ones in the states are not available. Even if you do get rid of the ecoli, you must then learn all new kitchen techniques. Wash all fruit and vegetables in a bleach solution as well as all of your dishes. The dishes are washed after use and before use.
Remember it is a third world country and the geckos are impossible to keep out. There are also rodents and they will actually chew through a window screen. No one wants to talk about cock roaches but they are there. Ants can also be a huge problem. We had our yard sprayed every month, $80BZ which really helped but did not solve the problem.
They don’t tell you the water is hard and probably contamnated
Do not drink the water no matter what anyone tells you. It is not sanitary. This is particularly true for restaurants and rentals. Those who build in Belize will have their well dug past the salt water table and into a fresh water aquifer. The problem for new folks, you have no idea where the water comes from so don’t drink it.
The water is very hard on your clothing. Everything becomes very hard and the towels become abrasive. It helps to use a fabric softener in the wash cycle. Expect to replace your clothes about every six months, potentially more often if clothes contain elastic.
They don’t tell you you can’t have some things you are used to having
Some foods you are used to having around are simply not available. Red meat that is edible and pepsi are a couple of examples. Dairy options are also limited. You can buy locally made cheese but it is not pasteurized. Personally, I didn’t care for the flavor. For me, dairy was probably the thing I missed most!
They don’t tell you how difficult it is to get your prescriptions
Your medical insurance does not work in Belize and your pharmacy, unless they are an international pharmacy, won’t ship prescriptions to Belize. For those who rely on medications to manage health, getting them becomes a huge problem. If you don’t have a friend in the states willing to pick up your scripts and mail them to you, you need to go to Mexico to get them and they are incredibly expensive. Those Veteran retirees who get free medications should plan on paying $400.00US per month each for top grade scripts. Plus you have your exit fee every month on top of whatever you had to spend for medication.
They don’t tell you that you really do need a car
A decent taxi to town and back runs $10.00 each way. (That is $5.00US each way.) Taxi’s become very expensive each month making getting out and about difficult for those on a limited income. If you live close or in town, walking is doable. However, during the rainy season the heat/humidity makes it difficult or impossible to walk anywhere.
They don’t tell you the reality of “Belezian Time”
Life is at a much slower pace. This is pretty awesome; until you need services or work done. You will probably hear, “We will be there tomorrow.” Expect to see them in three or four days. This is mot considered lying, it’s just the way locals conduct business. Expats make jokes about it but it really is a problem because you have to wait around until they get there. If you aren’t home when they come by, it will be another few days after you finally realize you missed them and call to reschedule.
They don’t tell you about repairs and what is NOT available for shopping
When things break, such as a ceiling fan or air conditioner, it is not repaired (if at all possible)–not replaced. It can take several days to accomplish the repair so expect to be without for up to a week or more. There are floor fans readily available and not too expensive in Corozal. However, air conditioners and other big ticket items are very expensive.
Quality furniture can be hard to get. There are stores who specialize in building furnityre in Corozal: two of them have beds and dressers, etc., the third makes custom designed furniture. There are a couple of other stores where you can purchase upholstered furniture but the quality will not be what you are accustomed.
We did not see any stores specializing in clothing. However, you can find clothing in some of the markets, shops, and in the outdoor market. Again, the quality does not compare to clothing you can purchase in developed countries. When you need to replace your clothes you will need to shop in Mexico.
Until you overcome the culture shock, be sure to take a list!
When you go to Mexico, plan on spending a sizable chunk of your time shopping. Remember it is a different country and the currency is pesos. You will need to become familiar with the exchange range–you will get a better exchange rate with US dollars than you will BZ dollars. Again, you can spend quite a bit of time shopping on these trips, unless you can choose to embrace the simplicity of Belezian living and choose to do without.
They don’t tell you about the different values you will encounter
Their idea of being truthful is completely different than ours. Things may get “borrowed ” for a time and then returned. Statements may be made that we would consider lying. Locals simply do not look at it that way. They really do not know that in our eyes, we consider it untruthful.
To provide an example, the housekeeper was paid to work for four hours. She considered it okay to do the work in a hurry resulting in a job that was not up to our standards. She then had no problem leaving early and taking the pay for the full four hours. We talked to her about this and explained our expectations but she made to changes and it did not appear to bother her too much when she was fired.
They don’t tell you how bad the mosquitos are (and other creepy crawlers)
They don’t tell you how bad the mosquitoes really are. They come out around 5:30 pm and are absolutely ferocious. You need a mosquito spray with at least 20% Deet. Application of spray should be included in your daily routine and always have some with you. Some stores sell it, but it sells out almost immediately, so come from your home prepared.
Again, be sure to ask any quesions! If we don’t know the answers, we have friends in the country and can get them for you!