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Cayman’s Expats – 57 Varieties, And Counting
by Expat Focus columnist, Gordon Barlow
One of the most thrilling things about being an expat is mixing with foreigners in one’s everyday life – people whose customs and cultures and national histories are different from our own. My small island (50,000 people, 80 square miles) is home to at least 50 nationalities – or 60, or 70, or more; the number changes all the time. Altogether, expats outnumber natives by two to one.
Until fifty years ago the word “expat” barely existed here. There were virtually no transient workers. Strangers who came by, for one reason or another, usually stayed. Men (it was mostly men) married native-borns, or didn’t marry them, and became part of the native community. For 300 years after the first settlements, by drifters and vagabonds in the 17th Century when there was no Law closer than Jamaica, Caymanian fishermen from time to time set up second-homes (and sometimes second-families...) elsewhere in the region. Gulf Coast towns in the US, Cuba’s lesser islands, Jamaica, and the Caribbean coast of Central America – all of those places have citizens who can trace ancestors to Cayman.
In 1973, the British Government promulgated a new law defining “Caymanian” for the first time. It meant someone who was either domiciled here or descended from someone who had once been domiciled here (and could prove it!). By default, everybody else was an expatriate – and still is. There are expat spouses of bloodline Caymanians, and expat mothers or fathers of bloodline Caymanians, and there are even expat citizens. Some expats were and are absorbed into the Caymanian community and culture. Newcomers with a bloodline descent from a Caymanian as per the 1973 definition are the only “real” Caymanians, according to themselves. A great many real Caymanians are scornful of “paper” Caymanians, and there are tensions between the former and all the expat communities...
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- Forum Legend
Now there is a new cause for tension and resentment between expats and natives. Our local rulers have just proposed to tax Work Permit expats 10% of their salaries. It's fully expected that (if the proposal becomes law, which is by no means certain) the measure will in due course be extended to Caymanians too; but in the meantime the xenophobes are having a field day. Indeed, the survival of the tax-haven "industry" is reckoned to be at risk. I am not quite so pessimistic as to believe that, but it is unsettling to see how easy it is for the local politicians (all native Caymanians, at Britain's insistence) to crack up the intra-community tensions. I will put a proper comment up on my blog some time this week.
- Regular Poster