My names is Deborah David and I’m a Haitian-American living in Caracas, Venezuela with my husband and two children. I have a master’s of science in administration and currently blog at Balanced Melting Pot about raising children as second generation immigrants.
I’ve been an immigrant all my life, so this wasn’t my first expatriation. We moved to Caracas, Venezuela in 2009 after my husband was transferred here for work.What challenges did you face during the move?
My biggest challenge was finding objective and helpful information about living in Caracas. Everything I found online was either highly politicized or geared towards Venezuelans who already had a good understanding of life here.
How did you find somewhere to live?
We used a real estate agent, of which there are plenty. The process was shocking because we had no idea that living in a nice area would cost so much. Also, the competition is stiff – sort of the like New York City, so when you find something you have to make a competitive offer right away.
Are there many other expats in your area?
There are a lot of expats in Caracas. They tend to all live in clusters, so it’s pretty easy to find them.
What is your relationship like with the locals?
I respect Venezuelans and the way that they live their lives. I haven’t made friends with many simply because it usually takes me a long time to make friends anywhere that I am. They are friendly people and often strike up conversations with strangers.
What do you like about life where you are?
I like that we live in close proximity to a lot of cultural activities. Because of the great weather, there’s an abundance of outdoor activities for families; especially on the weekends. I also like that we’re in a culture that is very laid back. Venezuelans enjoy their time off and enjoy their loved ones. You can’t help but get into it, as well.
What do you dislike about your expat life?
Being far away from my friends and family. Sometimes I wish my kids had a consistent group of friends that they can say they grew up with or family that they could play with more often.
What is the biggest cultural difference you have experienced between your new country and life back home?
The “respect” of time. Customer service is seen differently here and I rarely feel like you’re extremely important to the success of the business. Whether it’s at a restaurant or the bank, you will WAIT for service. There seems to be no avoiding that here.
How does shopping (for food/clothes/household items etc.) differ compared to back home?
The big difference here is the price. You can find some of the same quality clothes and appliances as in the US, but you’ll pay 3x the price. What I often recommend to people coming here is stocking up (at least 6 months for clothes) on all the items you’ll need. The money you save can be used to take a great vacation at one of Venezuela’s gorgeous destinations.
What do you think of the food in your new country? What are your particular likes or dislikes?
I’m not a big fan of Venezuelan cuisine mainly because the ingredients are very similar to Haitian cuisine which I grew up eating, but since they’re prepared differently it seems off to me. Caracas, however, offers a wide variety of international cuisine and there are some great Italian restaurants that I frequent. There are also most American fast food chains (McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, etc.).
What advice would you give to anyone following in your footsteps?
Let go of any preconceived notions and surround yourself with positive people. There are a lot of unhappy expats out there and if that’s the environment you’re in, it’ll be very difficult to recognize the positive aspects of your host country. Venezuela is by no means an easy country to get accustomed to, but where is? Whenever you’re leaving your home, friends and family behind, you’re going to have a period of adjustment and the duration of that adjustment period varies based on a lot of factors. Take it one day at a time and try not to dwell on what you’re missing, but on what you’re gaining with your expatriation.
What are your plans for the future?
Hopefully, we’ll be back in the US by 2016 when my daughter will be starting high school. With this lifestyle, that’s as far in advance that I plan 🙂