Friday, April 27, 2012

Expat Experiences - Gordon Barlow, Cayman Islands

My name is Gordon Barlow, married and with grandchildren. I left Australia in 1963, as did my wife, whom I met in Greece the following year.

Looking back, it seems I became addicted to the expat life during my second year in Bahamas, after earlier experiences in England and Canada. Gradually the realisation took over that there was more to life than going home to Australia and a pleasant-but-humdrum future as a partner in an accounting firm.

So after three years in Nassau – I a trust-officer, Linda a teacher – we spent a year as expats (yes!) in Perth, Australia, before finding jobs in New Hebrides, now called Vanuatu. Though both of us were born and raised in Australia, we discovered the truth of the old saw, “you can’t go home again”. We had far more in common with foreign expats than with compatriots who had never been away. I’m sure many other expats discover the same thing.

With an infant son, we came to Cayman from England for the usual 2-3-year expat stint, and stayed. After my stint I became a house-father for five years. Linda left teaching and became an office secretary. The local Work Permit regime gradually tightened in the 1980s as expats began to outnumber the native stay-at-homes. I fell victim to the system after being recruited to open the local Chamber of Commerce’s first office. My job included mobilising public opinion to defeat a proposed Salaries Tax and Payroll Tax; success brought the wrath of the political establishment down on my head...

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Tuesday, April 17, 2012

No Peakie Panish (Learning a New Language)

There can be a lot of pressure when moving to a foreign language speaking country when only your better half knows the lingo. It puts stress on one side to constantly translate and the other racing to learn the new language as quickly as possible. In the case of my husband (a.k.a. the hubs) and me, he was already fluent in Spanish before moving to Panama whereas my lingual skills were limited to words like fajitas, fiesta, and margaritas.

During our first three months in the country, we didn’t socialize. The most translating the hubs did was ordering my food at restaurants, which I picked up quite quickly, although he is quite the gentleman and prefers to order for me while dining out. Our fifth month in Panama rapidly changed with the opening of our taco stand.

I have all the know-how in the kitchen and the hubs brings his appetite. I had to teach all of our new Spanish speaking employees how to recreate intricate Mexican recipes. The hubs was charged with the task of interpreting.

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