Moving out of Trinidad: The Good, the Bad, the Truth

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So, you think you’re ready to move out of Trinidad or Tobago. But the question I ask is… are you really ready and prepared for the ups, downs, sideways, and roller-coaster drops involved in moving lock, stock and barrel?
For someone who has moved out of Trinidad twice to live in two, different countries, I still caution most people who want to leave our wee isle out of frustration or because they feel as if they can’t find challenging or fulfilling work in Trinidad and Tobago.
Here is the truth that no one really tells you. Moving to another country, legally that is, takes a heck of a lot of gumption, patience and willingness to humble oneself. It isn’t all hunky dory, and land of milk and honey. It takes hard work and years of it, so be ready to be challenged and frustrated in many ways before you finally find your way.
For some it’s an easy transition, for others, it takes much more. Whichever way you decide, be prepared for the financial, emotional, physical and mental stress.
Red tape and frustration
The first thing I’d advise is to make a plan. I know it sounds boring, but for those who really want to make it either in the US, UK, Canada, or elsewhere, having a solid plan helps. If you don’t you’ll end up working at “McWendy’s” because you have to earn rent money.
Remember too, for Trinbagonians, it’s much harder to migrate now. For the US, it takes years, and the same goes for the UK. From my research, it seems that Canada is somewhat easier to apply to and process than other countries. There are also other options that allow you to live in another country, for a period of time, so that way you can gauge if you can in fact handle the pace and lifestyle.
Some people go to the UK on a two-year visa – the Youth Mobility Scheme, the former working holiday maker visa that allows Commonwealth citizens aged 17-31 the opportunity to travel, live and work in the UK. Some go to Japan on the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET). Either way, there are short-term options available, so why not take advantage of them?
Most people I know, who have migrated to the US, tend to choose states based on whether or not they have family nearby. That’s a good and bad thing. It’s good for the obvious reasons, having support and someone to make roti for you. Bad because the state could have a higher cost of living, and higher tuition fees. So when choosing, remember to do your research.
Homesickness
Ah, the homesickness. When you feel for a Shandy Sorrel (like now), or a bake and shark, and you can’t simply go get it, that’s when the brutal longing for home sinks in. Many islanders have fled the ‘foreign’ they so longed to live in for the safety of ‘normal’ back home.
Leaving your close friends, family, and, yes, the hot sun, can be unbearable at first, but as with all new changes, the longing fades once you start carving out a life – although for some, it never does. If you know you can’t do without seeing your Mummy, Daddy or Muffy the doggie for more than two days, then moving thousands of miles away isn’t for you.
Personal life
There are many Trinbagonians living overseas who crave for the laidback, island lifestyle they grew up with, and that alone encourages some to move back ‘home. Whether or not they are aware that the pace and lifestyle has changed in Trinidad and Tobago over the last decade, there are definite pros and cons to consider.
If you decide to move out of the country, are you prepared to sacrifice much of your social life for your career? In the US especially, some people have great careers, but adjusting to the lifestyle is difficult. For some, there’s the dating scene, which is very different to the scene back home… cue the sounds of “Sex & The City”. Then there’s realising that your co-workers who would happily lime with you on a Friday, won’t call on Saturday to see how you’re doing.
There is that fine line between achieving professional highs, and being happy with that, knowing that your personal life may suffer. For most Trinis I know, the liming must continue! In all seriousness, I believe in working hard and playing hard, and I do both well. But for some, taking advantage of the wealth of entertainment options available never replaces the comfort of having close friends and family close by. So it really boils down to your own personality, and whether or not you can deal with the loneliness.
Money talks
Moving as a student is somewhat easier than moving permanently. As a student, tuition fees are going to be your greatest burden. However, once you’ve graduated, better paying jobs are easier to come by. You will be allowed to work for a few years, after you’ve earned your degree. If your aim is to work for two to five years, save and move back to Trinidad, then that’s a great way to spend your time if you aren’t sure how long you can or want to live in that country.
The other most important question is, can you afford moving? If you can’t afford the moving and set-up expenses, for at least four months, then you’re going to be in trouble. Considering the global economic and employment issues, well-paying jobs are hard to come by. Know the areas that have more jobs in your field, as some states and cities are better for certain fields.
The reason why most people seem to have the same story is because it always takes longer to settle in than anticipated. One major factor that prevents most people from really getting their situation sorted is the credit system in the US. I can’t speak for the UK because my experience there was short term. However, in the US, you need to establish credit before anything gets done. It takes six months to build your credit, and, in this land, no credit is as bad as bad credit.
You will have to pay security deposits for cell phones, and apartments/housing will require background and credit checks. If you don’t have credit history, it will be hard to find a place right away. It’s no fault of yours; it’s just how things work. But if you talk to your bank of choice, they have ways to help you build good credit, but keep in mind you will be spending twice as much initially.
Oh, and doh get chain up eh. If someone tries to convince you they can afford to buy a new car ever year (unless they really can), don’t buy it! It’s called a lease, so ‘doh get chain up’! Realise your own limits and be smart about planning the rest of your life.
When friends and family set you up
Here’s a bit of advice regarding living arrangements; never, ever believe anyone, family or friend, when they say you can stay at their place, while you get settled in. If you can avoid staying with people for no more than two weeks, please do all that you can to get your own place! Trust me when I tell you, despite their best intentions, it never works out. Save up your pennies and save lots of them before you leave.
You might think they’ll help you out, until you ‘get on your feet’. Sometimes they surprise you, and renege on their invitation, and unceremoniously ‘put you out’. When that happens, just go out there and get cracking at finding your own way.
To move or not to move?
Now that I have you mulling over whether or not to move out of Trinidad after all, consider the following. Why exactly do you want to move? Is it because you want to further your education and build a life in another country that would afford you more luxuries? Or are you moving because you’re bored and running from the banalities of Trinidad and Tobago culture? If you’re not sure as to why you want to move, you might find yourself frustrated and unhappy during the initial settling-in months.
The good thing about seeking a better life is that chances are you will find it. Once you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules of your chosen country, you will be fine. It won’t happen as quickly as some people like to make it seem, because no one likes to admit how hard they really worked and how much ‘sufferation’ they experienced. It gets easier as the years go by (for some), but your first few years will be hard, but not unbearable.
There are several options to choose from, so don’t limit yourself to one avenue. Explore while you can and make good decisions. Just don’t be fooled by seemingly idealistic settings.

brooklynbridgeSo, you think you’re ready to move out of Trinidad or Tobago. But the question I ask is… are you really ready and prepared for the ups, downs, sideways, and roller-coaster drops involved in moving lock, stock and barrel? 

For someone who has moved out of Trinidad twice to live in two, different countries, I still caution most people who want to leave our wee isle out of frustration or because they feel as if they can’t find challenging or fulfilling work in Trinidad and Tobago.


Here is the truth that no one really tells you. Moving to another country, legally that is, takes a heck of a lot of gumption, patience and willingness to humble oneself. It isn’t all hunky dory, and land of milk and honey. It takes hard work and years of it, so be ready to be challenged and frustrated in many ways before you finally find your way. 

For some it’s an easy transition, for others, it takes much more. Whichever way you decide, be prepared for the financial, emotional, physical and mental stress.       

 

Red tape and frustration

The first thing I’d advise is to make a plan. I know it sounds boring, but for those who really want to make it either in the US, UK, Canada, or elsewhere, having a solid plan helps. If you don’t you’ll end up working at “McWendy’s” because you have to earn rent money. 

Remember too, for Trinbagonians, it’s much harder to migrate now. For the US, it takes years, and the same goes for the UK. From my research, it seems that Canada is somewhat easier to apply to and process than other countries. There are also other options that allow you to live in another country, for a period of time, so that way you can gauge if you can in fact handle the pace and lifestyle. 

Some people go to the UK on a two-year visa – the Youth Mobility Scheme, the former working holiday maker visa that allows Commonwealth citizens aged 17-31 the opportunity to travel, live and work in the UK. Some go to Japan on the Japanese Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET). Either way, there are short-term options available, so why not take advantage of them?  

Most people I know, who have migrated to the US, tend to choose states based on whether or not they have family nearby. That’s a good and bad thing. It’s good for the obvious reasons, having support and someone to make roti for you. Bad because the state could have a higher cost of living, and higher tuition fees. So when choosing, remember to do your research. 

 

Homesickness

Ah, the homesickness. When you feel for a Shandy Sorrel (like now), or a bake and shark, and you can’t simply go get it, that’s when the brutal longing for home sinks in. Many islanders have fled the ‘foreign’ they so longed to live in for the safety of ‘normal’ back home. 

Leaving your close friends, family, and, yes, the hot sun, can be unbearable at first, but as with all new changes, the longing fades once you start carving out a life – although for some, it never does. If you know you can’t do without seeing your Mummy, Daddy or Muffy the doggie for more than two days, then moving thousands of miles away isn’t for you. 

 

Personal life

There are many Trinbagonians living overseas who crave for the laidback, island lifestyle they grew up with, and that alone encourages some to move back ‘home. Whether or not they are aware that the pace and lifestyle has changed in Trinidad and Tobago over the last decade, there are definite pros and cons to consider. 

If you decide to move out of the country, are you prepared to sacrifice much of your social life for your career? In the US especially, some people have great careers, but adjusting to the lifestyle is difficult. For some, there’s the dating scene, which is very different to the scene back home… cue the sounds of “Sex & The City”. Then there’s realising that your co-workers who would happily lime with you on a Friday, won’t call on Saturday to see how you’re doing. 

There is that fine line between achieving professional highs, and being happy with that, knowing that your personal life may suffer. For most Trinis I know, the liming must continue! In all seriousness, I believe in working hard and playing hard, and I do both well. But for some, taking advantage of the wealth of entertainment options available never replaces the comfort of having close friends and family close by. So it really boils down to your own personality, and whether or not you can deal with the loneliness. 

 

Money talks

Moving as a student is somewhat easier than moving permanently. As a student, tuition fees are going to be your greatest burden. However, once you’ve graduated, better paying jobs are easier to come by. You will be allowed to work for a few years, after you’ve earned your degree. If your aim is to work for two to five years, save and move back to Trinidad, then that’s a great way to spend your time if you aren’t sure how long you can or want to live in that country. 

The other most important question is, can you afford moving? If you can’t afford the moving and set-up expenses, for at least four months, then you’re going to be in trouble. Considering the global economic and employment issues, well-paying jobs are hard to come by. Know the areas that have more jobs in your field, as some states and cities are better for certain fields.

The reason why most people seem to have the same story is because it always takes longer to settle in than anticipated. One major factor that prevents most people from really getting their situation sorted is the credit system in the US. I can’t speak for the UK because my experience there was short term. However, in the US, you need to establish credit before anything gets done. It takes six months to build your credit, and, in this land, no credit is as bad as bad credit. 

You will have to pay security deposits for cell phones, and apartments/housing will require background and credit checks. If you don’t have credit history, it will be hard to find a place right away. It’s no fault of yours; it’s just how things work. But if you talk to your bank of choice, they have ways to help you build good credit, but keep in mind you will be spending twice as much initially. 

Oh, and doh get chain up eh. If someone tries to convince you they can afford to buy a new car ever year (unless they really can), don’t buy it! It’s called a lease, so ‘doh get chain up’! Realise your own limits and be smart about planning the rest of your life.  

 

Friends and family settin’ you up

Here’s a bit of advice regarding living arrangements; never, ever believe anyone, family or friend, when they say you can stay at their place, while you get settled in. If you can avoid staying with people for no more than two weeks, please do all that you can to get your own place! Trust me when I tell you, despite their best intentions, it never works out. Save up your pennies and save lots of them before you leave. 

You might think they’ll help you out, until you ‘get on your feet’. Sometimes they surprise you, and renege on their invitation, and unceremoniously ‘put you out’. When that happens, just go out there and get cracking at finding your own way. 

 

To move or not to move?

Now that I have you mulling over whether or not to move out of Trinidad after all, consider the following. Why exactly do you want to move? Is it because you want to further your education and build a life in another country that would afford you more luxuries? Or are you moving because you’re bored and running from the banalities of Trinidad and Tobago culture? If you’re not sure as to why you want to move, you might find yourself frustrated and unhappy during the initial settling-in months.

The good thing about seeking a better life is that chances are you will find it. Once you’re willing to work hard and play by the rules of your chosen country, you will be fine. It won’t happen as quickly as some people like to make it seem, because no one likes to admit how hard they really worked and how much ‘sufferation’ they experienced. It gets easier as the years go by (for some), but your first few years will be hard, but not unbearable. 

There are several options to choose from, so don’t limit yourself to one avenue. Explore while you can and make good decisions. Just don’t be fooled by seemingly idealistic settings.

 

Image credit: robinsons-intl.com

11 Comments

  1. Rain de Lima

    October 13, 2011 at 10:01 am

    Good article, Kamsha. I agree that the person considering moving should have a plan and a back-up plan too. I’d like to add that anyone who comes up on a Tourist Visa and wants to stay longer than the 6 months could file for an extension. Please do not get yourself in the trap of “overstaying” because you might want to live. Life, when you’re not “straight” … and I don’t mean the sexual orientation term … is not easy for someone without a work permit. I know a lot of people who have put themselves through that situation. One is now unable to attend her mother’s funeral in Jamaica. It’s not worth it really. Apply instead for the Lottery, which I think has a December deadline. Check it out instead.

    Much of what you said Kamsha about it not being everything it’s cracked up to be, the lonliness and not depending on people for too long is on point. Thank you!

  2. Garvelle Grant

    January 21, 2013 at 4:09 pm

    Thanks so much for this, you have no idea, how much I needed to read these words. I’m struggling with the whys hows and whens right now, but making a plan is what I intend to do.

  3. The Boatman

    May 1, 2014 at 7:25 am

    Thank you very much for this article. I want to move because I want to experience a new lifestyle where there would be a lot of experiences and opportunities. I am currently holding a bachelor degree from U.T.T and I am pursuing a Masters Degree. I plan to make a move right after completing my Masters Degree. The information you provided was very helpful. Please comment on my post if you can.

  4. fitzsolomon walker

    February 26, 2015 at 5:25 pm

    I agree with a lot,, but a lot needs to be added,, a lot of ppl pretend and create the atmosphere to or fellow trinidadians about the joys of living in the U.S ecspecially when they return home for vacations and stuff,, with all there new kicks and gears,, but the truth is,, many of them saved and sacrificed a lot for that vacation and pretend the hell out of our friends and family at home amount what sacrifices where indeed made,, and leaves a false indentation in the heads of our fellow trinidadians that America is sooo easy,,, really and truly it isn’t,, in my opinion I got a golden spoon when I migrated here but I know a lot of my friends who I believe should return home but their pride and the fake glory that they already painted to others causes them to remain here and suffer,, some leave there beautiful jobs and houses home and come here to live in a rat infested basement with poor heating just to say they live in the U.S,, another thing if you ever migrate here the way of life that we grew up with in Trinidad in regards to the laws and how our law enforcement agencies actually deal with it is way different here,, in America you DEFINITELY POSITIVELY need to respect everyone of their laws and regulations,,, Trinidad laws are there but not enforced as they ought to,,, in America if they say no parking here,, that is what they mean!! SERIOUSLY,, not,, “I probably could take a chance” there isn’t anyone around like we commonly do in trinidad,, you could bet your bottom dollar as soon as you park there someone will come and your pocket will force you to learn or burn,,, next thing,,, living here means you and only you are responsibly for yourself, meaning you definitely need to adapt a more responsible way which includes finances, punctuality in your job,, and MOST IMPORTANT,, paying your bills on time,,, PLEASE, PLEASE, believe me when I say your credit in America is everything,, take no chances with it,,, it isn’t free money,, these are just some of the mistakes that could and normally happens to a migrating person from Trinidad,, even worst if your an adult already who Trinidad has already made its roots in your way of life,, you’ll need to adapt and quickly,, hit the ground running that it,, its all about your hunger,, how badly you actually want it,,, legally that is,, another thing everyone comes here and attempt to get involved in illegal activities,, please don’t,, your not an American so a slap on the risk is not your punishment,,, for any minor criminal offenses even if you have a permanent residency card could and would result in your removal/deportation,,, sooo legal is always the harder but the safer way to go,,, an once you could apply yourself, adapt quickly, stay legal with your employment, maintain good credit, budget yourself properly,,and then,, only then America becomes somewhat easy,, or should I say easier,, keeping it real,,I like it here,, not because its America,, but I adapted and I’m surviving well enough,,,
    that was just some brief pointer for a person thinking about migrating from Trinidad,, there are many more…

    • Firlas

      November 8, 2017 at 8:38 am

      Please take some English Language classes. You might actually become more successful in life!

  5. Tricia

    October 8, 2015 at 1:24 pm

    Thanks for this advise Kamsha,really needed it now. even though it didn’t change my plans but it just gave me a more realistic view on everything. Thank U!

  6. Shakeela

    October 14, 2015 at 4:47 am

    This is a very realistic article and many who are considering moving should definitely heed the words. As someone who has legally lived in the US for 5 years and now reside in the UK, I have had the experiences of both countries and while they offer so many opportunities, it is easier said than done especially when starting from “scratch.”

    It is not as easy to get through in the UK as it was before 2012. However, if you do your Masters here, there is a greater possibility of becoming eligible to settle.
    I also want to say Canadian immigration has also made some big changes and for anyone with a Masters and/or highly skilled (and for families, even more advantageous if your partner also has a Masters as well), you have a very good chance of getting through. The processing time for Trinidadian applicants for Canadian Residency is approximately 12 months(after all pertinent forms are filled).

  7. Esha

    October 30, 2015 at 1:10 pm

    Hi agree to but i want to move to the us to further my education and pursue a luxious lifestyle although i know i can the same in trinidad but i want to experience it i love experiencing stuffs so bad i love my country. I know i will have to make sacrifices cause i saw that with my own eyes. I am only 15 and i sacrfice a lot but in the end it pays off i am prepared for all the up and down. But 1 i have to see if i get there legally.

  8. Nadia

    April 24, 2016 at 12:40 pm

    good advice, summary. thank you

  9. N Hinds

    November 26, 2016 at 8:50 am

    Hi. I loved your article & the comments that came along with it. I myself want to migrate to Canada & reading this was really an eye opener for me. It hasn’t changed my mind in any way but it helped a lot in terms of the way things work. Thank U

  10. George

    March 14, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    With the crime scenario as it is at present and getting even worse deciding to move away from T&T nowadays is becoming an easier decision to make than when I left Trinidad in 1954.
    Crime in those days where few and far between. However because there was conflict within our household when my father married a very young woman .We just did not get along and I moved into the Salvation hostel on Henry Street.
    I kept drifting from job to job especially in the retail grocery business. I got fed up as there seems no future in Trinidad for someone with ambition.
    I joined the Norwegian Merchant Navy in Port of Spain as a salon boy looking after the Captain and his wife.I then transferred to more hard work as a deck boy.
    I resigned from that ship after 18 months,then lived and worked in Holland for a short period before joining another Norwegian ship where I soon gained promotion to ordinary seaman by which time I had seen many countries of the world.
    I again became fed up and decided to embarked at Avon mouth in the UK. With two weeks of arriving I found a job as a bus conductor in Cardiff. This employment lasted about twelve months. I decided to move to London to try to find a better job ,which proved to be a waste of time.
    I then moved on to Brighton in Sussex where I returned to being a bus conductor. After 12 months on this job. I was summons to the office of the General Manager who told me that I was wasting my time being a bus conductor as my time keeping, conduct and paperwork in respect of the job was far above average and I ought to consider a military career.
    He asked me which of the military services I fancied, I said the Royal Air Force. Arrangement were made for me to have a medical which I past, and then enlisted the the RAF as an aircraftman in the trade of general clerk.
    I spent 22 years in the service acquiring the rank of Sergeant in the secretarial trade.I had some very important jobs and served in Germany.Libya,Singapore ,the Seychelles and various RAF stations within the UK .
    One of my most important jobs was being the coordinator of VIP visiting Germany where I served on two separate tours.
    The other was being the adjutant of 206 Squadron in Scotland where the Nimrod aircraft was being deployed to search and hunt Russian submarines .
    I also served as the right hand man for the NATO secretariat managing the NATO registry with two assistants at Strike Command Headquarters where I retired at 47 from military service.
    I then joined the Ministry of Defense as a Civil Servant and later transferring to the Inland Revenue where I served as an Officer and finally retiring at 60 .
    Whilst serving in the RAF I got married to my wife Linda who I MET IN Brighton and has now been married for 55 year.
    I spent a lot of my private time in the RAF studying and obtained a Fellowship in Commerce having qualified in Accountancy, booking keeping ,commerce. company and mercantile laws. I eventually decided to return to my homeland in Trinidad. I departed UK on 12th October 1996, lock, stock and barrel which included my wife, the car and two dogs.
    However, was back in the UK on the 4th of April 1997.yes my stay in Trinidad did not last long. The decision to leave was made when my wife was threatened to be shot for walking the dogs down a public road.
    Reporting the matter to the police made little difference as on confrontation with the culprit in my presence a full scale argument broke out between the Sergeant policeman and the culprit who kept insisting that the road was a private one ,despite the police sergeant repeating to him that it was a public road.
    The police made no headway and advised me to see a lawyer on the matter that was the final straw after having encountered many intended criminal acts against our property and the fear of being murdered . Trinidad had certainly changed, now decades later it is worse than ever.
    Anyway I hope my story will give incentives to the pupils of St Dominic’s RC school at Morvant wwere I obtained my primary and secondary education

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