In this interview, Lisa shares her expat story with us.
Can you tell us about your expat move?
I moved abroad in 1996. I first moved abroad to Bermuda, to work as a chef in a hotel in Bermuda. Since then, I’ve been travelling around many different places in the Caribbean.
I’d finished college and worked for a number of years around the UK and Europe and I’d worked in some different hotels. I saw a job advert for a chef job in Bermuda so I went for an interview and 4 months later, I was on a plane there! I lived there for around 3 years and really loved it there.
Then another hotel reached out to me from the British Virgin Islands asking me if I was interested in working there. The British Virgin Islands is just what you would imagine the Caribbean is like, palm trees, great weather and totally different from Bermuda. I moved there and ended up staying for 6 years.
From there, I went to Barbados and lived there for 2 years. After that, I was offered another job back in the British Virgin Islands, so I moved back there. After around 8 months of being back there, I was promoted to executive chef.
I stayed there for 7 years and then took a travel break for a few months, travelling around Europe.
I was then offered a job in Antigua and did 2 years there. After that, I was offered a job in Belize, to work at a new resort, which I’d never done before. I was there for about a year and that was a great experience to be part of the team to get that up and running.
Then, a previous manager I’d worked with had asked me to come back to Antigua so that’s what I did. I’m now back in Antigua and loving it!
It sounds like you have travelled around quite a lot then! What have been some of your highlights from your time as an expat?
I’ve learned scuba-diving and this has become a great passion in my life. It has become my main way of relaxation.
You can go away to a new place on holiday for 2 weeks, but it’s totally different living somewhere. You get a whole new experience.
I’ve been privileged to do that so many times. To learn about so many different islands and cultures has been pretty amazing!
That’s wonderful! Have you had many challenges living abroad or are there many things that you’ve missed from back in the UK?
You always miss your family, I normally get home at least once a year to see them.
I also miss good shopping! Whenever I go home, I always go on a good shopping trip.
Challenges are probably more from a chef’s point of view, getting the right supplies, food, equipment and training can sometimes be a tough one.
What advice would you give to those who are considering making an expat move?
For me, I would say to do your research. Check where you want to go. The best bit of advice I was given when I moved to the Caribbean was to always say, good morning, good afternoon, good evening, goodnight, because people are very polite here. That was probably the best bit of advice I got for here.
Go with an open mind. The first few months may be tough, but you normally find out after if it is meant for you and you are going to stay.
How much do you enjoy being an expat?
I’m lucky because I love my job. As a chef, it’s not real work for me, it’s a love affair! So I love living abroad and for me to be able to give back to the local community, and to see the team I work with rise through the ranks, is brilliant.
I’m at the age now where I’m happy to see the youngsters come through. I’ve had an amazing twenty years moving around to see many places.
Would you recommend an expat move?
Yes I would personally. Some people don’t want to move abroad and I understand that, but for me, I thought it would be a short-term move, and here I am twenty years later!
Would you say the Caribbean is a great place for expats?
Bermuda was great, for me, it was like a warm Europe. There’s a very large expat community there.
The team that I worked with were all from Europe. So it was an easy transition.
Sometimes living in some of the smaller Caribbean islands can be a bit of a shock to the system. It’s beautiful but can be a struggle at times.
Finally, how would you summarise your expat journey?
For me, it’s been about passion, love, life, achieving career ambitions and enjoying it!