Belize didn’t werk out (omg, you knew I couldn’t resist a cheesy word play!) long-term for this Canadian family with older children. As so many transplanted families find out, navigating high school options is hard; it is an obstacle that forces many to make another move. Let’s hear from mom, Tammy, about her family’s move to Belize and beyond.
When and why did you move to Belize?
We moved from Alberta, Canada.
We moved to Belize for a couple of different reasons. First, we wanted to show our kids a different way of life. To show them how lucky (or unlucky they were, depending on how you look at it) they were in Canada. That they were fortunate to have all the necessities in life and that it all came relatively easy to them. We wanted to show them how simple life can be and how fulfilling and happy life can be without all the “things”. We were tired of living a life full of things. We wanted a better quality of life for our family. I was offered a job in Belize and that gave us the push we needed to just go for it. : ) We’d never been to Belize before. We flew down in December of 2019 and bought our house on day number 4.
What did your expat life look like?
We loved our life on the island. My 2 kids, ages 14 & 15 got dive certified when we moved there. So we dove as a family. We dove about 2-3 times a week if the weather was decent. It was one of the best things about island life. We loved the people and the weather. Life was simple. No need for things. Although I did miss Ketchup chips : ) We loved all things water. We loved the live entertainment. What we didn’t love is that alcohol was drank a lot. We tried not to spend a lot of time at the bars and such. We didn’t want our kids to grow up thinking that alcohol consumption every day was a positive thing and needed to have fun. My son loved fishing so much. I swear he fished 12 hours a day.
What were the biggest obstacles your family faced when it came to remaining in Belize long-term?
The biggest obstacle our family faced while living in Belize was that there is no private school or high school offered for expats past grade 9. Yes, the kids could have went to a local school for high school, however, the education is not recognized in the Canadian schooling system and would have hampered their ability to go to University or college. The kids did online school thru their Canadian institution for 2 years thru COVID. They were tired of it. They want to be kids and socialize with other kids in school. There were also not a lot of girls my daughter’s age on the island, so she had a hard time meeting friends. It’s been a long 2 years without friends. My son made lots of friends and still has great friends on the island at this time.
One of the other downfalls with us being Western Canadian and living in Belize is the flight schedule to get to Belize is brutal. Makes it very difficult for friends and family to visit. My husband also worked back in Canada and flew back to Belize on his days off. The distance and lack of flights to get to and from Canada just didn’t make that situation very feasible unfortunately.
I do hear lots of Expats complaining that they find the island expensive. With us coming from Canada, we actually found the prices to be pretty similar to those of Canadian prices as we find things up north are very expensive also.
I would say that our biggest frustration with Belize is all the red tape with the government. Nothing is easy. Even as something simple as registration for a golf cart. Every single interaction with the government is frustrating. Not to mention we got tired of paying bribes to government officials, just for them to do their job. It’s like the government is very narrow minded and every part of it is corrupt. Everything takes forever. This is Belize’s biggest downfall. People that come from first world countries, don’t really stick around long if they have any sort of business to do with the government.
What advice would you give to other families like yours that are considering a move to Belize?
The advice that I’d give families moving to Belize is to move when your family is young. So that your children can be kids and enjoy the simple things in life. Then be prepared to move when they are in high school. When you move to Belize, leave the video games and “things” behind. Force your kids to become involved in Belize culture. It’s honestly the best thing. When we moved from Canada I didn’t allow my son to bring his gaming with him. He was mad at me for 2 weeks. Then he ended up living his best life for 2 years.
Do you still have ties to San Pedro? Would you ever move back to Belize?
We still own a house in San Pedro that we have rented out for now. Until we figure out our plan. Our son went back to Canada at the end of January to finish up the school year as he just could no longer do online schooling. We just finished relocating to Texas. They have great schools here. 3 more years of the kids in school and then we will figure out our Belize Plan. The great thing with Texas is it’s only a 2 hour flight to Belize. Fast & easy!
We are very grateful that we lived in Belize during a pandemic. We came out of a bad world situation with positive mental health. I will be forever grateful for our time in Belize with my family. But life is taking us in another direction. I’m not sure if we will ever be back to Belize to live. There are lots of other countries in the world that need exploring : )