Loyal RealLifeRecess readers will recognize the Urens; I often just refer to Julia Uren as my South African sister-wife because we spend so much time together our family is basically blended! We’ve had loads of adventures, partook in plenty of happy hours, shared meals and chores and raised our boys together over the past 4+ years. I thought it well past time to feature the family in an Interview with Expats! So here we go:
What brought you to Belize ?
In the middle of 2016 our family started discussing the possibility of moving to another country . My husband is a chef and we have 2 boys, Ashton and Kyle . At this time Ashton was 9 and Kyle 4. Dean started putting his CV out to see where he could find a job that would suit our family . We were living in a small coastal village in South Africa on the East coast of Kwa Zulu Natal . It didn’t take long for an offer to come up from Belize . At the time we had no idea where this was, thank goodness for google! After some interviews and long discussions we decided to accept the offer . My husband travels on a South African passport and me and the children on British passports . Belize is great as visas are issued on arrival for 30 days and can easily be extended with proof of accommodation and enough funds to remain.
How does life in Belize compare to your life in South Africa?
At the time of living in South Africa , our coastal village had one road in and one road out . Umdloti is a small unique village that has a few restaurants , one pub and a few grocery stores , Laundry , Estate agent and a pharmacy . We had no church , school or hospital . We did have beautiful beaches and views of the Indian Ocean . Moving to Placencia was easy for us . Placencia in Belize was much the same as our village at home . Placencia did however have primary schools ( one International and one local ) and a clinic . We spent our free time on the beach in both places , Placencia didn’t have waves so no surfing .
Kwa Zulu Natal at one stage had the most Indians outside of India . Natal is a huge sugar cane growing area and the Indians came over to work on the plantations . My boys went to school with a variety of cultures , Indians ,local Zulus and then a mixture of westerners and Asians.
In Placenica they went to the International school where again they mixed with many cultures and for the first time mixed with Americans.
In South Africa we would meet on the beach on a Friday night with drinks and a picnic and all the locals gather and enjoy the start of the weekend . Placencia was no different , Tipsy Tuna right on the beach was were we would meet and enjoy some drinks and chicken wings every Friday.
What are the pros and cons of expat-living in Belize?
Nearly all homes come furnished in Belize . This is a great benefit as there are not many shops to buy household items . Most Americans bring furniture and equipment from the US . So it is easy to arrive with just a suitcase of clothes and settle into a home fully furnished . However , you do miss having your own things . We rented for 4 ½ years and hardly bought anything . We didn’t add out personal touch to the apartments . Many people do come with totes of stuff from the US . You get to enjoy the simple life – this is a great thing . Nobody cares what you wear , where you live or what car you drive . You can walk around barefoot , in wholly clothes and no makeup and nobody will look at you twice . Branded clothes , cellphones and gadgets don’t mean anything . Humana ( second hand clothing store ) is where you’ll find the latest in fashion .
What advice would you offer to other families planning a similar move?
Don’t wait to make the move , move . If you have primary school children or younger then its a great place . Placencia doesn’t have a high school within the village .There are 2 high schools in neighboring villages that have buses coming into the village to collect your child . Its a long bus ride 1 hour + each direction . Belize City however has some great high schools if you live in the city . Placencia doesn’t have any extra activities besides karate . A running kids club was started and a soccer club . If you have a passion and want to start something , there are plenty of kids willing to sign up . Placencia living is carefree , relaxed and slow paced . We are also surrounded by water , sand and sun . Make sure you love all 3 .
Belize is an easy destination to live while exploring North , Central and South America . Covid got in the way of our travel plans . The US is only 2 hours away .
Do you have plans to move back to SA?
At this moment in time we have no plans to move back to South Africa . The world is a huge place with loads to explore . Ashton is in high school now and living in Placencia has become a challenge . We are planning our next adventure where we can live together as a family closer to a high school .
*As of this publication, the Uren family has moved to Dubai, United Arab Emirates for a new job and for the boys to attend school. MANY families move back or move on from Belize when their children reach high school age. Seasoned expats discourage others considering a move with teens as the transition is quite hard and there are few activities or opportunities for teens to integrate here.