Culture clash: Island Time Versus Business Time

by Kellie Heckman

I was just counting on my fingers the other day how long I have been in St. Croix – over 7 months! WOW – time flies. In reflection, I decided to do a little comparison of a typical stateside life (at least mine in Norfolk, VA – home of PETA headquarters, so maybe not so typical) versus life here in the Caribbean.

Basically, island life is slow and leisurely; stateside people definitely take life more (too?) seriously. The cost of living on St. Croix is high though, especially when it comes to necessities (food, electricity, cars, … anything that needs to be imported). This in combination with a high unemployment rate and high incidence of poverty means that people are in desperate times and do desperate things to survive. Case in point, last week the FiXiT Jeep Liberty got broken into and some of my things were stolen (phone, video camera…).

While it is a pleasure in my free time, getting a nonprofit to run effectively and efficiently here is a true challenge. Getting people motivated to spay/neuter in a culture on island time will take some thinking out of the box, and that is why we are here!

For your amusement, here are some comparisons:

Norfolk St. Croix
Perspective on veganism Thoughts of ladies in lettuce bikinis and activism Thoughts of Rastas with amazingly long dreadlocks
Typical dog in a shelter Beagles – lots of dumped hunting dogs Varies, but small – little brown island dogs
Number of stray dogs seen on the streets on average day 0 4
Cost of Tostitos salsa $3.19 $4.99
Cost of cereal (Fruity Pebbles; childhood fave) $2.79 $5.49
Classified ad price for Jeep Liberty Sport 2006 $12,910 $15,995
Cost of Cruzan Rum – 750 ml $14 $7
Alcoholic drink of choice PBR Rum and coke (did you see how cheap it is?)
Unemployment rate – Dec. 2010 6.4% 9.5%
Population below poverty level 10.2% (2008) 38.7% (2000 Census)
(Kellie’s) Favorite weekend activities Thriftying, walking to local coffeeshop Diving, beach volleyball
Number of public holidays 10 18
Pace Business time: get it done Island time: 3-10 times longer

My comparison is only the tip of the iceberg. What am I missing that you would like to know about?

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