Prejudices vs. reality: A little anecdote…

Recently I travelled abroad and someone asked me about St-Maarten. This person’s idea of our island was that it is one of those places where life is very cheap and a place that is not modern a little bit like Tanzania (his description not mine). He said his dream was to live in a place like that – living comfortably and having to work very little. Well what a shocking surprise for me! The first minutes I had no words but then after I could not stop laughing. He said “why do you laugh? Isn’t it a good wish?” I answered “Each person have their own  dreams and wishes. They cannot be discussed but if that’s the kind of life you are dreaming of well you chose the wrong place”. Then, he asked why . I replied “St-Maarten is a mix of cultures. We are closed as closed to the Caribbean live-style as we are  to both the American and European ones. It is quite of a modern island so no one will think of you as a rich person with 1000 euros per month in your pockets. Watch on the internet.” But instead I searched a few pictures of the island then showed them one by one and said:

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– Simpson bay and Maho by night look like a mini Las Vegas (exaggerated) because of the casinos and clubs. Beautiful places to have fun , party, eat and to sleep. Only difference is  the beach is across the street, a beautiful airport and marina. But as you can see here it is normal people like you and me and the prices go with the looks of the place.

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– Philipsburg is like an open air shopping center mixing modernity to the Dutch and Caribbean culture.  Full of beautiful jewelries, outlet stores, casinos and more is a super place to shop and relax. Again with normal people. Difference: a beautiful relaxed beach with a boardwalk that is nearly always active with music, restaurants etc. Contrarily to big towns of the world it has the Caribbean heat and St-Maarten’s friendly and charming people.

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–  St-James, St-Peters and Rambaud are normal residential areas with our traditional St-Maarten houses (This style is close to most English-speaking Caribbean island’s one. But you also have residential areas in Orient bay and Concordia where you can feel the French Caribbean influence and the European one.

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– Terre-Basses : luxurious residential area with beautiful beaches and cliffs. It is mainly stars or millionaire. I showed him a real estate site with prices and pictures. As most places in the world you have places where only the very rich and wealthy can live and others where everyone or nearly all can.

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– Grand-Case, Orient Bay and Marigot: Places to relax, to visit, to shop (normal and luxury brands) and to have fun, a mix of many cultures, foods from the world but mainly European and Caribbean restaurant. Very good food at affordable price in relaxed environment the only thing you can see missing there are big fast food restaurant (which, to me, is not really a flaw).

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Then finally I showed him activities going from water-sports to hiking and parachuting that people do in St-Martin then told him this is not a place for someone who wants to live a luxury life without having to pay much.

To be honest  laughing and taking thing lightly is the best way to deal with some people and mainly when what they say is purely stupidity but again it is his dream. However it is incredible to see people still having such thoughts in 2013 for two reasons:  first because living on an island doesn’t forcibly mean sleeping under a tree all day long, not working and having a luxury life. We have nearly the same challenges as most countries and most people. The only difference is that most of us take life easily while in bigger towns people are more stressed. Furthermore, I think there are people who cannot understand our relaxed way but it is simple: life is too short to worry about unworthy things but it still doesn’t mean sleeping all day. The second reason is that it shows that we still have many narrow minded people who are willing to exploit poorer people to live a selfish luxury life while in their own homelands it would not be possible. I know there is a famous economist that said you cannot make a better living for yourself without making someone else poor. I guess it is true but it is not by favoring selfish desires of fake wealth that we help ourselves or others.

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