"No shoes? No shirt? No problem!" is one of the many Belizean mottoes reminding everyone to loosen up and take it easy. The entire country is like one giant small town where no one rushes, everybody knows their neighbors, and strangers wish each other a good morning. A trip to get groceries doesn't include battling traffic on a superhighway to get to a bigbox, because you won't find any of those things in Belize. Instead, you'll stroll down a dirt road to a street vendor whose stock is fresh from that morning.
Whether you're moving to Belize to work, start a business or retire, there's no shortage of lifestyles from which to choose. You can live in the jungle or on an island; you can fly down for the winter or live here full time; you can drive a truck or a golf cart. For those who prefer to live off the grid, it's easy to find a beautiful, remote location where you can generate your own electricity and pump your own water. For those who enjoy more of a metropolitan lifestyle, there are expatriate communities where you can enjoy the comforts of your old home in your new one.
Some people feel an instant connection with Belize, but this small country is not for everyone. Life in the slow lane can be frustrating if you're in a hurry. Sometimes businesses will be closed for no apparent reason, or the power will go out for a few hours without warning. Setting up utilities, or getting a visa or work permit can take weeks or even months... or a day, you never know. Some systems, like the postal service, run smooth as butter, whereas others are more like molasses.
As a Third World country, Belize has its fair share of challenges. Many rural areas lack infrastructure and full access to medical or emergency services. Poor education, poverty and drug trafficking are problems, despite the government's best efforts to fight them. Many of the country's utilities and commodities are controlled by monopolies and some government officials are corrupt. The people of Belize have been working hard to face these challenges, however, and things have improved dramatically over the past few decades.
The key to living successfully in Belize is understanding and accepting the country's shortcomings along with its stunning natural beauty, friendly people and stress-free atmosphere. Spend some time in the country before making the move — a few months at least — to get a taste for the lifestyle. Educate yourself as much as possible with books, blogs, magazines and message boards. And finally, be patient. If your hunt for paradise has landed you here, the slow pace is probably one of the things you fell in love with in the first place, so just relax and go with the flow.
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