RBTT Bank & ATM!!Just about everything we are used to is different when living on a Caribbean island in another country. Banking is no exception. We like our bank here in Saba – everyone is friendly. You know your tellers – you see them outside walking their dogs and at the grocery store. I’m not used to that coming from mainly large towns & cities in the US –it’s really nice.

The big difference? Administration. Everything is different and requires planning ahead. In the US, Joel and I would manage our lives around the Monday – Friday business week. We are used to calling for things and having them instantly e-mailed to us – or getting things in the mail pretty quickly — except for anything healthcare related! 🙂

Differences In Expectations
As newbies living in Saba, we were a bit shocked by some of the practices. The first shocker is the check cashing. Checks from US bank accounts take 1 month to clear here in Saba. Yes, 1 month. Yes, even if you have an account in that bank. Hmmm, that created a bit of trouble when we arrived. Joel had decided to bring some cash and some travelers checks. Travelers checks take 3 weeks to be converted to cash – that defied all of our understanding of traveler’s checks equaling cash. However, there are reasons for it…this is an island. They don’t get money as quickly here in banks – they get everything from St. Maarten. And it’s island time, after all.

Short On Cash, With Bills To Pay (sounds like a good country song, huh?)
So we found ourselves with little cash – and people to pay. We had some stone walls fixed on our property, electrical work and air conditioning installed (which we haven’t used once since we’ve been here – it’s actually a “just in case” for the computers & peripheral equipment for the slightly warmer summer months). Guess what? They all must be paid in cash. Yeah, just what we lacked. That put us in a bit of a cultural bind, people being angry at us Yankees and all.

After visiting the other bank on the island, First Caribbean, we learned they’d cash traveler’s checks for about $1.50 per $100. Going back to RBTT, we were told by another teller that we actually could do the same thing – for $1.44 per $1,000 – a better deal, but still weird compared to what we’re used to. Doing this allowed us to pay our debts and remain in good standing with our contractors, thankfully! Just like anywhere else in the world, sometimes you need to ask questions 3 ways before getting to the final solution.

Other Differences
It’s tax time in the US! Yeah, I know, I didn’t need to remind you while you were pleasantly reading about my island-life problems. Imagine being on an island and not having access to the files your husband decided we didn’t need to bring? 🙂 The banks in the US were able to give us what we needed over the phone or via e-mail. Our bank here in Saba? Well, we can’t get more than the previous 3 months of statements online. And guess what? It will take a week and cost $40 to get the statements we need here. Nothing can be e-mailed. While everyone was very helpful at the bank here & in the St. Maarten branch, speed isn’t helped by the fact that we had two days of high wind last week and the mail planes weren’t flying!

I’m going to trust that this will work out okay, just like everything does on island time. In the meantime, if you are planning to go on vacation – in the Caribbean or any other island, it might be helpful to find out what the cash situation is. We just got an ATM (yes, one ATM) this year in Saba – and with the practices I mentioned, it’s even harder to get cash when you don’t have an account. Small issues for the chance to live in paradise, as I always say!