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Living and Working on St.Maarten/St.Martin

Sailing in St. Maarten

Sailing in St. Maarten

Being able to live and work on the island of St. Maarten/St. Martin for over ten years gave me a great appreciation for this small (37 sq. miles) Caribbean island.

People come to St. Maarten/St. Martin for many different reasons. For me it was a chance to live the adventurous type of Caribbean lifestyle that most people only read about in books. I felt like I was stepping into one of Herman Wouk’s or Jimmy Buffett’s books about adventure in the Caribbean.

One of the great things about the island is that it is so multicultural. You can find people from every corner of the planet living on St. Maarten/St. Martin. There are approximately eighty different nationalities living and working together on the island.

This is no longer a sleepy little Caribbean island. It is an island that has something for everyone. Not only can you find great weather, beautiful beaches and warm tropical waters, there are hundreds of restaurants, a wild and crazy night life, lots of casinos where you can throw away your hard earned cash and duty free shopping.

Island Life

When most people think of life on a Caribbean island they picture a third world type of environment. This is not completely true with St. Maarten/St. Martin. Though there may be some parts of the island that look less than desirable, the standard of living on the island is pretty good.

With tourism creating hundreds of jobs for locals, many are able to have a middle to upper middle class lifestyle. This is especially true among the native Antilleans.

Tourism has also provided lots of jobs for the foreign locals. Many of these jobs are in the boating industry. People who visit the island not only fly in but they come on cruise ships, private and chartered yachts, sail boats and ferries. This creates opportunities for those who have boating skills or who are willing to learn the skills.

Working with boats is not the only place you can find foreign locals working. I had many friends working in the construction business and selling time share and real estate. If you want to live on the island bad enough you can find work.

For me having the right job was the key to surviving on St. Maarten/St. Martin. Sometimes survival meant not only the right job, but also being able to do more than just one job. Mainly I worked in the diving business as a dive instructor/boat captain. The island is not typically known as a dive destination but thousands of divers show up every year to dive.

When I wasn’t or couldn’t dive I was able to find work in the construction trade as a carpenter. This was handy during the slow season or after a brush with a hurricane. The ability to do two different jobs enabled me to live on the island year round.

Quality of life is what makes St. Maarten/St. Martin unique and different from other Caribbean islands. Having a good job gave me the opportunity to experience the great quality of life the island had to offer. If you’re going to live on a Caribbean island, you have to enjoy what the island has to offer. If you can’t enjoy it, why even bother living there.

One of the first things you have to think about when you live in paradise is where to live. There are several choices available. You can choose anything from a tiny one room apartment to a fancy villa. If you like the water you can even live on a boat. Your quality of life on St. Maarten/St. Martin will sometimes depend on where and how you choose to live.

I was very lucky to live in some nice places on the island. But the best was the last place we lived. For the last six years on the island we lived in a small but nice apartment high above Simpsons Bay. From our deck you looked right down the runway at the St. Maarten/St. Martin airport. The jets took off right at our house.

From our deck we had a 180° view from Simpsons Bay around to Nettle Bay in the low lands. This was postcard material. We had ring side seats for all the events on this end of the island. From the comfort of our deck we could watch all the sailing regattas, hear and sometimes see live concerts and watch great firework displays. But my favorite was the spectacular Caribbean sunset we saw every night. This is the way to live in the Caribbean.

One of the great things about living on the island was the hundreds of eating establishments. If you like good food, this is the place to be. It has been said that there are so many restaurants on St. Maarten/St. Martin that you can eat in a different one every night and never eat in the same one twice.

These restaurants offered Italian, French, Indian, Moroccan, Indonesian and Oriental menus. Not only do these eating establishments have great food but also a great view. Most are located on or near the water at marinas or beaches. With great food and a great view, what more can you ask for.

For the times that you do not want to dress up and go to a chic restaurant, there are always the roadside grills. The grills are owned and operated by the native locals. They will have ribs, chicken, lobster and some times fish cooking on a home made grill. You can find them in parking lots, people’s front yards and some times in a wide spot in the road. Do not let the look fool you. You can find some really great food at these grills. Check out Johnny Be Under the Tree. You will find some of the best ribs you have ever put in your mouth.

The only thing better than having a great meal, is having a great meal on the beach. For me Sunday was beach day. Since I am not one to hang out on the beach and catch a tan (I got enough sun working on a boats all day), I would find a nice beachside grill. I would have a couple of racks of ribs or a big fat lobster, throw back a few cold Coronas and enjoy the day.

Finding a great beach was easy. The island has many great beaches. One of the most popular beaches to hang out at is Orient Beach. Not only is the beach itself beautiful, it has everything from water sports to beach bars. This was a great place to meet friends and relax.

St. Maarten Airport

St. Maarten Airport

There is no shortage of night life on St. Maarten/St. Martin. For the night crawlers that live on the island there are dance clubs, live music, casinos and hotels that offer comedy clubs and floor shows. My favorite was to join friends for happy hour at one of the many beach bars on the island. There is never a shortage of places to go and things to at night.

There are several special attractions through out the year. These events include sailing regattas, boat shows and live concerts. And if that is not enough, there are always day trips to the neighboring islands of St. Barths, Saba and Anguilla. There is always something to do or some place to go on this island.

Everyday life on the island is not always glitter, glamour and fun. To live here you have to get legal residency, pay taxes and get a Netherland Antilles driving license. This part of island life is the same as back home. Dealing with all that legal stuff is never fun.

I found the best thing to do was to be patient and understanding. Be patient because island time slows way down. No hurry mon. You need to be understanding because this is their island and to live here you have to abide by their rules.

Another thing that concerns those who live on St. Maarten/St. Martin is hurricane season. Every year around the 1st of June (the beginning of hurricane season) the locals start watching the weather. This continues into November (the end of hurricane season).

A close call by a hurricane is not so bad (depending on how close). You get a lot of wind, the sea gets rough and then it is over. It is the hit that hurts.

When the island gets slapped by a hurricane everyone’s life gets turned upside down for a while. The tourist and time share owners disappear. Jobs become hard to find. The island becomes a ghost town. The important thing during this time is to do your best to keep working. This is where you find out if you have what it takes to survive.

Hurricanes do not visit the island every year. You may see several years without a major hurricane. I lived in the Caribbean for 15 years on two different islands and survived six hurricanes. Three of these came in one year. The rest where scattered out over the rest of the time I was on the island. Hurricanes do not come around every year, but they do show up from time to time.

Benefits of Living on st.Maarten/St.Martin

People often ask me why I left the Caribbean. Some ask why I moved to the Caribbean in the first place. Very seldom does anyone ask why I stayed. When they do ask I have to say it was because living and working on the island gave me so much. My time on the island gave me the chance to make a living doing something I have a great passion for, scuba diving. I was able to make friends from all over the world. I lived on an island that had white sandy beaches surrounded by a warm, tropical sea. And last but not least it was during my time on the island that I met and married my wife of 13 years. The time I spent on St. Maarten/St. Martin was very good to me.

Someone once told me the island was like a big bowl of gumbo. You put people from all over the world on this tiny rock in the Caribbean, season it with some native Antillean culture and let Mr. Hurricane stir it up just a bit. When it all comes together just right you can get the real taste of St. Maarten/St. Martin

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39 Comments

  1. Ty Cullen September 4, 2009 at 7:57 pm

    Great article. I have been planning a move to St Maarten and if has been extremely difficult to find information on many of the questions I have. My main concern has been trying to learn about the process of becoming employed when I get to the island.

    If you (author) can find the time, I would really appreciate it if you could email me so we can discuss some questions that I still have on moving to the islands.

    Thank you,
    Ty Cullen ty.h.cullen@gmail.com

    • joseph t October 28, 2009 at 4:18 pm

      What a great article and all true, my wife and i have been living in the USVI’s for many years only to sell our business several years ago to take a break from a very busy life. Didn’t start out that way though; We are looking for advise to operate our tour on St. Maarten, some have said it will take forever to get the required license but what i have read says a US citizen has priority especially regarding the Dutch American Friendship Treaty? can you direct us to a source specializing in this work.

      We have a non competing water based tour service, i can guarantee that. It’s eco friendly, marine educational, loved by all who experience it and employees half a dozen locals and some professionals. Any help would be apprecaited.

      Regards;

    • daniella February 19, 2010 at 9:29 pm

      I really liked your article.. I wish I could be there…
      I have visited the island twice but I want to live there.. I love it°
      is it to hard to find a place to live when you get there…??
      and I also agree with Ty Cullen,, its really hard to find good information of getting a place or a job..
      do you think you could also recommend me some place to go
      my email is
      daniella_cl@hotmail.com
      well thanks :)

  2. beverly September 6, 2010 at 4:48 pm

    Loved your article, I am an avid St. Maarten visitor and now that I am older I want to move there and open a business. Can you email me on how to get started, any information you can give will be greatly appreciated. Presently I am writing a book and St. Maarten is where most of the story takes place.

  3. Zoe December 6, 2010 at 4:22 am

    Hi, i have heard it’s really nice there.i wanted to go there also and find a job together with my husband and daughter.
    Pls email me if you have any information..
    Thank you so much

  4. JosephK January 16, 2011 at 11:59 pm

    I just had 2 weeks at my friends flat in Orient Bay and fell in love with it. I am a commercial framer and was amazed at how much construction is happening on the Dutch side. Since then, I’ve been combing the web for the larger construction firms hoping to find out who is doing all the commercial building but its like searching for a needle in a haystack. I know that the labour market is slim but I also know that there are few people that have the skills that I do. I want to be building on one of the new malls that they are prepping for. If you know of any of the names, feel free to drop them to me and I will be sure to bring you a lifetime supply of Presidente.

  5. wendy January 21, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    pls i wil like to move to st maarteen but its so dificult to get info
    about rent and for a job and about the country pls if some body could give me some info tanks

  6. Mattia Tavani March 5, 2011 at 6:18 am

    I want to visit st.Marteen on this July with my wife on my honeymoon.

    Sorry for my english but i am italian. I speak french too.

    I would to make my dream to come to reality and when you know that dreams can become reality you are on the right way.

    For this reason i am here to realize dream of someone who want to, and to do it together.

    I don’t even know on how this could happen, but what i know is the success of the idea.

    If you think you need some who will help you to realize dreams. Usually the limits in our desires are the limits in our minds.

    There is nothing a person cannot do, and what you can’t do is what you think you can’t.

    With this philosophy you understand on how important are the contacts that you have on your way, because everything is related. And the success is related too.

    I have decided to write this post and this is the first and not the last.

    I know that i can move mountains and that i can realise what i want.

    It’s just an idea in the mind, then the realization.

    please contact me in the case you have some ideas and let’s think about the realization.

  7. Nicci October 23, 2011 at 10:53 am

    Well I am just googling everything I can about the Isand. I have been give an opportunity to move to St, Maarten to work sellking Time Share which i Have been doing in Fort Lauderdale Florida since 2006. I am in the process of getting my temporary Residency. I am trying to find an apt, wich wil accept my 24 lb. dog Honey. I am very excited as I had lived on a Catamaran on and off for 5 yrs. traveling thruout the Caribbean but not as far at the Netherland Antilles. Any assistance ie finding housing, what type of intrnet service and cell service works there and a cheap shipping company would be greatly appreciated. When I arrive in mid to late December we can get together at a grill and have a beer. Looking forward to a new challenge

  8. Heidi November 2, 2011 at 9:38 pm

    I want to move there so bad. My husband and I just cant seem to find work. He works with computers in Networking. I do Logistics. I would give up anything just to live there. If you have any helpful ideas I would love to here?

  9. Stephan November 16, 2011 at 3:13 am

    Thank you for posting your article about your experiences on St. Maarten. I too am interested in investing my time and expenses in St. Martin. Is there an employment agency that I can contact to assist me in finding a position? I have EU citizenship (Ireland) as well as USA citizenship. I am an Engineer by trade and also an Graduate level ESL teacher. I understand that the whole Island is under EU administration by France and The Netherlands. Hopefully I would be able to purchase freehold land and property under the EU agreements. Any information on purchasing property and finding employment would be appreciated.
    Thanks, Stephan

  10. Kevin December 17, 2011 at 3:24 pm

    Definitely have some questions about living/working in SXM…where can we direct our questions? :)

  11. bobby January 12, 2012 at 4:50 pm

    What is the procedure to live on the island and buy an existing business

    • Andy April 4, 2012 at 12:22 am

      Starting a business you always need money, small business like 25000 usd depending on what u want to do.

      • Tim June 14, 2012 at 11:53 am

        I too am looking to move and start a business on St. Maarten. I am a US citizen and a single father of three kids. I’m trying to find EXACT details as to what I need to do this. Any links or comments would be appreciated. Can you be on the island temporarilly while awaiting approval to live there?? Can you just open a business ?? Is there any requirements as far as investing an exact dollar amount ?? Out of all the articles, this article explains much more, but I’m looking for exact details as to what to do to live on St. Maarten. I appreciate any input.

  12. Jessie January 16, 2012 at 10:02 am

    Hi!
    Does anyone know where/who we can direct questions to about living on St.Maarten/St.Martin?
    I’ve just finished a masters and I really want to get away for a year or two and do something different, and have a bit of an adventure.

    I have joint Canadian and Irish citizenship- so if I am a E.U citizen do I need a visa? I’d love to get in touch with someone who could answer some questions!

    Thanks very much!

  13. Stacy January 17, 2012 at 7:57 am

    Just got back from SXM Sunday…looking for work…doesn’t look too promising for me. All I want is to live and work there…all I need is for someone to take a chance on me. Is that possible?? With this economy ppl always say I need more experience, since graduating in 2007, haha-funny b/c its a catch-22 if no one hires you, how are you expected to get experience?? I need residency to live/work the island but I need an employment letter, employer to apply for my residency and work papers…a other catch-22…get an employer to apply for me haha, when my volunteer work isnt experience and/or residency to be employed. Im seriously goin to lose my mind-im intelligent, charasmatic, young women who needs a break! Will no one help? I don’t want much, just quality of life on a beautiful island so few actually try for this…why can’t it happen for me when I want something? What am I doing wrong?

  14. Kylie March 18, 2012 at 8:28 pm

    I have been going to st. maarten my whole life since i was born. all my friends live there and i pretty much know the island the way i kno my own homee.. i will be 18 this summer and would really love to go there for the summer to work. i have someone to live with and i speak french and spanish and am looking to improve them. all i need is to find a job there, and its hard to do from here. any suggestions? i would do anythingg, just need to go to my parents and say look, heres a job willing to hire me, and thats a start for them. i really want to do this, please let me know any ideas or options

  15. Liz May 8, 2012 at 9:59 am

    Hi! Can you modestly support a family of 3 (a mother and 2 children) on $1,600 US dollars and supplement with part time island work?
    Thanks!

  16. Robbie August 10, 2012 at 12:28 pm

    Hi I’ve also been going to St. Maarten every summer since I was about 8. Now i’m 20 and almost done with college.. I’m seriously considering moving to that place. It has gotten more expensive over the years but I guess that’s kinda the same everywhere. Now, getting a job there is a bit tricky you can look in all the the local newspapers and I know of a few websites where you can start your search for a job like http://www.sxmjobs.com the others you can surely find doing a simple search on google. I’ve always thought about what it would be like to live there, I guess if you guys move there, and me aswell we’ll probably meet up and drink a beer!

  17. suzan tokdemir December 13, 2012 at 4:38 pm

    Hi. I really want to move there, but there is literally next-to-no information online regarding how to find work or accommodation there – just expensive tourist hotels and such. Even the sxm link above shows a listing for a handful of jobs! Does anyone know the names of local newspapers, an employment bureau, expat site? All these things would be really helpful. I’m desperate to get there as quickly as I can – seems like a paradise! PS If I just go there without a job (on the French side) would I be likely to find a job or apartment quickly?

  18. marchon miller December 30, 2012 at 3:29 pm

    my name is marchon miller living in st vincent and the grenadines am interesting in having a job in st maarten i travels a lot i use to work in a hotel in tortola doin every lil thing i will be please and greatful to get a job in that country where i always want to travel to i thank you.

  19. Ronny January 11, 2013 at 2:42 pm

    Hello friends I’m Ron and sinces I came back from living in the state for the last 14 years and not be able to going back just because I’m from there I been thinking and seaching for new place to go,years ago at friend of my she went to this beatiful island but the more we talk,the more she telling me there’s not much to work besides the hotel industry;I got skills on construction as carpentry and many more for the years I spend in the state,speaking 2 language(spanish and english of course)but the unknowing of the place and got no one to help me out till I get myself together in matter of work It pull me back,can anybody help me out and guide me how to get job or at least some contact to call and find out something about work in the island I’ll realy apreciate please emailme to :ronnygs@hotmail.com

  20. Daniel February 11, 2013 at 6:25 pm

    Hello,

    I’m Peter and I would like to move to the Nederland’s Antielles with my Wife and open our own lil Hotel or Guest House something like that but we did not find a way to apply for a Visa form that will let us work there I mean we would just like to get a permit stay first of all then when I’m sure we can I would like to invest there some house’s or a Hotel!?

    Can some one tell me what we can do and cant do in The Antielles or Aruba or St. Martin we just would like to get some where warm :) and live a good live!

    thanks

    • Mcca February 17, 2013 at 11:50 am

      Try Belize, it’s much easier to get papers. Good luck !

  21. mike March 13, 2013 at 5:19 pm

    Hi my name is mike i have been working in the hopitality industry for over 4 years now is it difficult to find work for 6 months to a year on the island .where would i start looking for work are there websites where i can start searching or is it better to go there directly ?

  22. kyle Roberts April 28, 2013 at 4:32 pm

    Hi my name is kyle I’ve bin out of a job for six months now I’ve bin to st maarten on many occations and I like it and ill like to work and live in st maarten my work skill is welding and fabrication and I have experience on the sea as a launch captain vessel opperator I’m from trinidad and its very slow of work in MY field so please look into my application of work thx

  23. charles August 31, 2013 at 3:08 pm

    Hello to all of commentators above, I grow up here locally on SXM so I know one or two things about it. lol. If any of you needed help in anything related to here or our neighboring islands like anguilla, saba, statia, st barths. let me know so i can assist you in my free time. If you’d like to open a business here I can maybe arrange someone for you. Keep in mind, this is a place where people come and go. Not much people actually stay here their entire life.

    • Joel September 19, 2013 at 6:31 pm

      Hey charles,

      I would love to get some more information from you if you have the time. Feel free to shoot me an e-mail at gryphonic.design@gmail.com. Thanks.

      - Joel

    • Wolfgang October 2, 2013 at 5:27 am

      Hi Charles,

      my wife and me are coming in early November to SXM. We would like to ask you holes in your belly :-)
      Please send us an email, if you are curious for same crazy Germans!

      Best regards

      Wolfgang Hoffmann
      Ulla Schweizer

    • Rick Robinson October 17, 2013 at 10:40 am

      Charles,

      My wife and I will be visiting St. Martin soon, exploring the idea of moving there. Are there any services or businesses that you feel are needed there? I’ve owned numerous service businesses and am a Franchise Consultant helping people to find the perfect franchise for themselves. I’m also an avid fisherman & diver and have worked in construction, grew up on a farm, so I’m good with my hands. My wife is a Pilates instructor with a successful studio here and has thought about organizing Pilates Retreats in St. Martin if we move there. She has also owned a coffee shop and has small hotel management experience.

      Any thoughts or recommendations about businesses or careers there?

      Thank you,

      Rick

  24. Eric Desantis January 26, 2014 at 11:12 am

    Im a master carpenter and born and raised on lake erie. I can build you a complete house or drive any boat. I feel stupid for living in a pile of ice when i could do what i do in a pile of sand. Ill relocate and work for peanuts. E mail me!

  25. Ethelind McGee January 27, 2014 at 3:27 pm

    Looking to move to SXM with husband, I’m a reg. nurse would like to know names of hospitals to apply and also some where to live not in hurricanes path.
    Thanks

  26. romalisa persaud February 5, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    I am living in Guyana,but would like to work and live in St.Martin.I love to create designs both in as a home decor and fashion,.receptionist,I have a passion also for the hospitality department so you can contact me,592 622 6957.if you find anything

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  28. Brady April 3, 2014 at 1:40 pm

    I’m interested in moving to St. Martin/ St. Maarten with my fiancé. My parents (retired) are also interested. I’m active law enforcement in California and have been assigned to a marine patrol unit for 4 years now. My fiancé is a law enforcement dispatcher. None of us are bilingual. I understand that law enforcement is probably out of the equastion since I’m not a citizen, nor do I speak French, Dutch Etc. What I do have, is profiecient experience in small boat (20′–45′) operation experience. Is there a market for that line of work? Specifically that would be welcomed from a foreigner? Any input would be appreciated! Thanks

    • Thierry April 23, 2014 at 11:31 am

      I am Thierry HECKER
      Based at the present time in Guadeloupe as a tennis coach
      i would like to work and live in St Marteen for a while (at le

  29. Tim May 6, 2014 at 2:35 pm

    Hi Jim,

    First of all, very enlightening article! I appreciate the insight into your experience with St. Maarten. I am currently applying to the American University of the Caribbean Medical School and am hopefully moving there in mid August. My best friend, who just graduated with a degree in accounting, was looking to move with me and apply for both residency and work permits (once he found an employer who promises to hire him). He just would like to start out working jobs that don’t require degrees, but in the future possibly obtaining a job within his field. We are confused on the process, the time length, fees, and overall life on the island, and we are looking for someone that we could possibly talk to during this time to gain insight and help into moving there. Thank you very much for your time!

    Tim

  30. Cheryl Myers June 24, 2014 at 12:20 am

    I visited St Maartens twice now and it is a place I need to get back to . I am hoping to find employment there as a Health Care Provider . I have a 12 year old Son and want him to be able to grow up away from the stress and hectic pace we now live . I made wonderful friends there and , well , my heart is set . I am working soo hard to make it happen. My real dream is to open a bar / cafe on the Boardwalk in Philipsburg and enjoy the good life. My fingers are crossed and it seems it is taking forever

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