20 Realities of Living in Paradise (a.k.a. Puerto Rico)

When we first embarked on our exciting move from Arkansas to Puerto Rico, I had this glorious, dreamy vision of how amazing my life was going to be. Beautiful beaches, great weather & the laid-back lifestyle I always thought I wanted. But life never goes as planned now does it?

While I’m still (almost 1 year in) adjusting to island-life and probably always will be, certain realities became apparent almost immediately. Here are some hard truths about living in Puerto Rico that I never expected (or know how) to deal with.

1. Puerto Rico celebrates 30 bank holidays each year. The 7 that mean anything to you, you’re celebrating on your own (b/c you have no friends or family close by)… The other 23 just mean the bank and other businesses you need to do business with, are closed.

2. You should never, ever, have a predefined grocery list. You’re lucky to find a lemon/ which is the same thing as a lime/ much less a squash or avocado. And forget ranch dressing packets, coffee cups or boxed wine, you spoiled little American!!! Just check back next week for the flour- it didn’t make it on the boat ride over this time.

3. The staple items they DO have in stock (milk, eggs, bread, cheese) cost double if not triple what they do in the states. It’s an island- someone has to pay for the fuel to get it here b/c they sure aren’t interested in creating their own.

4. Drinking is a way of life bc every night is a good night to drink on a patio. Except it isn’t close to the same without friends/people- so you end up just drinking by yourself…

5. Appointments are archaic and need not be made. Just come in- to a vet, a doctor’s office, hair salon, business meeting- and be excited if you only wait 2 1/2 hours. None of us have anything to get in a hurry about so find a phone game already… (just avoid Monday’s, Friday’s and first, middle & lasts days of the month and you’ll be fine) 

6. Electricity (and let’s be honest- water..) is a luxury, not a mandatory. If u want lights, Internet, cable or warm meals you should go live in the states. 

7. Island Time is not a saying- it’s a way of life. Why are u in a hurry to get the check anyway??? (And if you’re ready for the check, why didn’t you just ask for it???)

8. You are not any more important than the 5,249 calls that came in before you. Prepare to hold/ including on 911. (and you’re especially screwed if you don’t speak Spanish b/c there’s usually only 1 English speaking operator and they love their breaks..)

9. 90% of what u could order with your Amazon prime membership just got downgraded to 2 week shipping- and that calls for a celebration. 94% of it won’t ship anyway… 

10. Practicing your Spanish with Rosetta Stone is a complete waste of time. Buenos Dias? Wtf does that mean? (it’s bueno dia in Puerto Rican slang- not need for the s’s here). Just take a shot and smile like the stupid tourist u are…  

11. Maintain ZERO expectations from the service industry here. If your food was good- 5 stars. If there was soap in the bathroom- 5.5 stars ?. Only leave a real review if they refused to serve you or lock u in, and plan on never going there again b/c you really won’t be served after they read your review… Otherwise, perfection!!

12. You will never. Ever. Have the chance to pay at the pump. You can walk in and wait in line just like people from 1994. 

13. Christmas is a 4 month affair here… From October to February you should prepare for a show that shines. Or outshines your neighbors. All grinches should go directly to hell…  

14. Family picnics are going to happen. F the beach- just give them a hammock, loud speakers and the interstate and the party is on!!!

15. Prepare to pay $9 for a pina colada and don’t even ask if it contains alcohol. Have a whipped cream with umbrella and go on your spoiled brat way…

16. Any digital map (Waze, google maps, etc)’ only exists to test your endurance and sense of reality…. That’s what u get for not asking for directions. (oh wait, you don’t speak Spanish. Enjoy the ride!)

17. Salty air causes unimaginable damage to everything it touches- cars, homes, even your clothes get worn out quicker. Plan on having a few extra vehicles b/c 1 of them will always be in the shop. (and the roads don’t help anything either..)

18. Email? Online banking transfers? What is that??? You need to hand deliver approximately 50% of any form of communication, unless you like sitting on the phone all day long. And you will be hung up on 10x’s before you finally get through the right person.

19. Puerto Rico is an island of lizards and mosquitoes. Just be happy that only 1 species carries a disease that could cause your baby to be born with a tiny head.

20. While temps in Puerto Rico range from 80-100 at all times, you are not allowed to wear shorts in government buildings. A security guard will actually escort you out (how nice of them) so you can drive home & change. Puerto Ricans wear jeans all the time- wearing shorts is a surefire way to say “I’m a stupid American- please ignore me”.

I’m sure I could come up with hundreds of other unpleasant realities but this is decent enough list. It’s not like I’m living in Africa or anything- at least Puerto Rico uses the American dollar and many laws and protections are the same. Most of the people are very very nice and the island really is paradise. But even paradise has its potholes.