Belize is wonderful, it’s a great place to live, it’s a free country. If I didn’t love living here I would move. It would, however, be irresponsible of me not to mention this issue to people considering a move to Belize. Getting ripped here off is the # 1 challenge for new people in Belize. If you’ve been here for a while and taken your licks, learned a few lessons, maybe it moves to #2.
Like many others, we moved here with a pie in the sky, very naïve outlook. That will cost you. A snowbird neighbor of mine happened to arrive for his yearly visit just after we had shown up and immediately told me something to the effect of, “I will introduce to the people you should deal with, do not deal with anyone else.” By this he meant my amazing Mennonite neighbors and several excellent, honest, trades people in the area. Of course I listened to him, met the very nice people, worked with a few but went on to ignore his advice. Seduced by smiles, charm and promises of low cost labor I eventually took my business elsewhere. This, of course, cost me thousands of dollars over a period of time. By my calculations we have lost about $20,000US to employees, trades-people, contractors and outright theft, it could be more. I assure you the ex-pats reading this are thinking, “Is that all?” On the bright side that’s only $278 a month for an education on living in Belize! It’s like a tax to live here. I’m not opposed to taxes, I just didn’t know about it!
I promise you every single person living in Belize knows this is true. Being “teefed” (thieved) is such a common place occurrence I almost don’t resent it anymore. Recently I was teefed by 2 small engine mechanics in the same day to the tune of about $175US. The second one told me, “Once you become my regular customer it won’t be so expensive.” It’s like your second week in prison doesn’t hurt as bad as your 1st. The other mechanic destroyed my water pump, charged me $38US and told me he didn’t want to work on it in the 1st place. So far it has cost me about $150US and as of yesterday the pump was smoking and making bad noises. There is no recourse except for me to mention his name is Leonel, don’t use him. Shortly after construction was completed on our house and another building we had to shell out $2500US to repair our contractor’s negligence. A few years later, in a moment of weakness, the contractor confided to me that he,”… specializes in cement buildings..” and, “…didn’t know that much about the construction of wooden buildings at the time.” He and I are friends today. I once made the mistake of leaving my vehicle with an employee of mine to sell (I can hear the ex-pats laughing), that only cost me about $1000 and although I don’t speak to the guy today I readily admit he was one of our best workers. I’m not even going to get into how much we have lost to employees a few dollars at a time, forget about it! Once, a trusted mechanic/machinist screwed up my truck to the tune of about $600US. One thing he did was, amazingly, install my brakes backwards and when I went back to bring it to his attention he said I was just, “Hard to please.” Thanks CB Machine and who we now call, “the bad Cornie”. Another time an electrician was here to install an inverter, a job he assured me he was qualified for, he hooked it up incorrectly, blew it up and simply drove off the property. When I went looking for Roberto The Electrician someone informed me he had just driven away. I didn’t see him for probably 2 years. By then the $400US I paid to fix the inverter seemed like old news. On our property we’ve had goats stolen (yes, they got our goat), a toilet, shower, and a very large water tank, among many other things. “They” also once disassembled our generator from the diesel motor and took that in the middle of the day, an inside job to be sure. A friend of mine left a car in his in-laws front yard only to have the entire engine removed, allegedly unbeknownst to the in-laws. The same man had his house stripped down like a car left overnight in the ghetto. Door frames, windows, toilets, counter tops, you name it.
You might read this and think it’s just me, I’m not careful enough, I let it happen, trouble follows me, I’m a sucker. I assure you every single person here has similar stories, every one. I know thieves are a problem everywhere and please don’t let me imply that only gringos are the victims and Belizeans the criminals. I was ripped off by a lovely American lady, a friend of my wife’s, for about $12,000US in a business deal a few years ago. A mutual “friend” of ours, another American lady, had a small role in it and just the other day said to me, “Jim, it’s so good to see you!” I didn’t even strangle her! An American backpacker I recently took into my home stole about $2000US worth of gear from another guest of ours. He is currently locked up in a very bad place. Honest Belizeans are victims as well but not to the same magnitude because they have taken their licks and learned a few lessons. They are not newcomers and not naïve. There are good people in this country and I’m proud to call some of them my friends. Finding & dealing with those people is key. I recommend a healthy dose of cynicism upon arrival and listening to the recommendations of those who have gone before you, like I didn’t.