Marianna Farag is French-Egyptian and has been living in Jamaica for 2 years. She is the founder of Paint Jamaica. She launched the Paint Jamaica initiative in 2014 along with two Jamaican artists. She is very passionate about creative expression, especially in Jamaica’s inner cities. Marianna tells us about her experience as an Expat in Jamaica, including advice to others who may consider moving to the island. What are Marianna’s likes and dislikes about Jamaica? Find out in our conversation with Marianna.
Where are you from originally?
I am French, born in Greece but of Egyptian/Syrian parents. I’m what you call a “third culture kid”, I spent my life moving around and traveling so “home” for me is really many places.
Why did you end up living in Jamaica?
I first came to Jamaica about 3 years ago for a short holiday and just fell in love with the place. I came to Kingston first and then found myself returning every 3-4 months for a week. Then in 2014 I quit my job (at the time I was living in the US) and came back to Jamaica for 6 months and started the Paint Jamaica project. That was my longest stay here and when I developed an even greater attachment to the island. I then left, did a bit of traveling but the time came for me to start looking for a job again and figure out my life. I knew deep down that I wanted to come back to Jamaica, live and work here. It just felt like the right thing to do. Of note, I do not consider myself an “expat” here. I do not want to be labeled an expat because of the negative connotation around this word- immigrant/expat is a big debate. I’d like to just be considered an adopted Jamaican for now 🙂
What do you like the most about Jamaica?
The energy, the vibe of the place. There’s something here… I don’t know if I can even describe it. It’s a feeling. It’s unlike any other place I’ve lived in or traveled to before. It’s full of contradictions, it’s so raw, so real. So chaotic with odd conveniences- like for instance the very fact that you can buy a dozen ackee or a roast breadfruit from the side of the road is amazing for me. It’s a certain form of “convenience”, just not in the stereotypical way. And of course, the nature and the weather. I don’t take it for granted at all. It has always been my dream to live in a country where there are palm trees and it’s hot all year long.
What you like the least about Jamaica?
The lack of structure or support given towards things like trash/waste management for example. It kills me when I see people burning trash, or trash being dumped all over. I’d love to see a culture of proper waste management. Recycling, etc etc. On another note: the potholes drive me nuts.
What is your funniest experiences in Jamaica?
There are MANY. Some that are probably inappropriate to share on a public platform. I laugh a lot in Jamaica. I’m aware this can be a rough place, there’s a constant hustle… but yet there are funny things that happen pretty much everyday, sometimes it’s subtle, but it’s there. I observe a lot so it’s in the everyday details I think- and of course in interaction with people, friends. I had an interesting conversation with a friend one day about spirituality in Jamaica, and he said Jamaica has a “Happy Spirituality” as opposed to the more solemn spirituality we often think about. That resonated very strongly for me- the ability to make things happy (even when they aren’t) is a way to keep things a little balanced around here.
What was the biggest adjustment you had to make living Jamaica?
For sure that would be Jamaican time. I’m very much a Swiss time kind of person… unfortunately…or fortunately?!
Your favorite Jamaican food is…
There are ingredients I love: ackee, breadfruit, callaloo. And I’m not sure why but the taste of pumpkin here is divine.
Your favorite Jamaican attraction is…
Anything with water, especially beaches, lagoons. Anywhere tranquil and not overcrowded and where I can swim!
What is the thing you miss the most when you leave Jamaica?
I’m not planning on leaving anytime soon!!! But it would probably be the weather and the colourful landscape and characters.
What advice would you offer to an expat moving to Jamaica?
I will truly say Jamaica is not for everyone. Again, it is raw and very real. Some people will find beauty in that, some people will hate it. It all depends on what you are looking for and why you are here. Be extra sensitive to all things related to class and race: do not be obnoxious when it comes to those two things. Get curious, eat local. It kills me to see people still attached to their foods back home and pay 10 times more for imported products and then complain that cost of living is too high in Jamaica. Be patient. This is not an instant-gratification type of place, you will have to wait at times.
Thanks for your time. Any closing thoughts?
The real Jamaica is so much more beautiful and interesting than the resort Jamaica.