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FEATURE: Working with a Caribbean twist

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Angela Pretorius loves everything about her life in Cayman. Traffic jams are rare with commuting to your destination never taking too long, leaving you with more time to enjoy your free time. Angela describes the weather as ‘nice all year round’ with an array of activities for everyone to participate in – walking on the beach, charity runs, triathlons, running clubs, sea swims, snorkelling, scuba diving, cultural concerts, and team pub quizzes. And we say that it sounds like a dream!

Angela Pretorius has been living in Cayman for just over eight years. Situated in the Western Caribbean Sea, Cayman is south of Cuba, northwest of Jamaica and east of Mexico. It’s about an hour’s flight from Miami and has a population of more than 60 000. The Cayman Islands consists of three islands: Little Cayman, Cayman Brac and Grand Cayman − the largest island, where Angela lives

Angela is senior audit manager of a medium network auditing firm, Baker Tilly Cayman, and what she appreciates most about her job is her ability to manage a great work/life balance. ‘I enjoy my time at work and can get my work accomplished without having to work a considerable amount of overtime. This way, I have been able to take up hobbies, be more active and enjoy some of the activities and the good weather offered by the island.’

The Cayman Islands’ main industries include tourism and the financial services industry. One of Cayman’s main tourist attractions is Seven Mile Beach, a beautiful beach with white sand and clear turquoise water which Angela has enjoyed the luxury of working just across the road from.

Cayman is a major international offshore financial centre with sectors including banking, hedge funds, captive insurance and other investment and corporate activities. Historically, the islands have been a tax-exempt destination. The government of the Cayman Islands has always relied on indirect and not direct taxes. The territory has never levied income tax, capital gains tax, or any wealth tax, making it a popular tax haven. A governor is appointed by the Queen of the United Kingdom to represent the monarch. A premier is appointed by the governor and a legislative assembly is elected by the people every four years.

Caymanians have the highest standard of living in the Caribbean. While there are still many aspects of history on the islands, there is also substantial development: ‘We have good roads, schools, restaurants, a cinema and beautiful hotels. I think the quality of living is high but with an island twist. One needs to remember that we still obtain many of our food items from imports from America so if there is a storm and the seas are rough, ships may be delayed, and you may have to go without your favourite brand of yoghurt for a few days!’ says Angela.

Besides being incredibly homesick when she first landed on the island, another challenge for Angela to overcome was that she battled to understand the accents of other people. Not to mention that the Caymanians also battled to understand her South African accent (and the slang words that she thought were universal).

‘I didn’t speak as much as I normally would have in my first few months because I couldn’t understand anyone, and they couldn’t understand me! This was frustrating, especially when trying to learn a new industry and sit through training sessions. I had to be patient and ask many people to repeat themselves and learn to speak slower. Over time I have developed an accent for talking to non-south Africans and then I revert back to my normal accent when I am in a group of South Africans!’ explains Angela.

What does she miss most about South Africa? ‘I miss many things about South Africa. First, of course, I miss my family. It can be hard being so far away. It takes approximately 30 hours to travel via the USA to South Africa. Then seeing my niece growing up and not being able to take her to the park!’ says Angela.

However, there is a large community of South Africans. ‘On a Saturday afternoon, the local rugby club is abuzz with South African accents and camaraderie. Just the other day, I walked into a coffee shop and met a new coffee barista from Durban. Sometimes the South Africans organise SA days with boerie rolls and potjies,’ she says.

The active Cayman lifestyle is bound to have a positive effect on your health and this has motivated Angela to lose almost 30 kilograms. As Angela tells us, in 2013 she was so tired of being ill and unhealthy, she started exercising more and focusing on better nutrition. ‘One’s health is your most important investment,’ explains Angela, ‘because it helps me to be able to work hard and feel good. Cayman has afforded me many opportunities to embrace this active lifestyle.’

She recently completed her first full marathon in December 2017 in a time of 4:30 hours − something she never thought she could accomplish or pursue before she moved to Cayman.

‘My qualification has really made this all happen for me. It gave me the opportunity to work abroad and experience this lifestyle. It enabled me to earn a good salary to enable me to travel to other countries near the Islands and in the Americas. It enabled me to work my way up and be promoted within my firm so that I hold such a respectable position and can manage my work/life balance.’

And this we suppose is what you call the island life!

MORE ON GRAND CAYMAN

What does a South African earn in Grand Cayman? A qualified CAs(SA) can earn from US$60 000 to US$120 000 per annum depending on experience, hard work and position. There is no income tax, capital gains tax or corporate tax. An import duty of 5−22% is levied on goods imported into the Islands. Since most of the groceries and other items for sale on the Island are imported, the cost is often inflated to include the duty paid. Therefore, it is a source of indirect taxation.

What is the cost of living? The cost of living is high:

  • Rent for a two-bedroom apartment, depending on location: US&1 950 – 3 900 per month.
  • Electricity: US$120−250 per month. Water: US$60−150 per month
  • Entertainment: Movie ticket for one person: US$13
  • Petrol: US$55 generally to fill up car. About US$5,40 per US gallon
  • Two-bedroom apartment (not on the beach): US$366 000
  • Cars: new US$23 200 for a KIA hatchback or ‘second-hand’ small sedan; US$ 5 000 −  10 000 depending on age