Living in Jamaica requires some extra padding.
Extra time, extra money, extra safety, extra friends, extra help, extra space, extra energy, extra everything.
One big difference I have found upon moving back to Jamaica is that life here is filled with ups and downs.
Things are always going wrong -- daily life has a lot to do with reacting to surprises, mostly of the unwanted kind. Life in the U.S. for me was marked by its dependability.
Even catastrophes like Katrina and 9/11 had only slow-moving tangible impacts on the vast majority of Americans.
Jamaican life is best approached if the assumption is made from the beginning that things will not work as planned, and that something will get screwed up. People who think this way come to learn, for example, to follow the advice of a friend of mine -- she said that you need to expect to hit long lines wherever you go, and to walk with something to read at all times.
It's a good example of how one needs to operate -- with some extra "padding."
Building a house? Allocate an extra 20% for theft of materials. Cashing a check? Carry a portable radio to kill the waiting time. Mailing a letter? Leave time for it to drag out. Going away for the weekend? Secure valuables or just take them with you. Planning to finish a big project? Do it when you have power.
Now and again, there are surprises, and things actually work as planned. The Motor Vehicle department has a caught me unawares a few times, as I happened to go at the right time of month.
By and large, however, it is impossible to live the way I did in the U.S., with the last amount of extra anything -- lean and mean in almost every way. This is very typical Third World living, and the sooner a returnee or expat accepts this, the better they will be able to adjust.