My name is Eva Mulder from the Instagram profile @evamldr. In this expat guide I will provide a summary of what it’s like living on the Caribbean island of Curacao. Before I do so, allow me to introduce myself.
I grew up in a small city called Emmen in the Northeast of the Netherlands. Most people from outside the country (or even inside) don’t know the place because tourists are mainly interested in bigger cities.
I used to despise the city as a teenager but I learned to love it as I got older. My dearest friends and family still live there so it will always be a place I will return to. Since I was a baby, my parents took me on all of their adventures.
As soon as I could walk, I was on skis and we would go to Austria every winter with our family. We also took road trips which were mostly to Italy and Croatia, and on the way we would cover a big part of Europe. I remember being the kid in my class that had seen the most countries.
My family used to own a caravan so we would stay at campsites, never at hotels. I have the most incredible memories from these holidays. I’m sure this is where my love of travelling and taking adventures comes from.
My Awesome Expat Life in Curacao
When I was at university, I had the chance to go on an internship abroad for five months. My major was in International Tourism Management and Curacao is actually part of the Dutch Kingdom which made it a perfect and easy place to move to. As soon as I arrived on the island, I felt at home.
I knew that five months wouldn’t be enough time. So I decided to finish my studies and two years later I moved back to stay for an indefinite period of time. Right now, Curacao has been my base for the past year and a half.
A typical day for me in Curacao looks like this. Firstly, I always wake up at 7am. I never used to be a morning person, but waking up to the sunrise and opening my window to see the palm trees in my backyard and feeling the warmth of the sun completely changed that for me.
Let’s also pretend it’s normal times: I would go to work, normally from 8am – 4.30pm, and after work I would go and have a drink on the beach at one of the happy hours. I would grab something to eat at one of the local food trucks and make sure to always catch a sunset by the beach.
Of course, not all days are like that. I definitely still spend some evenings in bed watching Netflix! But I try to make the most of my time here and spend as many days enjoying the Island life. Curacao truly is paradise!
Why Curacao is so Expat Friendly
Curacao is incredibly expat friendly. Even more so if you are Dutch. As I mentioned, Curacao is part of the Dutch Kingdom which makes it easy to move and work here for a Dutch person. You just need a work permit. That is generally very easy to obtain if you have the right documents.
The local people of Curacao are amazing. The warmth is not only radiating from the sun but also from the locals. They are always living with a big smile. And if you are nice to them they will most definitely be nice to you!
I didn’t find it hard to integrate into the culture. Besides Dutch and English, the spoken language is Papiamentu. It’s a mix of Dutch, English, Spanish and Portuguese. I learned Spanish due to previous internships in the Canary Islands, so I easily picked up some Papiamentu.
I feel like the Curacao locals definitely respect you more if you can speak their language. I always make sure to speak it whenever I can on the island.
My Favourite Places in Curacao
One of my favourite places in Curacao is the beach club called Karakter (Character). The atmosphere here is so relaxing and it’s located by the bluest sea you will ever see! Even when it’s raining, the sea is that colour.
They also have an infinity pool which is perfect if you don’t like the sea. I spend a lot of my free days here, also because the food is great.
If I had to choose another favourite place that isn’t too commercial, I know about a “secret” picnic spot. Surely I’m not the only person who knows about it but it has such an amazing view overlooking Caracas Bay. It’s just very romantic and perfect for a great picture.
Beautiful Beaches on the West Side
As well as Karakter and my secret picnic spot, the beaches on the west side (Curacao has 38!) have a special place in my heart. I am forever ruined because I will always compare each beach in the world to the ones in Curacao. I haven’t seen any here without perfect white sand and blue sea.
If you are visiting Curacao or moving as an expat, I recommend renting a car and exploring the west side of the island. There is so much more to discover on the island than just what you find inside your hotel or resort.
Embracing the Food of Curacao
I love all food, so I had no problems adapting to the Curacao cuisine. My favourite local dish is actually just grilled chicken with moro, which is rice and beans. Nothing special there but the way they prepare it is so delicious!
Despite being from the Netherlands, I’m not used to eating typical Dutch food. My grandmother was born in Indonesia and my family likes to cook Indonesian dishes. That’s what I grew up with. There are definitely some similarities but the food I’m used to back home is a bit more spicy.
Challenges of being an Expat
The aspect that is the most challenging about expat life in Curacao is having to pay all of the monthly expenses on a relatively low income. I earn about half of what I would earn in the Netherlands doing the same job.
I obviously knew about this, so I flipped that switch and adapted. But I have experienced hard times financially that I have never experienced before. I would say that I have embraced it rather than overcome it.
The reward is that I get to experience an island paradise every day. Mostly when I’m driving around the island, with the windows down, looking around and feeling the warmth of the sun. During these moments, I count my blessings and realise how great my life is. The best part? I chose this life!
So many people message me saying they wish they could live my life. I always tell them: stop wishing, start doing! Everyone can pack their life into suitcases and move to the place they feel most at home. The thing is, not everyone has the balls to do it, and those people probably regret it.
Key Tips for Expat Life in Curacao
I’m currently writing an Ebook about emigration to Curacao. It will be full of expat tips and information about moving here. It’s going to be in Dutch because I know all the tips and tricks for those with the Dutch nationality.
I’m hoping to finish the Curacao Expat Ebook next month. I will announce on my Instagram where to buy it, so for those interested, keep an eye out for that! For those that won’t be able to read it, I can give three key tips:
- Save a reasonable amount of money: I would say at least 5-7k to cover expenses for the first month. This is just in case you don’t like it and want to fly home or in case something breaks (like your car) and trust me, that’s going to happen. If you are coming from a country that has Dollars or Euros, your money is going to be worth a lot here. There is no such thing as saving in Curacao, so it’s better to have some up front.
- Take certain things with you from your home country: Curacao doesn’t have a lot of shops. If you are coming from a materialistic place, you will feel like you are missing a lot of things. To be fair, you will get used to simple island living but it’s good to have certain things such as enough clothing, cosmetics and home decorations.
- Come prepared: You need a lot of documents to get your work permit and eventually your local ID. When it comes to arranging things, everything goes five times slower than what you are used to back home. So it’s best to have all of your paperwork complete. I have been in multiple situations where I had to come back three times because I was missing a document. This can be very bad for your mood haha!
- Make plans to see more of the Caribbean: I had so many plans to explore the Caribbean but then COVID came and said no Eva, you are staying on the rock that you are on. I did go to Bonaire a few times before, which is only a 20-minute flight from Curacao. It’s very different from Curacao though – much smaller and less touristy. I love the island for its gastronomy and for relaxation. It’s perfect for a weekend escape. Make sure you travel around the Caribbean when you get the chance!