LIVING IN BELIZE – “Truth vs. Negativity“ 9/26/12

I haven’t had a good old-fashioned rant in a while, and one has been brewing in me for a bit now. A little over a week ago, a lady on a forum I participate in asked a question about what the busy season for tourists was, as she wanted to start a massage therapist business in either Hopkins or Placencia.

Another regular on the forum answered her question, and then I chimed in and said if she hoped to cater to the expat/local crowd as well (which she should), then she’d have to reduce her rates significantly from what therapists charge in the States. I also reminded her she’d need a Self-Employed Work Permit prior to obtaining Permanent Residency, as well as a Trade License from the town council.

To that she replied, “I’m getting the vibe that this is an exclusive club, discouraging new members lacking massive bank accounts.  Is this valid or am I just thinking too far in to these boards?”  I was so confused by the comment, I asked her to explain, to which she answered, “It seems when someone posts about working, replies are not very positive; but when someone posts about building a house or retirement, they are met with many positive responses.”

I told her that she was really off base, and that the members of the forum genuinely had her best interest at heart. I reminded her that what would be the point of having a forum if we just spoon fed you what you want to hear. But this is not the first time I’ve had this kind of reaction to the kind of honest feedback I provide, whether it be on forums, on my blog, or when you retain my consulting services.  My slogan is, after all, “Relocate Without Rose-Colored Glasses.”

I truly believe sometimes, though, that people would rather be lied to than hear something they perceive as negative.  It reminds me of the guy whose wife asks him, “Honey, do I look fat in this dress?” We all know the smart husband answers, “No, dear.” He’s doing it for self-preservation, lol!, but seriously, I don’t think the wife really wants to hear the truth anyway, or she wouldn’t get upset if he did answer honestly.

This is behavior I witness A LOT with wanna be expats moving to Belize.  I get it! You have a dream, you’re dying to get here and start living it, and you feel anyone who stands in your way with advice that goes counter to your plan is the enemy.  But I caution you to stop if you find yourself behaving this way.

Think about it. What do we have to gain by being negative? If you come or you don’t, it’s no skin off our nose (except we’ll all have to listen to you complain when it isn’t working out for you). Our lives will still go on. But you could be in a bad personal or financial situation, that frankly, was avoidable.

So instead of taking advice too personally, read between the lines and really listen to what others are telling you.  We’re not talking for the sake of hearing ourselves talk. We’re talking based on our observations and experience.

I happen to get paid to tell you the truth, and since I have to look myself in the mirror every day, if it means pissing you off, so be it! At the end of the post on the forum, the gal had all but ignored our advice and convinced herself that despite our warnings, she could make a go of it. Hey, good for her, and I wish her much success. But I sure hope she doesn’t regret it two years from now.

Would you rather hear the truth or do you get defensive if you perceive the truth as being too negative?

  • Emily Smith

    Good post, Sharon! I often wonder why people ask the questions they ask on forums if they don’t want honest answers.

    I get a lot of emails asking me about retirement in Belize, and when I respond, I tell them the pros and the cons of life here, through my own perspective, of course. I also (as I know you do) always emphasize that they should visit (as many times as possible) before moving and rent before buying property. Even though I learned the latter after doing just the opposite, I recognize the wisdom in what you tell folks on your blog and those who hire you for more in-depth relocation consulting.

    Ultimately, everyone has to make their own decisions — and mistakes — but I figure if I can “give back” just a little by sharing the things I’ve learned in living here for over a year now, it might be to someone’s benefit, if they’ve asked the question. But only if they really want to hear it.

  • Tina Klein

    I want to hear the truth, even if I don’t like it.

  • Sharon Hiebing

    Good for you, Tina! You would be my ideal client :)

  • Sharon Hiebing

    I agree, Emily. I’m a firm believer in “what comes around, goes around.” I’m sure our good deeds will be realized ten fold somewhere down the line :)

  • Ray Gano-Prophezine

    Good Post Sharon – that is why we hired you for questions.I would rather know the truth than get down there and pay the consequences.

  • Sharon Hiebing

    Thanks, Ray! I always appreciate the clients who can “handle the truth” :)

  • Jeanie Kochis

    The truth will set you free! Especially in places like Belize, one NEEDS to know the truth before bringing down their belongings and setting up shop somewhere without all the information that’s available to HELP wanna-be ex-pats by those who have gone before us! We should be grateful. Making a major move like that isn’t to be taken lightly and ALL information should be welcomed, even if it does feel like it’s not pretty all the time. It becomes less pretty, if you haven’t done your research thoroughly or choose to ignore good advice from those who truly know.

  • Tracye Gano

    Thank you Sharon for being honest. I know that your honesty, an honest trip to scout things out and an honest assessment of what we could and could not live without helped Ray and I put Belize on the back burner for a bit.

  • Sharon Hiebing

    Very well, said Jeanie!

  • LaTayna

    I believe the truth is the best was to go about handling such a delicate situation. I also participate in some boards and have met individuals that are on drunken rages who demeanor is less then acceptable. It’s not always what you say but how you say it. Most of the nay-Sayers I found on the boards don’t even live in Belize or couldn’t make it in Belize. I tell everyone who review boards, blogs or social medias to pursue with cautions. I love you for the tact you have while “getting it real”. I live in Corozal, Belize and recommend your blog to anyone who wants to move into the Cayo area or just find out about Belize.

  • Sharon Hiebing

    Hi LaTayna! So nice to meet you. I hope this will be your first of many more comments, and appreciate you reading and referring me to others. In my “Anti-Love” research ebook, I too caution people as to the “quality” of advice they receive on forums,etc. Consider the source is a very good policy when researching another country. Take care, Sharon

  • michael

    I bet you dont wont wanna lose your sleep over someone who is just having a fit over not having sufficient funds to fulfill a dream? May God help her. You have done your best Sharon…end of. lol

  • Sharon Hiebing

    No, won’t lose any sleep over her, but maybe some hair scratching my head, haha!

  • michael


  • Scot Tucker

    “Don’t worry about giving honest councel” Some one smarter than I must have said that once upon a time, so I’m quoting them! Keep up the forum good rep.

  • Sandy A

    I came in on this a little late…but…I am all about the truth. I am also a very logical and pragmatic (sometimes overly cautious) person, so I would have told her the very same thing. When I first came to Belize I was the same way–wanted to hurry up and move there! Whenever I have a spontaneous idea like that though, I make myself wait, step back, and think of all the possible outcomes, pros and cons.
    What you told her was in no way negative, it was the truth. Some people don’t want to hear the truth, but oh well, what can you say? Everyone that knows me knows that if they want to hear the truth, plain and bold, just ask Sandy! LOL!

  • Sharon Hiebing

    Hey Sandy! Thanks for weighing in. I was hard pressed to figure out how that was negative too. Honestly, if she’s that sensitive, she will probably have a hard time making a go of it in Belize. Thick skin is a prerequisite for moving to a foreign country! Thanks! Sharon

  • Debra Gannon Milstead

    I too have many people that email me with questions about Belize. I also try to be honest with what they are asking me about. I tell them I would never want to burst anyones bubble of obtaining their dream of moving to Belize. But I have had people that didn’t believe me when I gave them the honest answers to some of their questions. Some even found out later what I had said was the truth and they wrote me back letting me know they didn’t believe me at first but now realize I was only being honest with my answers and thanked me for being honest with them. So go figure. I agree if you don’t want to hear the truth, than don’t ask.

  • Sharon Hiebing

    Thanks for sharing, Debra :)