UPDATE HURRICANE GONZALO
Learn more about the Caribbean's most exciting vacation destination! If you appreciate gourmet food, world class duty free shopping, vibrant nightlife, pristine beaches, year-round warm climate and a cosmopolitan atmosphere with a Caribbean twist, Sint Maarten - Saint Martin is for you!
SINT MAARTEN - SAINT MARTIN provides vacationers the opportunity to enjoy three distinct cultures on one 37 square mile island. There is the delightfulness and soberness of the Dutch on one side, the savoir-faire of the French on the other, and the blending of both with exotic native heritage.
Add dozens of beaches and lagoons, luxury hotels, elegant villas, and over 300 restaurants and you may understand why St. Martin is the most visited of all the Leewards. All the great chefs, European, American, or Asian vie to compete in this gourmet capital of the Caribbean, creating cuisines equal to the best of Paris or New York. Shopping on the island is duty free and casinos, discos and night clubs stay open till dawn. Jumbo jets from world centers land here and charters allow visits to the smaller Leewards. There is something to satisfy every taste on St.Martin ...
Lifestyle and Standard of Living
Lifestyle sets St Maarten/St Martin apart from other Caribbean islands. It is not only the luxury of grocery stores overflowing with gourmet products from around the world, the more than four hundred restaurants, the vibrant nightlife and the fabulous, frequently clothing optional beaches. More importantly, the island is home to a truly multicultural community, with little ethnic boundries and a wonderful level of tolerance and respect amongst its members. Eighty different nationalities living peacefully together on 37 square miles - the most cosmopolitan little island on earth. St Maarten/St Martin is an active place - not a dreamy backwater. It is a destination with attractions to suit almost everyone's taste and desires.
English is the language most widely spoken, with vastly different accents. Many of the native residents on the French side speak English at home - unique within borders of the French Nation. It is the 'metropolitans' from continental France maintaining the island's French identity. The original language of the former, now dismantled nation of the Netherlands Antilles is Papiamento, used mostly by residents with ties to Curacao. Dutch is used on Sint Maarten in schools and by the administration. Spanish has become common with a wave of immigrants from the Dominican Republic. The East-Indian merchants are conversing amongst each other in a variety of Indian tongues.
Standard of Living
This island is not part of the third world, even though the appearance of some neighborhoods seems to be in conflict with this statement. In general terms, many of the island's natives live a comfortable middle or even upper class life. The economic success of tiny St Maarten with a policy of open borders turned it into a magnet for workers from neighboring islands, all looking for jobs to create a better life for their families at home. The majority of residents on St Maarten/St Martin are expatriates from other Caribbean islands. Most plan to stay only a short time, a year or two at max. There is no desire to beautify a temporary residence, used only for resting after a 16 hour workday. Now, many of these folks find themselves in the same spot twenty years later and will never leave the island. But it is this feeling of a transient live which leads to neglect of some of the Caribbean quarters. Both sides of the island have proper minimum wage legislation, social services, mandatory insurance and labour protections laws.
There are good business and job opportunities on the island and especially qualified professionals can benefit from the active economy.
The Island's Visual Appearance
St Maarten/St Martin has regions of stunning natural beauty, with superb vistas over the turquoise Caribbean sea - on a clear day all the way to St Kitts and Montserrat. There are valleys with untouched vegetation and truly tropical ambiance. Many of the white sand beaches are secluded, offering total privacy. But there is no denying that the island is densely populated and economic success has a price by creating urban sprawl and rush hour traffic.
Because St Maarten has no customs duty and importing any kind of goods can be done with reasonable cost, the stores are well stocked with all kinds of consumer goods and luxury items. As a matter of fact, St Maarten is a shopping destination for consumers from many other Caribbean islands and not only popular with the cruise ship crowd.