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Differences Between Island and Mainland Living?

From the L13 mailbag:

Hi Josie,
I am looking to maybe move to Guam some day for my job and I was just wondering if you ever lived on the mainland (US) and how Addison has found life on Guam different from the US. Reading your site has been great for trying to get a feel of what Guam might be like. Any info would be great. Thanks. –Terry

I get asked this question a lot. I lived in the US mainland for most of my childhood: I was born in San Francisco and lived there until I was 7 and I also lived in Texas for several years after a tour in Germany. I moved to Guam to live with my father when I was 13 and have been here ever since. Since I was so young when I lived in the States, I feel I hardly qualify as someone who could give Terry a proper opinion on the differences between Guam and mainland living. Addison also moved to Guam when he was very young.
So, lovely L13 readers, the floor is open on this one.
Since many of you have lived or are currently living in the States, how do you find life on Guam different from life in the States? Please include where in the States you lived/are currently living.
Now. This is not an invitation to write an essay bashing the States or Guam because you had a bad experience. I’m not saying to hold back on the negative either…but as Officer Cruz once told me, “Just stick to the facts, ma’am. Let’s not get emotional here!”

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14 Responses

  1. Josie says:

    I have recently moved to Alaska from Nebraska. I have spent 20 years of my life in Guam. I would say the main difference between Guam and the mainland is getting accustomed to the higher cost of living on Guam, with the exception of the states that already have a high cost of living. Furthermore, no matter where you go, you need to be open minded about the place. By being open minded, it will help anyone enjoy where they are at no matter what. Just like the states, Guam has a lot to offer and with an open mind there are tons to discover. A place is what you make it. I hope this helps your readers.

  2. Jessica Joy says:

    Please let me start with a disclaimer that I love my island and am feel very blessed to have lived on Guam. I was born and raised on Guam, left for college in LA in ’93, moved to San Francisco in ’95 and have been in the Bay Area ever since. I think the challenge depends on where you come from, if you are used to the hustle and bustle of city life or come from the suburbs. When I went home in Nov, I had the hardest time adjusting to the lack of resources I had become accustomed to (Michael’s Craft Store, Trader Joes, Safeway, Target) all of which carry such a wide variety of crap, you are sure to find the right tool for the job. But, I am not an outdoors type person, I can only appreciate that from afar. I look at your boonie stomping photos, Josie, and wish that I had been brave enough to explore the island the way you do. I do better in a large shopping complex, South Coast Plaza and Valley Fair are my favorite stomping grounds. So I guess I fair better in California, where the shopping never ends…..but Guam beaches win hands down! Oh, and Guam’s fresh produce prices are INSANE! $1.99 for cilantro when it’s 50 cents here. That also takes some getting used to!

  3. vincenzo says:

    dude…i was once a native of the islands, as you know Josie, but now in San Francisco bay area I think that the major difference would be the climate. just getting used to the humidity and heat at the same time would be a good shock to people from here. and like what Jessica Joy said, resources like Target/Trader Joe’s/REI are not on island and would probably cost an arm and a leg to ship stuff over there. i’d also like to comment on the cycling thing on the island. as far as i know, islanders usually don’t like cyclist on the road so i don’t know how i’d do that if i went back. there does seem to be some light to this subject as Officer Julius says that cyclists are now getting more respect than they used to on the island streets. i don’t know how much of this is true, and seeing as how speed limit is 35mph, you’d think that the island population would be more hospitable to cyclist. anyway, there’s my 25 cents on the issue…

  4. Josie says:

    Totally off-topic, Vincenzo, but I’ve recently been back in touch with Officer Julius. God bless Myspace!

  5. Tricia says:

    I lived in Guam from 1990 to 1992, when my dad was stationed at the Navy base there. As a military brat, I moved around from place to place a lot, including California, Florida, Rhode Island, Maryland and Pennsylvania. As an adult I’ve lived in Washington, D.C., Philadelphia and I now live in Brooklyn, one of the five boroughs of New York City, which I love like it’s my hometown. When I moved to Guam, I was 11, and I remember not wanting to move out to the “middle of nowhere.” But I must say that even though I was at that bratty too-old-to-be-a-kid, too-young-to-be-a-teen stage, where life is SO hard, and everything is SO lame, I recognized deep down that Guam had a certain untouched beauty to it. I remember my two years there with fondness, and a definite regret that I didn’t do more exploring, because the island is such a natural treasure. I mean, where else but in the tropics do you have a plumeria tree blooming in your backyard? I’d imagine that life in Guam is much more fast-paced now, in keeping with the rest of the world, but part of me still hopes that it has that dreamy “middle of nowhere” quality to it. Like you’re in another world. I think that’s because I live in such a fast-paced city, where it’s so easy to lose yourself in the crowd. Anyway, if you’re moving to Guam from the States, I would advise:
    *Prepare for the fact that retail shopping choices are going to be more limited. (Except now with the Internet being what it is, you could probably pretty much get what you want if you’re willing to pay for the shipping.)
    *Open yourself up to the Chamorro culture. Guamanians are Americans, too, but they’ve also got a rich and deep background. Learn it, respect it.
    *Get ready for some good eating! When my family and I first moved to Guam, we were overwhelmed by the sheer number of fiestas and parties that we were invited to. My mother complained that she gained 5 pounds in a month.
    *Make the most of your time. Even if you’re not an outdoorsy person, consider taking an easy hike or going to the beach. You’ll never find another place like it!

  6. min says:

    it really depends on what you like. it’s a give and take.
    i love guam b/c:
    – everyone, everything is familiar, you never feel out of touch/place. everyone knows everyone, you always see someone you know within a day of errands.
    – everything is like 2 minutes away, 30 at most.
    – great food!!
    i love the states/mainland b/c:
    – more variety of ppl, cultures, etc.
    – more stuff, for competative prices
    – anonymity
    i agree with previous posters, take advantage of all the exclusively guam stuff. i’ve lived on guam for 21 yrs, lived in seattle for about 3, and in hawaii for about 2 yrs now.

  7. min says:

    oh, and i’m not too sure if this is a biased opinion, but if i had kids, i think i would feel safer raising them on guam..

  8. marian says:

    The skinny: born on Guam, lived there for 18 years, and now I’ve been on the mainland for about 8 years (holy crap, has it been that long?!) between Florida and Seattle.
    3 big things pop up: weather, retail, and culture.
    Weather: I was back on Guam about 2 years ago, and I remember being hit by a rush of hot, wet air. It was pretty gross, as the cold air-conditioned skin quickly made the water in the air condense. Yeah, I prefer temperate climates– I love watching the change of seasons, the briskness in the air when summer becomes fall, the cuddly coldness of winter, and the cherry blossoms in the spring. You can’t get that on Guam.
    Retail: Seriously people, how much shopping do you need to do? Yeah, Guam has limited chain stores like Michael’s and Target, but I much preferred the mix of quirky Asian, American, and local goods on Guam. It makes me sad to go into a convenience store and not find a roll of Korean gim pop or titiyas at the counter. It pains me to think that the powers that be would attempt to make Guam more like the mainland, a generic suburbia devoted almost entirely to shopping.
    Culture: Despite all the rock shows and art galleries and fine dining the city offers, I can’t help but miss Guam’s simple, laid back lifestyle. People are just plain nicer on Guam. I can’t stand going to a house party here, starving, and then realizing that THERE’S NO FREAKING FOOD. The way I see it, feeding someone shows you love them!! There really is a “my house is your house” attitude, and local folks are very accepting.
    That’s my 2 cents, and I’m sticking to it.

  9. Terry says:

    Boy imagine my suprise when I looked at the site and saw Josie had thrown my question up there for all to reply to. It great to hear different opinons because everyone sees things differently. Well I grew up in NYC myself and now live in MN, people always talk about island fever and whatnot but I grew up on an island in NY 🙂 maybe not the same because I could take a bridge to someplace else. How are things like traffic? Does the power really get knocked out that often (as I read on this website http://www.heptune.com/guam.html)? Can you ride a motorcycle on the Guam roads (ie are the roads semi-well kept or full of potholes? Thanks all.

  10. Josie says:

    Traffic is heaviest weekday mornings and evenings, when people are going to and coming from work. But you’ll never be stuck in gridlock for hours (my mother-in-law tells me there are places in the States where people shut their engines off and just sit there because they aren’t moving).
    I’ve lived at my current residence for over two years and I think the power has gone off a couple of times, but not for long (15 minutes or so). The power situation has improved and continues to improve. I remember the days of load-shedding and that totally sucked. Everything is an improvement over that.
    Roads are improving too, but they aren’t the best in their current state. I’d say that most main roads are semi-well kept. You can ride a motorcycle without problems. My husband has one. If you have a Harley you’ll fit right in with the Thunder Road club. 😉
    It’d be great to hear from more people who are from the states and moved to Guam for a stint. Brent? Carolyn? Sahr? Bueller? 🙂
    P.S. Whenever I get ‘island fever’ I hop on a plane and head for someplace in Asia. If you’ve ever wanted to explore Asia we’re just a 3 to 5 hour plane ride to some of the most exotic places on the planet.

  11. brent says:

    somebody call out my name?
    hi terry. i live in the states right now (california), but lived in guam for 6 years. when i got there, there was power outages every day. it cost a dollar a minute to call the west coast. it rained every day (i got there in the rainy season), and i mean it really rained! and my friends house had no screens, so every night i was eaten alive by mosquitoes.
    and after a couple weeks, i knew i was home. i love the place. still do. even though i was born, and grew up here in california, i can’t wait to get back to visit guam.
    and since those mid 90’s, things have improved a LOT in guam. by the time i left, it was only on occasion that the power went off. the phone service was tied to the states, so the cost of calls, was no different that calling across another state here. and with the internet, if i couldn’t find it in guam, i could buy it an have it shipped out. even the mosquitoes would leave me alone.
    the people in guam are terrific. i was welcomed into their homes and families, and still keep in contact with my island families. the pace is a little slower, which is nice. i felt comfortable to be who i am. not trying to live up to anyone else’s standards, or to keep up with the joneses.
    i missed the humidity. i miss the warm ocean water. and in the winter, i really miss the heat. once you get used to the heat and humidity, you really don’t notice it much. the best part, is that you can be out hiking, hashing, boating, fishing, kayaking, nearly all year long.
    in my six years there, i never got island fever. always had plenty to do.
    yah, the roads can get a little rough (the heat is murder on asphalt), but my friends with harley’s out there go riding every sunday around different parts of the island.
    the only things that concerned me out there was the politics and the education. small island, everyone knows or is somehow related to each other, so the politics can get a little self serving. but living in new york, you are no stranger to corruption. the public education for the kids needs a lot of help. i can’t really say why, but the kids in those schools are not getting the education they could get. but, there are some terrific private schools if you can afford them.
    if you are used to a high powered pace, then this might be a tougher transition for you. but if you are the kind to take things in stride, don’t sweat the small stuff, this place is paradise.
    when i moved there, i had never been there before. not sure what i was getting myself into, i told myself i could leave any time i wasn’t having fun anymore. that day never came. we left to be closer to family here in the states. otherwise, we would still be there. so give it a shot. have a terrific time.

  12. fabmimi says:

    I left guam in 97 and have been in the San Francisco Bay Area (wow so many of us here who read L13!) since then. Life on Guam is indeed laid-back and the scenery is beautiful but I think the draw for anyone who comes home after a period of living elsewhere is the familiarity. Everything from that pothole from 4 years ago to that neighborhood grocery store will be there to greet you like you never left. After being away for 4 years (not that long I know!) I was starting to feel like an outsider in some respects. If you are new to the social scene you will find yourself gazing at groups of people who apparently gather regularly at the very same spots you will be frequenting as well. But don’t fret, breaking the ice won’t be too much of a challenge as the general attitude of people is welcoming.
    My top perks:
    1) I never have to drive more than 10 minutes to get anywhere (for the most part)
    2) Food (prepared food) and drink are abundant and affordable (dare I say cheap) for the quality you get – happy hour never looked so happy and I’ve never had so many choices for buffet (Vegas might come to mind hehe) meals within a 3 mile radius
    3)24-hour beaches – you can plop down on the beach at any given time of day
    And now my peeves:
    1)Trash – what no recycling bins? I’m used to sorting my trash and I felt especially wasteful not being allowed to be conscious of where my waste was ending up – the overfilled dump sites
    2)Typhoons/storms – The threat is eminent and while the big ones don’t always come around – those power outages and prep routines can be a nuisance although they are indeed necessary. Some people look foward to taking advantage of the time off granted during this time or the surfers enjoy the elevated waves.
    3)Getting there – slim pickin’s makes flights extremely costly but look forward to those getaway deals just an island hop away as Josie pointed out
    4)Driving – The roads really are especially slippery in wet conditions. Most people make their own rules (but nothing chaotic like, say the Philippines)…I’m talking more like swerving out to avoid a pothole or 3 people passing the red light even after it’s turned red
    5)Second hand smoke – I’m a spoiled Californian and I am aware there have been some recent measures but indoor air quality is a challenge when people are smoking while picking out their tomatoes at the grocery store (true story! lol)or you come home with nicotine-infested hair and clothing. On the flip side, this might be your version of a smoker’s heaven.
    General Observations:
    -People get awfully dressed up to go to Church and Church is filled to the brim.
    -There sure are a lot of strip clubs within a 3 mile radius (hehehee).
    -Shopping lacks variety as much as convenience.
    -Political affairs and family affairs are equally valued by most people or in some cases, mean the same thing.
    -Road construction seems to take forever.
    -People aren’t as health conscious with what they eat – more salt and oil in my food than I’m used to – even from restaurants.
    -There is a noticably increased military presence or in other words – more white people *haha.

  13. DestinationGuam says:

    I am moving my family to Guam for three years starting in January 07. The big question I have is…Is University of Guam a good school? Or do I need to leave college kids on the Mainland for the college years?
    We are all very excited about being on Guam…

  14. vanilla ice says:

    the first thing you’ll have to do it acclimate yourself to spam. you might gag the first time you eat it, but consumption is necessary for survival on guam.
    I offer the following tips:
    1. try burning sliced spam. it will mask most of the taste.
    2. thin slices
    3. when spam consumption is necessary, try cutting it into little bits and mixing it with rice.
    4. prepare clever excuses, eg. “I’m a Vegan..” or “I have gout” or ” I’m Muslim”
    5. sauces
    remember, somtimes the gantry crane at the port breaks down, and all we are left with is spam. spam and tabasco.
    it sounds funny but sometimes we run out of gas, or water gets into the tanks, and the whole island screeches to a halt. no kidding
    and the utilities aren’t perfect. when is the last time a diamond back rattler, put california in the dark for the better part of 24hrs?
    but all pun aside,
    i highly recommend just quitting meat althoghter.

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