Even more baffling are the expectations of some ex-pats, who move willingly and purposefully to another country, then work very hard at making sure nothing that touches them is different from what they are used to.
Not all ex-pats are like that; many embrace their new culture, or at least navigate the foreign waters with care and an appreciation that there might be reasons for the cultural differences.
But I've been around the Turks and Caicos long enough now to see a gradual change in ex-pat expectations, moving from respectful to roughshod. The change shows up as we foreigners (for that's what we are) build homes, shop and play.
When Tom and I built here, we were eager for advice and willing to be led by those who knew this place much better than we. John and Gill Hopkins told us of bringing their windows across from Provo on a small boat and gave us the first best advice: "They'll build strong, but they won't build pretty. Pretty is up to you." We learned that our choices in fixtures and colors were either limited or expensive, so we developed a mantra of "white, beige, whatever's available." Clifford Gardiner, our builder, helped us catch the island breezes better by adding two windows to the plan, as well as making other changes based on his knowledge of island life. It seemed such a miracle that the house was getting built at all, so we shrugged over the cheap faucets and the scrap-wood baseboards, planning upgrades later.
Others of our ex-pat generation made similar compromises or learned the lesson of "it's different here." One man jokes that when he measured the corners of his house, he came up with 370 degrees. Everyone found out that anything metal will rust in the salt air, no matter how pretty or "island-y."
The newer members of the club, however, don't want to compromise their high expectations. Ignoring the breeze and the high cost of power, they want central air-conditioning. When the cisterns are dry, they'll buy water to use a dishwasher. Oh, and forget about drinking the perfectly good water ... bottled only! The slightly wavery grout line in my tile floor I am looking at as I write would not be tolerated. Perfection is what's expected.
It makes me sad to see this, because it appears to send the message that "our" ways are better than the island ways ... not just different, but better. There's no thought of "when in Rome...."
Just as I wonder about the tourists who complain about European plumbing, I wonder about those who come to a foreign place, then try to remake it to be just as it is in the U.S. or Canada.