Why I Left A Remote Work Year In Barbados Early

  • Andrea Lo, a freelance journalist, worked remotely in Barbados for four and a half months.
  • She cut her year short after experiencing incidents of harassment and men who followed her.
  • “My thoughts go back and forth about what I would have done differently,” she wrote.

After living in Barbados for four and a half months, I started the long journey home to Hong Kong.

When I got on the plane, I was overcome with enormous relief.

Last year I came across the news of a special visa for Barbados called the Welcome Stamp

The visa gives digital nomads worldwide the opportunity to live on the island for 12 months.

As a freelance journalist, working remotely for a year from a Caribbean island seemed like a great way to explore and cover a region of the world I had never been to before.

The visa costs $ 2,000 for those who already have employment, and recipients are not subject to income tax in Barbados.

I moved in December 2020

A beach with a palm tree


A beach on the west coast of Barbados.

Courtesy of Andrea Lo

I was struck by the beauty of Barbados, from the azure shades of the Caribbean Sea to the rugged landscapes of the east coast facing the Atlantic.

I found a one-bedroom apartment in a gated community on the South Coast for $ 1,250 a month, including WiFi, water, electricity, and weekly housekeeping.

I also loved learning about Barbados culture. I had the privilege of enjoying a private cooking demo of fried flying fish with cou-cou (corn flour and okra) and sauce – the national dish of Barbados. It was also fascinating to hear conversations in Bayan Creole and learn Caribbean slang.

A street with a palm tree


A street in St. Lawrence Gap in Barbados.

Courtesy of Andrea Lo

Since I spent most of my time in Barbados under some restrictions, I didn’t make many friends.

The first friend I made was hosting an Airbnb that I stayed at while looking for a place to live. They introduced me to another welcome stamper. Other friends I have made online or through mutual friends.

After Christmas and New Years, a resurgence of COVID-19 cases resulted in a curfew and then a lockdown

On April 9, Barbados was badly hit by the volcanic ash that formed during the eruption of La Soufrière in Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and the country was closed again.

But that wasn’t the worst thing I’ve seen.

Although street harassment is not unique to the island, I had never felt as fearful and vulnerable as I did in Barbados

Catcalling happened almost every time I left the house. It felt like I had nowhere to go without someone telling me.

This ranged from one man saying he wanted to “put his aloe vera on me” while I was taking pictures of the beach to another yelling, “Leave this prey alone!” when I adjusted my shorts while walking.

I knew catcalling was happening in Barbados and the local women assured me that it was largely harmless. And at first I tried to laugh about it.

But as I continued to explore my new home on my own, I saw more incidents that filled me with fear.

I was warned that solo women on the beach could attract unwanted attention

Once a man was sitting next to me trying to have a conversation. I gave him one word answers before finally ignoring him. He sat and stared at me in silence. When I pretended to pack and leave, he left.

It’s even worse when these men say goodbye but come back minutes later to keep talking to me. A man once started a conversation that seemed innocent enough. He said hello, wished me a nice day and drove off. But he came back later and started speaking again: “I’ve been watching you and you don’t sound British.” The man finally left, maybe he sensed that I didn’t want to talk to him.

I found myself increasingly paranoid and withdrawn. I became cautious about speaking to my neighbors myself.

Sometimes it took hours before I found the courage to go outside. I walked around thinking about worst case scenarios and delaying departure. Whenever an incident happened, I would repeat it in my head and sink deep into a rabbit hole of panic and despair.

Most of the time the streets were deserted and I wasn’t driving. I carried a rape alarm and a Swiss Army knife with me everywhere, including to the supermarket, which was a 15-minute walk away.

I was wearing a fake wedding ring. Instead of sandals, I wore sneakers because they are easier to walk on. In my four and a half months in Barbados, I’ve been outside at night about five times.

None of my research prior to my move showed what indicated I would experience

Some friends in Barbados speculated that the excessive attention was due to my being an Asian with pink hair.

Local women said to me, “But that’s how Caribbean men are.” One said if I wanted to live in the Caribbean I would have to accept that.

The last straw turned out to be an incident not far from my apartment

It was during the lockdown in March, and I went to the supermarket by myself at 3pm

The streets were empty. A man drove by and stopped next to me. He said he was selling beach chairs and then he told me to get in the car.

“I’m fine, thank you,” I replied.

He became aggressive: “I’m trying to get in touch with you, but you don’t care about me.”

I replied, “I’m fine on my own.”

“Don’t you want a husband?” He asked. I said no and he drove off. But I froze in fear, too panicked to write down his license plate.

I have informed my property management about the incident by email. They were concerned and reported to the police. It turned out that there had been another recent incident where a man made strange remarks to a male resident of the complex, although they weren’t sure if it was the same person. As far as I know, the driver was never caught.

I looked up the number of incidents like this in Barbados and came across Ronelle King, a Barbadian student who was on her way to the capital Bridgetown in 2016, when a man offered her a ride. She refused and he tried to drag her into the car.

“Harassment of women and girls in Barbados is a widespread and ubiquitous issue,” said King. “It is one of those crimes that has been normalized as ‘part of culture’, trivialized to be considered a masculine way of showing their interest in a woman they are attracted to.”

My friends in Barbados went out of their way to guide me and I will never forget their kindness and bayan hospitality. But at the beginning of April I decided to go.

After returning to Hong Kong, I think back and forth about what I would have done differently.

Maybe I was stupid to move to a place I’d never been to. As a woman, I would not have gone there alone if I had known the reality. Sometimes I wonder if I should have done that at all.

So much of what happened was completely unexpected. Perhaps the best advice I can give, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Barbados Tourism did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.

Do you have a story about working abroad? Send an email to [email protected].

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  1. Of course poverty stricken women in Hong Kong being forced to work as sex slaves in massage parlors right under your nose back home is ok as long as you don’t feel personally threatened I guess.

    You claim to have done pre-voyage research and came up with no indication of overly insistent men being an issue for single non-native women and then plainly had no.trouble finding record of the attempted carnapping of the young woman you quoted vis a vis the edge local dating/mating culture in Barbados. As a journalist, research should be your forte in order to be truthful and accurate in your reporting.

    I sympathize with your plight in Barbados and do believe that any person walking alone anywhere in the world should never feel threatened. Having said that, after reading your article I have to say that your whole misadventure boils down to severe naivete (imho).

    • Why do you feel a need to attack her, and on a completely different, unmentioned subject, too? Are ALL males this abusive everywhere?

      • Hes not defending men per se hes making excuses for black people. This is the Kalergi leftist mantra of worshipping black people as demigods. This behavior is not localized to Barbados this is black culture EVERYWHERE

        rapes and sexual harassment is an every day reality in any area that is black. This extends also to other non white countries that leftists want to import then complain and blame white men about rampant rape and harassment just like you are doing now in your veiled response. It’s harsh truth you will not accept in your insanity

        • FOH. Rape is NOT an “every day reality” for black people everywhere. Go to West Africa and see how they treat rapists. Caribbean men tend to be hound dogs (it’s cultural), and therefore approach a lot of women…and also sleep with a lot of women. This Asian girl was always gonna receive extra attention simply because she’s a novelty. White women who, purposefully, go to places like Jamaica to “find themselves” also receive the same treatment.

  2. I leave in Barbados for almost 15 years, and I know that what you experienced is true and it is unfair.
    Several times I had to intervene to protect my young female guests and usually, I discouraged them to walk alone.
    It is not fair. And you are right to expose this issue. Everyone deserves respect.

    • True, about verbal harassment, but this is certainly not unique about Barbados… And its not even all over Barbados…. These ignorant clowns are opportunist… And the cool this is about Barbados I think more than other places, is that the general public witnessing it, would be quick to address the ignorant person doing it… Police will address it quickly.. And Id say from having been to HK, her home, several times, it is a very orderly(before the political strife) and it would have been shocking and not really knowing how to deal with it…

    • Pretty sure you’re one of the deeyocks who make Barbados so bad. This pretty girl stuck out like a sore thumb amidst the detroit like punks who troll there and you animals took advantage of her. Barbados is a boring destination with a horrible drop off surrounding the beaches which makes it very unnatractive to swimmers (except for the dudes swimming their horses) so losers like these thug punks have nothing better to do than victimize the one-time-and-never-return tourists who mistakenly visit that horrible place. Word to other beautiful ladies like Andrea Lo…don’t visit Barbados. You’ll be sorry you did. And dond fall for the tales of the crooks and losers who claim otherwise. You’ve been warned.

      • Absolutely, my first impression was she felt afraid because it was Bajans hitting on her, your response confirmed it. I’m sure if she was in Sweden and being hit on it would be ok to both you and her.

  3. So sorry to hear this. Men are disgusting. Now give me you number you looking very beautifuls today….JET SKI JET SKI

    • Hey DF, men aren’t disgusting. Liberal men and women are disgusting and stuff like this is why nobody wants to live near them.

  4. I participated in the same virtual visa and did NOT experience NONE of this as a single female. Barbados was the most welcome friendly island. Something about this story makes no sense….I was out at day parties, night parties and local fish fry at night and NONE of that happened.

    • This is a silly comment. Just because a thing isn’t happening to you doesn’t mean it’s not happening to others.

      • Exactly! I’ve experienced once before…I had a husband waiting for me outside public restroom but somehow this pervert sneak his way in women’s restroom with his pant half way down. Soon as I spotted him I jumped and ran.. screaming for help. My husband called to report it but was told this like this doesn’t happen here.
        ??? Nicole, you are lucky.

  5. The harassment is normalised and somewhat encouraged here, those incidents were harmless so most people won’t even see the problem with them. respecting others isnt a big focus or something we really care promote because sex in general is a big part of the culture and in other islands you would have likely been in actual danger in situations like that but its unlikely that you were here so everyone mostly ignores it or laughs off stuff like that.

  6. It is very unfortunate that this happened to this reporter. I was in Havana, Cuba and ,at my hotel, I talked to two girls from México. They were together without guys. One said she was very afraid. The men came up to them constantly when they wanted to buy something and they heard they were not from Cuba, by their accents. They followed them and the girls just wanted to leave Cuba. The poverty in Cuba, men are looking for a way out of Cuba. Still, they were very frightened girls.

  7. She should be writting novels, not news. Her account is soooooooo dramatic. Don’t men hit on women all over the world??? Give me a break!

    • you sound like a fool, one who is deceived. A deceived Eve, how fitting. Caribbean men are built different, being off springs of slaves, their minds work different. And if its happening all over the world, does that make it acceptable. I can’t believe you’re so aware yet so uncompassionate. Dummy dumb dumb!

  8. This happens many places throughout the world regardless of income levels or culture. Much like the idea of construction workers catcalling. And it seems to be heightened when the individual is foreign to the area.

    This story is one perspective. But it is odd like one commenter noted that this topic didn’t turn up in initial research. Likely only when looking for the specific issue will it be found. Aka harassment in blank area or region. If you don’t research a place with respect to your demographics you may get surprised. Moral of the story, don’t expect a different area to have the same feeling as home.

    • the problem is, yall have gotten so use to the sickening nature that we live in here in the caribbean. when others come here, its a culture shock first of all, but how the men can be so aggressive an mean an insulting when you say not interested makes it worse. only black men curse and insult women so heavily…… that plays on your mental, especially coming from a far away place like hong kong. yall men are sickening at times, and curse out females for saying that. prove me right.

  9. Some men want to live in their beast nature and be predators. When women speak out, they get attacked AGAIN by other men like Ross Johansson. Caribbean men are disrespectful and full of ego. They can do better. I hate it here.

  10. I have chosen not to include my name because I am well known. I have spoken publicly already about the social violence that exists in Barbados. It is persistent and does not go away. When I was about 14 years old, I was run across a field by a man with a cutlass. Later before I had reached the end of my teens I was raped three times by different people. I was respectable, good looking and to my mind very clean cut and “nice.” One of those rapes took place in the bush when I was walking home. The other two were by people known to me. At a mature age, I was disembarking the bus when I was attacked by a man with a knife so long I started to scream. People in the nearby vicinity who heard me did not move. On my way home on another occasion two men followed me and took my bag. On numerous occasions, I have had men on the beach masturbate in front of me as I walked. They hide in bushes. Many women in Barbados have experienced this. The Last time this happened about five years ago, I did not return to the beach in more than a year, I was so afraid. Then people will ask me, Why I find this country to be absolutely challenging and dangerous. So many times I have told myself to leave this country for good, but I always return. Surely there is no place like “home!” There was a year when a serial rapist was in the vicinity of Holetown — many women here have been attacked; every other woman that I know of has been raped or been the victim of incest. The stories are numerous – the silence incredible. If our leaders are themselves violent, and have been accused of being involved in porn (as only one example) who else will not be? We are a violent society. We need to deal with it. The need to address mental health issues that arise from abuse (of different kinds) is now trending worldwide. It makes little sense saying that this is the way the Caribbean is – One of my Canadian friends visiting the country for the first time once remarked that she had never been anywhere in the world where men felt so entitled to harass women. We need formal consultations on this issue; Those people who would rather ignore the problem because they think Barbados is being harmed — need to consider the plight of future generations. Our girls and our boys who are frequently molested. You know it is true! Own up to it! Enough is enough. I can understand that Andrea Lowe would be scared. I walk in perpetual fear all the time because of what I experienced in my own country.

  11. This article is bs. What is the real problem? If a man see a female that they find attractive, what is they supposed to do? The only way a man is going to know anything about a female is to go talk to them. If this lady was in Italy or Europe, she would not be writing this bs article. This article makes all bajan men look abusive and rapists foh. I advise this lady not to go anywhere in this world predominantly black.

    • How about leave women alone. You see a woman you find attractive? The problem is almost every woman that passes by these men, they find attractive. They feel they have the right to approach any woman. Stay in your corner and if a woman want you she will show you she’s interested. The catcalling extends even to social media. These men see a picture of a woman and they are in your inbox “trying to get to know you” even with pictures of their girlfriends/wives/many children plastered all over their page.

  12. It is sad that visitors to the Caribbean should have this kind of experience! I have traveled to Hong Kong alone and indeed found it to be very orderly and felt very safe. There is no excuse for this kind of aggressive behavior that most women find to be a complete turnoff!
    Maybe the fact that she was Asian with pink hair drew more attention and may have led to some false perceptions but that cannot be an excuse. I think anywhere in the world that men behave like this would be a turnoff whether he’s a blue eyed blonde, tall dark and handsome or Asian- no woman wants to feel “hunted” by a man who does not hold her interest. Please men, think how you would want your sister, mother or girlfriend to be treated! Let’s show some respect.

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