Because people had always touted the beauty of St. Martin, I always thought it would be a lush island with lots of natural resources. Instead, we found out that the island has virtually no natural water source. Without a natural source of water, there is no local food. Sure you might find the odd cow, goat or chicken as well as some coconut palms, but there were basically no farms on the island. Everything is imported.
The French side imports everything from France, the US and the other French Caribbean islands like Guadeloupe and Martinique. The French side is actually considered part of Europe meaning that it abides by all French laws including those of sanitation. So you might want to bear this in mind if you have serious concerns about hygiene when shopping in certain markets.
The Dutch side is not actually part of the Netherlands, but still seems to rely on the mother land for certain benefits under the crown. It seems that they are seeking to become part of some sort of Caribbean Union, but haven’t decided if they are ready to go it alone yet or not. From the food standpoint, they also must import everything, but it seems most goods come from the US, the Netherlands and some the Dutch Antilles.
While I knew that people loved the island for buying cheap booze, I had no idea that cigarettes and hard drugs were really cheap and easy to get as well. In fact, it seems that people, especially kids in their late teens and twenties who come there to work, routinely get hooked on drugs because it’s actually cheaper than food! The local police say that there are so many speedboats that come in each night with them that they can’t keep up.
Pretty depressing to think about all these kids getting hooked on drugs to the point that they get fired because they can’t do their jobs anymore. Most shake out of it, but many do not and their lives are ruined. And so it goes on. I guess there is no paradise where one can escape social ills after all.