Living in Martinique as an ALT

by - November 24, 2019

a boat ride in Martinique

Martinique is one of the more exotic French Caribbean islands with approximately 1 million visitors each year. It is part of the archipelago of the "Antilles" (French West Indies), located northeast of the coast of South America and northwest of the island of Barbados.

It is an overseas department of France, known for its history surrounding Aimé Césaire, heck even the airport is named after this legend. Let’s not forget the infamous Mount Pelée, carnival, zouk and rum amongst other interesting things about this island. So, when I heard that I would have the opportunity to be heading to the great island of Martinique as an English Assistant Language Teacher (ALT), let’s say that this was an adventure that I was excited to be taking on.

Sainte Marie Tombolo

I arrived there in late September, a bit anxious to be taking this trip as a solo traveller. I was unsure of what to expect but I would soon be starting my job so I guess you could say I was ready for it all... well maybe somewhat.

My flight was a pretty quick one, only 45 minutes from Barbados and I was soon seeing the lit streets of Martinique through the windows of the plane as we were preparing for landing. It was night but it was still very beautiful.

Fast forwarding to finally meeting my "professeur référent", the person who was more or less responsible for ensuring that I settled in smoothly and that all my administrative obligations were taken care of. She was super friendly and welcoming and she did an excellent job of making my stay a memorable one.

You see, I was appointed to Sainte Marie which is located in the north of the island where the Atlantic Ocean brushed the shoreline so after an approximate 45 minute drive, I arrived at my new home where I would be spending the next 7 months.

It was time to start this new journey.

The very next day, I was ready to explore and so we set out to see the beauty of the island during the day under the Caribbean sunlight. I was needless to say amazed by the picturesque views of the lush hills and the sea.

volcano over the horizon
Mount Pelée 

During the first few days I made myself comfortable which was not as difficult as I thought that it would have been. I quickly settled in, started my training and met the other assistant language teachers.

I was quite nervous at the beginning but the nervous feelings quickly disappeared as everyone was very friendly. It was a great start to my adventure.

I admit that I was excited to meet the students who were more than eager to learn about an anglophone country. I was working in different primary level schools and at one of them, I was able to share and help students learn a local Barbadian song. I was ecstatic to be able to share my culture with them.

In the midst, I learnt some French creole, how to make some traditional dishes and even artisan ice cream using a manual ice cream maker.

We spent our days immersed in culture, my culture and theirs. We sang songs, played games amongst other very amusing activities. We thoroughly enjoyed our experience as one should when packing up your bags and heading to a foreign country to teach and learn.

Martinique is truly a gem. It's the perfect blend of Metropolitan lifestyle and Caribbean living. Aged like a fine Bordeaux wine and distilled like Clément Vintage rum.

people in costumes during carnival
Carnival in Martinique

As an ALT you have the opportunity to share a part of who you are with your students and under the French system you have plenty of vacation time to do some exploring and meet friends. Thank you French metropolitan systems with your many holiday breaks.

On the other hand, you are probably wondering what it's like to be Caribbean, what exactly is Caribbean living? Well, alcohol for starters, rum preferably, enjoying a nice wine in the midst isn't bad but that's quite metropolitan.

Honestly, Caribbean people are like anyone else trying to make a living for our families with a title of being the nicest people on earth but of course that comes with its own terms and conditions. Not living in straw huts and sipping on coconuts all day long either but a mango is truly one of our tropical fruits to be enjoyed and we can't forget the occasional party, all year round actually as well as the after-work "lime" (social gathering) on the weekends. You can't find a party like ours anywhere else in the world.

We mustn't forget the nosy neighbour is part of what Caribbean living is, we all have one or seven nor must we omit well-seasoned food with flavour like only we can do.

Well this brings me to the end of my adventure and all in all, the experience was a great one with happy memories that definitely left an imprint on my life. I am very happy that I had the opportunity of working in Martinique. It is a country rich in history and if you have the chance to visit, it is highly recommended. It is a lovely island with beautiful people inside and out. I have made lifelong friends like I wish you will too and I can't wait to visit again soon.

Gros bisous de La Martinique
- Sha'na

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