moving to guam

There have been only a handful of times that I ever questioned my decision about moving to Guam. One of those times was the evening that I arrived on island. As the taxi pulled out of the airport and onto the road toward my new home of Tumon I noticed that most of the island was dark. I asked Peter where the city center/downtown was and he responded, “I don’t think there is one but I guess Tumon.” I looked out toward the bay, darkness, and in that moment I realized just how small Guam is.

People often ask me where the best place is to live in Guam. I have no idea. For the last three years, I’ve lived happily in Tumon. It was important that I live somewhere that was pedestrian friendly and near the beach, since I didn’t have a car. What’s the point of living on an island if I can’t walk to the beach! Although it is a little pricier than other villages, it can be done affordably. We chose to live a different lifestyle than the one we led in the states. We don’t want a car or smartphones (shock!), we rent furnished places, and try to live as minimalistic as possible. Even though we’ve lived on Guam for a few years now, we try to have fun and live like we might leave tomorrow; enjoying everything we possibly can.

If apartment hunting in Tumon, make sure that you aren’t fooled by the location of “upper Tumon.” People like to advertise as upper Tumon to charge more and make their place more appealing but, there isn’t an upper Tumon, there is just Tumon. If you can’t easily and quickly walk to the beach or you have to cross Marine Corps Drive to get to the beach, you’re not in Tumon. I consider Tumon to be From the Hilton Hotel all the way down San Vitores to Gun Beach/Fai Fai Beach and a little bit up the hill toward Tagada.

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Why I ❤ Tumon

  • Although I’m curious about life in other villages, I love Tumon because I feel like I’m on vacation. That’s partly due to all the tourists running around and having fun.
  • There’s always some form of entertainment available; whether it’s the beach, bars, coffee shops, dancing, restaurants, aquarium, parks, live bands, shopping; the list goes on and on.
  • Every hotel has different restaurants, bars, and cafes that are really good.
  • Driving down the hill after a long day at work and seeing the sparkling ocean is just another perk of living in Tumon.
  • And OH MY GOODNESS, cloudy or clear, the sunsets are ALWAYS amazing.

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  • There are so many fun and free things to do in Guam, especially Tumon, that we don’t have to spend a lot of money on entertainment if we don’t want to.
  • Any kind of food you want at all price ranges, you’ll find it in Tumon.
  • There are sidewalks up and down the main road that’s great for running or walking.
  • During my morning walk, I usually pass a foreign couple getting married at one of the many chapels that line the beach. I see them so often that I’ve noticed their weddings are all the same, but I’m sure to them it is a unique and memorable experience. Who wouldn’t want to get married in a chapel made of glass overlooking the ocean?

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  • Beach access is just a few minutes away…can’t beat that.
  • Tumon is the best place to live if you want to be in the center of all the activity and fun. There are festivals throughout the year at Ypao Beach Park and in the Pleasure Island district.

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  • It’s pretty safe and doesn’t take long for police officers to come when needed.
  • Most places have generators in case of power outages (which happen frequently).
  • Sometimes I stop to watch a fisherman throw his net to catch the really small fish near the shore. The beach is a great place for people watching.

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Things I Don’t

I wish though, that Tumon was either pedestrians only or that the weekends were, because the cars drive WAY too fast, don’t respect people walking or crossing the street, and tear up the road. During rush hour it’s really hard to get out of Tumon because of all the cars driving through trying to avoid the busy roads.

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As much as I think tourists make Guam a better place, living in Tumon has made me appreciate the towns and cities that aren’t tourist attractions. It is definitely more expensive, crowded, and fast-paced and I can see why someone might choose a different village. Although generally the tourists are fun and friendly, they seem fascinated with Peter’s and my hair. I didn’t think my hair was out-of-the-ordinary and at first I didn’t mind when they’d point at me and squeal, “kawaii, kawaii!!” and sometimes they’d ask to take pictures with me. Then one day my family and I were having a picnic when a tourist came over and pointed to Peter’s hair and then to her camera. I suddenly felt really offended like, “We’re not part of your vacation package nor are we animals in a zoo!!” I kindly said no and from that point on I decided not to let people take pictures of us anymore and to be more mindful of things that I might do when visiting foreign countries. If you can afford to visit Guam, then you probably have a T.V./internet where you can see people with curly hair.

The beaches are gorgeous, with white sand and blue water. Unfortunately there are so many hotels that have monopolized the shores, filling them with large water toys and beach chairs under umbrellas, that it’s hard to find a nice shady place to set up your own beach towel and swim.

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And of course after a busy weekend of BBQ’s there’s the garbage problem.

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There is more good to Tumon than bad and living here has allowed me to lead a completely different lifestyle than I could have in Oregon. I feel like a beach bum half of the time! I truly am lucky to have such a wonderful life, to have had many of my dreams come true, and to be able to experience life on an island. I’m glad that we chose to live this way. I feel so free and never tied down by having too much stuff. It is a great feeling and on top of that I can’t complain about the beauty that I get to see everyday by living in Tumon.

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It’s Not Always Perfect in Paradise

I’ve received a few emails from future Guamanians asking me what the hardest adjustments were for me in Guam. I’d like to think that I adjust easily to new environments, especially since I’ve moved around a lot in my life. At first, Guam seemed pretty perfect to me. Aside from the things I usually complain about; the cost of everything, bad drivers, extreme heat, lack of variety in stores; I was pretty happy with the island. Now that I’ve been here for a few years and once I started working and interacting more, I became aware of some major differences between living in The States and living in Guam.

  • Healthcare – When I decided to move, I went to Google and typed in, “Guam.” The first thing that popped up was a news article about a young, pregnant woman who had lost her baby while waiting for an ambulance to arrive. I thought “Maybe ignorance is bliss,” and closed the screen. I told Peter about what I found and he said there was only one hospital on Guam and that the woman lived in the southern part of the island. I mostly hear horror stories about the hospital. People going in for a routine surgery and dying, babies having their pinkies chopped off for no reason, no space, no medical tools…really terrible things. There is an urgent need for doctors. Most times people have to go off island (The States or the Philippines) for treatment or to see specialists. This explains why so many people have medical fundraisers (if you move to Guam you will probably be invited, no doubt). The lack of good medical care really scares and worries me. It’s also pretty much impossible to self insure, which is super irritating.
  • Business/Work – My first job in Guam reminded me of a job I had in my small hometown. Everyone was either related or were family friends. There was a lot of gossip and a very relaxed atmosphere — too relaxed. Prior to my move, I was in banking where we were always made aware of our rights as employees as well as how to work in a professional setting. Working in Guam (my experience) was very different to that. I was often asked by co workers/managers how much money I made, how much I paid in rent, how much Peter made, how much I spent, and other personal questions. There is also a strange attitude that I saw at my job, and in many businesses, where the employees have this unwarranted fear of their boss and being fired or punished. That fear was definitely taken advantage of and very shocking to see what people would put up with. On top of all that, I found an overall lack of professionalism and customer service in work and as a customer. Whether it was not receiving a reply to my emails or phone calls, not completing a job duty, or not being prompt; it is always frustrating doing business. Many people would take extended lunches or come in to work late, which was just annoying and hard to get anything done! My first work experience here was terrible so I will just stop there!
  • Environment – This is the issue that really hurts my heart the most! When people find out I’m not from here, they always ask me what I don’t like about Guam and I always say how much trash is dumped everywhere and that there are so many cars on this tiny island. Their answer is usually something like, “I know” or “That’s Guam.” I feel like the people who say “That’s Guam,” or “That’s not my trash, not my problem,” are part of the problem. I guess if you’re a tourist, haven’t lived here that long, or don’t ever go beyond the beaten path you might never see the dumping; it is the ugliest thing about the island. It’s now to the point where I can’t even enjoy sitting on the beach because I’m assaulted by the putrid smell of garbage! Someday, if island leaders don’t do anything NOW, the tourists who come to Guam for its natural beauty will have no reason to come anymore.  It just seems like Guam is a small island trying to be a big city/state without all of the same resources or space. We need easier ways to recycle and dispose of our garbage, to teach people how to minimize their impact on the environment, improve public transportation and encourage people to use it, and reduce the number of cars on the roads. There isn’t a reason why there should be traffic jams and people using their cars to get across the street, the island is too small for all of that.  

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I saw that someone had graffitied this onto a park canopy in Umatac. It says, “Respect Umatac like everyone should ok…” I thought it was quite stupid and ironic that they are asking for respect by showing disrespect. This pretty much sums up how Guam treats its trash problem, not very smart.

It’s been a process for me to learn how to accept the differences without letting them affect my happiness and also learn how to live in and love Guam, flaws and all.

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Why Guam?

While many Guamanians are leaving the island in search of new opportunities and adventures, statesiders are moving to Guam for the same reasons. When I’m asked, “Why Guam,” I know that they don’t mean, “What brought you to Guam?” they really mean, “Why would you choose Guam out of everywhere else on Earth?” People ask me this question with this look on their face like I might be a little crazy and when I answer, the look turns into confusion. For those of you who are moving to Guam, make sure you have the answer to this question ready because you will be asked this ALL THE TIME.

“Why Guam?” At first I think I gave them the look like they were the crazy ones. Sometimes I’d say, “because of this!” As I pointed outside to the incredibly blue sky. But still, people don’t seem to really understand or they want a better answer. The question has become a little annoying, especially when it seems like the topic of discussion at inappropriate times or I’ve been asked it more than once in a day. I do my best to answer without rolling my eyes! I wonder how long it will be before people stop asking? I can understand the curiosity though.

Peter moved here because he wanted to travel and see the world, but I think he specifically chose Guam because it’s a U.S. territory (all you need is a passport if you’re an U.S. citizen). I guess I moved here for the same reason and I sort of came along for the ride, because if it involves travel then I really don’t have to think twice about it. I can’t come up with some really legit answer (like my job made me move here) that makes complete sense, because I don’t have one. I just took a leap of faith and wanted to see where I’d land. And I landed in Guam.

I love the warm weather and never feeling cold, the beach and warm water, the small-town feel is nice, palm trees, learning about other cultures, new adventures and challenges, starting a new life where no one knows me, meeting new people, living on a tropical island, the sun, falling in love with everything, being able to travel to places I never considered before, collecting memories, and living a not-so-ordinary life. That’s why Guam.

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Part 2: So You’re Coming to Guam.

Hello there! It’s been a little while since I’ve posted one of these, and with my two year Guamiversary having passed, I think now is the perfect time for another. You can read part one Here.

I can understand how moving anywhere new might be scary, especially somewhere in the middle of nowhere. To be successful in Guam (or anywhere) it’s all about your mindset and how you CHOOSE to view the differences. I was too overwhelmed by the beauty, the sun, the clear ocean water to notice anything else. Yes, Guam has its frustrating moments where I’m like, “I just want to leave!” I’m pretty sure I felt the same way when I was living in Oregon.  Maybe you’ve heard a lot of negative things about the island, don’t let those opinions become yours.

1. Depending on where you live, Kmart may be the closest option for you to buy essential things like toilet paper or soap. With it being the only super store on Guam, and for some reason a very popular tourist attraction, it’s busy 24/7. When I lived in Oregon I went to Kmart (if I could find one) to get away from the crowds because the place was usually desolate. Not on Guam. Kmart on a Saturday night is THE place to be haha! There are busloads of tourists who are dropped off at the store everyday.

2. There are so many stray dogs and cats throughout Guam. I think there are more dogs though, a few times we’ve run into a pack of dogs that chased us down the street. They are called boonie dogs/cats. Most of the time they are scared and run off. It’s really sad to see them hungry and to know that the older animals are feral and will never be tamed.

3. If you will be receiving checks from off-island banks and depositing them into a Guam bank account, you will have to wait at least 7 business days for the check to clear. Even if it has cleared on the other side, Guamanian banks hold it. It’s so annoying!

4. I’m not sure how often these unexplained power outages happen in other villages, but in Tumon they happen often (I’ve had three this week alone). They can last anywhere from 5 minutes to a whole day. I’ve heard that the power supply isn’t enough for the demand in Tumon. Our lights usually flicker a bit and our air conditioner has had to be fixed a handful of times because of the sudden outages. Most businesses have generators that kick on once the power is out.

5. When deciding on what clothes I would need in Guam, I never thought I’d be cold. But being as it is hot everywhere on island, about 99% of places will have their air conditioner blasting on the coldest temperature.  I definitely wish I had brought a light sweater so that I wouldn’t freeze to death!

6. Before I moved to Guam, I researched which vaccinations I’d need on the Center for Disease Control website. At the time, it recommended Hep A & B, flu, tetanus, and typhoid vaccinations. I found a travel clinic that could provide most of these and since I had done all the research on my own, I received a discount. The doctor advised me to be careful of the water and food that I eat.

7. Though I’ve never been to one, cockfights are legal and commonly take place.

8. Guam is NOT a third world country!!! In some ways it does seem to show third world tendencies (some people live in tin houses, unpaved roads, corruption…). Much of the population live at or below the poverty line. It’s very rare to actually see anything that would suggest that Guam is a poor country/territory. There are government agencies that help those in need.

9. Even though Guam is served by the United States Postal Service, many companies consider Guam a foreign country and won’t ship here or will charge international shipping rates.

10. Anytime the temperature dips below 85 degrees Fahrenheit you will hear people say, “It’s cold!” Ahh the struggles of living on an island 😉

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Questions about life on Guam? Check out my FAQ.

FAQ – Guam

Recently I’ve been receiving a lot of messages from people asking the same questions about life in Guam. I’ve been answering them all back, but I thought it would be better if I just did a post containing the most frequently asked questions. I blog mostly for myself so that I can have a way to look back on my memories in Guam. I also do it for my family and friends to show them that I am doing well. As much as I like interacting with and helping people, it’s not my intention to be a guide about life in Guam. I’d much rather keep blogging fun for me and just post about things that I do. It’s also tedious to email each person individually with the same thing when I could just do one blog post and answer all the questions. These are my opinions about my experiences from moving to Guam from The States and living here for two years. 

Is it hard to find a job? This has to be THE most frequently asked question I receive. Finding a job on Guam depends on you. If you’re fresh out of college and ready to put your degree to use, Guam is NOT the place for you. If you have at least 5 years of work experience and a degree, you will have better luck. If you don’t have a degree or don’t care if you use it and you’re willing to take any job just so you can live the Guam life, then there is work for you.

You might be able to find a job if you can speak Japanese or Russian. The pay might not reflect it, but Japanese speakers are highly sought after because of the million Japanese visitors that vacation in Guam each year. The visa for Russia has recently been made available and for the past couple of years, the number of Russian tourists has been on the rise. Currently there is a Russian fusion restaurant being built, which is the only one on Guam. This is definitely an emerging market and there may be opportunities for someone with Russian language and cultural knowledge.

Another thing is that people in Guam aren’t very good at answering emails so, if you can, I suggest calling if you’re interested in working somewhere. You might not be able to apply for jobs until you are on island. Hiring off island is frowned upon as the island is trying to “support local.” Also, you will probably need to obtain police and court clearances, which has to be done on island. Police and court clearances, two different clearances, basically is you doing your own background check.

Aside from the lack of jobs, the hardest part about finding work on Guam is the saying,”It’s not what you know but WHO you know,” that is very true. Along with that, the questions, “Are you a military dependent and how long do you plan to stay on island?” Making it really unfair to anyone who is not local. Don’t give up though, the people on Guam are really friendly and always ready to have a good time!

How long did it take you to find a job? It took me about seven months. Just as I was about to lose my mind and give up, I found a job. It wasn’t at all what I had wanted for myself but it was better than nothing.

What is the cost of living? Guam can be super expensive. Minimum wage is about $7.25. The cost of rent depends on which village you choose to live in and what kind of home you want. You could find an apartment for $500 a month, but it would be the junkiest thing you’ve ever seen. Roaches, rats, no AC, dirt roads, dirty people and unsafe. If you want to rent a house you will be paying at least $2,000 per month. And home ownership is just as ridiculous. Oh and don’t forget about the high cost of electricity and water. I live in an apartment so I don’t have to worry about the price of water, but the electricity bill makes up for that. You should expect an electricity bill of at least $200 per month for an apartment with two people (also depends on how much you use your AC and what floor you live on). Gas and cars are expensive, groceries are expensive, EVERYTHING is expensive. It would be a good idea if you could find roommates to share the burden of the bills.

Most places try to charge really high rental prices because of the military presence. They know that people stationed in Guam get a monthly stipend to pay for their rent and landlords use it to their advantage. Unfortunately, that means for regular people who have to pay their own rent, it’s almost impossible to be a single person and live on your own. I was lucky to have found my apartment on Craigslist. The landlord charged a fair amount for the location and condition and I’m VERY happy.

Below is an estimate of costs to keep in mind based on a single person.

$1,000/month Rent

$300/month electricity

$6,000 used car, $1,500-2,200 scooter/moped

$50-100/month cell phone

$50/month internet

$25-300/month gas

What kind of jobs can I find? 

+ Hospitality

+ Restaurant workers

+ Construction (Electricians, cement masons, metal workers, carpenters, tile setters…)

+ Civil engineers

+ Bus drivers

+ Military

Where is the best place to live for someone new to Guam? I’ve only ever lived in Tumon and I absolutely LOVE it! Tumon is the place where 95% of the tourists stay, so it’s nicer in every way and there are more police out and about. The beach is beautiful and there are sidewalks and tons of restaurants; although, it is more expensive than most other villages. Anything north of Tumon (Yigo & Dededo) is too crowded for me. Most likely your job will be in the Northern part of the island so living too far south (Merizo, Agat, Umatac) might be an inconvenience. As I’ve stated in previous blog posts, driving is my least favorite thing to do and I’d hate to have to deal with the traffic everyday. I do love the southern villages though!

If I didn’t live in Tumon, I’d want to live in the capitol, Agana. There are many historic buildings and Chamorro culture throughout this village. Tamuning is in between Agana and Tumon and this where you can find a lot of those trashy apartment buildings if you’re not careful. It’s a good place to live if you want cheaper rent but still want to stay close to Tumon.

Since Guam is mainly a tourist destination, you will find hotels, car rentals and everything you need to get you started. You might need to stay in a hotel for awhile before you find a vehicle and home.

How did you support yourself? I didn’t just move here without being prepared. I had enough money saved to get me through those seven months of unemployment. I think it’s wise to have enough saved, at all times, to purchase a ticket back home. You never know when you will need to leave. 

How is the crime rate on the island? Crime is relatively low; although, recently there has been an increase in home invasions and robbery. Most of the home invasions I’ve read about have been perpetrated by an acquaintance of the family. Sometimes tourists are robbed too. There is a lot of corruption among police and government employees as well. 

Where are the best places for hiking? The link that says “Hiking,” at the top of this page, are posts about the hikes I’ve done on Guam. If you’d like more information on hikes, check out the Guam Boonie Stompers on Facebook or go to Bestseller at the mall in Guam and buy the book called, The Best Tracks on Guam. It is overpriced, but has a lot of good hikes and includes detailed descriptions of how to get to the trailheads. Most of the hikes I’ve done were prior to buying the book. I found them using a Google search.

It’s hard for me to tell people what life will be like because our circumstances are not the same. Some people might have jobs lined up or know people living on the island before they arrive. Some might be making a huge life change and not know or have anyone or anything on island. I think if you’re coming here on your own (no job or family), life will be hard. But if you really want to be here then you will find a way to make it work. Remember, you are not the only one planning to make this move and island life is really worth it!

Have a nice day 🙂

Helpful Resources:

USA Jobs

Pacific Daily News

Guam Jobs Online

Indeed Guam

Guam DOL -Guam Department of Labor

Guam Home -Real Estate and rentals

Craigslist – Everything!

Moving to Guam

Cost of Living in Guam

Guam Chamber

Past Posts About Moving

There are a lot of Facebook groups where you can find cars and furniture for sale, I’d join a few of those too!

Part 1: So You’re Coming to Guam.

Don’t be scared! Breathe.

When I told everyone I was moving to Guam, of course they had their own opinions. I did my own research and didn’t want to hear any negative comments that would put doubt in my mind about Guam.  Some people told me that Guam is full of poor people, that it was a third world country and that there were wild animals everywhere. These were people who had never actually been to Guam, so of course I didn’t take them serious. I did listen to some people (like my co worker) who had lived in Guam for a few years. She gave me tips on what foods to try and places I could apply for work. I really appreciated that. I wanted to come here with an open mind and I think that’s the key if you are going to move to Guam, or anywhere.

Guam is part of the United States but it has its own culture too. Chamorro’s are the native islanders here and they have a wonderful culture that was influenced by the Spanish. Guam is also very influenced by Philippines, Japan, Korea and the U.S. military. It is in the middle of the Pacific ocean, far away from anything else, so that creates some limitations. Being an island, some people have never left Guam. Many people haven’t been exposed to other types of music, foods and people. Don’t come here expecting everything to be the same as where you came from or you will be angry and disappointed. We live on an island, things go very slow, everyone knows you somehow and it’s pretty hard to get away.

So after being here for just over a year, here are a few things that might be helpful to know.

1. Your hair will probably become frizzy.

2. Coming here alone will be hard. It’s very important to be friendly. Then you will be invited to BBQs and family parties, which are always fun 🙂 If you’re a little anti-social like me, then it will be very hard to get by on your own.

3. The roads are bad (potholes and poorly made), there’s way too much traffic and people regularly run red lights so be careful.

4. Everything is expensive.

5. Guamanians speak English.

6. Unfortunately there is a high rate of robbery and theft, so be smart. Despite a few recent events, the island is usually very safe.

7. Nepotism exists and that is unfortunate and means there are a lot of people doing jobs that they aren’t qualified for. This is VERY frustrating to me.

8. Military guys run rampant throughout Tumon on the weekends.

9. There’s a lot of litter and people dumping their garbage in the jungle. It’s also very hard to recycle.

10. There is a reef that surrounds most of the island. It creates blue, clear water that sort of looks like a swimming pool. If you go past the reef, there is a VERY long drop and swimming becomes dangerous. The beaches are beautiful and there are tons of fish, which is great for snorkeling.

11. Lots of stores don’t ship here. Products are limited so if you have a favorite lotion or food, you might not find it here. If you do, it will most likely be double to the price.

12. Most of the news and events will be in the newspaper. The two main newspapers are Marianas Variety and Pacific Daily News.

13. You will probably gain at least 10lbs because the food is DELICIOUS!

14. Knowing Japanese or Russian will greatly benefit you.

15. Lots of great hikes and outdoor activities; although, the paths aren’t very clear and you will have to do a lot of exploring.

16. There are very few homeless people and always someone to help you out when times get tough.

17. Catholicism is the main religion and you will find it affects many things in your life, whether you practice or not.

18. Internet speeds are slow and that’s just the way it is. Phone service is spotty.

19. There’s a lot of corruption in government and police, but I see it getting better.

20. Electricity is expensive and almost as much as a mortgage/rent payment at times.

21. There are many beautiful, clean beaches and a lot of WWII history.

22. Cars tend to rust quickly because of the humidity and the salt in the air. On top of that, cars are ridiculously expensive. Repairs are also pricey. I wish someone would open a Les Schwab! We bought tires for our car and a week later we had a flat. So we went back and they had not properly put the tires on. They fixed it and tried charging us $50!

23. It’s VERY hot here. Probably worse than the heat is the humidity. Since I’ve been living here, the coldest it has been was around 78⁰F and the warmest was about 98⁰F.

24. There are a lot of small earthquakes and sometimes tsunami threats from earthquakes around the area. At first I was really scared about this, but there are evacuation routes and safe zones. The Marianas Trench, the deepest part of the Pacific Ocean, usually absorbs most of the potential damage.

25. There are two seasons: rainy (June-December) and dry (January-May). Rainy season you really need a car to get around because it is intense. Dry season makes you forget there ever was a rainy season. It’s just an absolutely beautiful time.

26. Guam is located in typhoon alley; although, there hasn’t been a typhoon in MANY years.

27. There’s always a local/military price and a tourist price. Always ask for the local price.

28. Just think of it as an extension of the U.S. Very small town feel to it, same problems as anywhere else you might live within the U.S.

29. Shopping is limited. The only large department stores are Macy’s, Ross and the Filipino SM store. There are other small shops as well.

30. Explore and don’t be afraid! We’re living on an island!

I’d be interested to hear what other people have to say about living on Guam and the differences they encountered!

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