Heading down to the beautiful island of Jamaica? Here’s a few tips on the Do’s and Don’ts when it comes to interacting with the locals. Follow these tips and everything’s gonna be irie mon.
Jamaica is a popular holiday destination for North Americans and Europeans. The all-inclusive resorts are a touch of paradise with all the food, drinks and perfect weather you could wish for. Within these all-inclusive resorts, etiquette-wise, anything goes as long as you are considerate of others and respect the staff.
However if you have to travel outside the resort, for pleasure or business, it’s helpful to know the general rules of etiquette in the country.
When it comes to greetings, shaking hands and a good morning/afternoon/evening is adequate. It is polite to use a title and surname at first until the relationship deepens and they invite you to use their first name or nickname. Culturally the Jamaicans regard the family including aunts, uncles and grandparents very important. On the other hand they can be rather wary of authority or large organizations. Jamaica families will sometimes pool their money together to help with a big purchase rather than take out a loan at a bank.
Keep the Jamaican culture in mind in interactions. Asking about family is a good topic and never try to play up your position. While Jamaicans are outwardly warm and friendly, they often appear standoffish at the initial introduction because they are reserved until they get to know someone. As they get to know you they will stand closer and even become quite “touchy” with you; touching your hand, shoulder, etc. Jamaica has the highest number of churches per capita in the world and more than 100 different Christian denominations. Thus you will see biblical references in everyday speech.
Social interactions are more important to Jamaicans than schedules or timetables. “Soon come” is a saying you may experience. Keep in mind it could mean 10 minutes or 2 hours. You’re in Jamaica, so be patient.
When it comes to dining it will be quite informal at most occasions. However at a formal event, they follow the Continental style of etiquette (the fork is held in the left hand and the knife in the right while eating). Wait for your host to tell you when and where to sit and again wait for them to start eating. When you are not eating it is acceptable to have your hands in your lap. It is gracious to try everything on your plate and ideally leave nothing.
If you are in Jamaica for business, if you can organize an introduction via a third-party, this can speed up the process as again, it helps for that trusted personal relationship. Once in conversation Jamaicans will be direct and respect those who are the same without being aggressive or confrontational. Socializing with business associates is a great way to develop the relationship. Status is respected in Jamaica. It is quite common to hear someone referred to as “bossman” or “bosswoman” when the person addressing them is not an employee.
Jamaica is a great country to explore beyond the walls of an all-inclusive resort. Be patient, and relax amongst the locals and you’ll be Jamaican in no time!