Top Tips for Visitors to Jamaica
Every country has a different way of doing things and what some consider to be normal everyday behaviour is perceived as disrespectful or distasteful to someone from another country. When travelling it helps massively if you get at least a little introduction to the country you are visiting prior to your arrival, so you are aware of the culture, customs and traditions. It isn’t nice to be scorned for your bad or socially inept behaviour, so I always take time out to look and learn (or read a good article on it) before I talk and walk into trouble!
When in Jamaica, do as the Jamaicans do…
When in Jamaica DO…
- Chill Out and Relax. You are working on Jamaican time from now on. When a Jamaican replies ‘soon come’ they do not mean it in the literal sense, it invariably means it will happen, when it happens. So be patient, it is usually work the wait, especially if it is for fooood!
- When addressing a stranger it is always best to be formal, especially to those that are mature, or of child-bearing age. Using Sir, Mr, Miss or Mam when referring to someone is considered to be a polite way of conversing when you do not know them. It is also used alongside the more informal aunty and uncle and is good to use before the first name of anyone who is older or wiser, but more familiar to you (probably not advised in a formal environment though!)
- The same goes if you are being served by someone at a store or restaurant, it doesn’t hurt to be polite and cordially greet people
- When addressing a Police Officer, I highly recommend flagrant use of Sir, Mam, or Officer when conversing with them. It shows them respect and that you do not consider them to be inferior to you, which often means they give you less hassle
- Try Jamaican food. It is delicious and there are dishes to suit every type of palate, including amazing Ital Vegan and Vegetarian foods
- Treat Jamaican people with respect, remember you are not better than them just because you have a foreign passport, or because you are visiting where they are working
- Be sensitive to the plight of the working class Jamaicans and do not try to take advantage of them. Many of the people seen vending in public places are just trying to make a living for basic necessities and to make money to send their children to school
- Be firm and direct as most Jamaicans are. You will probably only confuse, or get taken advantage of by beating around the bush
- Trust your instincts. If you don’t have a good feeling about a situation – remove yourself from it. Better to seem abrupt or rude than to regret staying around longer to see how it pans out
- Conserve energy as it is expensive and water because it is scarce. Do not leave the water, AC, TV and so on running for inordinate periods of time especially when you have left your room…
- Consider the environment, don’t haul off bundles of coral and shells, remove wildlife or ‘dutty up Jamaica’ by leaving your garbage lying around
- Expect the unexpected! You will find more churches per square mile in Jamaica than anywhere else in the world (except the Vatican City itself), but they have a thriving music scene where they love to dance provocatively and wear very scanty clothing. Jamaica is a country of extremes!
- Support Jamaica and Buy Jamaican! There are many ways you can do this on your trip, such as purchasing products that are MADE in Jamaica, patronising locally owned accommodation, attractions, tours, stores and eateries and supporting the street and beach vendors
More Information: When in Jamaica be Conscientious
More Information: Support Jamaica Buy Jamaican!
When in Jamaica DON’T…
- Forget that whilst it is nice to be important, it is more IMPORTANT to be NICE – smile!
- Stereotype Jamaicans because of what the media portrays, or because of one rude person you come across
- Take photographs of people, or other people’s property without their permission, as they may not always be happy about it. Use common sense and Respect The Privacy of Others. Many Jamaicans love to pose for a picture and will be more than happy to do so if asked, whilst some may ask for a small fee if in a tourist area.
- Refer to Jamaicans as ‘natives’. It has too many racial connotations that could be considered as a derogatory slur. Calling a black person ‘coloured’ is also laughable and ironic, when you consider that a white person goes blue in the cold and red in the sun! Using the terminology ‘Jamaican’ is the most appropriate way of addressing the wonderful people of Jamaica
- Get drunk and run around half naked, or put yourself in other types of risky circumstances. Drink is not your friend, when you get into a tricky or dangerous situation
- Forget that controlled drugs are illegal in Jamaica. Weed, Ganga, marijuana, green, grass, hash, gum, or whatever else you want to call it has been decriminalised (as of February 2015), if you are found to have less than 2oz in your possession, so is now a ticketable offence rather than a prisonable offence. See Below for more information
- Flaunt flashy jewellery, expensive mobile phones, i-pods and so on. If you feel the need to show off, do it in the hotel or back at home where they are more readily available
- Rent a car and leave it parked on a beach or near a water course where the tide may rise and take it away
- Leave your car keys or valuables with a random person because you want to go swimming, or some other task that will remove you from the eye sight of the items
- Get a false sense of security because you are on holiday / vacation. If you wouldn’t walk around alone late at night, or visit the local shops in beach attire when at home then don’t do it when you are in Jamaica. Use your Common Sense, or ‘screw your loaf’ as my Dad would say!
More Information: Setting the record straight on the Ganga Law, by the Jamaican Observer.
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Looking forward to hearing from you.
Bless up, Jules
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