10 Things I Adore about Jamaica(ns)

10 Things I Adore about Jamaica(ns)

After reflecting on our recent return from Jamaica and in honor of Jave, in this post, I’m sharing 10 things about Jamaica and Jamaican culture that I absolutely love…

#1 Life is just so simple

So by “simple”, I don’t mean problem-free. As someone who’s married to a local and as someone who always has a very local experience whenever I’m in Jamaica, I’m well aware of many of the socio-economic problems that everyday Jamaicans struggle with.

By simple, I simply mean that life in Jamaica is unhurried and uncomplicated, unlike life here in the U.S. (mind you, the unhurried aspect of local life can drive me nuts at times). For example, local business owners can set up shop without having to deal with a bunch of red tape; except for crazy ass drivers, no one’s really in a rush to get anywhere; and people value spending time with their family and friends. Jamaicans live with a “ ‘ting good…no worries, mon” state of mind, and I absolutely love it.

jamaica
Hmmm…what should we name our beer joint? How about ‘Cold Beer Joint’ – simple!

Before Jave immigrated here, I used to ask him all the time if he was sure he wanted to live in the U.S. because I’d try to explain to him that while there’s more opportunity here, our quality of life is not the best in that the majority of people here live to work. Also, because time is money here in the U.S., the pace of life feels downright frantic in comparison.

Notice the guy sleeping in the back of the truck?
Notice the guy sleeping in the back of the truck?
#2 It reminds me of Africa

Okay, so I’ve never been to Africa, yet Jamaica reminds me of what life somewhere in Africa might be like. I’ve had this conversation with black Americans and a few Africans alike, and while it’s kind of hard to articulate, black Americans like myself who have yet to visit Africa have also shared that when visiting Jamaica, they had an innate sense or feeling that life in Jamaica is a reflection of life in certain parts of Africa. I’ve also had a few Africans confirm that they can see the similarities between Jamaica and their respective countries.

jamaica

Jamaica

From the foods Jamaicans eat and even the way they prepare it (e.g., the way they hold their knives when cutting callaloo) to certain spiritual aspects of Jamaican culture (e.g., Rastafarianism and its roots in Ethiopia), there’s no denying that Jamaica has retained close cultural ties to the African continent. In many ways, for whatever reasons, it seems that Jamaicans held onto the traditions passed on from African slaves more than black slaves in America did. So whenever I visit Jamaica, I instinctively feel more connected to the motherland.

#3 Old school West Indian values + morals

While smoking ganja and grinding on the dancehall floors are all stereotypically Jamaican things to do, the reality is that most Jamaicans I know have very old school West Indian values and morals. As a result, for the most part, Jamaicans are respectful of their elders, parents actually discipline their kids instead of trying to be BFFs with them, and most Jamaicans seem to believe in and have some reverence for God even if they’re not particularly religious.

Jamaica
The church Jave grew up in down the road from his house
#4 People address each other with respect

One of the things I love most about Jamaicans is how they address each other. Unlike in the U.S. where “my nig@@” or being someone’s “bitch” can be seen as terms of endearment, most Jamaicans address each other with such respect, and it’s truly refreshing. For example, Jave and his friends will often call each other “King” or “Lion” or “Uncle” or “Mi Boss” while women are often addressed as “darlin’ ” or “pumpkin” (I tend to get called “pumpkin” a lot when I’m in Jamaica – lol). I have to say, it’s rather uplifting.

#5 Communities are actually comprised of relatives

I’ve written before about Ketto, so I won’t elaborate too much more about Jamaican communities like Ketto here. But I just love the fact that many Jamaican families divide a plot of land and build their homes next to each other because it ultimately strengthens their bonds and overall sense of community. Everyone tends to look out for each other in the sense that you can leave your doors unlocked or let your kids roam a bit without really worrying.  These days, the same isn’t true in the U.S., especially not in big cities like L.A.

Jave + cousins who live in the same yard
Jave + cousins who live in the same yard
#6 Dogs are still dogs

I’m a dog lover. Let’s start with that. I absolutely love dogs. But, I get soooooooo annoyed here in the U.S. when I see people dress their dogs up in clothes or push them around in strollers. I often wonder what really goes through dogs’ minds when their owners subject them to such treatment because after all, they are descendants of wolves!

Jamaica

So it’s rather refreshing when I go to Jamaica and see that dogs are still dogs. While I’m not opposed to having a house trained dog, in Jamaica, dogs live outside and they have a job which is to guard the yard. And they do it well. Jamaican yard dogs can be downright vicious, actually. While most Jamaicans I know treat their dogs well, they are still treated like dogs as opposed to children. And as much as I love dogs, that’s refreshing.

#7 They communicate through grunts & groans

It’s not just patois that you have to catch onto when you’re conversing with Jamaicans – you’ll also quickly learn that they communicate through various grunts and groans. It’s sometimes comical to listen to Jave on the phone as I try to decipher what the different inflections of his grunts and groans actually mean.

#8 They’ll usually send you home with something to boil into a tea

I recall one time when I visited Jave in Jamaica before he immigrated here, I kept raving about the lemongrass tea he brewed for me each morning at breakfast. So when it was time for me to leave, he put some in a baggie labeled “bush weed” (because that’s what locals call it). I laughed, and after thanking him, I told him that there was no way I was going to even attempt to smuggle a baggie labeled “bush weed” through Customs.

During our recent visit, Jave’s mom sent him home with a bag of dried Neem tree leaves for his blood pressure which he managed to smuggle through Customs with a straight face.

Neem tree leaves

I love that Jamaicans know which plants can help remedy certain health issues. Jave’s knowledge of natural remedies is incredible thanks to his mom and grandmom who’ve shared their expertise with him throughout his life.

#9 They wear their best gear to travel + the whole family comes to bid them farewell at the airport

When Jamaicans travel “to foreign” as they call it, they’ll arrive for their flight in their best clothes. Jave used to always pop tags off his brand new airplane outfits when we first started traveling together, but he quickly learned that comfort trumps appearances when it comes to long flights abroad.

Also, Jamaican travelers will often arrive at the airport with several relatives in tow to see them off for their flight.

#10 They all break out cartons of cook shop food on the plane

A funny thing happens when you’re on an airplane departing from Jamaica. Once the cabin crew starts beverage service, you’ll often see your Jamaican seatmates break out cartons of cook shop food to enjoy in flight. Jave and I were no exception, but we actually got too hungry and devoured ours before boarding the plane.

Curried conch from my new favorite cook shop in Negril
Curried conch from my new favorite cook shop in Negril

But the guy sitting next to us and other Jamaicans around us all took out boxes of curried conch, brown stew chicken, and other deliciousness, and the guy next to us washed his food down with a bottle of “roots”, and he gave his extra bottle to Jave.

Jamaica
The name of this drink tells you exactly what it’s for…lol.

PINNABLE

jamaica-blue-lagoon

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Have you been to Jamaica? What, if anything, do you adore about Jamaica and/or Jamaican culture?

  • Staci Ann

    Jamaica is on my travel list. I always hear great things like this. I’m excited to visit one day!

  • Jonna

    I’ve been to the Bahamas, but not Jamaica. But if all goes well, I’ll be going to Jamaica this Labor Day Weekend!

  • Wow! In a way, all these elements makes it almost a different world. As a travel blogger I always look to be inspired. This is exactly the kind of post I like to read.

  • LOL! As someone who was born in Grenada, I can relate to all of these. This was such a fun,refreshing post.

  • As someone who was born and raised in Jamaica until the age if 16, I thought this was an interesting perspective. I lived in the old capital and spent alot of time visiting the other parts of the country. And though I know much have changed, I think the experience is varying.

    • Yes, I agree. Jamaica offers different experiences depending on where you visit on the island.

  • Valerie Robinson

    I have family from Jamaica and thought this was a very interesting, cool read. You had me at the teas! LOL. I really want to go to Africa!

    • Lol – glad you liked this! I really want to go to Africa too. Hoping that I can get there soon.

  • I agree with Jamaica sometimes being like an African country. I remember watching a Jamaican music video when I was younger and I was so surprised to how similar the scenes were to Nairobi. Before then Jamaica to me had been a tropical island far far away .

    • I’m glad you can see the connection, Rachael! Now, I just need to get my butt to Africa and see for myself. 🙂

  • This was a refreshing read. I love tea so I just know they would have sent me home with a baggie of honey vanilla chamomile, it’s my favorite. I learned about the Neem plant from watching the movie How High. (Don’t judge me. lol) I’ve never been to Jamaica but I grew up in the Bronx around a ton of islanders. I learned about the culture and food that way.

    • Hahaha! I wonder if Neem leaves can get you high? Yes, there are so many yardies in NYC and lots of good Caribbean restaurants from what I hear. Makes me jealous since we only have one good Jamaican restaurant (in my opinion) here in L.A.

  • Interesting perspective comparing parts of Jamaica to Africa. The food for the plane ride home would have been a treat for me. Your husband was lucky custom did not notice or must not care it was only dry Neem leaves. Looks like you had fun.

    • Fortunately, Customs didn’t look through his bag – they just asked if he was carrying any plants or “goodies” on him. But if they decided to search his bag it would’ve been an unwelcome ordeal.

  • I totally love Jamaica! I haven’t been in years, but the community and simplicity is such a breath of fresh air.

    All the Best,
    Allison | http://www.LiveLifeWellBlog.com

  • Nadeen

    Oh and I have been to Africa and parts of Johannesburg definitely reminded me of Kingston.

  • Nadeen

    Wow. Very interesting perspective. I am Jamerican having been born in the US but living in Jamaica until I was 10 years old. I lived in Kingston and my entire family on both sides are from Kingston. I actually never saw the other side of the island until I returned on vacation at 16 years old. I can tell from this post that the way of life like Ketto is very different “on the coast” or “country” than it is in Kingston. Althugh our families lived fairly close I have never heard of anything like Ketto. Life is very rushed with hustle and bustle in Kingston like most major cities in the US. I do remember and enjoyed families sending you off and greeting you at the airport! But I can honestly say I have never brought cooked food like that on a plane! Maybe a patty 🙂

    • Yes – “country” is definitely different from Kingston which is much faster but still much slower than big cities here in the U.S. So there’s no one in your family from “country”? If you have any relatives outside of Kingston and other big cities, I’d strongly encourage you to go visit them because communities like Ketto make up the majority of Jamaica. It’s like night and day and you’ll have a totally different Jamaican experience. I actually prefer the countryside over the big cities in Jamaica because it’s more beautiful and quieter.

      • Nadeen

        Noone from my family is from the country. We are proud Kingstonians 🙂 But I have visited Negril, Montego Bay and Ocho Rios and surrounding areas. I love the drive from Kingston to the coast. I look forward to exploring more of the island but Kingston and the areas around it is home. It is a different experience for sure and it is building up its tourism base. Many people now travel to Kingston to get a feel of the “real Jamaica” vs what they see on TV of beaches and waterfalls. That is the beauty of the island. It has a lot to offer.

        • Nadeen

          To be clear-I really feel all of Jamaica is the “real” Jamaica just different.

          • Totally agree – Jamaica offers something for everyone. I definitely love the island’s beaches and countryside though.

  • I got married in Ocho Rios and loved it. We didn’t get to do as much sight seeing but it was such a beautiful place to visit and I def loved the laid back atmosphere. And good lawd I closed my eyes on the drive from the airport to our resort…LOL!

    • Yes…people drive so crazy in Jamaica! Especially the motorcyclists. I’m sure your wedding in Ochi is beautiful. My husband and I got married in Negril and honeymooned in Ochi. It’s a great city.

  • I haven’t been there but I bet the food and entertainment are amazing.

    • Yes, the food is always good in Jamaica! We entertained ourselves a lot during this trip since we were there to spend time with the hub’s family for the holidays. Hope you get to go someday soon!

  • Kemkem

    Well, l’ve been to Africa and Jamaica, and yep!!! It totally reminds me of Africa. Right down to a lot of the points :-). I think that’s why l find it easy to adapt anywhere you throw me :-). I was cracking up at the bush weed. When l was small, my mom used to make up all these concoctions for whatever ales you (learned from my grandfather who was a medicine man) – They ALL smelled wicked foul!!! It used to take like 3-4 adults to catch me, hold me down and force that crap down my throat. Every single freaking week. My mum used to laugh and say l only moved that fast when it came to that medicine..and plantain :-)..

    • Lol – I can just picture you as a kid trying to run away from the meds! Too funny.

thatgirlcarmel

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