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.
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.
#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.
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.
#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.
#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!
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.
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.
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.