Fifteen ways you know you are in Jamaica

A fellow-blogger who wrote a list for Canada, where she now lives, challenged me to do the same for Jamaica.  I hesitated, not wishing to generalize too much or to be so specific as to offend anyone.  So, please do not take this list too seriously.  You might think of some better ones.  Here goes:

  • When giving your name over the phone, you are asked, “Mrs or Miss?” (if you are a woman, of course).  I usually say, “It doesn’t matter.”  But I know – correct titles (especially “Dr.”) do matter.  And unlike in the UK, dentists and surgeons are called “Dr.” as well.
  • You tune in to the radio, and hear the announcer read out funeral arrangements for Miss Tiny, who has eight children, twenty-two grandchildren and thirteen great-grandchildren, and will be buried in the family plot.
  • Wanted men are known only by their nicknames – “Nose,” “Indian,” “Dog Paw,” “Ants Man” etc… or scary ones like “Satan,” “Glock” or “Bullet.”  In fact, nicknames are big in Jamaica.  A man christened “Zephaniah,” for example, might have been called “Randy” since childhood, and that name sticks.  Usually only family members and close friends know the childhood nicknames, obviously.  But the wanted men’s nicknames are more “street names” – those that they are known by in the community – and often their friends and neighbors have never known their real names.
  • If someone says “Good night” to you at seven o’clock in the evening, it does not mean you are all about to go to bed.  It is a greeting.
  • No self-respecting PR event is complete without the presence of at least one ever-smiling beauty queen, posing and getting lots of photo-ops.
  • Every radio and television ad includes a song extolling the virtues of canned sausage, for example.  A soulful female will sing passionately – even romantically – about a soft drink or an insurance plan.
  • When you hear a cacophony of car horns; but you must translate them.  A sharp toot can mean “I am waiting for you to turn out of your wretched front gate, get on with it,”; a gentle toot and flutter of the hand means “thank you,” when you give way to another vehicle; and of course cab drivers have a language all their own – mostly consisting of angry blasts, one arm hanging out of the window that is used to convey the level of impatience; and of course, the bad language, which usually has something to do with a piece of material.  My advice: Smile sweetly, and think of something very beautiful.
  • When, as soon as you enter a government office, you are told to sit down, immediately.
  • Water is always referred to as “the precious commodity.”  “People” become “persons.”
  • While browsing the morning newspapers, you will be startled to read headlines such as “My penis is too large.”
  • At least two types of chicken are on every menu.  And, by the way, there is a packaged soup called “Cock Soup.”  Visiting English friends shrieked with laughter when they saw this, and took several packets home to give to their friends.
  • When someone enters your yard during mango season, their immediate instinct is to look up at the trees.  It’s a sort of knee-jerk – or rather, neck-jerk – reaction.
  • When you see people wearing hoodies when the temperature is 75 degrees Fahrenheit.  Brrrr!
  • When phrases such as “soon come,” “not far,” “a few chains down the road,” “I’m on my way,” “be there in five minutes,” etc. need to be approached with caution.  Measurements of time and distance are very elastic…
  • When, almost everywhere you go, you look up and see green hills or folded mountains on the horizon, with clouds piled up on them; or look down, and see the Caribbean Sea, glittering in the sun.

I think that’s fifteen!  Please feel free to send me your own contributions…

The Blue Mountains of Jamaica
The Blue Mountains – a magical world and a precious ecosystem.


21 thoughts on “Fifteen ways you know you are in Jamaica

    1. Thanks very much! I would love to see one on New Zealand! It was quite fun to do – I tried to think of the little odd “Jamaican-isms,” habits and attitudes that make it unique! Please keep reading and thanks for checking in!


  1. I’m laughing at that newspaper title. I just knew Jack would zone in on that! We have a few things like that here but I can’t repeat them on your blog. Much to say, I have taken the obligatory photo and sent it home to seek a reaction.

    When I enter a government building (to go to work), I am told to sit down immediately (by my boss) so some things are universal the world over 😉

    Great list…


    1. Thanks, Russell! Yes, that one was a bit provocative, but we DO have headlines like that on sex advice articles in our daily newspapers. Some are even worse… I am glad the “sit down” thing resonated with you – but then you are a government worker yourself! It’s probably a universal culture, isn’t it…


    1. Thanks! Yes, hoodies seem so popular with young men… But the funny thing is that when the temperature drops a few degrees, you actually see young Jamaicans wearing them! They must be SO hot and uncomfortable – but we sacrifice a lot for “style”…


  2. Oh yes the second to last one gets me …. you ask a person in the country how far it is to place X and he says “Just round di corner” … and 12 miles later..


  3. The second to last one I found most hillariously true. If you ask a Jamaican in one of the more rural areas for directions and they say ‘it deh right roun di cornah’ .. it is FAR… if they say ‘trus mi yuh caan miss it’…… ‘yuh salt bad bad!’


    1. Yes, I can see that…but… In England, “good night” has a finality to it that means, well, goodbye – at the end of the evening. Funny, isn’t it.


  4. Great list. I visited Jamaica on a work-related trip years ago (but stayed the week with a Jamaican family) and was struck by the physical beauty of the country and the pleasant people. And yes, I actually encountered a beauty queen at one event.


    1. Methinks so, too! Believe me Jack, just like you in Turkey, you come across little cultural quirks that are just SO amusing! Never, ever dull…


      1. Very much so. Or it could even be the Sunday Gleaner Outlook which has some pretty weird articles on sex, sometimes… 🙂


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.