There are misconceptions and stereotypes about every race and ethnic group under the sun. Those who live in the Caribbean are no exception.
We’ve all seen those rom-coms where the protagonists jet off to some sunny island and waiters clad in guayaberas and sandals hand them margaritas or piña-coladas. People pop up everywhere peddling beaded necklaces or painted sea shells, and they all seem to speak in a “Jamaican” accent.
Certainly the movies are right about life in the Caribbean…right?
Wrong! For starters, not everyone living in the Caribbean works at a rum bar or says “yeah, mon.” That’s nothing but a misconception. And here are 8 more:
1. Everyone lives a laid-back lifestyle
No, Caribbean people don’t sit out on the beach all day sipping the juice from coconuts. They have all kinds of jobs and live all kinds of lifestyles. Yes, some do work on the beach, as surfing instructors, scuba-diving teachers, or snack shack waitresses. But there are also doctors, lawyers, managers, teachers, and all kinds of other occupations that require them to spend their time in an office, and not on the beach 24/7. It may seem like time moves slower while you’re in the Caribbean, but that’s probably because YOU’RE on vacation.
Despite what you see in movies or what you hear, not all Caribbeans have the habit of “showing up late” to their jobs or events, either. People who have the habit of being late live in every country around the world.
Furthermore, Caribbean islanders may have a relaxed, “take what comes” attitude that can be misconstrued as being “laid-back” all the time or even lazy. Yes, they know how to relax, and they love to throw a good party. But they also value responsibility, punctuality, and diligence.
2. They all smoke weed and drink rum
Just because rum was invented in the Caribbean doesn’t mean everyone drinks it. There are plenty of other beverages available to drink too– pretty much everything you can find in your country.
And as for weed, it’s true that marijuana is part of Rastafarian culture, which originated in Jamaica. However, not everyone uses it. In fact, recreational marijuana use is illegal in every Caribbean country, including Jamaica.
3. Everyone speaks English
Long ago, Caribbean countries were inhabited by native people like the Caribs and the Tainos. Their descendants form part of Caribbean culture today, although they have mixed with other races.
As Europeans landed in the Caribbean islands, they brought their own languages with them. This is why English, French, Spanish, and Dutch are widely spoken on many islands. However, Africans and Asians also came to Caribbean countries, sometimes as slaves, sometimes as free settlers or workers, and they added their languages and customs to the mix. What resulted is a mixture of Creole, European, and native islander languages.
Most countries in the Caribbean recognize several official languages. Here’s a map showing 5 of the official languages spoken in the Caribbean today:
There are 6 official languages that Caribbean islanders most commonly use:
- Haitian Creole
- Papiamento (official language of Aruba, Curacao, and Bonaire)
Besides those, you may hear other types of creole languages and less widely-used indigenous dialects.
4. Everyone is into voodoo
No, voodoo is NOT the official religion in Caribbean countries, no matter how many kooky Caribbean “witches” you’ve seen doing voodoo on characters in the movies. Voodoo is a big part of Haitian culture, but that certainly doesn’t mean that everyone in Haiti practices it. In fact, the religion that most Caribbean islanders adhere to is Christianity and Catholicism.
Nevertheless, you’ll find people from all kinds of faiths in the Caribbean. There are Hindus, Muslims, Jews and Buddhists, among others. In the capital of Suriname, Paramaribo, you can find a famous wooden cathedral, a giant Hindu temple, a mosque, and a historic synagogue all within miles of each other.
5. Reggae is the music of choice
When you think of Caribbean music, you might think of “Bob Marley” because of his unquestioned worldwide popularity. However, the Caribbean people have contributed many other types of music to the world besides reggae. There’s also calypso, bouyon, reggaeton, cadence-lypso, chutney, soca, compas, jing ping, punta, and zouk.
Not to mention the fact that Caribbean people listen to any and every type of music you listen to. North American, South American, and European music all reaches their radios, too.
6. You can’t get certain products in the Caribbean
Many Caribbean people may live on islands, but hey, airplanes and boats exist! Anything that can’t be produced on an island can be imported. Of course, every country has slight differences in the brands that they sell, but we assure you that Caribbean islanders have access to every commodity they need, just like you do.
In addition, terms like “organic” and “gluten-free” aren’t new there. Many Caribbeans shop for these types of products and live lifestyles that mirror those of Americans, Canadians or Europeans. The only difference is…they live in a tropical climate and are surrounded by LOTS of awesome beaches!
7. People live on the beach and in the rainforest
The Caribbean has plenty of big cities as well. Not everyone lives in beach houses or in remote villages tucked into the rainforests! There are rural areas, metropolitan areas, small towns, big towns, skyscrapers, and traffic.
There are mountains, rivers, forests, fields, farms, and of course, beaches. Some Caribbean islands may be small, but each has parks, towns, and shopping centers where people live and work.
8. Everyone on the street is a pickpocket
Before you go on vacation to the Caribbean, your friends might warn, “watch out for pickpockets”. The reality is that many Caribbean countries have lower crime rates than the United States or European countries.
Of course, we’re not saying you shouldn’t take the necessary precautions while walking on the streets. Going out alone at night can be dangerous nearly anywhere in the world. But in general, Caribbean islanders are caring and hospitable. They hold respectable jobs, and most don’t resort to crime to make a living, just like in the U.S.
Planning a trip to the Caribbean? Use KeyCaribe’s search tool to find the perfect private villa for you and your family or friends.
Main image source: Getty Images
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