6 Things Jamaicans Do that Leave Americans a Little Confused
Today, Jamaica celebrates 57 years of Independence from England. But since the beginning, many Jamaicans have been true to themselves and independent in thought about their lives and culture. I promise you that you will never meet a Jamaican that isn’t truly proud of their heritage. And it shows. Jamaicans can be found on every continent, and in almost every country, on this beautiful earth, and they make it known.
I currently live in the United States (today actually makes 12 years since my family immigrated to this country from Jamaica), and the Jamaicans here are probably more Jamaican than the Jamaicans in Jamaica (that was a mouthful). And the Americans love it! I must admit, when many Americans hear about Jamaica, they think about Montego Bay and Ocho Rios, but it also encourages them to learn a little more about our culture.
Here are a few things that Jamaicans do that leave many Americans in awe:
1. Jamaicans Talk Fast
Maybe it’s innate because I don’t see it. Our broken dialect of English, Patois, can be hard to understand and can be interpreted as speaking quickly. I must say though, get a Jamaican mad, or really excited and there is a strong possibility that you won’t understand a word that comes out of our mouths. Which leads me to point number 2.
2. Super Saiyan Jamaican
As I said earlier, Jamaicans are a proud set of people. We were taught standard (British) English and was expected to execute proper language skills at all times (especially if your education was from a Catholic school. Those sisters did not play). So coming to this country for many of us was no different. It would be clear that we had an accent, but it was an English dialect that could be understood. Have you ever seen a Jamaican in America, who ran into another Jamaican they knew on the street?
Let’s just say the Jamaicans will morph into a new being, saying words that hardly makes sense to most, and many times seem to leave the impression that a fight is about to ensue.
3. We Speak English
Yes, that’s right. We speak English. Our native tongue is a version of broken English we call Patois. Patois is a direct reflection of how slavery impacted our country. It is a combination of English, Spanish, French, German mixed with West African influences.
During the slave trade, many West Africans were captured and sold into slavery, and many of them were dropped off at various ports throughout the Caribbean. While occupying a land that wasn’t their own, these Africans were forced to use the language of their oppressors, and as soon as they’d learn enough of a language, they were forced to learn another, as a new nation would take rule over them.
4. We Mean No Disrespect
Many Jamaicans identify each other by their race. It is commonplace to walk into a Chinese restaurant or a $1 store (we don’t actually call them $1 stores) in Jamaica and acknowledge the owner as Mr. or Ms. Chin. ‘Chin’ signifies that the person is of Asian descent.
Yes, I know that is wrong and completely offensive, but it helps shed light on colorism and classism in our country (these topics are for a completely different blog post). In most cases though, calling someone by their race is somewhat respectful – if they put the Mr. or Ms. in front of it.
5. The Original GPS
My son’s father, who so happens to be an American (raised by Jamaicans – don’t tell him I said that), who swears he’s Jamaican, once asked me,
“How do you give directions in Jamaica if you have no street signs? Do you tell the GPS to turn right by the mango tree?”
To my son’s father, and anyone else who believes this, the answer is no. This isn’t true. We indeed have street signs, whether it is government invoked, or if we made it up ourselves, it is a street sign none-the-less.
On a serious note, the GPS works in Jamaica, just like it does here.
6. We Say What We Mean…Sometimes
Jamaicans have a saying for everything, and some of the times, I don’t even understand what it means! Case in point, a few weeks ago, my soon to be mother-in-law and I was having a conversation and we started talking about clothes and shoes. I made mention of buying a pair of shoes for my fianceé and she almost lost it! She said to me,
Never buy shoes for your husband! Unless you want him to walk right out of your life!
I never heard that one before.
Yuh swap black dawg fi monkey.
I promise you, that had nothing to do with a black dog or a monkey. It just simply means that you are giving up one bad situation for another bad situation.
I can hear black twitter screaming!! Remember, point #4.
Through it all, Jamaicans have proven to be a strong set of people, and on this 57th anniversary of our freedom, I can’t help but smile when I think about the trials we endured, but are still able to make good with what we have.
Happy Independence Day!!!