Customs and Traditions of Jamaica

Customs and Traditions of Jamaica

National mentality

Jamaica is a tropical island with its unique cheerful and vibrant atmosphere, full of love for life and carefree enjoyment of all its aspects. Exotic cuisine, local music and dance, beautiful scenery complete the experience. And local residents who have inherited the traditions of African and English culture can always be distinguished by a number of features of their character.

Most Jamaicans are friendly and benevolent people who expect a respectful attitude from the tourist. Smiling, ease of communication and cheerfulness, as well as closeness to nature are often named among the qualities of typical Jamaican inhabitants.

On the other hand, such cordiality can sometimes turn out to be just a mask. The crime rate in the country is extremely high, so you should be careful.

One of the main national features of the Jamaicans is a special, characteristic slowness in business and an extremely calm and carefree look at everyday problems. No wonder the unofficial motto of the island and all its inhabitants is the common phrase “No problem!” Everything on the island – from the clothes of the inhabitants to the plane that brings guests here – is painted in bright colors, this is part of the culture.

Characteristic in this regard is the widespread movement called Rastafari. Representatives of this movement, called Rastafarians, are characterized by a pacifist position, as well as the ritual use of marijuana, which is a kind of symbol of Rastafari. The most famous rastaman is the singer Bob Marley, who in Jamaica is considered a truly cult personality, almost a deity.

However, one should not think that light drugs are ubiquitous in Jamaica. Officially, distributing marijuana is an illegal activity that can easily land you in jail.

Despite liveliness and freedom in behavior, Jamaicans value conservatism more, for example, strange behavior or a public display of love will not be positively evaluated. Jamaicans are very careful about their culture, their patriotic feelings must be respected.


According to Countryaah, the total population of Jamaica is about 2.8 million people. The overwhelming majority of the inhabitants are of African descent and dark skin color (91.2%). A practically independent nation is also represented by the descendants of mixed marriages of Africans and immigrants from European and Middle Eastern countries, as well as China and India, such mulattos are 6.2%.

And another 2.6% of the population falls on representatives of other races and nationalities: Chinese, Europeans, Arabs, Indians, etc. On average, life expectancy is about 72 years for men and 75 for women. The degree of urbanization of the population is low, only 53% of Jamaicans live in cities.


The official language of Jamaica is English. Representatives of the tourism business and hotel workers are especially good at it. However, in everyday communication, they speak much more often in the so-called Jamaican Creole, which is more often called “patois” or “airi”.

“Patois” is a special dialect form of English mixed with Spanish, Portuguese, African dialects and many other dialects. It is often quite difficult to understand it, the mangling of words expresses a kind of social protest. The most popular phrases include “Yo, man” (used for almost any occasion) and “respect”, meaning from gratitude to greeting or goodbye.


The most common religion in Jamaica is Christianity in its Protestant variety (about 60% of the population). Catholics are much smaller – only 6%. Traditional African beliefs have a significant impact on religious preferences.

There are quite a lot of atheists on the island, about 21% of the inhabitants, and 14% have not decided on their religion at all. Check agooddir for recent history of Jamaica.

Behavior rules

Jamaica has taken most of the rules of etiquette and decency from American and European cultures, but a tourist needs to remember a number of features.

The polite attitude causes great admiration and respect among the locals. Therefore, an extra “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” never hurts.

When meeting with a Jamaican who speaks Patois, you should politely ask incomprehensible words again. By no means should there be any hint of the superiority of traditional English over this local dialect, it is an important part of Jamaican culture.

The greeting should receive a counter, equally cordial greeting, accompanied by the words “Good afternoon” and the traditional question “How are you?” When meeting men, they shake hands tightly. Women at the beginning of communication use the same type of greeting, and in more intimate relationships, hugs and a kiss on the cheek will be appropriate.

If the Jamaican does not address the guest by name, in response it is also worth calling his last name with the additions of sir, madam, doctor, etc. Switching too quickly to casual address can be seen as impolite.

During a meal in Jamaica, it is more polite to use cutlery rather than hands. Also, do not leave a lot of food on your plate, this can be understood as an expression of disgust for the local food.

It is better not to pronounce aloud words such as “Negro”, “African American” or “Racist”, as well as not to welcome the Yamais with the English word “Hello”, local residents do not really like it. On the street (with the exception of seaside resorts), you should not wear too revealing clothes, this is considered inappropriate. This is especially true for shorts and miniskirts for women.

Before photographing a Rastafarian (and any other person on the street), you should first politely ask permission from the subject.

National Jamaican holidays

  • January 1 – New Year;
  • January 6 – Epiphany;
  • beginning of February – Wednesday of Great Lent;
  • February 13 – Repentance Day;
  • March-April – Easter and Good Friday;
  • May 23 – Labor Day;
  • End of May – beginning of June – Feast of the Body of the Lord;
  • August 1 – Emancipation Day;
  • August 6 – Independence Day;
  • October 21 – National Heroes Day;
  • December 25-27 – Christmas.

Customs and Traditions of Jamaica

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