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Between the two Caribbean societies


By Francis Wade


The fact is, Barbados offers me the most organized Caribbean experience that I have ever had in the region.


After a trip to Barbados, a visitor might very well think that the Caribbean is a polite and conservative place, where the rule of law is only superseded by the even stricter “social laws.”


It gives Barbados a very safe and quiet atmosphere, sedate and soothing.

Coming from Jamaica or Trinidad, however… the place is “bloody boring,” and most Bajans “nah say a damn t’ing” (trans. have nothing to say.)

Now, I don’t want to offend Bajans here, and what I am saying here must be understood in the context of the culture we were trying to get a break from.


As a relative of mine put it, Jamaica is one surprise after another, with something new and exciting happening every day.

When she says that something “new and exciting” happens every day, she did not mean that something "good" happens necessarily – in fact our exorbitant murder rate is proof of that. That “new and exciting’ thing may be referring to:


1.Floods that rendered roads impassable in almost all parishes, and our attempts to drive through a river gully that had water high enough to make the car feel like a boat (scary).


2.Gruesome murders and rapes that are too gruesome to get into in detail lest you, Dear Reader, be offended. They have been enough to make my wife think twice before going out for a long run on a Sunday morning.


3.Recent laws that make me unclear if I am officially Jamaican or not, in spite of my Jamaican passport and voter’s registration – which we discovered in the process of trying to get her official landed status.


4.Drivers that attempt to do amazing, reckless and daring things – such as riding a bicycle in the middle of a storm on Washington Boulevard, in dark of 5am, wearing only slippers, shorts and an open umbrella; a man and a woman on a motor-bike taking a right turn at Shortwood Road from Constant Spring Ring, with the woman dragging a lawnmower behind her; the driver that hit me off my bicycle and dislocated my shoulder coming down from Stony Hill.


5. The many eccentric Mad-men on the roads (i.e. the indigent, homeless, insane,) including one fellow we saw yesterday in a Tastee patty shop in New Kingston who was talking incessantly to the air while telling jokes that he alone found funny.


My wife has observed one of his insane colleagues walking down the street, and carefully replacing the rubbish he found (i.e. the good Jamaican citizen’s mail) with his own collection of rubbish gleaned from the nearest garbage pan. (This may have something to do with the Jamaican practice of sending anything that you deliberately want to lose via the Jamaican postal system.)


6. A woman walking in her bare feet on her way to work down a flooded Mandela highway, past the carcass of a dead horse. I’m no epidemiologist, but that sure seemed like a “bad idea.”

These have all happened in the last month.

By contrast, my wife reported that while she was running in Barbados, she ran past a puddle and observed each and every car stopping to crawl through it, lest a pedestrian be splashed. All I could think about was the number of pedestrians we splashed between us, during the recent floods in Jamaica, and a guilty feeling came with it…

Incidentally, in this respect, Jamaica is no different from Trinidad, in my experience, in terms of it being exciting and new all the time.


In the recent news they had their own share of kidnappings, bombs, beheadings, fetes, marches, speeches, World Cup qualifiers, and the most outrageous headlines I have ever read.


From a recent newspaper:

Garbage Truck Kills Scavenger at Forres Park (was that a good thing or a bad thing?)

Underdogs WI look to bite Aussies (Ouch)

Somos Viva Nueva-We are Viva Nueva (what?)

Teen Killed in Hail of Gunfire

Republic Staff Gives Advice (I would hope so…)

Beware Racial Bombing Spree

Ready to ‘Bite Political Dust’

Badjohn Cop Transferred (A Trini word meaning SOB)

Glencoe Man in Court (OK – hopefully they are have permission?)

These newspapers have a flair for taking mundane happenings and turning them into major headline events, with lots of bright colours and bold lettering.

Bajans are, by and large, are appalled at these uncivilized happenings. I can imagine Bajans visiting Jamaica and having heart-attacks at what to them would look like continued mayhem and chaos.


The Jamaican response to chaos is to confront it head on and deal with it in as an aggressive manner as possible.

The Trini response is to laugh at it, write a biting Calypso, and break out the hard liquor.

In Barbados, however, it seems that the prevailing response is to dampen it.

Recently, I heard confirmation from a friend of mine who has lived in all three countries that the Bajan newspapers suppress bad news on a gentleman’s agreement intended to present a good face to tourists, and to preserve their number one industry. I believe it, although I have no proof.
When Jamaicans get into a fender bender, our first response is to start arguing our way out of it. The Bajan response is to sit in the car, and wait for the police. That is, to wait for the police in the middle of the road, regardless of the size of the damage. A Bajan will block traffic for miles doing this, their civic duty.

A Jamaican reading this would start imagining the new and exciting “claats” that would quickly learn from passing motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. A Trini would expect people to stop and remonstrate in a comical way, easing the tension of the moment.

The Bajan slows down and does not complain openly – as this is what everyone does, or is supposed to do. They will suppress the outburst before it happens.

These examples demonstrate what seems to me, an outsider, to be a visible suppression that I sense when working and dealing with Bajan women. I suppose it’s there with the men as well, but I don’t study men in the way that I study women as a gender (the fairer sex is just fairer to my eyes.)

Recently, when I was leaving Barbados last week for Jamaica, I ran into a friend who had been living in Barbados for some time. She is a fairly typical Trinidadian woman – outgoing, engaging, beautiful on the outside and inside, vivacious, smart and she enjoys people just because they are … people.

Meeting her in the airport had me reflect on the fact that I could count only a single Bajan woman among the hundreds I have met that I would say is “outgoing” or “expressive.”



Francis Wade is a Jamaican management consultant based in Kingston, Jamaica. His passion is the transformation of Caribbean workplaces, economies and society. He blogs at Chronicles From a Caribbean Cubicle.


Now that you've read the article, please let us know if you agree with Wade's opinion.


E-mail comments to comments@thenewblackmagazine.com



Dear Editor,


As someone who has travelled the entire Caribbean, not because I am Bajan I have to say I find Barbados to be the most exciting and progressive island of the Caribbean. There is a lot to do and see ranging from dinning out at some of the finest restaurant or going to a moolight BBQ on the beach, or clubbing to the wee hours of the morning.

Granted Trinis can party like no other WI folk but Bajans can certainly hold their

I, like many of the Bajan women I know, and many people will agree am exciting
vivacious funny witty and extremely outgoing. Take it from some who party with
friends from the UK and Barbados for 6 months STRAIGHT , and I was working a full
time job as well.My sister did the same and two other Bajan friends. This was every
night for 6 months.

So what I will say to you Mr. Wade, you obviously have taken a very small sample. It
takes all kinds to make the 'world go round' yes, there are some Bajan women who are
not outgoing as there are some Jamaican and Trinidadian who are not outgoing either.

Take some more time to look around.

As for the burying of bad news I say to you have a read of the Nation or Advocate
newspapers. We probably just have less.

Cheryl Osborne-Gibbons
An exciting, outgoing, smart, engaging and proud Barbadian woman.

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