Your Jamaican friend probably doesn’t want you to ask these questions. Why? Because they’re mostly based on Jamaican stereotypes!
Let’s be honest, everyone dislikes stereotypes and Jamaicans are definitely no different.
As a Jamaican expat living in Switzerland, I’ve come to realize a few of the common perceptions persons have of my island. Too often these tend to stem from typical Jamaican stereotypes.
While mainstream western culture dominates the media it leaves gaping holes in the identities of smaller countries such as my homeland of Jamaica.
“Who are you?”
So on behalf of my fellow Jamaicans, I’ll answer a few of the common questions we secretly don’t like to be asked!
8 Questions Jamaicans Secretly Don’t Want You to Ask
Do All Jamaicans Smoke Weed?
If I had a dollar for each time someone has asked me this question I’d be a millionai…
Seriously, this is the most commonly asked question I get as a Jamaican abroad. While I do understand that due to the popularity of Jamaica’s reggae music & its relevant culture, I have to say…
Not all Jamaicans smoke weed.
Sorry to disappoint folks!
The use of cannabis (weed) in Jamaica is strongly linked to the portion of the society that practices the religion known as, Rastafari.
In the religion marijuana plays a significant role in helping with meditation.
The connection between marijuana and Rastafari is compounded when we add reggae music to the mix. As history would have it, the most popular reggae influencer, Bob Marley, who brought reggae to the world stage was in fact a Rastafarian.
Do Jamaicans Only Listen to Reggae?
I must admit that although Jamaica is small, our musical culture has a BIG impact on the world. The most significant genre is, of course, reggae music. So without a doubt Jamaicans listen to it 24/7/365, right?
In fact, despite my early introduction to the genre, I preferred listening to rock music (reggae seemed old-fashioned to me). I didn’t appreciate reggae until a new wave of reggae artists like Protoje & Chronixx revived the scene.
Suggested Read: How Influential is Reggae Music in Switzerland?
The truth is, while reggae IS a significant genre in Jamaica it’s not the ONLY type of music Jamaicans enjoy. Dancehall, another Jamaican music genre, is also quite popular on the island. Younger Jamaicans particularly love the genre and it arguably gets more airtime on the radio stations and in the clubs than reggae.
But don’t get me wrong, the reggae scene is very much alive & thumping. It just simply depends on the Jamaican’s personal musical preference.
Does Everyone Have Dreadlocks in Jamaica?
Now, based on the popularity of reggae music & its culture, I understand why this question is a frequent one.
Although I do personally sport this trademark “Jamaican hairstyle”, not everyone in Jamaica wears dreadlocks (locs).
In fact, it wasn’t until recently that the larger part of the Jamaican society began accepting this hairstyle.
Rooted in the Rastafarian religion, locs are worn as a symbol of their beliefs. However, in the early days of this religion, there was immense backlash from the general Jamaican populace for the people who practiced it. They were seen by the average Jamaican at the time (and still some to this day) as dirty and unkempt. It was difficult for anyone with locs to find jobs because of this stereotype.
Fortunately, the view on locs has positively shifted in the eyes of many Jamaicans (thanks Bob). So much, in fact, that they no longer represent just believers of the Rastafari faith, but it’s also worn as a regular hairstyle (we call them fashion rastas- so yes, I’m a fashion rasta).
Can All Jamaicans Dance?
This question makes me feel the most awkward whenever I’m asked.
Yes, Jamaicans are known for their *cough* flexible dancing skills. I’d even say that many believe ALL black persons have great rhythm. However, while the typical Jamaican has a well greased waistline, I’d still say…
Not all Jamaicans can “dance”.
Case in point, yours truly 😛 I probably dance just as well as these folks below…
Do Jamaicans Travel?
Although as Jamaicans we do face many travel restrictions because of our passports, there are many who globe trot just as frequently as any other person from a western country.
So the answer to this question is a definite, yes.
In fact, I have a few favorite Jamaican travel influencers who I look up to for all their global footprints. However, an absolute favorite happens to be a jetsetter named Shea who runs her own travel blog, The World Up Closer. She focuses on teaching other Jamaicans how to enjoy unrestricted travel with a Jamaican passport.
Before moving to Switzerland, I too did my fair share of travelling.
My first time aboard a plane was actually before the age of 1 and I’ve been travelling ever since. I’ve visited countries like Mexico, Canada and a few Caribbean islands to name a few.
Suggested Read: Photo Diary- The Best of Mexico’s Travel, Culture & People
Is Jamaica in Africa?
While Jamaica does have a strong connection to Africa because of its history with slavery, it’s not geographically in Africa.
Jamaica is actually one of the larger islands in the Caribbean located at 18 degree North and 77 degrees West (shout out 5th grade geography lessons!)
If you aren’t familiar with the location of the Caribbean, just imagine the state of Florida (USA) and the countries of Central America. If you can, then Jamaica is just south of Florida and east of Central America.
Are there White People in Jamaica?
The short answer to this question is a resounding…
In fact, Jamaica’s national motto is “Out of Many, One People”
You, see, Jamaica’s history is a colorful one (pun intended).
In pre-colonial days, the island was inhabited by indigenous people known as Tainos who called it Xamayca. In 1494 when Christopher Columbus “discovered” the island on his little sailing adventure, Jamaica officially got its first set of European settlers.
But since I’m not writing this to you in Spanish, you must suspect something else is amiss 😉
As history would have it, the British took over the island of Jamaica as a colony in 1655 & subsequently introduced the island to it’s first set of African inhabitants.
Enslaved Africans were transported to the island to grow & harvest Jamaica’s most profitable crop, sugar cane. However, after a tumultuous battle for freedom which was finally granted to the enslaved in 1834, former plantation slave owners were at a loss for workers to mind their crops.
As a way to make up for “lost labour” a new set of people were introduced to the island, the Indians & Chinese. While they were afforded a salary, the sugar industry’s profitability waned until it was eventually forsaken by the British.
Today the descendants of this multicultural bunch (plus a few more) still remain in Jamaica.
Like I said, “Out of Many, One People”.
Where Did You Learn to Speak English?
This question surprises me every time I’m asked simply because I’m not sure which other language I’m supposed to speak.
In Jamaica, the official written and spoken language is English.
As mentioned above, Jamaica was colonized by the British, so of course, their presence has left the most impact.
However, if you DID suspect that our English may sound a wee bit different based on your Cool Runnings movie experience, you’d be right.
That’s because Jamaica speaks what is presently considered a dialect known as Patois.
Its roots come from the blend of British English & the language of the West Africans (predominantly the Akan language). It is spoken islandwide as the native tongue, however, currently in schools & institutions, formal English is used as the standard form of communication.
How We Can Challenge Jamaican Stereotypes
The beautiful thing about living in a foreign country as a Jamaican is my ability to smash (into tiny bits) the stereotypes that come along with it. Not only does the perception of people change, but it also helps to shine a more positive light on these stereotypes. For that I’m proud to play my role!
Now I challenge you to click that share button to help a fellow Jamaican out! Who knows, they’re probably being asked these question right now! Spread the word!
Which stereotype about your country would you want to disappear?
Such an interesting article! Stereotyping is something that interests me hugely (boring academic obsessions never die) and this was so informative to hear from a nation I know only a little about. I do know the history is a particularly interesting one and the historian in me is desperate to visit!