Week 1 Bahamas: Local Conversation

While visiting in the Bahamas you will most likely notice the sometimes short and aggressive way in which many of the locals speak. Humor may often be mistaken for insult if one does not take into account the social or conversational context. Also, as like many of their Caribbean counterparts, tend to speak faster than most Americans are used to and with a unique way of placing intonation at various parts of sentences and to indicate varying meanings for words. it is best to explain to locals that you do not understand them when you don’t, saying it later will cause more problems than not. Bahamians are generally upfront and usually appreciate bluntness that isn’t in itself insulting or derogatory.
My job at school partially consists of finalizing reservations for faculty and students traveling abroad on our programs. When making the reservations on two Bahamian islands, I was glad that it was I and not another of my co-workers, as the laid back attitude of the staff at the hotels would probably have been mistaken for impoliteness. I knowing that this was not in fact intended, was quite fine with the receptionist not placing the phone on hold to call up her boss.

Back to my travel, at the airport terminal and in the airplane, a lady displayed the classical Bahamian sociability. It may be mistaken (incorrectly or not) for intrusiveness on his/her part, but most Bahamians like to talk. Most will start a conversation with complete strangers, especially if their current situation or task makes them affiliated, if only momentarily. She spoke not only continuously, but loudly and clearly as though the world was a stage and her special audience. She spoke with the American businessman heading to the Bahamas to help in planning building construction; spoke with other locals that were headed back home; spoke with the stewardess; spoke with the man opposite her on the flight; and she spoke with me. Rather, being a Bahamian myself, I spoke with her :-D!

This “intrusion” into the conversations of others often proves helpful, as visitors are often from countries where one would rather accept being lost as one’s fate instead of asking strangers around you for help. This also usually results in Bahamians being more polite, saying hello, thank you, and good bye to strangers, coworkers, and fellow customers. I hadn’t realized this until a few Bahamians had visited the US with me and said “good afternoon” about three times because the customers and staff weren’t used to people saying that and hence, hadn’t given a response. Confessedly however, this can also be seen as rude and unwanted at times by visitors and locals alike.

So remember, when you visit, have an open mind to experience other cultures, and you’ll be fine.


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