Mention Barbados and most people think turquoise waters and white sand beaches, colourful houses and friendly people. Yes, those are all here, but those are not unique to this Island. After being here four months, I keep finding more to love about this place.
There are no private beaches in Barbados. Your way to the next stretch of sand may be blocked by a breakwater, but there must always be a public access. On the rocks in front of the fanciest resorts, locals fish at dawn and dusk. Bajans love to go to the beach, often with large groups of family.
It’s not New Year’s Eve here, it’s Old Year’s Night. It may just be a quirk of the language, but to me it represents a Barbadian trait— an acknowledgment of the past while looking to the future.
Bajans love to dress up. Lovely dress and high, high heels, dress shirt and crisply pressed pants— that’s Wednesday night dinner at a sit down restaurant. Many venues require covered shoulders for the women, and collared shirts and closed shoes for the men. Beachwear belongs ONLY on the beach. And at a special event? Spectacular!
The education level is high, and their school system is ranked in the top 10 in the world. I listen to Prime Minister Mia Amor Motley’s addresses both to get the latest news and to admire her speaking style. The second time I heard the word “alacrity” here in the last month might might have been the third time I have ever heard it spoken. But there is no pretentiousness; a down to earth flavour is at the core of their speech. For example, the magistrate sentencing a man last week said:
“I cannot condone this kind of behaviour. Wunna can’t slip out and do as wunna like . . . . Walking out of quarantine; no man, this cannot be allowed…”
I see a level of trust and respect for their government, but Bajans are not afraid to criticize specifics of policy or delivery.
Visitors often talk about how friendly the Bajans are, but there is a level of reserve with their politeness. If you only meet vendors and resort staff you wouldn’t see how off the tourist track you may get an answer to your greeting, but not a smile until they recognize you as a neighbour. And the reply is more likely to be “good day” or “good evening” than hello. Or instead of hi, you might get “alright.”
Despite their politeness, Bajans are not afraid to speak their mind. They can be blunt, even salty. I like it.
From fine dining to roadside stands, the food is spectacular. The start is always fresh, local, high quality ingredients. Many other tropical islands can boast the same fish, seafood, and fruits. However, after years of reluctantly eating chicken as my compromise food (I don’t eat red meat) I have happily re-embraced it in Barbados. It’s all cage-free, naturally raised and has taste even without spices and sauces. I hear the pork is the same.
I am impressed by how much is made locally. There is a huge array of spice mixtures, sauces and marinades in the stores. Some of the motivation may be the high import duties, but the range of products made locally has surprised me. As well as foodstuffs you can get locally made lotions, clothing, candles, furniture, even toilet paper.
And of course, there’s rum! Barbados was where it was invented and there are many distilleries producing a wide range. Before I came here, I thought rum was for frozen fruity drinks, or hot drinks at Christmas, but I had no idea there was such a thing as a sipping rum. It can complete with many single malt whiskeys.
Some of my delight may simply be my situation: living with someone I love, having very little stress, being in the tropics, the novelty of discovering new surroundings. Yet I think the country is also amazing.
I look forward to getting to know Barbados even more in 2021.