About Those Caribbean Proverbs

A few words can offer great insights.

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This guide is peppered with proverbs and sayings, little insights into how Caribbean islanders think and perceive the world. Sometimes the comments are humorous, other times bitter and harsh, but all are a view about a particular part of life. And they frequently contain a wisdom and tolerance that would benefit everyone to adopt.

Such as:

Old Jamaican Proverb:

How-de-do and thank you break no square.

(It is not only good manners to be polite, it does no harm.)

These sayings also echo how the islanders speak. Often phonetically.

Find it offensive?

They don't. This is how they publish the proverbs themselves in books, newspapers and magazines. I'm not original enough to come up with them on my own.

If you consider the way islanders speak and spell to be peculiar, imagine how they will view you. Actually, they're usually not interested in judging you unless your dress or conduct is outrageous.

Locals do especially enjoy watching African-Americans who have labeled themselves "brothers" and who parade in tank tops and lots of gold-colored chains. I'll never forget standing inside a small store in Tobago when some "African-American" tourists walked by.

There were a dozen locals shopping and I would have expected them to be making fun of me. A white guy buying some wonderful locally produced curry seasoning. I guess they appreciate those who recognize good taste.

But when a couple of chain-laden African-Americans walked by the large store front window, acting as if they owned the world, it was like a pair of clowns had appeared. For the locals, it was knee-slapping funny. Actually, it would was a weird sight to anyone with an honest bone in their body.

The point is: Me, the white guy, I wasn't the outsider.

Note: African-American is not a term easily understood in some parts of

the Caribbean, despite its acceptance in the U.S. Locals expect people to claim the nationality of where you were born and/or live.

With as many as 70 different nationalities flowing through the blood of some islanders, the whole race concept is ridiculous. Slave ancestors certainly didn't want to be dragged into the Caribbean, but that's what happened.

For the most part, they've gotten over it. Outside of South Africa--which still amazes me--Caribbean islanders are the most race tolerant people I've ever met.

As you read through this guide, this one thing will be obvious.  I like the islands.  But I love the people.

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