How Friendly
Are The People?

Most Caribbean islanders

have a natural joy in their manner

and approach to life.

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Caribbean People
How Friendly?

The racial and cultural mix is often very different from island to island. Trinidad, for instance, calls itself the "Rainbow Island" because its people are a blend of 40 different origins, including African, Chinese, and East Indian. On some islands, the white population makes up less than a full percentage point.

I find Caribbean islanders among the friendliest and most fun-loving people to be with. Many of them are poor and not well schooled but these people have something far more important than wealth, technological advances or book learning. They have discovered--or retained--what life is all about: to have fun, whatever you're doing. No wonder several top cruise lines such as Holland America Cruises are always packed with tourists from all over the world eager to see the Caribbean and its people.

West Indians have a natural joy in their manner and approach to life. It is the Caribbean's relaxed, laid-back, "No problem," "Don't worry, be happy" approach that still permeates so many islanders, particularly in the countryside, that I think of them all as "The Joy People." Watch how much the locals laugh, talk, joke, and interact with each other.

On many islands tourists are readily embraced and treated the same way. On others, it takes time for locals to drop their reserve. Islanders are generally quite shy and this can be mistaken for an unfriendly or indifferent attitude.

However, you may meet a few people who won't hide their dislike for outsiders. But how the situation resolves itself can be largely up to you.

On the other hand, there is Martinique, a little island with a big ego. Too often the attitude is: if you don't speak French, you don't belong here. Even residents who speak English well may refuse to speak to you or acknowledge you if you cannot speak French.

This is a culture where rudeness to outsiders is considered an art form.

For an island whose economy is partially based on tourism, this is a strange attitude to adopt.

One reason for this remarkable behavior is that Martinique is more attached to Europe than any other islands in the Caribbean. Martiniquans have always had a strong affiliation with France, and in 1974, the island was officially made a Region of France.

So, on Martinique you aren't dealing with West Indians or true Caribbean islanders.

Instead, you're dealing with a lot of nasty French-speaking people who have a high unemployment rate partly because the average tourist doesn't appreciate the treatment there. Even most of the cruise lines avoid Martinique, literally passing it by for neighboring Dominica and St. Lucia.

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