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Every culture has its traditions and idiosyncrasies. Here in Barbados you will find plenty of glorious contradictions: a considerate people who nevertheless believe in “island-time”, a God-fearing country with a wild summer festival, a reserved people who are quietly proud. Here are some interesting cultural nuances to understand our society and make the most of your Barbados living.
1.) We ‘pick-down’ our homes at Christmas
What is known as spring-cleaning, the process of giving your home a thorough clean as soon as winter dissipates and the weather improves enough to throw open the windows and make the house fresh again is a bit different in Barbados for a very good reason: we don’t have a spring!
As we live in a sub-tropical climate with only two real seasons: dry season and wet season with great weather year-round, we could technically spruce up our homes at any time of the year. However, it is a Bajan tradition to ‘pick-down’ the house right before Christmas time. This intense ritual includes – and indeed goes beyond – wiping down indoor walls, power-washing outdoor walls, dusting, scrubbing floors, cleaning all the china till it gleams and polishing wooden furniture. It also includes identifying which household items need to be repaired or replaced. It is not uncommon for Barbadians to choose new appliances to replace the old at this time of year.
Another very important tradition is to switch out your living room curtains for new ones, and you will find that local stores selling material and curtains are packed around Christmas time for this very reason. One local tradition that used to be very popular in the past, was the spreading of white marl outside your home as it was believed that it made the house look fresher, and also to resemble snow.
2.) Bajans are a proud people
If you pay attention, you’ll notice our pride of country is everywhere: it’s in our country’s motto – “Pride and Industry.” It is also evident in the tone of our country’s pledge:
I pledge allegiance to my country Barbados and to my flag,
To uphold and defend their honour,
And by my living to do credit
To my nation wherever I go.
A big part of being Barbadian is showing pride in self and country, and every citizen (and honorary citizen) is expected to represent their country well no matter where in the world they are. You can see this pride in country and self even here in Barbados wherein we take good care of ourselves, paying close attention to our deportment and style. You can also see it in how we take care of our surroundings and homes.
3.) Barbadians take saying ‘Good Morning’ very seriously
Partly because of past British rule and also because the island is densely populated, Barbadians are known for being reserved and our love of civility, order and for being courteous is well-known.
A cultural aspect that will help you make the most of your Barbados lifestyle is to say, ‘Good Morning’, or the equivalent greeting depending on what time of the day it is. This small gesture will make living here easier in surprising ways. You will find that people will be more willing to help you if you greet them respectfully. Of course, there are instances where it is not required, like one wouldn’t be expected to personally greet every passer-by on a busy street in the capital Bridgetown. But it is appreciated (and expected!) if you are walking into an office of business, or a home, or even when getting into a vehicle.
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