Don’t get me wrong. Barbados is not totally populated by perfect people. For that matter, neither is Canada. I must say that I have witnessed the most abhorrent behaviour not from Barbadians, but on the part of tourists. I marvel at how the majority of Bajans continue to smile for us.
An American couple, within hearing range of hotel employees, professed their dislike of the island. Aside from complaining that all they could get was island food 🤪 , the husband groused that, They have let too many black people on the island. Jim did not respond; he simply gave the couple a filthy look, stood up and pointedly walked away. After I scraped my shocked jaw off the ground, I followed him. We watched an elderly British gentleman (I use the term gentleman loosely) in a very public voice in a fine restaurant berate a waiter for what he perceived to be slow service. Did embarrassing his server make him feel more powerful? Whatever happened to discreetly speaking to management? And then there was the loud-mouthed Canadian who took on a street fruit vendor for not having apples. Really? In this case, the besieged Barbadian finally turned to the rude, insistent Canadian and with a dignified, firm and quiet glare said, Hey Mon, this is MY country and MY fruit stand, move on! I wanted to do a happy dance in the street....to a calypso beat, of course.
Why do so many feel because you are a waiter, a street vendor, a hotel employee, speak with a Caribbean accent or are of a different race and colour, that you are inferior and not worthy of basic human decency? Dear God!
The Barbados education system, fully funded by the government, closely follows British norms. Students at both the elementary and high school level wear uniforms. One of my favourite sights is to watch spit and polished, immaculately uniformed students en route to school. We could use a bit of that here in Canada.
Barbados enjoys a 99.6% literacy rate, one of the highest in the world. The U.S.? 99.0%......just saying! Tourism is now the leading sector in the Barbados economy. In response, the curriculum in Bajan elementary and high schools includes Tourism. Taught from a early age, the goal of the courses is to provide students with a better appreciation of the value of tourism to their country. Cave Hill in Barbados is the site of the University of the West Indies which in the 2019 World University Rankings ranked in the top 5% of world institutions. The Barbadian health care system is universal and is ranked as one of the best in the Caribbean.
Barbados is a stable, educated, middle class society. Bajans are famed for their warmth, hospitality, casual charm and exuberant love of life. They are passionately proud of their country and heritage. A visit to the outstanding Barbados Museum is evidence of that.
Ask a taxi driver anything about his country and get ready; he will be happy to provide a dissertation on the topic. Jim and I still laugh about our taxi drive from the airport to our hotel on our very first visit to the island. Christopher noted that we were passing a cricket match and asked a question about the game. Our driver pulled over to the side of the road overlooking the cricket field and proceeded to explain the intricacies of the game. I wish I could now boast that I understand. Not so!
Get lost on a lonely country road and chances are it will be one of the motor-biked postal service employees who spot your confusion and seem to intuitively know to stop and assist with a friendly smile and directions.
Here’s the thing. Rules of etiquette have been passed down through the generations, so much so that many joke that Barbadians are more British than the Brits who visit. If you are respectful, mannerly, kind and curious about their home, Barbadians will return that behaviour in spades. Be rude or condescending, then expect to receive the like in return. I say bravo to that. You get what you give.
As that fruit vendor said, This is MY country. News flash! You are not in your own country. It would serve we tourists well to remember that we are in THEIR homeland and to be respectful of that. Isn’t travel about experiencing different cultures, customs and cuisines? If not, if you need to bring your home country’s food and practices with you every where you go, please just stay home! Barbadians are beautiful, sophisticated, friendly people proud of their country and they deserve to be treated accordingly.
Cecelia Ahern once said, Home isn’t a place, it’s a feeling. God bless them, because the Barbadian people over the years have gifted me with that precious feeling.