Jamaica Culture

Jamaican Culture – Quick Facts, Travel Hints, & Tips

About the People
  • The Jamaican people are extremely relaxed and laid back.
  • You may notice the “Jamaica time” phenomenon. As with many developing nations, punctuality is not as all-consuming as in Western culture.
  • Jamaicans can be very direct, so try not to take offense.

Nine Nights and Other Funerary Traditions

  • Jamaican funerary traditions are very different from what you might be accustomed to.
  • The dead are often buried on family plots, as opposed to cemeteries.
  • Nine nights are a celebration where friends and family gather for music and enjoyment at the home of the deceased. The celebration lasts nine nights and on the ninth night the family prepares food for all comers. On the ninth night a table is set up with food for the loved one. No one eats from this table before midnight, the time when the spirit is believed to pass through. This tradition has its roots in Africa.
  • On the night of death the deceased’s bed and mattress are placed upright against the wall. This is meant to encourage the spirit to leave the house and move on to the next world.

The Food

  • Jamaica’s inhabitants come from many different places around the world. As a result, the cuisine and cooking techniques are extremely varies.
  • The English brough the “island hamburger”, a spicy pattie that’s a favorite lunch snack, in 1655.
  • Chinese and Indian immigrants brough curry dishes a century later.
  • Popular dishes include – Ackee and saltfish (the national dish), Bammy, Red pea soup, rice and peas, and jerk chicken.
  • Potatoes, plantains, and yams are extremely common, and different from their American counterparts.

Leisure Time

  • Many Jamaican families regularly watch many movies and filmed plays.
  • Soccer and cricket are the two most popular pastimes.


  • Jamaica’s roadway system is fairly extensive and consistently the best way around the Island.
  • Many of the cars on the road are private, unmarked taxis. You may see what you think is hitchhiking, but it’s actually Jamaicans getting a paid ride to go on a specific route.


  • Jamaica has several universities and compulsory education through “sixth form.”
  • Schools compete scholastically in the “School’s Challenge Quiz and Debating Competition”. These are televised and extremely popular.


  • English is the national language of Jamaica.
  • Most Jamaicans will also speak a variation of English known simply as Patois. It is an English-African creole language.
  • Patois is not an accent. It is in fact a distinct language that you will at first have difficulty comprehending. As your time in Jamaica goes on you will begin to understand more and more of ongoing conversations.
  • Some example phrases include – wagwan (what’s going on?), we ju a du (what are you doing?), dem (them).


  • The biggest natural resource is bauxite. Many of the railroad lines now exclusively transport the mineral to ports for export.
  • Jamaica is still a very agriculturally centered economy, while tourism also comprises a relatively large portion of GDP. As an industry, it brings in $1 dollars a year to this small Carribean island.


  • A large majority of Jamaicans classify themselves as Christian. The Anglican Church and Church of God are two of the most prominent denominations.
  • It’s been estimated that over 75% of the population secretly adhere to African traditional practices like religious healers.
  • Other prominent religious movements include Bahá'í, the famous Rastafari, and Judaism. Synagogues can be found scattered about the Island.


  • Jamaica has among the most famous and colorful music traditions in the world.
  • Musical styles owing their existence to Jamaica include Punk, Reggae, Ska, Rocksteady, and Dancehall.

Globe Aware has gathered more tips, hints, and facts on Jamaican culture from numerous sources in print, past volunteers and staff, and on the web. Find out more by registering today and experiencing genuine Jamaican life, from reggae to nine nights, for yourself!





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