1. Jamaicans love to laugh, but their humor is not your humor, and blunt honesty is the name of the game.
When someone falls down in Jamaica, even if they fall into a gully, everyone will laugh. This might seem mean to people from other cultures, but reflects the extreme honesty that Jamaicans embrace. When someone falls, it’s funny. If someone has no arm, call them ‘Stumpy’. In Jamaica, call a spade a spade.
2. And just because you aren’t a great singer, you’ll still belt out your favorite tune at karaoke.
Related to the first lesson, Jamaicans aren’t afraid to live out loud. The first time I attended church, my eyes grew wide as the congregation sang tunes completely off key. I’m used to people hiding their insecurities, their flaws and weaknesses, but in Jamaica, they are embraced, polished, and shown off, in the same way talents, and strengths are. If you’re going to sing, you might as well do it loudly, right? I’ve taken this one to heart, probably to the dismay of my fellow Peace Corps Volunteers…you’ll just have to deal with my voice, wobbly but heartfelt😛
3. Jamaicans fullticipate in Patwaa word play!
Jamaicans sometimes use different words to express their desired meaning, such as fullticipate, rather than participate, meaning, in this case, that you should fully, not partially, participate. I love this word play, as language is a living, breathing thing that takes on the personality of its time. TBH, how else could we talk in acronyms, or type “selfies” and “googling” without seeing the squiggly red underline of spell check doom?
4. Taxi rides are philosophical…mostly.
Listening to other Jamaicans on the dozens of taxi rides I’ve braved, I notice that the conversations run from nonexistent, to emotion filled, to gently mocking. Somehow, though, they usually manage to comment on the inner workings of human life, from the right way to be a Christian, to how to correctly raise an unruly daughter. See below for my favorite example that combines this and the previous lesson.
5. Stand in love?
Last Saturday, coming home in one of the previously mentioned philosophical taxis, I heard our driver, Tall Man, saying “Ya haffi stan in love. Nah fall in love!”* He explained that you should stand strong as a tree, not bending, when loving someone else. Otherwise, you might fall down, and end up too hurt to get up. He actually said to only give 60% (or so…) of yourself to the other person, presumably so not too much of yourself is spent in love. Now, normally, I would agree with my love guru taxi driver, but this attitude of standing seemingly apart struck me as too cold. I am very independent, thinking of myself first in every major life decision, but love is a different song. It doesn’t seem to be something that you can-or should- enter thinking of how you’ll avoid bending and breaking; love takes two people willing to give a little of themselves to the other person so that they can become something greater than the sum of their parts, even at the risk of ending up hurt. As Tall Man said, this often leaves us with invisible bruises that hurt and last far longer than the kind you get when you fall down, but then, isn’t it better to fall and end up in someone’s arms, than to live forever standing, waiting and not finding? So go ahead! Fall hard in love.❤
*You have to stand in love. Don’t fall in love.