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14 Things Jamaicans Get Stereotyped For - Are They True?

by Sheree-Anita Shearer | Associate Writer



Jamaicans Celebrating
Photo: Jamaicans Celebrating with our Flag

Jamaica and Jamaicans are stereotyped for many things. Though there is some truth to a few of them, most are just an oversimplified understanding of what life in Jamaica is like. It’s common for most living outside of the island to believe that we all are Rastafarians, we all partake in the use of the green substance and we all run incredibly fast. Here are 14 other stereotypes Jamaicans can’t escape from.
  1. We all live close to the beach: In every movie I’ve watched where Jamaicans are being portrayed (especially when a Jamaican is not actually involved) Jamaicans are on the beach. I guess I can see why it’s easy to believe that Jamaicans go to the beach every day, we are on an island. For some who live close to the sea, beach trips are as frequent as once a week. Unfortunately, for others who live inland combined with work, school and just life in general it sometimes takes months for a trip to the beach.

  2. We speak only Patois: Most people believe Jamaicans only speak Patois and marvel at how well we speak English. English is the official language in Jamaica, Patois is only used in informal settings. It is also common for people to believe we say Yeah Mon, Irie or use expletives in every sentence. ‘Yeah man’ is a common response in normal conversation which could convey agreement. It is not used half as much as foreigners think it is. But while it can become a little tiring to hear it constantly, I do understand the tourist areas exaggerate it a little and so you may think it is common to use it that much. Also, while many Jamaicans do ‘add colour’ to their conversations, Jamaica is also a very religious country that largely frowns on the use of expletives.

  3. We can all cook - O how I would love this to be true, but unfortunately not every Jamaican can cook or even likes to cook for that matter. Though I wish it were true, we don’t all know how to make jerk chicken. Many of us have never done it and a select few don’t care for it very much.

  4. We are Aggressive and Fiesty - While I can understand this one to an extent. It really is taken out of context. Sometimes it is believed that once you hear someone loud and angry that person is Jamaican. Truth is, we really are not. If we are provoked or feel we need to stand up for ourselves then something will be said and even then, not everyone will have a boisterous approach. Also, most Jamaicans tend to not filter their opinions to fit the narrative of the masses in the name of political correctness. You will know how we feel, whether we agree or disagree and oftentimes (whether or not we are correct). I think too, that the way we speak can sometimes be aggressive and may give the impression we are angry even when we’re not.

  5. Jamaican men are womanizers - Jamaican men get a bad reputation for being overly sexual and for having multiple relationships at once. I don’t think Jamaican men are any different from men all over the world. Jamaican men, I would say, are more blatant with their actions and we do have a culture that celebrates having multiple relationships. But like anywhere else in the world, there are some that will be faithful and others that will fit into the category of being womanizers.

  6. We only listen to Reggae/Danchall - Most Jamaicans do listen to mainly Reggae/Dancehall, yes that is true. However, it isn’t ONLY from those genres that we get our musical enjoyment or influences. We listen to all different genres and that is sometimes displayed in our music, which is sometimes a fusion of other genres.

  7. We are always late - I have heard the phrase "island time" so many times. You’d think time slowed down in Jamaica. We are not always late, you must be early for school, work and church. So, in formal/professional settings lateness is not tolerated but I think going out with friends, you will have a few late ones in the bunch which I think is everywhere, not just in Jamaica.

  8. We know all the celebrities - As a Jamaican, you know some questions you will be asked as soon as you meet someone from another country. Do you know (insert celebrity here)? Usually, it is Bob Marley and his family, Shaggy, Vybz Kartel or Usain Bolt just to name a few. I always find it funny whenever I am asked this. I wish it were different but, no I don’t know them personally I just know them because of their work, just like you. Typically most Jamaicans don't know a lot of our celebrities. What I notice too is that we tend to view celebrities from a distance rather than approach them. We are not easily starstruck, I guess.

  9. We all live in Kingston or Montego Bay - “Are you Jamaican?” “Where do you live, Kingston?” This one I can understand. There are some parishes that are not as popular as others because tourists usually visit the resort areas only. It’s hard for someone without Jamaican roots to know this, but the next time you see a Jamaican remember there are 14 parishes.

  10. We can all swim - It is hard to understand how someone who has lived on an island all their life can’t swim. Many Jamaicans, (myself included) cannot swim and will stay as close to the shore as possible when we go to the beach. Maybe it's related to phobias or plain lack of interest but that's just the way it is.

  11. Jamaica is dangerous - Jamaica has the stereotype of being a country riddled with crime and violence, and while the issues do warrant concern and attention. I think wherever you are you should operate with the knowledge that criminals and crime exist in every country. Therefore always pay keen attention to your surroundings. I also think whenever we go to unfamiliar areas there is always a level of discomfort.

  12. Every Jamaican can dance - It is no doubt Jamaicans are very creative, talented people and there are many dancers in the bunch. However, not everyone is an exceptional dancer. While it is hard to find a downright terrible dancer in Jamaica, not everyone is at an award-winning level either.

  13. We all enjoy partying - Sorry for bursting your bubble on this one but the popular belief that Jamaicans do party 24/7, is just that...a popular belief. Not even the most avid party goer parties every day. While we have the ability to turn anything into a party and we do enjoy having a good time, we do understand there is a time and place for everything and work has to be done before the partying starts. We throw ourselves in what we do, work, play or party.

  14. All Jamaicans are of African descent - Out of Many One People is our motto after all. Jamaica is a melting pot of ethnicities and cultures which all contribute to the overall heritage of our country. One of my favourite things about Jamaica is that, while we are all aware that our ancestors have come to the island from different cultures and countries and we do celebrate our history. However, we are all first and foremost Jamaicans and that is something no matter what we look like, we take pride in.
So, I hope that the next time you see a Jamaican, come to Jamaica or think about us here on the beautiful island, your ideas about us will have less of these stereotypes. Irie :-)

I also recommend you read, 14 Common Jamaican Superstitions.

Regards,
SS

References:
  • 9 popular Stereotypes about Jamaicans, Jamaicans, https://jamaicans.com/popular-stereotypes-jamaicans/
  • 11 Stereotypes Every Jamaican Hates, The Culture Trip, https://theculturetrip.com/caribbean/jamaica/articles/11-stereotypes-every-jamaican-hates/
  • Six stereotypes Jamaicans hate to be associated with, Face2FaceAfrica, https://face2faceafrica.com/article/six-stereotypes-jamaicans-hate-to-be-associated-with

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A patriotic Jamaican who adore its culture, Wellesley has been using this medium to share what he calls 'the uniqueness of Jamaica with the world' since April 2007.  

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