Like all groups of people, Barbadians have a personality and traditions unique to their culture. As a US ex-pat living in Barbados, these are a few I’ve learned about these warm-hearted souls:
1. Barbadians call themselves Bajans. Interesting that nothing happens quickly in Barbados except for the speaking of individual words. Say the word “Barbadian” (“Bar-bayyd-ian”) quickly and with a Barbadian accent and you get a word that sounds more like “Bar-bayy-junn,” which, when shortened, is “Bajan.” It’s sort of like “Injun” for “Indian” and “Cajun” for “Acadian.”
2. Bajans are reserved. While the Trinidadian temperament is lively and always up for a good time and Jamaicans very confident and outgoing, Bajans are more reserved in polite company. It’s the English in them. Not back-slappers, not phony … very good-hearted. Crop Over and other festivals exempt from this characterization.
3. Bajans are super-clean. Even if people are of very modest means, their homes are usually immaculate. I’ve never seen anything approaching “slum” in Barbados.
4. They paint their homes at Christmastime. My first December on the island I was staging a home that was going on the market; the home required painting. I couldn’t find an available painter to save my soul, and when I drove around the island I saw why: all painters, professional and non-professional alike, were painting homes, particularly the front porches. Turns out painting and sprucing up one’s home is a Christmastime tradition.
5. Bajans love their flying fish (and so do the tourists). Sort of like leis in Hawaii, you see flying fish everywhere. Bajans don’t greet visitors to the island by throwing a fish around their necks, of course, but you see graphic representations of our fanciful fish that leap out of the sea on signs, t-shirts, hats, artwork, placemats, oven mitts, and so much more. Plus, of course, we eat lots and lots of flying fish: in cutters (sandwiches), fried up in Oistins on Friday nights, and Creole-style at more formal restaurants.