I love and adore Jamaica and as I’ve said before I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else BUT I have some Jamaican pet peeves that I’m really trying to get over and you might not have experienced them yet.
For you newbie returnees in the early stages of your stay in Jamaica all will seem like a vacation. You will be in holiday mode taking in all the sites but when it comes to doing simple day-to-day tasks in a quick and business-like manner, it’s a trip!
You realize your productivity levels gets truly affected, your time management skills begin to slip and you end up in Caribbean Standard Time through no fault of your own. You may be wondering what the hell I’m talking about, well here are the Jamaican pet peeves that you too will come to notice.
5 Jamaican Pet Peeves
In the early stages of your move the novelty of all the noise is great. Some may bring back memories of childhood or it may remind you of the cultural vibrancy of Jamaica but if you have lived in a foreign country unlike Jamaica for many years where the noise abatement law applies then the novelty will soon wear off.
That sound system blaring in the street, outside the storefronts, from the taxis and buses are tolerable in the beginning, the tooting of the car and truck horn at all hours of the day and night, you will have to readjust.
Your rose-tinted glasses of hearing 3 little birds outside your doorstep singing sweet songs will turn into dogs barking all hours of the night, bars blaring out loud music, churches holding 6-week conferences and conventions via loudspeaker, every man on a bicycle singing or djing at the top of his voice.
These are just a few of the noises that you will become familiar with on a daily basis.
One of the ways to get around this is to make sure you choose wisely when finding somewhere to live. Like the advice given by all real estate agents, check your potential surroundings at different times of the day and night, see what is nearby, find out who your neighbors are what businesses are planned for the area. Although this last one is a bit more difficult as regulation is a bit lapse when it comes to opening any type of business in certain areas.
Check if where you plan to live has a Citizens Association Group, they can fill you in on everything and everyone.
“Soon Come” Mentality
Never be in a rush as it will be your downfall. Have a plan A and a plan B, along with a C and a D due to lateness or complete abandonment. A workman or a delivery man will agree to come at X time and 4 hours later they turn up, if you’re lucky. There’s no redress, no point complaining as everyone will tell you ‘so di system set’ or ‘a Jamaica dis’.
Even staff in professional establishments will have you waiting with the soon come attitude, placing their lunch order for the day before dealing with your query.
But take heart, you won’t be the only one going through it. My way of coping with this is writing blog content on my phone or tablet while I wait or I take the opportunity to handle some other administrative task for my online work. I also tend to have a book with me in my bag, I prefer real books to a Kindle, I’m old-fashioned that way. So you see, it’s always good to have a plan B and C all mapped out.
The Call Back
Arrgh! The dreaded “I will call you back shortly”. I’ve only ever received a call back once and I’ve been here 6 years now. Before you even arrive here you better get used to following up on your phone conversations because the call back just doesn’t happen very often.
When you arrange for an appointment or wish to be transferred to whoever or get information on such and such you will be told no problem and can they call you back. DO NOT under any circumstances hang up, as you will be hung out to dry. You know that Bob Marley track, ‘I don’t wanna wait in vain’, well that’s where you’ll end up.
What you must learn to do is make light of it, take a name and physically go into the office or business place and meet with whoever face-to-face. Be friendly, make a joke with the receptionist, security guard or whoever you see first. You will be remembered and assisted more quickly and it helps with any future dealings you may have with them.
You might find this Jamaica Gleaner article, by Yaneek Page, a well-known Jamaican entrepreneur an interesting read. It’s not exactly typical but it does happen so be aware that customer service does need some much needed improvements.
This one is quite difficult because your years of being away may have changed your cultural habits or changed your good manners. You know, the ‘selfish’ westernized culture of keeping yourself to yourself. So, for instance, you may have adjusted to the way of visiting people only when invited or calling first before dropping in. This doesn’t happen in Jamaica unless you live in a secure gated community up in the hills somewhere. Making sure you say good morning and good evening as good manners never hurt anyone.
But take this scenario, you’re sitting on your front porch looking out and the man to read the water meter comes in tells you good morning and then proceeds to pick from your fruit tree without even asking!
Anyone who comes through your gate tends to have their eyes and their hands up in your fruit trees and they tend to know when everything is ready for the picking before you do and that’s before greeting you. But it’s all good! As they say, the more you give away the more your tree will blossom.
You will get unexpected visitors even when you’re at work, worse if you work from home, they just don’t consider working hours from home.
Another thing you might experience with familiarity is when taking public transport like a taxi. I’ve seen situations where you have taken a taxi once or twice and you’ll be recognized on future trips. The only thing is, that particular taxi driver will think that he has first rights in you riding in HIS taxi by grabbing your shopping off you in the market even if you’re not ready to leave, preventing all other taxi drivers from getting the business.
To solve these kinds of issues you have to set your boundaries very early on even though some may still be ignored.
Have you ever heard yourself saying “I could buy 4 of those for that price!” Well, STOP! Price comparison from where you were to where you are now heading to, ie to Jamaica will have to end.
That gorgeous dress you got for a discount from TKMaxx or TJMaxx depending on where you’re located for £30 is now J$10,000 which roughly converts to £60 and you know they got it from Florida for U$30. You have got to stop thinking like that once you factor in the import costs and taxes although some of these stores are a bit excessive. You’ll reminisce how some fruit and veg, even tropical ones were so much cheaper in Birmingham, Toronto or Fort Lauderdale. You know what? Get over it and start planting your own. 🙂
Having to learn tolerance and patience and knowing that all customer service is not good customer service is a part of the transition phase. Understanding and remembering how the country works along with its culture and economic condition is something that you will have to adapt to within reason, of course. And although it will seem difficult at first, handling the Jamaican pet peeves, you will come to understand and recognize the signs early on and put things in place and in time whenever you end up in these situations.
Breathe, relax and chill! You’re in Jamaica!