Unwritten Rules And Norms Of The Jamaican Culture

For such a small country, Jamaica has one of the richest cultures worldwide. While many try to duplicate, a significant portion of or norms can only be experienced here. Let’s Look at some of our norms that have been etched in our culture.

  • We have the remarkable ability to replicate the American accent when talking to Americans, or after a short stay in the country. Whether or not this is done well, is a very subjective matter.
  • It is perfectly legal to park the letter ‘h’ anywhere in a sentence. Example ‘Hi am feeling very appy’. 
  • Whenever you are at a shop in rural Jamaica, often times no one is present to sell you items. You indicate your need for service by shouting “Serve”. Someone will appear to help.
  • You do not have fried dumplings for dinner. They are good for breakfast only.
  • Guys can have a complete conversation using only the sound ‘ahh’.
  • You must acknowledge the national anthem before watching any movie at the Theatre. 
  • It is your right to convey that you are filled with the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues when worshiping at a Pentecostal church, but not at a Catholic church.
  • More often than not, the biological father is absent from the household.
  • An effeminate male is immediately categorized as homosexual.
  • Rice and peas, with your choice of meat, is expected for Sunday dinner.
  • Ginger bulla, is eaten with pear (avocado).
  • Having multiple jobs is the norm.
  • If a vehicle “bad drives” you on the road, it is your duty to drive them down just so you can utter profanities at them.
  • Taxi drivers are known to be aggressive while driving. Make way.
  • Upon arrival from ‘foreign’, whichever country it may be, it is expected that you return bearing gifts.
  • There is absolutely nothing better that free food.
  • Everyone appreciates old Reggae Music.
  • We find being told negatives about our mothers to be especially offensive.
  • Most persons are not Rastafarians, most persons do not smoke weed and most persons rarely visit the beach. We find it surprising members of the international community believe those are norms.
  • The word ‘hush’ does not mean ‘shut up’. It is a sentiment of empathy. 
  • If someone is in our way when walking and we want to pass, we do not say ‘excuse me’ like the rest of the world, we say ‘sorry’. 
  • When singing the national anthem, it is ok to insert the sound ‘boom’  after ‘Jamaica’. Big up yuhself Omar McLeod. Boom! 


– Aldeam Facey 2016

Can A Man And A Woman Be Friends, Just Friends?

Many times I have heard the question; ‘Can a man and a woman be friends?’ I have always defended firmly that it is possible based on my associations with women. However, over the years, my thoughts have evolved. Here is why:

During my undergrad years at the University of the West Indies, I contently interacted with many young ladies, enjoying the incredible 7:3 female to male ratio with no complaints at all. I became very good friends with one particular female. We spent a lot of time together studying, chilling at each others place of residence and had constant telephone conversations. We were NOT together. For years we enjoyed a clean friendship though she was an attractive girl and I was, well, you know, me. We comforted each other as we entered and ended relationships but never did we venture outside the ‘friend-zone’. We were just about ready to graduate from University and we were both single for at least a year. I was by her place just giving her a quick visit as was the norm but when I was leaving I gave her a hug. This was however no ordinary hug, it lasted much longer than the standard 1 to 2 seconds. I felt something, it was so intense that a hug led to a passionate kiss. I left thinking how much sense it made to have a relationship with this girl.

There was a second encounter. She came to visit me after I had started my graduate program and we had a chat. Before you knew it we were involved in some intense petting petting (2). To date we haven’t said a word about it, I am just thankful it didn’t go too far. We are simply trying to maintain a friendship and nothing more because the friendship is something we both treasure.

It happened again…

I met another girl at church and we simply mixed like 2 organic solvents. We had deep conversations and she quickly became my go to person if I needed a good debate. It may be important to mention that the mirror on the wall confirmed that she is one of the fairest of them all. We both started and ended relationships during the course of our long friendship and we could always talk to each other about anything. But again, she was just a friend. One night she visited me and as usual we talked but the devil finds use for idle hands and I don’t know how it happened, but again I found myself scratching the kitty petting (2). It went no further and to date nothing was mentioned in relation to the itch.

It really would be logical to date one of these women given that they possess the very features I prefer. But I like our friendship too much to jeopardize it with a relationship. I just know deep down, we have a strange friendship. But this had me thinking, and I realized that many women I considered to be friends, didn’t want just a friendship and this solidified my evolving thought.

So to answer the very old question I will make it very specific:

Can a single, attractive, heterosexual Jamaican man and a single, attractive heterosexual Jamaican woman be friends and just friends?

Answer: No

If you are a woman and you are friends with a man, you are either not single, not attractive or not heterosexual.

What are your views? Comment below.

– Aldeam Facey 2016

The Problem With Jamaican Time

Have you ever been invited to an event which claims to start at say 8 am ‘SHARP’? You set your alarm for 8:10 am, you wake up, get ready and arrive at 10 am and still you are early for the event? If you have done this before, then there is definitely Jamaican blood running through your veins. Most events do not start on time and everybody knows it. This is a big problem! The event will either start late or people arrive late.

We have a last-minute nature

We tend to save everything for the last-minute, then rush. For my Biochemistry class I would give them the outline with all the details of a required lab report and ask them to ask questions if they need help. I would wait all week for a question but receive none until the night before the report is due. Of course not all questions will be answered immediately for a large class. Inevitably the reports are usually substandard, whose fault is that?

Often times when advertising a party, you would hear them say “ladies free before x or y time”. This is an attempt to get an early turn-out which rarely happens. Others would use various methods to force persons to arrive on time. These include free giveaways for the first set of persons, subsidized costs or threats of reduced access for late persons.

I often try to calculate the start time of an event just so I don’t waste my time. Earlier this week I had a field trip and was sent an email stating bus leaves at 6am. This was highlighted but I woke after 5 and started some chores knowing they would be late. I was that confident about it! I started packing a few minutes to 6am. When I arrived, the bus, and most persons participating were not present. We left about an hour and a half after the scheduled time. But this is something we now plan for, if you want to start a program at 7, you advertise for 6 or 6:30.

Imagine how much more we could get done if we adopted a culture of punctuality. We can, but we need people to start the process. I hate tardiness and when given the opportunity and the level of control, I start my programs on time, independent of the tardiness of some participants. What I did with the Biochemistry students to achieve compliance is to refuse any late reports.

Let us be on time and erase this detrimental feature of our culture. Let us start right now, not one hour later.

-Aldeam Facey 2015

How To Get Good Customer Service In Jamaica

It is well known that Jamaica has very bad customer service, at least when relating with other Jamaicans. Customer service agents (CSAs), whether by phone or in person, make it quite obvious that your problems are of no interest to them. Could it be that Jamaican CSAs are so honest, so real, that no form of hypocrisy or pretense can be expressed? Is the pay too little? Are there no sanctions for substandard customer service? Whatever the reason, nothing justifies bad customer service. The customer is always right.

Customer Service

I have worked a number of years in customer service and I know how critical it is for businesses that CSAs respect their customers. I recall working for Amazon.com, every call was recorded and disrespecting a customer was an offense which warranted immediate termination. I was surprised to see how well the Jamaican agents performed! We were on top of the world, literally, where customer satisfaction was concerned. It is interesting to note that we were being paid just about 25% of the pay American CSAs were paid, for better quality work. Given that the pay wasn’t anything to smile about, what was it that kept us motivated to excel? Were we enthused with the idea of communicating with the glorious American customers who were so very nice to us? I believe it was the desperate financial need, the managers with whips at our backs and the threat of termination. I must say, however, it was not a difficult job and I am thankful for that opportunity as I learned quite a lot. I could be wrong, but I don’t believe sanctions are enforced as readily here in Jamaica when CSAs disrespect customers. It could also be due to the fact that in the USA customers are very dangerous people, they know their rights and never refrain from employing its use.

I remember my first time calling Dominoes Pizza. I was just a hungry guy trying to fill a hole of sadness with the food of gladness. I assumed it would have been a quick, easy call. I didn’t know the specifics or the offerings of the franchise and upon inquiry I was greeted with sighs and tones of frustration. I completed the order, eventually, and asked that when dealing with first time customers, she (wish I remembered her name) should be more courteous. She pretended nothing was said and replied “Wait 45 minutes for delivery!” then hung up. Yes! Hung up! Oh my heart burned within me and I declared that I would make no more orders from Dominoes Pizza. This is an example of the many substandard customer service we Jamaicans receive on a daily basis. While I would love to call the names of all the companies which provide terrible customer service, I will allow you to make you comments or share experiences in the comment section below.

I learned many strategies for dealing with angry customers. Some of these strategies can be employed by a customer who would like to receive top class customer service. It is the duty of the CSA to provide these services but given our current situation you may find these quite useful until our customer service departments are improved.

How to get very good customer service

  • Greet with a smile – Smiles are contagious so when approaching a CSA, smile and make eye contact. I can assure you, you will receive a much better response when compared to a straight face approach. This strategy cannot work via phone and it is dependent on the situation. If you are an angry customer, you may find this strategy very difficult.
  • Ask how they are doing – Some of us are just full of ourselves, so talking about ourselves is always a pleasure. Asking this question gives the CSA the impression that you care but you are just doing this so you can get the service you deserve.
  • Ask about their experiences – Try to get the CSA to imagine themselves in your positions. Ask: Has this ever happened to you? Imagining they are in the same position will influence them to make an increased effort to solve your problem.
  • Use their names – Build rapport. Yes, its like doing their work for them but having a conversation and remembering their names will make a significant positive impact.
  • Be brief – Most CSAs want you gone in the first minute. In some cases they are assessed based on the number of contacts they made so being brief makes them happy. Happy CSA = respected customer.
  • Use a little creole – They have to speak standard English (acrolect) every day all day. It is reviving to hear a little of the mother tongue. Just a little, and not while venting. It will put the CSA at ease.
  • Compliment/thank the CSA – Thank the CSA for a job well done. Where possible, give a commendation. It is also nice to give compliments. I remember talking to this lady who asked if I work at a radio station. I said no and she told me I had such a lovely voice, she would just sit and listen to me all day! I nearly fainted, never blushed so much in my life. That lady could have me do anything for her after that compliment! I was all hers.

If none of the aforementioned strategies work, please report CSA to manager, recommending their immediate dismissal.


– Aldeam Facey 2015

Jamaican Nicknames

My grandmother is so nice they call her Miss Nicey, her sister is so cool,  they call her Miss Cooly, their brother is so hard they call him Maas Rocky. Given that I am so awesome, will they eventually call me…. Awe-sy!?


In the lower and middle class Jamaican society, where bureaucracy and hierarchy fail to prevail, where regular informal conversations form the basis of relationships, Christian names are seldom used. In lieu of the Christian name, a name descriptive of a physical characteristic, occupation or some other defining personal trait is used. This is done because these names are much easier to remember and often times they are very funny.
Let us look at some examples
Sellers on the street are called by the names of the items they sell followed by the word ‘man’ . In some cases they are called by the adverb of the item they sell. A man selling juice will be called either ‘Juice-man’ or ‘Juicy’ (if the seller is female only ‘Juicy’ is used). There are no written rules for this form of nomenclature but a Jamaican always know the correct terms to use. If a gentleman sells mangoes in the market, he is called ‘Mango-man’ not ‘Mango-y’ because that just doesn’t sound right.
A guy passes my home every Sunday selling Gleaner magazines. I purchase from him, usually weekly, but sadly never asked his name, but when ever I see him and give him a hail ‘Gleaner-man’ works just fine. He is not offended because it defines his occupation.

Personal Nicknames
There are Nicknames not associated with one’s occupation and are purely bases on one’s character. These names follow the same aforementioned ‘rules’. If you are a tall male be prepared to be called ‘Tall-man’. If you are short it will likely be ‘Short-man’ or ‘Shorty’

There was a case where a young man was sexually abused by another person. To date he is called ‘Victim’.
The horizontal distance between the corners of a certain young man’s lips is far greater than that of the normal population, he is called ‘Fish-mouth’ When I was young a few relatives called me ‘Peas head’ or ‘Peasy’ but due to its literal inaccuracy, it did not catch on.
These Nicknames are meant to be either embarrassing or catchy and can often result in fights.

What are some of the funny or embarrassing nicknames you have been called or have heard? Comment below.

– Aldeam Facey 2015