Much imitated, in-your-face-overstated, never to be underrated, Jamaican culture has become known and loved all over the world. There are Japanese sporting dreadlocks, Germans singing reggae, Koreans selling jerk chicken, and Americans (mostly unsuccessfully) trying to talk like Jamaicans!
I asked my teenage daughter to help me define a country's culture, and I'm going to use her answer as the basis of this page. "The way the people live. Their food, music, religion, dress, speech, dance, traditions and things like that."
There's no way words can adequately portray the vibrant intensity of Jamaican culture, but I hope to give you enough of a taste to make you want to experience it for yourself.
The official language of Jamaica is English, but try telling that to most of the population. We find English to be an extremely confining alternative to our Jamaican patois. Very few Jamaicans speak standard English exclusively. Most of us are bilingual (English and Patois), and some speak patois only.
Click here for everyday Jamaican words.
Click here for timeless Jamaican proverbs and sayings.
Click here for classic Jamaican phrases for different situations.
Click here for the latest Jamaican slang.
Jamaican cuisine reflects the impact of the different ethnic groups that have had a place in Jamaica's history - Taino, Spanish, English, Indian, Chinese. Like our people, our food can be strong and spicy!
Click here for more on Jamaican Food.
Undoubtedly, the farthest reaching element of Jamaican culture is our music. Thanks to Bob Marley, Jimmy Cliff and other great musicians, reggae music can now be heard in the most unlikely corners of the world. But reggae did not emerge from a vacuum, nor is it the only Jamaican music form in use.
Click here for a quick tour through Jamaican Music.
Click here for Ska Music.
Click here for Rock Steady Music.
Click here for Reggae.
Hand in hand with music goes Jamaican dance. From European forms of the past such as the Quadrille, through African forms like Dinkie Minnie, to steps from the 21st century with names like "Gully Creepa", our dance is ever evolving, and wonderful to watch.
Jamaica has the reputation of having more churches and rum bars per square mile than any other country! Whether this is speculation or fact I'm not certain, but it can't be denied that you can hardly drive any distance in Jamaica without passing a church. The country is mostly Christian, but other religions such as Rastafari, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, and some African Cults can be found on the island.
Click here for insight into Christianity in Jamaica, and here for Rastafari.
Exisitng alongside Christianity is the frowned-upon practice of
Obeah in Jamaica.
Many Jamaican traditions can be directly linked to our African roots. Burying a baby's navel string (umbilical cord) and planting a tree on the spot is a West African tradition. Some customs, such as "nine night" can be linked to both our European and our African backgrounds.
Click here to learn about Christmas, Easter and Independence in Jamaica.
Click here to learn about Birth and Death traditions and customs.
Click here for an intriguing variety of customs, from house construction to saving to gambling.
For many generations, Jamaican folk tales were the main means of entertaining children at night. Before TV, radio, computers and MP3 players, the tradition of storytelling was an important part of Jamaican culture. Drama and action were provided by parents, grandparents and village storytellers.
Anansi stories, duppy stories, tales of the Rolling Calf, River Mumma, Black Heart Man and Big Boy enthralled children and adults alike as they gathered in the moonlight, around fires, or lanterns known as "kitchen bitches".