Through Johannes and the Real Jamaica network I got within four weeks much deeper into the Jamaican culture than, I would guess, other people who travel on their own. I thought I could share some of my gained knowledge as well as the feelings that I got while travelling through the island and staying in Kingston.
I am very open towards food and, even as a part time pescetarian; there is much to try in daily Jamaican cuisine. It is hard to say where to start, but trying Ackee and Salt fish is definitely a good way. Link up with some Jamaicans and try it at their home. Try Yam, Plantain, fried green and yellow bananas and sweet potato… and not to forget Callaloo.
I got myself an alternative sandwich, made by Coco-bread (Tastees got the best ones) filled with banana, peanut butter and jam. (Use the local Guava jam). I know you are already drooling 🙂
If it’s about Patties, I learned that you get the best at Tastees, followed by Juicis and Mothers. Since I am not so much into meat, there are, talking about Kingston, incredible places to get awesome food.
New Leaf Diner at Lane Plaza near Sovereign Centre is my favourite, as they offer great vegetarian Patties, Samosas, burgers and other delicious food.
One thing that was very different to my (German) culture or in general the European is the fact that almost every Jamaican I met wanted to do business in the one way or the other. It is not bothering; it is just a thing that is good to know, as it does not leave you in an awkward situation, if you talk every money issue upfront. This occurs often when asked to do a tour, you think it’s a friend, but he expects payment. Just make it clear from the beginning.
You understand very quickly that people in Kingston are used to see white people and no one really bothers you when you walk in the street. It will be a bit different in other places, especially where tourists pile up.
Having said that, talking about buying any stuff in more touristy areas, it is the same situation like in the Balkans, Turkey or India. They try to rip you off. If you are not an experienced traveller and have no idea about local prices you might think: “Wow, that’s cheap.” – trust me it isn’t. Start with half of it and then see the reaction. A slight difference to other countries is the way you split when not buying any product. Show respect, make them understand that, even you did not buy things, because it is just ridiculous expensive; they are doing a good job. It is just a manner, no hard feelings.
Even though I would say my English is pretty decent, listening and talking in Jamaica is like being the first time in India, or any other country where they speak a slightly different English, just that in Jamaica, it is two times different. I quite often got asked if I speak English because I did not answer right away, because I had no idea what they just told me. Makes you feel like an idiot, anyway, everyone has this moment being new to Jam.
Later on you realise how beautiful, interesting and diverse the language is. Just enjoy it and take your time to understand the single bits.
- Try Spirulina (preferred as a smoothi at the DubClub in Kingston)
- Try PeanutPunch Smoothies (Try smoothies in general – its an island made for it)
- Get a fresh jelly each day (recommended prices are 70 – 130 JMD)
- Get some “Off-Time” in the Blue Mountains or in Section
- Get into nice talks with Rastafarians, especially about I-Tal food. So much to learn
- Smile, just smile and enjoy people
- And last but not least “Travel Local – Support Locals”