The Caribbean island of Jamaica is known for its colorful culture and long list of traditions. If you’re booking a last-minute vacation or looking far into the future, it's time to add Jamaica to your list.
And if you're already going there, you’ll definitely want to read up on Jamaican culture, from the music that makes the perfect beach playlist, to the food that you’ll love sampling while you’re there, like jerk chicken and other Caribbean recipes.
In Jamaica, there’s a rich culture waiting to be explored, so check out our guide to the best things about Jamaican culture to ensure you don’t miss a thing!
When it comes to discovering facts about Jamaican culture, language is the first thing you might ask about.
Jamaican language is a wonderful manifestation of the melting pot of cultures that make up this island’s populace. The official language of the island is English, so you’ll have no problems communicating with local people, if that's your native language. However, Jamaican residents have a distinctive linguistic style that you’ll likely have heard before.
The local dialect combines elements of other languages, from Spanish and African dialects, to Irish, British and American phrases. If you're looking to get some more intimate knowledge of how people in Jamaica speak, check out this list of common Jamaican sayings and phrases.
Some elements of the Jamaican language can be traced back to the island’s past in slavery, where African languages mixed with the native language of slave owners.
The cuisine of Jamaica is now well known throughout the world, and there’s a good reason why. It’s absolutely delicious! Jamaican cuisine focuses on huge flavors, with plenty of Caribbean spices that really pack a punch.
One of the most famous dishes in Jamaica is jerk chicken, a fiery chicken dish that combines the heat of scotch bonnet peppers with other spices like thyme, pepper, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. Another popular dish to try while you’re in Jamaica might require a bit of courage, but if you want authentic cuisine you’ve got to sample the local goat’s head soup, and the cow foot stew.
Don’t be put off by their names. These dishes really are tasty!
When you travel around Jamaica, you might notice people adorned in the bright, bold traditional clothing that the country is known for. Traditional Jamaican clothing is made of calico cloth, with dresses handmade in amazing bright prints that definitely draw the eye. The traditional outfits are often completed with a head scarf, wrapping up the wearer’s hair.
In addition to traditional Jamaican dresses, you’ll also notice plenty of eye-catching Rastafarian clothing in Jamaica. Rastafarian clothing is often made of red, green and gold fabrics, inspired by the three colors that make up the Ethiopian flag.
These items of clothing are always natural, as their being made from natural fibers is incredibly important to Rastafarians. The Rastafarian outfit is also completed with a hat, which the wearer will use to contain their dreadlocks. The traditional Rastafarian hat is known as a “tam”.
Religion goes hand in hand with Jamaican family culture, and you’ll notice as you travel around the island that there are churches almost everywhere you look. In fact, there are more churches per square mile in Jamaica than there are anywhere else in the world!
Jamaica is a mainly Christian nation, and you’ll find that the vast majority of locals are deeply religious and attend church on Sunday with the whole family. This weekly celebration is really a sight to behold, so if you’re able to attend a local church service, you should try to do so.
In Jamaica, there are a wide range of different types of Christianity being practiced. As well as Anglicans, Catholics and Baptists, you’ll find Presbyterians, Methodists and Seventh Day Adventists. Not only that, Jamaica is also home to many communities of Jews, Muslims, Hindus and of course Rastafarians.
In Jamaica, there are many different beliefs and customs that you might not find anywhere else in the world. These are the cultural beliefs that make Jamaica the nation that it is, and they’re incredibly important to local people.
Specific examples of Jamaican beliefs include the local practice of burying newborns’ umbilical cords beneath trees, which is said to give the infant a permanent connection with their homeland.
Like many of the world’s communities, Jamaicans also practice traditional funeral ceremonies which are distinctive to their culture. For example, Jamaican people gather at the home of the deceased person for eight nights following their passing.
During these eight nights the friends and family of the deceased will celebrate their life, drinking and dancing all night long. On the ninth night, they sing farewell songs to the deceased person, and rearrange the furnishings. The idea of this is that the house will look different to the person who has passed, so their spirit won’t return. The friends and family then serve a meal to the deceased person, placing it under the silk-cotton tree, where Jamaicans believe that spirits dwell.
Marriage culture in Jamaica is a massive celebration, with Jamaicans pulling out all the stops to send the newlyweds on their way to a wonderful life together. Wedding parties are huge, and if you’re lucky enough to be invited to one we guarantee you’ll have an amazing day!
This is the place to see Jamaican dance, and when you do we bet you won’t be able to resist hitting the dance floor with them. Like Western marriage celebrations, the cutting of the cake is an important part, and signifies the closing of the wedding party.
If you’re headed to Jamaica in the near future, we hope you’ve found our guide to Jamaican travel and culture useful. Jamaica is such a vibrant and exciting island, with so much to experience. We bet you’ll love seeing the traditions of the Jamaican people and culture firsthand. Prepare to make some amazing memories.