The official language in Jamaica is English. Called the Jamaican Standard English, the language mixes British and American English and is spoken with an Irish accent. Most Jamaicans speak a variation of English called Patois. It is a Creole language that mixes English and West African languages. A number of Jamaicans, mostly those from the Rastafari movement speak Iyaric. The language is like a personalized English dialect that was created by the Rastafarians’ in defiance against what they view as a language imposed upon them by oppressive colonizers.
Jamaican cuisine is a fusion of the influences it got from various cultures, mainly from the Spanish, Africans, Indian, Chinese, British, and its indigenous people. In spite of the influences from the foreign cultures, Jamaican cuisine has distinctively local ingredients that make the dishes stand out. Most notable is the Scotch Bonnet pepper. This hot and spicy ingredient is a key addition in jerk, the country’s national dish. Jerk uses chicken or pork seasoned with Scotch Bonnet peppers, thyme, scallions, and onions. The meat is then wrapped in pimiento leaves and cooked for 6 - 8 hours. The jerk is cooked in a pit filled with hot coals, on a grill, or an oven. The escoveitch fish is another local hit. It is fried fish served with vinegar sauce seasoned with hot peppers and onions.
Side dishes are mostly prepared with big flavored veggies. The callaloo, a leafy collared green, is a local favorite. It often goes with pickled mackerel, cod fish, or boiled green bananas. Hot soups are also common in Jamaica. Pepperpot soup, creamy pumpkin soup, conch stew, chicken stew, and oxtail soup are commonly served in the country. Meals are not complete without coconut water, a favorite beverage in Jamaica.
In addition to the abundance of rum bars in Jamaica, the country has a reputation for having more churches per square mile. The Jamaicans’ way of life is shaped by their religious affiliations. The majority subscribe to Christianity (80%). The largest denomination is the Anglican Church of Jamaica, followed by Protestant churches. Though with a much smaller following, Rastafari makes for a major highlight in Jamaica. Rastafari is a unique religious movement that saw its inception in the 1920s and 30s. It combines Old Testament Christian beliefs, African fundamentalist ideology, and mystic beliefs. The Rastafarians have a distinctive lifestyle. Follower wear their hair in long dreadlocks, partake in spiritual use of marijuana, avoid alcohol, and are usually vegetarians. The Rastafari movement became widely known around the world because of the popularity of Reggae music.
The Jamaicans are generally laidback and relaxed. They live on Jamaican time, and people are mostly expected to be late. Also, Jamaicans have a natural tendency to speak their mind, so try to not take it personally.