Jamaica: The Essential Guide To Customs & Culture, by Nick Davis
I found this book in general to be a very easy-to-read and also very informative and enjoyable guide to Jamaica. This is a book that is not focused on the regions of Jamaica and what one may see from the point of view of a tourist, though those books are certainly enjoyable in their own right. Instead, what this book seeks to do is to encourage the reader to know enough about the values and customs of the people of Jamaica to be an intelligent and understanding visitor of the area who is able to avoid making the sort of faux pas that lead to accusations of being an ugly American or an ugly member of other nationalities, perhaps. By and large I think this book succeeds at placing the history and culture of Jamaica in such a way that it allows the reader to get a sense of the attitudes of the people, attitudes that someone might be expected to come across. The knowledge of how people behave and think does not necessarily mean to approve of such things, but it does allow us to be better informed about how to handle such situations and avoid unnecessary awkwardness.
This particular book is a relatively short one at just over 150 pages and it is divided into nine chapters. The author begins with a map of Jamaica and an introduction along with some key facts. After that the author discusses the land and the people (1), giving an overview of the nation as a whole. This leads to a look at values and attitudes that Jamaicans have (2) in a wide variety of areas from pride, religion, and family, to politics, home ownership, sexual encounters, money, color, masculinity, and the like. After that the author discusses customs and traditions that include Christianity, African religions, and Rastafarianism as well as simple superstition (3). The author discusses how one makes friends and deals with begging and socializing with the opposite sex (4). The author discusses family life (5) as well as how to deal with one’s time out socializing, eating and drinking, going to the beach, exploring the nightlife, and watching sports (6). After that comes some discussion on travel, health, and safety, including taxis, planes, and dealing with where to stay (7), a chapter on business briefing and dealing with the custom of doing business in Jamaica (8), and a chapter on various aspects of communication (9), after which the book closes with some expressions in Jamaican English, suggestions for further reading, and an index.
As is frequently the case, most of my experience with Jamaicans comes from those who have left their home country and traveled elsewhere. It has always been my desire to visit a place knowing at least something of its history and culture, so that I may not be entirely unaware of the lay of the land and what life is like in a given place, and this book is certainly a useful one not only for tourists but for those who wish to have longer lasting ties in the area as well. The author has done a fair bit of work in observing and reading about and likely speaking with a great many people from Jamaica and this is a worthwhile guide to read if one wants to go to the country and spend any length of time there. If I find more books in this series for countries I wish to explore I will definitely take a look at them, as they are without a doubt very interesting and worthwhile. Hopefully, if you find reason to read the book, you will think the same as well.