Do poor imitations of our accents.
We’re prepared to deal with the typical “Wha gwaan?” and “Irie mon!” But any attempts at patois beyond that will give us a headache.
Once everyone saw Cool Runnings and How Stella Got Her Groove Back, we were doomed to a lifetime of insufferable patois imitations. But you should know that none of us say “Yeah, mon!” Ever. We know it’s not your fault. We really should be pissed at Hollywood for failing to hire Jamaican actors to play Jamaican roles. And we’re still trying to figure out how Miss Cleo managed to succeed at being Ja-fake-an for so long.
Ask if we can give or sell you ‘ganja.’
If you walk down the average Jamaican street in the middle of the day, you will not see people smoking weed. It’s insulting to suggest that our nation of hardworking people is high on drugs all the time. Marijuana sale is actually illegal in Jamaica. In February of 2015, the government decriminalized the possession of up to 2oz of marijuana for personal use. However, sale and commercial production of the drug is still illegal. Despite what you’ve seen or heard, we don’t all walk around with ganja for sale.
Assume that we are all Rastas.
Rastafari is acknowledged as an important part of Jamaican culture, but only 2-5% of Jamaica’s 3 million citizens are practitioners. In fact, Jamaica has the most churches per square mile in the world. Most of us attend public schools where we begin each day with Christian devotion. You are about 10 times more likely to meet a Jamaican Christian than a Jamaican Rasta.
And I beg of you, don’t touch our hair to find out if there are locs hidden up there.
Criticize another Jamaican.
Jamaicans are very expressive and opinionated people. It’s not uncommon for us to comment on a stranger’s outfit, hairstyle, or general appearance. We feel free to say as many disparaging things as we want about each other.
But we are also fiercely patriotic. We’ll all turn on you if you attack one of ours.
Assume that we are all from Kingston.
Kingston may be Jamaica’s capital, but there are two million people living in other areas of the country. Famous Jamaicans such as Bob Marley, Usain Bolt, Veronica Campbell-Brown, Jimmy Cliff, Grace Jones, Marcus Garvey, and Michael Lee-Chin are all from other parts of the island. It’s just as silly as suggesting that all Americans are from New York.
Offer us your version of ‘Jerk Chicken.’
Unless you made an authentic seasoning with scotch bonnet pepper, and cooked the chicken over pimento wood, it’s not jerk chicken. Don’t lie to yourself, or us.