Intercultural communication: Barbados and Jamaica

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The Caribbean Islands is always regarded as sharing same culture but from deep research, it is evident that the region enjoys cultural diversity. Jamaica and Barbados are the Caribbean Island countries whose exploration in terms of food, music and culture is explored in this subsequent research. As such, the discussion of the differences between Barbados and Jamaica is done with regards to how such influence communication within the cultural contexts and as such, if there are greater cultural differences that will make intercultural communication within the contexts such a difficult task. In doing so, this paper maintains that Barbados and Jamaica share more similarities in culture, food and music but some profound differences implies conflicts and cultural shock that may hinder effective intercultural communication.

The similarities between Jamaica and Barbados are evident from their musical traditions. Calypso or Soca music can be compared to Jamaican reggae and dancehall, both in content, rhythm, and tempo. Calypso music is different in that the music is an artform combining story-telling skills, instrument making and singing and has become such a vital musical culture that has become embedded into the Barbadian cultural landscape (Best 45). The music more of involves vital social commentary, and as such, integrates the musical storytelling with humorous satire on the social and well as political events. However, just like the Jamaican dancehall music other calypso music are mainly for dance and humor. Unlike the reggae and dancehall music, calypso is celebrated like a real culture, and there are the national day celebrations annually for the Pic-O-De-Crop Competition, a major or popular event in the country’s cultural celebrations (Sullivan 69). During such events, tents are erected, with calypsonians performing a few days on a weekly basis of which the winners from each group or category battle out in the competition.

Calypso music has evolved with time, with the faster tempo than original calypso being introduced, mainly influenced by soul and funk music from America. Hence, the soca element of the music is faster and high tempo than the original calypso songs. The music is different from reggae and dancehall in that it finds more use on social commentary. Calypso music has developed over time to include types like Ring Bang, mainly produced from Tuk and Ragga soca that has currently become the most decorated (Best 56). Therefore, the two kinds of music are different in the manner in which they have evolved, with calypso integrating more musical rhythms but reggae has since then stuck with the original deep drum beats.

The Jamaican reggae and dancehall music shows major differences from Calypso music. For one, the music’s origin is from the Rastafari religion, and as such, the Jamaican music is more influenced by the Rasta population, thereby integrating serious social issues like religion, politics, and life but characterized by the smoking of marijuana (Real Jamaican Vacations. Com). The major difference with the calypso or soca music is that reggae is defined by slow drumming and foot-stamping, also known as the root’s music. Throughout history, reggae has evolved with time, and more fast and high rhythms have been produced as such, a shift from the original heavy drumming and slow foot thumping (Davis 45). The modern Jamaican dancehall music is more defined by the youths of which the content differs with calypso music in that it contains more violence and explicit content.

The similarity in calypso and reggae music is currently evident from the manner in which the two genres are now being fused, with the development of raga-soca, faster than reggae but slower when compared to up-tempo soca. The fusion of these two types of music implies that they have inherently the same rhythmic tempos.  Hence, within the Jamaican and Barbados context, the fusion of both calypso and reggae (through raga-soca) implies that intercultural communication is possible of which the same norms and values portrayed by music are communicated through the same musical channels or medium (Ainsworth 29).

However, for food and food culture, Jamaica and Barbados have well spelled out differences. For instance, in Barbados, there is Coocoo, blended from okra and cornmeal, and flying fish as the national dish (Best 67). Other types of foods that are common in the culture include fried breaded and fried flying fish as the popular dishes or meals.  Nonetheless, the food culture is characterized by the Bajan meals, mainly emphasizing chicken, fish, pork as well as other common foods that are found with the African origin like rice, and okra. Just like Jamaica, fruit has played a significant role in the Jamaican culture of which the two food cultures are characterized by fruits such as bananas, papayas, oranges, mangos and pineapples. Pork finds its place in most of the Barbados meals, a culture which is more of restricted in the Jamaican culture, in particular for the Rastafarians (Davis 48). Therefore, any person traveling to Barbados from Jamaica will experience cultural shock, especially on how pork is a standard component of the food culture while has been highly limited within the Jamaican food culture. During special occasions, the Barbadians have the common practice for pudding and souse, with the spicy mashed sweet potatoes that have been encased into pigs belly, with boiled pig eggs majorly served with pickled onions, sweet and hot peppers, lime and cucumbers (Sullivan 45).

On the other hand, Jamaican food shows major differences from the Barbadian food of which the famous jerk is a typical dish, dried meat. For the Jamaican food culture, it is more inclined towards the adoption of spices like nutmeg, ginger, and allspice or pimento finds common use. Many of the daily meals are accompanied by the bammy or toasted bread-like wafer prepared from cassava (Davis 59). A major similarity with Barbados is that Jamaicans eat a lot of seafood, especially Lobsters, Shrimp and fish which are typical meals in both cultures. Nonetheless, Jamaica is different from Barbados in that the national dish is ackee and saltfish, dried, soaked in water and then cooked. Ackee fruit is fried into sweet and hot peppers onions, fresh tomatoes. The food is popular as breakfast snack for most Jamaicans, while other foods that are familiar with the Jamaicans are beef gravy, pepperpot soup, curried goat, and okra. The Rastafarians shape part of the food culture in Jamaica, and their food type is known as the “I-Tal” food, with dietary guidelines that do not have animal meat, and no salt is added to the dish (Davis 67).

For Jamaica and Barbados, they have common dishes shaped by the geographical location, especially the presence of seafood in their table, fruits, fried meat and pork servings. However, there are major differences with the Jamaican case with the vegetarian elements in the cultures, especially the “I-Tal” food enthusiasts or the Rastafarians (Davis 59). When assessing the Barbadian context from an intercultural communication perspective, challenges with intercultural communication may exist to minimal levels due to sharing of common cultures (Ainsworth 34), because the food practices are within the same geographical location or region, while they share common dishes. Problems with cultural or ethnic conflict may exist with the naturalists who prefer not to eat pork and are strictly vegetarians.

The differences between Jamaica and Barbados as concerning multicultural or intercultural communication stems from the different cultural and social values upheld with the individuals. For example, the language culture between Barbados and Jamaica is different is that for the Jamaican culture, they are more aggressive and assertive in their talk with much swearing and cursing common with the Jamaicans. On the contrary, Bajans are less outspoken, are not reactive in their language and talk. Therefore, according to Gore (59), the language use between these two cultures can bring about serious challenges with communication, especially within a context where the tone of language is different from both cultures. Bajans would find it difficult to communicate with Jamaicans due to their assertiveness and aggressive language and the same communication, or cultural conflict will occur when Jamaicans cross over the border to Barbados. Another cultural difference between Barbados and Jamaica is the glorification of violence which has characterized way of life in the Island. Jamaica is known for a long history of violence, dating back to many years and continues to form part of the country’s culture. Partly, Jamaicans are accustomed to violence, but in comparison, Barbados does not have more inclination to violence are the people are more friendly and slow to react to adverse situations.

In comparison, concerning culture, Barbados is richer in culture that Jamaicans and as such performs or celebrates traditional practices than Jamaicans. For instance, there are the Tuk bands, brightly dressed musicians performing the musical instruments by playing bass drums and other instruments like kettle drum and pennywhistle (Sullivan 56). However, a major similarity with the Jamaican culture is that both traditional and cultural practices are profoundly influenced by a heavy drum, all from the African musical origin. Sports and games culture are some of the areas of importance, but the two cultures ascribed to different interests in sports and games. Jamaican is known for its role and position in athletics, producing stars in sprinting and other short-distance races (Davis 55). For Barbados, the culture is more inclined towards valuing cricket as the primary sport defining the values of the Island. On the other hand, island festival celebration culture is common to both Jamaica and Barbados and as such, a show that the islanders share some common culture. Hence, communication within Jamaican and Barbados, for both citizens, can be faced by cultural conflicts because culture defines the language used and can influence how the individuals agree or disagree with some of the contexts of communication (Ainsworth 37). Despite the challenges of diversity in culture, all the practices find their roots from Africa of which cultural integration is easy and possible, thus an indication of the higher possibility of cultural integration in communication despite the high cultural diversity.

In summary, the above research has outlined some of the differences between the Jamaican and Barbados culture by exploring the issue from the perspective of their food, music and general culture. Particularly, the music is different for both the cultures, with the Jamaican musical culture more defined by reggae and dancehall music while Bajans are more ascribed to calypso and soca music. The difference in the music stems from the rhythm and tempo, with reggae characterized with slow drumming and stomping of feet but Calypso is more robust, but the two music genres share heavy drumming. Food in the Carribean culture is also the same, but the cultural beliefs differ, especially on how the individuals value unique dishes. Fish is a major dish in Jamaica and also found in Barbados although Barbadian dishes are heavily influenced by pork while the Jamaicans have the Rastafarians who have shaped the food culture with the I-Tal dishes. The way of living is different but almost similar for Barbados and Jamaica.  Jamaicans are accustomed to using aggressive and assertive languages, but the Barbadians are soft spoken. Violence is more prone and embedded as a way of life in Jamaica but not present in Barbados. On the other hand, the individuals have different values when it comes to sports with Jamaicans preferring athletics and the Barbadians preferring cricket. However, the common way of life is that Jamaicans and Bajans love annual festivals of which the term Carribean festivals has become common. Hence, the differences in culture imply conflicts in communication while the major similarities imply that Jamaica and Barbados can easily integrate and common understanding is easier to reach during communication.

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  1. Ainsworth, Judith. “Business languages for intercultural and international business communication: A Canadian case study.” Business Communication Quarterly, 76. 1(2013): 28-50. Print.
  2. Best, Curwen. The popular music and entertainment culture of Barbados: Pathways to digital culture. Scarecrow Press, 2012. Print.
  3. Davis, Nick. “Jamaica – Culture smart!: The essential guide to customs & culture”. Kuperard, 2011. Print.
  4. Gore, Vitthal. “The importance of cross-cultural communication.” IUP Journal of Soft Skills, 7.1(2013): 59-65. Print.
  5. Real Jamaican Vacations. Com. “Jamaican music much more than reggae”. 2016. Web. 2 July 2017.
  6. Sullivan, Lynne. Adventure guide to Barbados. Hunter Publishing, Inc, 2001. Print.
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