Anyone can visit Jamaica like a tourist. But not anyone can experience Jamaica like a local. So consider this your crash course in all things authentic Jamaica. Everyone knows about reggae music, steel drum beats and jerk chicken, but we’ll dish out the insider knowledge you need to make everyone think you’ve lived on the island for years. Your first and most important lesson to learn is to relax, chill out, and know that after you read this, everything’s going to be “all right.”
Sure, most of the islanders can speak English. But did you know that Jamaicans also speak ‘Patois’? Don’t worry, that’s the reason you’re taking this crash course. Patois is one of the native dialects of the region. So terms like “yah mon” aren’t just the laid back greetings Jamaicans use, but are actually a part of this dialect. Pretty cool, right? An easy way to start experiencing the island like a local is to start speaking like a local.
Try a few of our favorite Patois terms:
- Wah gwaan – it means “What’s up” or “What’s going on”
- Irie – a term to describe when everything is going alright, and everything is good
- Likkle More – it means “See you later”
And if you really want to speak like a local, a thing to note is that Jamaicans often drop their r’s, so “dollar” turns into “dolla,” the double t’s turn into double k’s like “little” to “likkle,” and h’s can be dropped or added turning words from “hotel” to “otel” and “arrive” to “harrive.”
Next up is the Jamaican cuisine. And this one’s important. Jamaican food is all about flavor, and ALL about the spices. So if you want to experience the island like a local, the most famous flavor to know about is jerk. Jerk is a very common flavor on the island, and the ingredients are a blend of Scotch bonnet peppers, thyme, ginger and just a dash of something extra.
Want to get the real taste of authentic and local jerk chicken? The place to go is Scotchies. They have two locations, one in Ocho Rios and the other in Montego Bay. Another local favorite is the delicious handheld Jamaican patty. These flaky pastry turnovers are filled with meat and spices. And since we promised we’d help you go all the way from tourist to local, you have to try goat curry or guava glazed roasted pork.
Touring the Island
Jamaica has a ton of classic tourist things to do. But we’re going to show you all the stuff you can’t find in your average brochure.
One activity we always rave about is bamboo rafting the Martha Brae River. This is the kind of thing that forces you to step away from the traditionally relaxing beaches and surround yourself with something different. And once you’re on the raft, you can learn all about “The Legend of Martha Brae” and Jamaica’s storied past, pulling you even deeper into the local Jamaican culture.
There’s no better way to see the real Jamaica than horseback riding through the mountains and ocean and off-roading on ATVs through exciting canopy tours in the jungle.
Then, to really start getting some firsthand local knowledge, visit the Rose Hall Great House (reportedly still home to the White Witch), the coastal town of Falmouth, the Bob Marley Museum, and the Rastafari Indigenous Village.
But, just because you’re experiencing Jamaica as a local doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some of its award-winning golf courses and waterfalls like the Blue Hole and Dunn’s River. After all, your final lesson on being a local in Jamaica is learning how to totally kick back and relax exactly the way you want to.