Countdown: Top 7 Stereotypes Foreigners Have About Jamaicans

Kajamba Fitz-Henley

Just as each country is recognized by their outstanding cultural traits, our island is known for our Reggae icon Bob Marley and our sprint stars like Usain Bolt. We’re also known for our warm, welcoming island and our culinary trademarks. However, what we may call a downside to these national characteristics is the stereotypes that seem to spring from them. Foreigners that have certain perceptions of our country that vary from relatively untrue to downright ludicrous. We’ve narrowed down 7 top stereotypes that foreigners hold about our country and its people:

7. Marijuana is as common as grass – we’re all aware of this stereotype. The notion spawns from the use of the herb in the Rastafarian religion originating in Jamaica; thus the island is associated largely with the use of Marijuana plant. By “largely”, I mean entirely – foreigners seem to believe that the entire population of Jamaica smokes ‘ganja’ as we call it. They also seem to believe that ganja can be obtained as easily as going outside and plucking a blade of grass. Jamaican migrants can attest that one of the first questions asked once a foreigner becomes aware of their nationality is, “have you ever smoked weed??”

6. We’re all related to Bob Marley – as the musician behind One Love, named by the BBC as The Song of the Century, Jamaica’s Bob Marley is internally revered as a musical legend. This among many other accomplishments put Bob and the Jamaican people on the map. However, an important fact that the rest of the world seems to negate is that Bob and the Jamaican people are not all from the same immediate family tree. Most foreigners seem to think that Bob Marley is all our uncle. And by extension of being related to Uncle Bob, we’re all avid listeners of Reggae. Knowing that there is a mass of our population who take more to Dancehall, I think we can all agree that this is a false stereotype.

5. Jamaican man = cheater – given the existence of articles like “5 Things You Need to Know When Dating a Jamaican Man” on hypelifemagazine.com, one can infer that our Jamaican men have made quite a name for themselves in the wider world. One of those names, according to the typical foreigner, is ‘cheater’. According to the aforementioned article Jamaican men, “love to be in control and know their way around the bedroom”. According to jamaicans.com it is a popular stereotype that they know their way around multiple bedrooms.

4. Jamaican girls can dance – this might appear to some as one of the less outrageous generalisations foreigners make of the Jamaican population. Many Jamaican girls can indeed dance, but as we learn more it seems there is a very specific dance that the majority of the world thinks all Jamaican girls have mastered – whining. Given our pulsing Dancehall culture, it is apparently a fact that all Jamaican girls are expert at gyrating – some of us may be able to admit that this is not necessarily true.

3. All Jamaicans are homophobic – many might not be aware that in 2006 Jamaica was named “The Most Homophobic Place on Earth” by Time magazine – but apparently, according to the rest of the world, we are. Many Jamaicans would disagree.

2. Jamaicans are always late – while we can’t ignore that there are a number of Jamaicans that seem to misunderstand the concept of time, this stereotype is still quite an exaggeration. Those especially with visa appointments and flights to catch will make it clear that this stereotype is just that, a stereotype.

1. Jamaicans are violent – seeing as we have the 6th highest global murder rate (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)), one may be able to see why this stereotype exists. However that does not justify the brutal generalisation of a people with an innately welcoming heart and a generally friendly and helpful disposition.

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