This guide to business culture and etiquette in Jamaica is courtesy of Executive Planet
Jamaica is the largest English-speaking country in the Caribbean, stretching 146 miles from east to west. The country’s name is derived from an Arawak (aboriginal Indian) word “Xaymaca”, meaning “land of wood and water”. And so it is. With waterfalls, and springs, rivers and streams flowing from the forest-clad mountains to the fertile plains, Jamaica has one of the richest and most varied landscapes in the region.
The island offers a feast of contrasts. The north coast, with its popular resort areas of Montego Bay, Runaway Bay, Ocho Rios and Port Antonio, features fine coral beaches and broad plains where sugar cane, coconuts and citrus fruits are grown. On the western tip of the island is Negril, once a remote, swampy outpost but now a beachcomber’s paradise. The southern region of the island offers a rugged coastline where majestic mountains plunge into the sea - like the inspirational Lover's Leap in St. Elizabeth, a 1500-foot cliff of romantic legend.
The center of the island is mostly mountainous and heavily wooded, spotted occasionally with small mining towns and villages. The central mountain range, dominated by the 7,402-foot Blue Mountain, divides the south coast of the island from the north and extends from Half Moon Bay to Portland. This great variety of terrain and climate allows virtually everything to grow here, including the famous Blue Mountain coffee.
Jamaica is located in the Caribbean Sea at a latitude of 18 degrees N. and a longitude of 78 degrees W. of the capital, Kingston. It is about 1127 km (700 miles) south of Miami, Florida and 145 km (90 miles) south of Cuba, its nearest neighbor. The island has an area of 11453 sq km (4411 sq miles). It is 235 km (146 miles) long from east to west, and 82 km (51 miles) across at its broadest point, from St Ann’s Bay in the north to Portland Point in the south.
Jamaica is divided into three counties – Cornwall, Middlesex and Surrey – and further divided into 14 parishes. Kingston, the capital and commercial center of Jamaica, is situated on the southeast coast of the island. Montego Bay, located on the north-west coast, is the island’s second city.
Jamaica has a warm, tropical maritime climate. The average temperature on the coastal lowlands is 26.7 Celsius (80 Fahrenheit). There is a difference of about 5 Celsius (34 Fahrenheit) in the average temperature between January-February and July-August (respectively the coldest and warmest periods of the year). There is an estimated fall in temperature of 16 Celsius (4 Fahrenheit) per 1000 foot increase in altitude; the average temperature at Blue Mountain Peak, the island’s highest point, is 13 Celsius (56 Fahrenheit).
Average annual rainfall for the whole island is 195.8 cm (77.1 inches). Rainfall peaks in May and October, and is at its lowest levels in March and June. The Blue Mountain range and the northeast coast receive the highest annual rainfall, the average being about 330 cm (130 inches). Jamaica lies in a hurricane zone; the hurricane season lasts from June to November.
As a rule, rainfall is much heavier on the North Coast of Jamaica, which receives the relief rainfall provided by the mountains running from west to east, than on the south coast, which receives chiefly convectional rain.
Jamaica has two rainy seasons, the first in May and the other in October and November.
Jamaica has a history of hurricanes, and an active hurricane season each year. A hurricane is a storm revolving around a center of low pressure which contains almost no wind and are invariably accompanied by driving rains.
The hurricane season is between July and October, though a hurricane may occasionally arises in June or November.
Jamaica Economy At-a-Glance
The world knows Jamaica for the vibrant culture and creativity captured in the mystical music of icons like Bob Marley, and its broad footprint in sport has been charted by legends such as Usain Bolt.
As an economy, Jamaica operates as a mixed, free market economy with state enterprises as well as private sector businesses. The economy is dominated by the services sector, with other major sectors being agriculture, mining and tourism, which account for more than 60% of GDP.
The country's economic development strategy is supported by strong political commitment to free enterprise, a strong national brand identity, and a strong international profile. Since the early 1990's, the Jamaican government has pursued a program of economic liberalization and stabilization through the removal of exchange controls, reduction of tariffs, stabilization of local currency, by reducing inflation and removing restrictions on foreign investment.
The official currency is the Jamaica Dollar (JA$), but several other currencies such as the US$, the Euro, the Canadian dollar and British pound are freely traded and accepted "over the counter."
Jamaica currently ranks 20th as an inward investment location, 12th in terms of FDI technology transfer, and 10th in terms of the ease of regulations for doing business. Jamaica’s strength as an investment location is grounded in a number of factors namely its large English speaking population, competitively priced labor force, accessibility to a diverse labor pool and it is ideally located for trading with the rest of the Western Hemisphere. Its proximity to the United States, its historic and emerging relationship with the Latin American bloc and its proximity to the Panama Canal are noted as advantages. Additionally, the island is served by an abundance of natural resources and a well-developed infrastructure.
Jamaica subscribes to a liberal trade regime and together with the generous fiscal and market incentives available has proven attractive to investors. There are no restrictions on the movement of capital, profits and dividends. No exchange controls and no approval is required for repatriation of profits and dividends. Agreements involving the payment of technical assistance fees, royalties, management fees, and trademark and patent fees must reflect arm's-length consideration for tax deduction to be available.
Population and Language
The population of Jamaica is approximately 2.9 MM, the majority of which is of African and mixed African origin. Other major ethnic groups represented in the island are East Indians, Chinese, and Europeans. There is much intermingling of races and nationalities in the society which leads to the country's motto "out of many one people." English is the official language in the island, although an English-based Jamaican Creole called "patois" (pronounced patwa) is the dominant "language."
In Jamaican, religion comes in all sizes. There's something to fit nearly everyone. If we can't find our size, it seems we just go out and start a church to suit our needs! Indeed, the country is widely held to have the highest number of churches per capita in the world! In Black River, for example, a small town with a population of less than 5000, there are 13 churches!
Religion forms an integral part of the Jamaican culture, with the dominant religion being Christianity. Throughout Jamaica you will also find Rastafarians, and a smaller number of Jews, Hindus, and Muslims.
The style of worship in Jamaican religion varies from very reserved to non-stop action! Despite male dominated leadership in most churches, congregations are predominantly female. Although the Seventh Day Adventists (who worship on a Saturday) are the largest denomination, they are far outnumbered by Sunday worshippers, most of who belong to the Pentecostal movement. The non-fundamentalists such as Anglicans, Roman Catholics, Moravians, Baptists, Methodists and the United Church still maintain a strong presence.
Jamaican religion today, as far as Christianity goes, is a true lesson in diversity. It has played a pivotal role in Jamaica's history and continues to influence our society today. For example, despite the presence of capital punishment on the statutes, there has been no public execution in Jamaica for the last 30 years.
The Jamaica legislature comprises an executive branch, headed by the British monarchy which is hereditary. The monarchy is represented by a local governor general. Following legislative elections, the leader of the majority party in the House of Representatives is appointed Prime Minister. The legislative branch of government comprises the Senate (21 members), and the House of Representatives (63 members). The Judicial Branch of government comprises the Supreme Court, the Court of Appeal and the Privy Council. Jamaica is a signatory to the Caribbean Court of Appeal as a final appellate court but this has yet to be promulgated.
Travelling to Jamaica: Visa Entry Requirements
All visitors to the island must comply with the following:
• Be in possession of a passport valid for at least 6 months
• Be in possession of a valid visa (where applicable)
• Have sufficient funds to support him/herself and other dependents for the duration of stay in Jamaica • Itinerary or ticket showing travel details
• Must be of sound mind
• Must fulfill any requirement prescribed by the Jamaican Immigration Authorities
If you're a Cruise Ship Passenger, you are NOT required to hold a passport as long as you:
1. Remain in the island during the stay of the vessel you arrived on and... 2. Depart Jamaica on the same vessel you arrived on.
It is generally easy to schedule meetings in advance with Jamaicans, but to confirm the meeting a few days in advance. Meetings are generally held in the morning. If you are asked to meet after 5 p.m, it normally indicates that the local businessperson wants a more relaxing setting; follow his/her cue during this meeting.
Always arrive to meetings and appointments on time. Jamaicans expect punctuality from foreigners, but they might arrive a little late. Tardiness on their side is not considered rude behavior. A Jamaican meeting may be formal, but they typically have a friendly tone and usually start out with small talk. Bargaining is very customary in Jamaica, so do not put your best offer on the table at the start of negotiations.
Politeness and courtesy are highly valued as aspects of being "raised good". They are expressed through greetings, especially from the young to their elders. A child never talks back to parents or elders. Men are expected to open doors for women and help with or perform heavy tasks.
The Jamaican businessmen will be well rounded in sports and love to speak to the countries rich musical heritages.
Meetings will have a friendly tone even though they can be somewhat formal. Expect some small talk before business is discussed. Avoid talking about politics and homosexuality. Regulate your tone for business discussions, and feel free to laugh and share in the general bonhomie when that happens.
Let your Jamaican colleagues decide when it is time to speak about business. Your presentations should be complete and not conceal potential problems.
The most common greeting is the handshake with direct eye contact, and a warm smile. Use the appropriate salutation for the time of day: "good morning", "good afternoon", or "good evening". Once a friendship has been established, women may hug and kiss on each cheek, starting with the right. Men often pat each other's shoulder or arm during the greeting process or while conversing. Address people by their honorific title (Mr., Mrs., or Miss) and their surname until a personal relationship has developed. Medical doctors are addressed as "Dr.". Always wait until invited before using someone's first name. As your friendship deepens, you may be asked to call the person by their nickname.
There is no specific ritual surrounding the sharing of business cards; just treat it with respect.
The climate in Jamaica can be humid and hot. Most business people wear business casual clothing (khaki slacks and golf shirts) for casual business, and they add a blazer or sports coat for social functions. They wear suits with jackets and ties to formal meetings. Women may wear suits or dresses.
You would do well to pack lightweight cottons and linens for Jamaica's tropical climate. Also pack some light woolens for the evenings which tend to be cooler. Synthetics should be avoided because they may be less breathable.
Sunglasses should also be included in your luggage and you may want to pack a sweater if you're visiting during the "winter" season (December - April).
In Jamaica, rain often seem to come out of nowhere, and then quickly disappear. Be prepared by bringing a waterproof jacket and umbrella just in case you get caught in a downpour.
Swimsuits are generally acceptable only at the beach and the pool. Outside of these areas, a beach cover up will usually suffice. Men should wear a shirt (T-shirt or button-up shirt) in public. Be aware that the more classy establishments usually require you to be formally attired. You may want to check the dress code of where you'll be staying before you get here.)
Business dress is mostly conservative.
When you are meeting a Jamaican business contact for the first time, show respect and do not try to be overly familiar or friendly. Shake his hand and look him directly in the eye. After your contact gets to know you, he will typically greet you warmly and ask you to call him by his first name or nickname. It is very common to hear the terms "bossman" or "bosswoman" in Jamaica. Some Jamaicans also stand very close when talking, and touch the arm or shoulders of other men.
Business culture in Jamaica is typically based on respect and politeness. When first meeting a Jamaican business contact, he may seem cold and standoffish, but he will typically "warm up" after he gets to know you. Jamaicans are usually direct, and they appreciate when you are direct with them. They value tact and manners, and do not appreciate aggressiveness. Relationships are important to Jamaicans, and they are sometimes valued more than the rules.
At the end of an appointment, your host will rise or will shift the dialogue to some "small talk"; take the cue.
Jamaicans will be receptive to a gift during a first time business meeting but nothing too expensive as that can be construed as a bribe or a demonstration of your wealth. In this regard, a useful token for the office is acceptable.
Avoid high-pressure sales tactics. They are seen as confrontational. Business is hierarchical, though not always apparent. The person with the most authority makes decisions. Defer to the person with the most authority, as they are most likely the decision maker.
Jamaicans are direct and say what they mean. They appreciate brevity and are not impressed by too much detail. Bargaining is customary and expected. Do not give your best offer at the beginning of negotiations. Similarly do not put all your cards on the table at one time, your Jamaican colleagues won't. You should expect to spend a great deal of time reviewing details before a contract is drawn up.
You will want to use local lawyers, at least as correspondents, for sensitive or important issues since they will be aware of the nuances of doing business locally. Generally an agreement is considered final with a handshake, and time is then allowed for detailed discussion on the mechanics and details of the broad understanding. Jamaicans are receptive to new ideas and think of themselves as entrepreneurial. They are willing to challenge the status quo and to assume appropriate business risk to get things done. They are quick to appreciate success in others, and somewhat slower replicate locally. They will be just as quick in shunning "emptiness."
Your brochures and promotional literature should be printed in English, and the local business community is equally at home with a multi-media presentation, as they are with verbal, one-on-one dialogue.
The country is small, market thin, and the professional business community even smaller with an active grapevine. Company policy is normally followed, although there are several local companies that are flexible given the evolving nature of their operations and business model. The Jamaican businessmen tend to be "conceptual" and conduct business to make a profit. Most have an interest in "giving something back" to their communities.
On this beautiful island, time can feel as though it is standing still; nothing is hurried. "Jamaica, no problem" best describes the approach in this regard. Jamaica is known for its strong musical culture, and that legacy is found everywhere on the island. You can find excellent live performances most nights of the week at one of the island’s bars and nightclubs.
If you’re looking for nightlife, head over to Montego Bay. There you’ll find the vibrant Hip Strip with lots of great bars and shops. Negril has a more relaxed holiday vibe, with golden beaches spread out along a gorgeous 7-mile stretch of coastline; Rick’s Cafe is the place to be when the sun goes down. Ocho Rios, one of Jamaica’s busiest destinations, has world-class duty-free shopping and the city is well situated for visiting the entire island’s most popular holiday attractions.
Kingston has a rich history of local theater and there are several theaters speckled across the landscape boasting a range of cultural and social performances, both in drama and dance. If you are interested in the cinema, local cinemas have robust arrangements in place which ensure that you see the latest movies at almost the same time that they are released in North America. There is a very vibrant night life in the capital, and Knutsford Boulevard in the heart of the financial district "does not sleep."
While Jamaican table manners are relatively informal, always watch what other people are doing and emulate their behaviors. The more formal the occasion, the stricter the protocol is. Do not sit down at the dinner table until someone indicates where you should to sit, and do not begin eating until the host does. Use continental table manners in Jamaica, which means to hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right hand.
Meals are often served buffet-style. When not eating, it is acceptable to keep your hands in your lap. Try everything since it demonstrates graciousness. Always use utensils to eat. Eating everything on your plate is a sign of politeness.
It is bad etiquette to bring up professional matters at the lunch or dinner table. It's best to wait until the Jamaican host has started a conversation that has to do with the business deal at hand, and this may not occur at a meal. Jamaican professionals are completely focused on work-related matters when in the office, but meal times are usually spent engaging in small talk - although there may be periods of silence when everyone at the table is eating.
Expressing satisfaction with the food, however, will also help to improve business relations.
What Are The Typical Meals Throughout The Day
Jamaica maintains a simple and traditional mealtime. Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. A traditional breakfast includes Ackee (a fruit that resembles scrambled eggs) with salt fish, boiled banana, fritters and fresh fruit. Breakfast is usually served between 7 a.m to 10 a.m.
Lunch is around noon to 3 p.m and sometimes contains patties (turnovers stuffed with spicy beef or chicken), jerk chicken or pork, oxtail, curry mutton and other tasty dishes. It typically lasts for 60-90 minutes/
Dinner is at 7 pm to 10 pm or later and can include escovitch fish with sauce and a variety of soups as pumpkin or callaloo.
The Main dish is either Liver, Ackee & saltfish (codfish), Mackerel or Red Herring served with any or all of the following, fried dumpling, fried bammy, boiled banana, boiled dumpling and yam.
Jamaicans love to serve meals such as chicken and rice and peas, curry mutton, Oxtail and beans, Stew peas and a variety of soups.
Curry Chicken, Curry Shrimp, Escovitch Fish, Steam Fish, Oxtails, Stew Peas, Stew Pork, Tripe and Beans, Cow feet. Steam Beef cabbage with either salt fish or Corn Beef. Curry Goat may be served, but it mostly reserved for Sunday Dinners or special occasions. Spicy foods are normally served with red wine but not mandatory.
What Are The Most Popular Venues For Business Entertaining
Jamaica has a wide variety of venues for leisure and business purposes, Here are a few places:
Courtleigh Hotel & Suites (876)-929-9000 85 Knutsford Boulevard (5), Kingston The Courtleight Hotel and Suite is located in the heart of the up-scale commercial and shopping district of New Kingston on the hip strip-Knutsford Boulevard that features an array of shops and restaurant.
Knutsford Court Hotel (876)-926-1207 11 Ruthven Road, Kingston This totally revamped and up-graded property offers an ideal mix of Standard rooms Superior rooms Junior suites and One and Two-bedroom suites.
Le Meridien Jamaica Pegasus (876)-926-3690 81 Knutsford Boulevard (Kingston 5) The Jamaica Pegasus "Kingston's Preferred Hotel" is located in the financial and business district-New Kingston. It is within walking distance of international offices embassies historical sites. It is the preferred hotel for business conventions and seminars.
Wyndam Hilton Hotel (876)-926-5430 In the heart of Kingston's financial and diplomatic district the Hilton Kingston sits on seven and a half acres of lush tropical landscape.
Sunset Jamaica Grande, Resort and Spa - Ocho Rios
The Sunset Jamaica Grande boasts more than 30,000 square feet of indoor meeting space. The 17,650 – square-foot Grande Hall is centrally located and host up to 2,500 people. Extensive outdoor venues are available for themed events and receptions.
When Should You Arrive at a Social Event
Arrive at the reception desk no more than five minutes early. Right on time is best. Why not earlier? Because once you arrive, the person you’ll be meeting with feels the need to stop what he or she is doing to pay attention to you. Being right on time shows two things: that you’re considerate of other people’s schedules and that you manage your time well.
Restaurants: Whether the meal is for business or pleasure, if you’re the host, arrive fifteen minutes beforehand so you can check if your table will be ready and greet your guests if they get there early. If you’re the guest, showing up at the agreed-upon time is ideal!
What Is The Etiquette Concerning Seating at a Dinner Table
At formal meals, the most honored position is at the head of the table, with the most important guest seated immediately to the right of the host (women to the right of the host, and men to the right of the hostess). If there is a hosting couple, one will usually be seated at each end of the table.
Drinking Alcohol with Guests
While it is acceptable to order an alcoholic beverage during evening meals with Jamaican business associates, it is best not to do so during lunch hours, unless other colleagues at the table have done so. No matter the time of the meal, using discretion when drinking is extremely important. Never have more than two alcoholic drinks; drinking too much will cause any professional to be seen in a bad light and may negatively affect the closing of a potential business deal.
How to Perform a Toast
Confirm that the glasses are filled before the toast. It doesn't matter whether the beverage of choice is juice or champagne, as long as a glass is available to each attendee. Get everyone's attention. Traditionally, the host might tap on a glass to gain the crowd's attention, rise from your chair and announce, "May I have your attention please?" until you have everyone's complete attention .Hold your glass in the air and state the purpose of your toast. For instance, extend gratitude toward the crowd for their attendance and tell them that the toast is the official start of the meeting. The attendees will probably remain seated during this portion of the toast. The most common toast is "cheers" Watch as the group raises their glasses to receive and thank you for the toast. Afterward, take a small sip of the beverage and carry on.
What Foods Should Be Served/avoided
Jamaica is famous for their great tasting food and cooking. Jamaican Jerk seasoning is famous around the world and loved by visitors to the island. Jamaican food is usually spicy. Typical lunch and dinner are large meals and last for at least an hour. As the motto says "out of many one people" Jamaica is a very diverse culture and caters to all different types of culture so depending on your preference open your horizon and try things you will like.
Be aware however that many Jamaicans are vegetarians (favor no meat) and some have religious beliefs that do not favor pork. Like everywhere else, be aware of the health issues of your guests when hosting an event; it is polite to inquire in advance if your guests have any special preferences.
How Should You Accept/decline an Invitation
In accepting a formal invitation, it is important to respond appropriately. Formal invitations require an acceptance letter that is both formal and succinct Make sure to use the correct English grammar with the perfect punctuation and spelling.
While it is always flattering when you receive an invitation, there are times where you need to decline an invitation. Doing so politely and thoughtfully will ensure that there are no hard feelings. It is important that you respond in the same way (of the invitation), so you know your message gets through in the manner it was expected. Respond quickly to allow the host to plan the event for an accurate number. Thank the person who invited you and express your interest in attending other functions in the future. Feel free to follow-up with a personal call to the host. This will help end your message on a high note and keep you in the person's thoughts in a positive rather than negative way.
While some restaurants take the liberty of including a 10 percent to 15 percent gratuities charge into the final bill, others do not. So it is wise to thoroughly review the final bill or ask your server about the charges incurred. If a gratuity charge is not incorporated, a 10 percent to 20 percent tip on the total cost is expected depending upon the level of service. Like always, tipping is based solely upon the diner's discretion.
Many restaurants and hotels in Jamaica, add a service charge for food, beverage, and room expenses. Then again, other hotels do not include this charge. At the time of check-in, consult the front desk employee regarding the hotel's policy on gratuities and/or service charges. Otherwise, tip helpful service employees an adequate amount. Bellhops expect US$1 to US$2 per bag, and maids anticipate US$1 - US$2 per day.
How Should You Greet Strangers or Introduce Yourself
Most people will find themselves at some point introducing various individuals at an event, especially when they are the ones who will be expected to know all parties. But what’s the order of introductions? In Jamaica there are some simple rules to remember:
• Introduce lower ranking individuals to higher ranking individuals.
• Remember to include titles (e.g., Dr., Judge, etc.) and name prefix (e.g., Mr., Mrs. Ms.),
• Add a brief comment about the person that is of interest to the higher ranking individual.
What Are The Roles for Men Shaking Hands with Women
At a first meeting a regular handshake will do. Jamaicans tend to share a light kiss on the cheek with family, friends and close acquaintances. Always upon arrival and departure greet everyone with a firm, sincere handshake, a friendly smile and direct eye contact.
What Gestures/Sayings Should You Avoid
Avoid talking about politics and homosexuality. Jamaicans are direct and they speak their minds. Although outwardly friendly and warm toward acquaintances, Jamaicans may not immediately express an interest in doing business. Value, respect, sensitivity and tact are highly esteemed. They value relationship building and harmony so avoid hard selling, pressure tactics and any sort of conflicts or confrontation.
Jamaicans are most comfortable at arms lengths from one another, however with family and friends the space is much closer. Jamaicans may communicate with gestures such as touching the arm or the shoulder of the person they are talking to.
What Are The Rules for Eye Contact?
Jamaicans prefer direct eye contact. Avoiding eye contact can be viewed as suspicious behavior or that you are not trustworthy. Maintain direct eye contact as much as possible, and especially for major points or to confirm agreement.
This section of Culture Crossing includes basic cultural practices in Jamaica for greetings, personal space, gestures, eye contact, etc. It also includes general business etiquette in the country related to meetings, dress, negotiations, gift giving, etc.
Last reviewed by globalEDGE on: December 2, 2013
Tags: Country Specific, Jamaica, Country Culture