My First Couple Days in Jamaica: Surface Observations

I have been in Jamaica for what is going on my third day now, and it is one hell of an interesting place. I have only been outside of the US one other time so far, and that was during my year long study abroad adventure in Japan when I was in college between 2008 and 2009. I am infinitely interested in how things are different in other countries and here’s just a few things about Jamaica you may be surprised and/or interested to learn:

1. They drive on the opposite side of the road. The concept was not at all unusual to me after my time in Japan, but Jamaicans drive on the left, which can be disorienting to Americans. My companion was certainly not used to it, and commented on it frequently as we came in to the town on our shuttle bus from the airport.

2. It’s only half paradise. All of the pictures you see are of the beautiful beaches and wildlife, but the truth is that Jamaica, like much of the Carribean and Latin America, is not as developed in some areas as others. Some of the “houses” are eqivalent to shacks with tin roofs. Also, the beaches are beutiful and the scenery is great, but you are bound to pass through areas that have trash EVERYWHERE. Just a warning.

3. You can get anything—-for a price. People walking the beach will try to sell you anything and everything. And I mean ANYTHING. From bracelets, shells, fruit, and sugarcane to more illicit things, you can get anything if you have the cash to spare. Be wary also of those “nice locals” who want to show you around the town as well….they will want a tip. We had one of these sort of tours our first day in Jamaica, though we didn’t really ask for it. Luckily, we knew what to expect from reading a travel guide prior to our departure, and after we gave him a bill, he was satisfied.

4. Yes, MJ is EVERYWHERE…..if you know what I mean, and I think you do.

5. English is spoken, but you may not understand it. The Jamaican accent can be quite thick and make understanding difficult. Also, from time to time you will see signs with phonetic spelling… ie: “ting” for “thing”. Don’t be surprised if you don’t immediately understand someone when they talk to you….I’ve already had that experience twice at least.

6. The sun down here is on a whole other level. If you are “ultra white” like one Jamaican called me, you will need sunscreen….lots of it. If you don’t bother with it you will burn and it will not be pleasant. Trust me, get some sunscreen and don’t try to be a hero.

7. American money is accepted most places, but having some Jamaican cash is a good idea. One US dollar is about 75 Jamaican dollars or so, which reminds me much of the exchange rate for Japanese yen to US dollars. It is very interesting to see price tags like $345 for shampoo and other cheap things. If you venture outside of the touristy areas and go further into town, you will probably need Jamaican cash, so it is a good idea to at least exchange part of your money to the local currency.

8. There are lots of stray animals. You will see stray dogs and cats on the beach. The cats are actually a bit of a problem for the local restaurants because they will come up to you and beg for food…..and they are so damned adorable and skinny you will be tempted to feed them. Just like I was. 😛

That’s it for now. I’ll have more later, and pictures too! 🙂

You in Jamaica mon! No problem! Respect!

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