First off, big ups to the Jamaican marketing team for convincing the world that all the Caribbean is Jamaica. The best is when I meet someone for the first time and they ask where my accent is from. I tell them The Bahamas and the next words that come out their mouth is “Oh, I love that movie about y’all.” “Which movie would that be I reply” while in my mind I already know it will be Cool Runnings. “The one with the Jamaican bobsled team, that was hilarious.” “Hummm, is it Cool Runnings” to which I get the affirming nod as we both laugh about the premise of the movie. Even though it never gets old, I too smile because I get an opportunity to let them know the difference between our cultures. I must be careful what I say to them because in that moment I am the mouthpiece for the whole Bahamian people. My attitude may be the only reference they will ever have with a Bahamian.
Don’t worry, Bahamians by nature are a calm natured, immensely friendly people. We love life and treasure the relationships we have. Our zeal for providing hospitality to others probably comes from our African roots. Although my wife the first time we met thought my accent was from Chicago, the Bahamian accent is a mix between African and British undertones. In college I read some Nigerian literature and poetry and it read exactly like the Bahamian dialect. The British part comes in because the Bahamas was a colony of Britain for many years. All of that change when we became independent on July 10, 1973. The country has grown so much since them and has embraced our culture and lifestyle. Now we are mostly know for our sun, sand, sea and the Atlantis Hotel. However, the best part of the Bahamas is the people.
I will take a detour for a moment and go over some misconceptions that will help you if you have the privilege of meeting a Bahamian some day.
1. Bahamian is different from Bohemian which in my mind has more to do with an 80’s fashion and especially the song Bohemian Rhapsody. Do the moose and the fandango, GALILEO, indeed. I don’t really know the words to that song. Correction, my wife has just informed me that the song came out in the 70’s. The more you know. Moving on.
2. Bahamians rarely if ever say “Hey Mon.” Although I can’t blame people for saying it because growing up someone created t-shirts that said “Hey Mon, The Bahamas” and sold it to tourist. That one is our bad.
3. The Bahamas is not a US state. Don’t laugh, I have had at least two people proclaim this truth? My favorite instance of this was a visit to the BMV to get a US drivers license. The lady at the counter asked me to turn in my license from the state I lived previously. I told her, I only lived in the Bahamas before but she said I still needed to turn in my drivers license. Her reasoning was that the Bahamas was a US state to which I replied, “Unless it was just sold on the open market, The Bahamas is an independent country.” She did not believe me and asked a few co-workers and at least two agreed with her truth? Finally, a manger came over and informed the world that The Bahamas was a sovereign country and not a US state. It was funny to see the look on her face.
4. Lastly, as much as I love my Jamaican massive, Bahamians are not Jamaicans. Once again, big ups to marketing for their excellent work, but this is the biggest misconception by far. Latest example was during my first trip to London in August 2011. Before leaving on our trip, the wife and I made sure I would not need a special visa. None was necessary so at our arrival to Heathrow Airport I calmly gave the Immigration officer my passport. She looked it over, flipped through the pages, looked me up and down a few times. Then with a peculiar and somewhat annoyed look she said “Sir, where is your visa to enter this country.” After I got over how beautiful her British accent was, I informed her that I did not need a visa. At this time, my wife’s face is turning colours and she is about to freak out. The officer said, “All Jamaican nationals need a visa to enter England.” I calmly replied, “Madam, you are looking at a Bahamian passport.” Her reply, “Oh, sorry, didn’t mean to scare you” and she stamped my passport and let me go. “Didn’t mean to scare you” my wife said as she was trying to figure out where she could change her underwear, discreetly. Awkward!
I think I did a good thing by sharing those. Oh, one misconception that is true is the BahaMen who sing the song “Who let the dogs out” are actually Bahamian. I actually know most of them though church or my time working at a recording studio. As happy as that song is and how lively they look in the videos, it kinda represents Bahamians. We are a happy people, a blessed people, a thankful people. For me, I do my best to represent them well so that if you meet me, your experience with a BahaMan is something you will enjoy and treasure.
God Bless The Bahamas.