A tiny island (167 sq mi), Barbados is a sweet mix of Western, African and Caribbean cultures. It boasts the infrastructure of developed countries combined with warm climes, humanity and the easy-going mindset of Southern countries.
After over 350 years as the British Empire’s military stronghold, Barbados is definitely the most British Caribbean island! Its fate has been carved by Oliver Cromwell, Lord Nelson, Queen Victoria and Queen Elizabeth. After peacefully gaining its independence in 1966, this “Jewel of the British Empire” opted to separate from the Crown in great pomp in November 2021, with Prince Charles in attendance, and became a Republic. It nevertheless remains a Commonwealth member country, and the British imprint is omnipresent. Never mind that the island’s denizens, known as “Bajans*”, have developed a local dialect derived from English; the one and only official language, taught in schools, is the “Standard English”, as part of an education system modelled on the British one.
Nowadays, in this beautiful Caribbean island, clichés become realities, be it fine sand beaches, coconut trees, a turquoise green sea, sea turtles, rum cocktails at sunset, beach parties, buses bursting with blaring music, the Carnival, or Rihanna… You will also find secluded beaches, rugged coastline, green rolling hills, lush forests, tropical flowers and steep cliffs overlooking the ocean.
Well beyond the white sands, however, the island is shaped by its history of slavery and racism, its struggle for decolonization, its long road toward independence and a painstaking nation-building process. While the same can be said about most Caribbean islands, not all of them have evolved so successfully.
In the wake of such a sad legacy, the outlook Bajans* have on life is as philosophical as it gets. While cultivating the memory of their ancestors and of their tragic fate, they acknowledge that colonization and enslavement have shaped their identity; therefore, they embrace their ancestors’ heritage. But they’ve made a point of enriching it with their own culture, which they’ve been able to express freely since becoming independent in 1966, and feel proud of what they’ve become today.
Everywhere you go, you will experience the pride and love Barbadians feel for their country, as they will go out of their way to show visitors the best their island has to offer. They will approach you for a chat but never harass you, and they’re always glad to offer tips and advice that will help you make the most of your visit on their beloved island. It would even seem that their friendliness rubs off on tourists who, in turn, will also strike up a conversation with you to compare notes, give advice or ask for it.
Since the only language spoken on the island is English, most visitors to Barbados are English speakers from the Caribbean, Canada and the U.K. You’ll be treated to a whole range of English accents, while discovering a genuine English-speaking culture in total contrast with that of the Western world.
Those who stay in Barbados are not only lulled by the sweetness of the tropics; travelling beyond the white sands, they are able to question our world vision and the way we live.
*Note: Bajan (pr. bay-djun): noun or adjective, derived from “Barbadian”.