Jamaican words, expressions, and slang.

The Language: English (official), Creole.

English is the official language of Jamaica. However, Patois (Creole), a combination of English and some African languages, is spoken in rural areas and is used increasingly in urban areas. Most Jamaicans can speak or understand Patois, but it is not a written language. Jamaican speech, even in English, has a distinctive rhythmic and melodic quality.


The above link may be helpful, though I have found that listening to local radio talk shows, viewing nightly news and reading the daily newspapers is most helpful.

Answer: Thanks for your insight. Please however realize that this Blogs information is to notify Expats or folks moving to Jamaica about the existence and use of Patois. Trust me people move here and it takes them a while to get use to this, say from Hungry, Belgium or even Trinidad. There are so many things that fly at you those first six months of settling in, and if one is aware of such before the move, then ears open. I now understand dialy conversations abit better, but had I known about the language issue, then I could have been more mentally prepared. Many Jamaicans say “ them nuh know why farrin have a hard time here, as them speak English” so that is my case.

This blog is being written by a non Jamaican woman who has lived here for over 2 years. I am on the road.

More on Hurricanes in Jamaica > Dean 2007

I realized after the last post, that I should have expanded more on hurricane season, as it could be an issue if one is unprepared.

The following comment was posted after the last hurricane information blog post:

“Good to be prepared for hurricanes, as the season comes every year. Add to the list a wind-up radio, put your valuables in sealed/ziplock bags, etc. Keep your cell phone charged; maybe buy a solar charger”

Please note, when looking at initial housing, keep the hurricane season in the back of your mind. Should houses have numerous windows, make certain you have access to storm shutters and ask the landlord or Realtor who will be responsible for storm related damage, water leaks, etc.

Also ask if a generator will be provided. Rarely does this occur, but I have had some expats share with me that the international organization employing them, paid for many families to purchase generators upon arrival.

Also get two or three proposals from various generator providers, and be prepared to do your own initial research. This research should give you an idea of what size to get and what you should be paying for this item. You may also want to get clarity on how, or if your home country’s Embassy provides for citizens during a hurricane.

A generator is not mandatory and many are fine without owning one. Families with young children however may find a hurricane challenging, and could experience difficulty without access to hot water and warm meals for several days during the hurricane’s aftermath. Another issue, is making certain that you choose a home with a water tank on the premises if possible. I cannot stress this importance, as nobody told us and I never thought about a tank. After four months of being in Jamaica, and a long early morning run, I realized that we did not have running water and no back-up tank. I scrambled to bathe in bottled water that morning.

Working In Jamaica> Recently Listed Vacancies

The following advertisements are sent to me once a month and I decided to share them with readers. Please recognize that the unemployment rate is extremely high in Jamaica, so most jobs will go to Jamaicans first. Also do extensive research about work permits and requirements needed to work and live in Jamaica.

Apply directly for jobs in the Caribbean via CaribbeanJobNet.com!
Go to: http://www.CaribbeanJobNet.com

Can you or someone you know fill any of these current job vacancies?

Deadline               Job Title
—————-       ———————————————–
Fri, 15-Aug-2008    Consultants/Lecturers
Wed, 30-Jul-2008    Landscape Maintenance Supervisor
Mon, 04-Aug-2008    Database Adminsitrator
Fri, 15-Aug-2008    Kitchen & Stone Department Manager

Fri, 01-Aug-2008    Library Assistant/Administrator
Tue, 12-Aug-2008    Category Specialist
Mon, 04-Aug-2008    Network Administrator
Mon, 04-Aug-2008    Network Support Technician
Thu, 07-Aug-2008    Media Research Assistant

Tue, 12-Aug-2008    Co-ordinator – Retail Network Planning & Facilities
Wed, 30-Jul-2008    Manager – Corporate Communications
Fri, 15-Aug-2008    Junior Application Developers
Wed, 30-Jul-2008    Project & Maintenance Technician I

Thu, 31-Jul-2008    Library Assistant
Thu, 31-Jul-2008    Part Time Library Assistant
Thu, 31-Jul-2008    Processing Manager
Thu, 31-Jul-2008    Paediatric Psychiatrist

Thu, 31-Jul-2008    Pharmacist
Thu, 31-Jul-2008    Project Engineer for Civil/Marine Works
Fri, 08-Aug-2008    Executive Manager – Projects
Fri, 08-Aug-2008    Communications Specialist
Fri, 08-Aug-2008    Prevention/Screening Programme Officer

Thu, 31-Jul-2008    Systems Analyst
Mon, 11-Aug-2008    Pharmacist
Fri, 15-Aug-2008    Senior Application Developers
Fri, 15-Aug-2008    Account Executive (Sales)
Wed, 30-Jul-2008    LEGAL OFFICER

Full job details available at: http://www.CaribbeanJobNet.com

What’s right with Jamaica?

These last few weeks in Jamaica have been considered “hot.” This word does not mean hot as in temperature but  “hot” as it pertains to the island’s crime scene and the escalation of daily murder rates. I found it very enlightening to see small burbs in the Observer Newspaper during the last few days that told the story on what is good about Jamaica, and wanted to share this with anyone considering moving here.

What’s right with Jamaica

published: Wednesday | June 18, 2008 Smith

The Gleaner continues its presentation of the thoughts of influential leaders in society on the more positive features of Jamaica. Today, we bring you the views of Harry Smith, former Digicel marketing guru, now executive in residence at the University of the West Indies. Jamaicans are a very resilient people; we are a flavor all on our own. In any situation, we find a way to bring out the best and the humor. We are colorful and expressive with our language and so, in other countries where there would be public strife over vexed national issues, we look at the bright and funny side every time. It is innate in us to reserve the best for visitors and treat them even better than we treat ourselves. That is why there are so few crimes against them. In our homes, we were taught at an early age to use the best china only when strangers come. Unfortunately, we are also very mercurial and tend only to back winners. In the marketing field, we defy all norms and so the leading brand is always way ahead of others in the same class. Others do not understand this about us, but it’s part of what makes us unique.

What’s right with Jamaica

published: Tuesday | June 17, 2008 Lyn Kee Chow

This week The Gleaner continues its presentation of the thoughts of infleuntial leaders in society on the more positive features of Jamaica. Today we bring you the views of Stephen Lyn Kee Chow, managing director of Pickapeppa Company Ltd. Jamaican products, including rum, coffee and sauces, have surpassed all expectations of an island so tiny it might be considered an insignificant dot on the world map. But these products are so well known they are sought after and acclaimed worldwide. Our leading brands such as Pickapeppa and jerk enjoy iconic, even cultic status and demand for them is extraordinary. From Alaska in the north, to Australia in the Southern Hemisphere, we are there. Hot brand Brand Jamaica is hot. Our hot and spicy cuisine can be found in every major capital city and everyone wants to be associated with these very positive aspects of our culture. As a small country, we will never be a high-volume manufacturer, but we have a remarkable ability to spot and exploit a niche market through the ingenuity of our business professionals, our teamwork, imagination and determination.

Runners coming to Jamaica

Jamdammers Running club, is one of Kingston’s best kept secrets, if you’re a runner.

So you land in Kingston on Wednesday night and track down this running club by Thursday, then you make plans to meet them on Saturday morning at 5 a.m. sharp for a long run. This long run is usually 10 miles, unless the group is in heavy marathon trianing. Now, you can do less of course, but 10 miles is what this gang generally runs on a Saturday morning.

You are guaranteed to meet at least five different people, many of whom will share tons of valuable advice on just about any topic. We found this group after about 4 days of being on the island and looking back, it was the best thing that happened for my husband and I at the time, as our network systems began immediately.

Roadside tour Of Fatty’s Cooking Spot – Faith’s Pen, Jamaica


When I saw this Utube video I had to share it, mainly because it represents what Jamaicans call “eating pon the road”

The first year I arrived in Jamaica on holiday, my husband who was then my boyfriend took me to

” The Pen, or Faiths Pen” for lunch. We were driving to the “country” which is what most places outside of Kingston is called, and we were starving.
I remember driving into this place and the vendors were literally racing out to meet cars, each trying to convince you to come buy from their stalls only.

I hate to admit this, but this entire first experience was abit nerve racking, as the sales approach appeared intense and was unusually pushy for me.This was all however, before I sampled any of the food.

Fast forward  to four years later, and I now eagerly look forward to making that particular stop for food.

The location is not for the picky or overly conscious eater, as my best girfirend arrived for a visit to Jamaica a few years ago from Atlanta, and could not beleive we were buying food and eating it at the place.
“Where is the running water she asked, and oh my God flies” she is a picky eater. I jokingly informed her that she need not eat, and can remain in the car. When we returned to the car with our food twenty minutes later, she immediately wanted to taste this and that. She immediately went racing to get her own food, thanking God that her children were not with her.

This is a recommend must must stop for anybody living in JA. The video shows several local foods of Jamaica.

Wakes and Funerals in Jamaica

I started writing about my recent experiences after attending three funerals here in Jamaica in less than three months, but could not finish my story. After a recent chat however, with my new pal John and his wife, he informed me that he had written a piece on the same subject and said I could share his piece with you the readers.

Jamaica Jamaica, so rich in culture and happenings.

Wakes and Funerals by John Casey



Published Jun 30, 2004

Wakes and funerals are very different in Jamaica compared to where I came from in the United States. Within a month of moving to Jamaica, a Jamaican friend’s sister and her brother-in-law were killed in a horrible automobile accident. About two weeks later, after the mandatory autopsy, the wake began. They call it a “dead yard” here. Many years ago, this was a time of mourning where relatives and friends gathered at the home of the deceased to offer their condolences. Well…that was then and this is now! Today, it is party time! At least, the one I went to was. One couldn’t help find the grieving family’s home. A D.J. had set up two towers of speakers nearly as tall as the house. Music, not hymns or chamber music, but the latest in reggae and dancehall music, could be heard for a great distance before the home.

Like days of old, relatives and friends gathered to pay their respects to the family. Instead of bringing a spiritual bouquet or a sympathy card, guests brought food, rum and beer for the feast that was about to take place. People came early and stayed late. They were dressed in everything from tee-shirts to fine dress shirts, shorts to neatly pressed pants. Other than a few brief words of condolences, most of the time was spent chatting with other mourners, eating, drinking and playing Jamaica’s favorite table game, Dominos. This party or feast not only lasted well into the night but continued for 8 nights. The 8 nights were just a warm-up for “nine night”, when all the stops were pulled out. The family prepared a feast of all feasts! The highlight of the feast was a curried goat, a favorite meat of Jamaicans. To accompany the goat was enough food to feed a small army. I was told many of the people in attendance were not known to the family but were drawn like a magnet by the loud music and the aroma of good food.

The next day, the party was over, at least for a few hours. Mourners gathered early to attend the funeral service. This day they were dressed in their finest clothes. Men wore suits with jackets and ties while the women dressed in long dresses and the traditional fancy hats. One thing most Jamaicans have with them at all times is a small cloth to wipe the perspiration off their brow. They would need it before the day was over.

Prior to the church service, family and close friends attended a service at the funeral home. From there, the casket was transported to the already packed church in preparation for the larger service.

Jamaica has more churches per capita than any other country in the world. With that in mind, I was quite surprised at the size of the church, once I found it, but that’s another story. The church was beautiful though not air-conditioned. There were numerous ceiling fans and wide open windows that helped cool the late morning service. It wasn’t long before everyone was using their cloth as the number of people gathered quickly heated the church.

One of the first things to catch my eye upon entering the church was an usher presenting me with what looked like a program detailing the service. It was more than any program I had ever seen. It consisted of a glossy picture of the deceased on the front page with a detail description of the service including all the words to the many hymns on the several pages inside. The back was a collage of pictures of the deceased with members of her family. This was not something printed in the cellar of the church. I was totally impressed with the thought and detail that went into this outstanding program.

This church, like many I have seen, consists of a small band made up of a piano, guitars, drums, and sometimes trumpets and saxophones on one side of the altar and a choir on the other side. The service started somewhat on time. It isn’t often anything starts on time in Jamaica! The length of the service was quite long, perhaps bordering on two hours. The choir was from a local school supported, in part, by the church. After their portion of the service was over, a special collection was taken on their behalf. The service consisted of the general things of a church funeral; hymns, scripture readings, testimonials, etc. It was a beautiful service.

The big surprise was found upon exiting the church. There, within 20 feet of the door, was a vendor selling cold drinks and ice cream! I can tell you, he did a big business! That would never be allowed in prim and proper New England!

From the church, the procession traveled about 20 miles for the grave side service. I did not attend this service but it was also described in the program received at the church. Once the service was over, people were invited back to the home where more food was served.

While this was my first experience of this type in Jamaica, it does not represent all wakes and funerals. Perhaps this particular case was driven by the age of the deceased. She was in her mid twenties. Since then, I have attended a funeral for an elderly member of the small community I live in. I assure you, there wasn’t any of the party atmosphere I just described. This one was more reminiscent of services I had become accustomed to. In both cases, there was an outpouring of sympathy at the church services. Perhaps in the first case, the family wanted to celebrate her life and to remember her in happier times.

Pre- Arrival Trip: One Expats’ Experience in Kingston Jamaica

This note was recently left at one of the expat sites where I volunteer to answer expat questions. The note is about one persons Pre- arrival trip and experience in Kingston. I often recommend that people thinking about moving to Jamaica do as many Pre-arrival trips if possible. Pre-arrival meaning, they are coming on trips which are not vacations spent at the beach. They should be trips used to evaluate all the necessary steps for considering a move to Jamaica.

Here, this individual did exactly that, and concluded that the city of Kingston was not for her. She was still very interested in moving  to and living in Jamaica with her life partner and children, but the city of Kingston would not be a destination of choice

I too am relocating to Jamaica in the early fall 2008. I was just there for three weeks in the middle of June.
Where to start?
I have always loved Jamaica I have been going for years, I have spent time in Negril, Westmorland, Sav la Mar, Caldwell and several other little parts of the beautiful Countryside of Jamaica. I thought it was heaven.
This last visit I was in Kingston, Harborview, to be exact. My life partner of eleven years is from Kingston and he and I have lived in Canada for that amount of time. He is now there for family business and I have decided to join him with my two teenage daughters and five chihuahua’s.
I have many things to say:

First, Kingston is an industrial city, geared for business people. There are no coral beaches, white sand or smells of jerk chicken in the air. Because I am white, and Canadian, every one thinks I have money and will expect you to give to them in higher quantities than the locals. Prime example: went to the Bob Marley Museum in New Kingston, where it was five hundred Jamaican dollars for the locals and 1800 Jamaican dollars for non locals.
This happens everywhere. For the most part I was stared at so much and felt uncomfortable in my skin that there were times I wanted to scream: Have you never seen a white person before. I have never had this experience and have traveled extensively all over the world. My children are mixed as their father is black and I have been in many ‘black communities’ where I felt more welcomed.
Thank God for my partners family, because they were very loving and welcoming.
With that said, I have decided not to live in the area of Kingston, but to relocate to Mandeville. This is a beautiful area and the prices for houses to rent range from 200 Canadian per month to 4000 Canadian per month.


The Jamaican high commission states that under any circumstances, there are no dogs to be let in to Jamaica unless they are born and bred from the British Isle. No dogs from Canada or the U.S. or any other country are allowed in due to the problem with rabies. Jamaica does not have vaccinations against rabies and do not want any other infections brought into the country.
This is devastating, because as we all know, dogs are part of our family. I have spoken to the director of the veterinarian services in Kingston and he has told me to write a letter asking for special consideration. This is a fifty fifty surety that my dog will or won’t be allowed in.

After much research I have decided to have my children do correspondence from the computer. This will insure that if we come back to Canada they will be accredited for their grade as well , the adjustment for a “foreign student going into the Jamaican school board can be tough socially as well as educationally. Each country has contacts for your children to do their school work online, like a distance ed, and you just have to pay for their books. If you have money a private school could also be considered. There are two private schools in the Kingston area and they are five thousand Canadian a year.
Cost of living:

Is very high in Jamaica, the food is comparable to Canadian prices, the cars are at par and the price of gas is as you know ridiculous. Make sure to have a safety net of cash if one needs to get medical assistance or some other emergency because the government is not handing out money, like in Canada.
With all of that said, there are many positive aspects of living in Jamaica as well.
Beauty: when traveling the island of Ja, the beautiful fauna and flora will capture you with its beauty. Negril’s seven mile beach is absolutely breath taking and the sun sets captivating. If you are relocating to Negril or Montego Bay, you will meet very friendly people who are used to tourists and who will make you feel very welcome.


Jamaican culture is rich with traditionalism and envelopes modernity within certain social groups. What I like most about the culture is that the Jamaican people promote high ethical standards when it comes to education, and working. This is taken very seriously as in schools they are uniformed and most people who work within the working class system are well dressed, hardly late, and rarely call in sick. This is because people in Jamaica have it rough as there are no social services for children, women or seniors. Therefore, they work their butts off to try and survive, which is more than I can say for some westerners. Children come first with most of the women in Jamaica, dinner is cooked at noon and breakfast is provided each day with a hot drink. While some Jamaican women are poor, they will do what they can to provide food and shelter for their kids, I respect this.
Anyways, I could go on and on and on, but I will stop here and hope that some of what I am saying can be of help.

Please recognize that this is one persons’ experience.

Blog NEWS > Clean up continues thru August


My blog site was launched a few months ago, and its’ now time to do a massive clean up. In my haste to keep the information fresh and coming, my editing has been highly neglected. So my plan is to take the month of July thru early August to clean up typos, spelling,  etc.  with the strong guidance of my Editor.

Also stay tuned, as we plan to offer for SALE “My Move to Jamaica Part I” on August 1st 2008. Please continue to download the first free e-book “The Top 10 1/2 Mistakes People Make When Moving to Jamaica” and send me a note on topics you may be interested in reading about.

My thanks for all your support.

Cheers From Kingston

Another Perspective>Obtaining A Jamaican Drivers Licence

Attached, is another story on the process of obtaining a drivers license in Jamaica. This piece is abit more detailed than what I was actually told on my  fact finding trip last week, or of what I remember my own experience to be. I suppose things always vary. Please bear in mind, that the fees I quoted are the most recent July 2008 cost.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A License to Drive in 12 Steps: by Francis Wade

Moving to Jamaica may mean dealing with the ugly face of corruption, and one of the agencies with a poor reputation is the Examination Depot at Swallowfield Road. It is a little like the Ellis Island of Jamaica — the place where those who are moving to live in Jamaica must pass through on their way to fully authorized,and acceptable driving.

The law in Jamaica states that a Jamaican driver’s license is needed after living on the island for more than three months. Or perhaps that’s six months… and this is where the problem begins. Rumor has it that if you end up in an accident with a foreign license after this period, then the insurance company can refuse to provide coverage. But then again, this is just a rumour.

Getting a Jamaican license while having a foreign license is a tricky business, as the information is scanty, there are no clearly written procedures and everyone seems to have a different story to tell. Then, there is the matter of corruption. Many traffic and driving problems in Jamaica can be whisked away with the right payment to the right person, as the three reports below attest.

The estimate I heard is that 40% of our drivers have no legal drivers licenses, having received them through bribes. Again, another rumour.


I vowed to document the process of obtaining a local license once I received one, and here I am going to lay out the ideal set of steps to take, leaving out the part where we hunted down a lawyer, a JP, 2 trips to the photographer and 2 trips to the examination depot.

Step 1: Visit the Tax Office on Constant Spring Road between the 5th and 20th of the month. Stay away from the days nearest to the end of month, as that is when people rush to the depot to pay fees at the last minute. Pick up an application for a driver’s license (unavailable on the internet.)

Step 1a. Pay the fee to take the test — $1500 at the Tax Office. Carry cash, for fear of hearing that “the credit card machine not working.”

Step 2: Get 3 pictures taken at PhotoExpress in Liguanea or someplace similar. Avoid going at rush hour. Time: 15 minutes to wait for development. Cost $900

Step 3: Fill out the form WITHOUT signing it.

Step 4: Find a Justice of the Peace (NOT a lawyer.) They must be willing to say that they know you for more than five minutes… Have them sign and seal the document over your signature as well as certify the pictures

Step 5: Visit the Examination Depot on Swallowfield Road (near the stadium) with your documents (the form, the pictures, the receipt of payment from the tax office) and set an appointment to take the exam

Step 6: Purchase a copy of “The Jamaican Driver’s Guide” from 2007 and study the contents. If you cannot read English, then learn. If you cannot learn English, then methods of your obtaining your license are beyond the scope of this blog. Cost $359. Time to find it: most pharmacies and book stores. It is very popular here in Jamaica.

Step 7: Visit the Examination Depot on the day and time appointed. Be prepared to use your biggest foreign accent. Carry no cash. Pretend you know nothing about any “drinks money.”

Step 8: Take the reading test. Answer a few questions on road signs from page 40. Be exceedingly polite, friendly, helpful and helpful. This is like Ellis Island — you may get turned down for merely looking “like an imbecile” which in Jamaica also includes “being too damn rude.”

Step 9: Take the driving test in the yard. Do a hill start. Do the reversing test.

Step 10: Sit and wait a few minutes for the examiner to tell you when you can pick up your license. Ask him to assign it to the Constant Spring Tax Office.

Step 11: Visit the tax office again on the right day, with $1500 in hand. Pay, and pick up your license.

Step 12: if you haven’t already started, learn how to drive like a Jamaican. The entire process can be completed in a matter of 2-3 weeks, if everything is lined up in advance. The longest unexplained wait is for the examination date. All in all, the process was fairly straightforward, once we had gone through it. Consider this post to be the definitive account, as after a few hours searching I could find nothing on the internet that described the entire process. I met a few foreigners who had different accounts, depending on who they knew at the Depot. Here, I have assumed that you know no-one, and that by now you know how to “look foreign” when you need to. If you don’t know what that means, then just dress “normally.” It turns out there is an important

Step 13.  Visit the tax office with J$1500 in hand and some kind of picture ID. They should already have your paperwork there. They pull it out from the stacks of papers piled all over in manila folders (almost to the ceiling) and after filling out another form, you pay the fee (credit cards accepted) and then come back to wait for your official picture to be taken. Once the picture is taken, you wait again for the license to be handed to you. Then you complain that the picture looks ugly.

The entire process took about an hour, and didn’t feel all that long because you are going through a few different steps. Remember, the tax office is a place to avoid from the 28th of one month to the 3rd of the next. The best time to go is from the 4th – 15th, to avoid the long lines.