Before arriving in Guadeloupe, I had watched a YouTube video that described Guadeloupe as, “So French,” and “Undeniably Caribbean.” However, even with that description, I still imagined that Guadeloupe would be MOSTLY Caribbean with little pieces of French flair here and there. However, I was wrong. The culture here really is a true mixture of French and Caribbean, creating a fascinating and delightful cultural experience for me.
Having lived in Haiti before, many of the Caribbean cultural aspects are not new to me. The people here definitely tend to run on “island time.” This means that if someone tells you they will see you at 2:30, it will likely be closer to 3 before they arrive. Even folks from mainland France have adapted to this attitude citing “C’est Guadeloupe!” (It’s Guadeloupe!) Also, outdoor markets and sellers are common here (although not nearly as common as they were in Haiti) and it is easy to find fresh fruits, vegetables, and fish from road-side booths. Rum is readily available wherever you go, as well. Further, the traditional music, clothing, and dances of Guadeloupe are definitely still alive and well in modern-day Guadeloupe.
However, here are some cultural things that are new for me:
1. The aperitif. If someone invites you to their house for dinner, then they will likely offer you an aperitif (alcoholic drink) before dinner. Here, that is usually some sort of rum based beverage (like Ti Punch – rum with sugar and lime) or wine. It’s quite nice. Also, when people come to visit, even if it’s just for a short time in the afternoon, it is polite to offer them a drink and it is helpful if you have several beverages on hand – “Would you like water, juice, tea, Coca Cola, or wine?” I have never had that many different types of drinks in my home so I’m trying to adapt in order to be a good hostess when people come to visit me.
2. Eating at home. People here do not seem to eat out often. People mostly cook meals at home and if they do go out, it’s for a snack or drinks. Apparently, this is very culturally French (and it is very culturally American to go out to eat a lot). I have been here for almost four weeks (wow!) and I have only been out to eat 3 times. (Two lunches at McDonald’s and one dinner at a Creole restaurant.) Also, food here is generally imported and, therefore, quite expensive. It is certainly cheaper to cook/make your own meals than to eat out, and even then it’s not that cheap.
3. No tipping. Here in Guadeloupe, as well as in France, the tip is included in the price of the meal. You would only leave a tip if the service was particularly exceptional. That definitely takes some getting used to for this American.
4. Kissing cheeks. When you greet a woman here, you kiss them on both cheeks. This is for a man greeting a woman and a woman greeting a woman. Men greeting other men just shake hands. Also, when people part ways, they will generally repeat the cheek kisses. This is another thing that is taking some getting used to as it’s not very natural for me. But, as it is when you are in any new culture, you learn and adjust. 🙂
5. Houses designed for outdoor living. Most of the homes here are designed for people to spend a significant amount of their living outside. For example, my apartment has a big door that slides open, making my living space like a shaded outdoor terrace. Most homes here are designed with large terraces/balconies and/or with ways to open up the house to the outdoors.
6. Regular beach trips. When there are several beaches within twenty minutes of your house and they’re all free… why wouldn’t you go all the time??
Although this list is not comprehensive, I hope it does give you a better idea of the culture I’m living in. It’s certainly a fun and interesting experience getting to know the culture here, and I am excited to see what further things I may discover!