Barbados

Welcome to Barbados

Facts at a Glance

Population: approximately 279,000

Capital: Bridgetown

Nationality: Barbadian or Bajan (colloquial)

Currency: Barbadian Dollar; $2 BDS = $1 US approximately, however US dollars (both cash and travelers cheques) are widely accepted throughout the island

Per capita income: US$7,350

Religions: Protestant 67% (Anglican 40%, Pentecostal 8%, Methodist 7%, other 12%), Roman Catholic 4%, none 17%, other 12%

(Please visit http://www.barbados-beaches-plus.com/religion-in-barbados.html to find a church)

Language: English

Adult literacy: 97.4% (defined as age 15 or older and having received any formal schooling)

Industries: tourism, international business, sugar, and light manufacturing

Time Zone: Barbados does not follow Daylight Savings Time

Size and Make-up of the expatriate community: There are a fairly large proportion of expatriates working in Banking, Insurance, Tourism and Development.  These come from mainly Canada, USA, UK, Other Caribbean nations and some Central/South American nations.

The United Nations ranked Barbados 47th (out of 187 countries) in its 2011 Human Development Report. The island consistently ranks as one of the highest developing countries in the world.

Geography

Barbados is the most easterly of the Caribbean islands. Total land area is 431 km². The island lies at 13° N, 59° W and runs 34 km north to south at its longest point and 23 km east to west at its widest. The island is relatively flat, rising gently to the central highland region. The highest point in Barbados is Mount Hillaby at 336 m.

Barbados’ 97 kilometers of coastal regions are very diverse. The south and west coasts overlook the Caribbean Sea and offer (fairly) calm tides and protected beaches. The east coast of Barbados is known for its surf – Bathsheba is home to the annual ‘Soup Bowl’ competition. The north coast has beautiful, rugged clay cliffs. These coasts are not recommended for swimming.

Climate

Barbados has a tropical climate. As such, the island is both blessed and cursed with weather patterns. Rainy season is roughly June to November, however it rains year round, just with greater frequency and intensity during the ‘rainy season’. Hot, humid weather can be expected with sudden downpours of rain. November to May are the drier, somewhat cooler months. Average temperatures for the year are between 25° and 28°C (77° – 83° F), but this does not take humidity in to consideration. With the humidity, the temperature can reach up to 45°C (114°F) on a sunny day.

Because of its position near the equator, Barbados experiences approximately the same amount of hours of sunshine year-round, between 10 and 12 hours per day. Sunrise is rather early, around 5:30 am; sunset is around 6 pm.

Hurricanes

Hurricanes are one of the hazards we face living in the Caribbean. They occur during the rainy season from June to November, and are characterized by winds over 75 mph. Hurricane Tomas Hit Barbados October 2010 and causing some damage to overhead cables, trees and water systems. Before this  Barbados was very lucky – the last time the island was directly hit by a hurricane was in 1955. The nature of hurricanes is to bounce from one land mass to another. Because of Barbados’ location away from the Caribbean island chain, we are usually able to avoid the worst of the storm. However, Barbados does get hit by several weaker systems each year – tropical depressions (winds under 40 mph) and tropical storms (winds between 40 – 74 mph).

A hurricane information leaflet is available on request and is emailed out to the office every year before the hurricane season starts.

System of Government

Barbados is divided into 11 administrative divisions, known as parishes. They are: Christ Church, St. Andrew, St. George, St. James, St. John, St. Joseph, St. Michael, St. Peter, St. Philip and St. Thomas. The city of Bridgetown is in the parish of St. Michael, but may be given parish status.

There are two political parties: Barbados Labour Party (BLP) and Democratic Labour Party (DLP).

History and Language

The official language is English, but Barbadians speak colloquially to each other in ‘Bajan’. 

The history of Barbados has recently been rewritten with the discovery of artefacts at the site of Port St Charles.  It now seems that the first inhabitants arrived around 1623BC.  They were Amerindians from Venezuela who crossed the seas in long dugout canoes.  Some time later, Arawaks, who were a peaceful community of farmers, inhabited the Island.  They grew cotton, cassava, corn, peanuts, guavas and paw-paws.  They were also fishermen and potters.  Around the beginning of the 13th Century, the Arawaks were conquered by the Caribs who were a taller, stronger and more war-like Amerindian tribe.

The first Europeans to set foot in the Island were the Spanish, who arrived in the early 1500s but they chose not to settle.  It seems that they took the remaining Amerindians away as slaves, as the Portuguese landed in 1536 and found the Island deserted.  They too did not settle.  In 1625 an English ship captained by John Powell landed supposedly as a result of navigational miscalculation.  They claimed the Island on behalf of King James1 and two years later, Henry Powell (younger brother of John) returned, landing at Holetown with 80 settlers and a small number of slaves.  The colonists comprised of wealthy Englishmen, often the sons of the landed gentry.  Within a few years most of the land had been put under cultivation for tobacco followed by cotton, then indigo.

In 1637, sugar cane plants were imported from Brazil and this was to shape the future of Barbados.  A sugar boom took off and the landowners found themselves short of labour.  They had brought with them indentured white servants.  These were civilians who wanted to emigrate overseas and in return had to sign an agreement to serve a planter in Barbados for a period up to 7 years.  These servants, however, could not meet the growing need for labour.  The planter looked to the Dutch who were the principal suppliers of African slaves.  By 1682, there were 30 black slaves to every 1 white servant.  These white servants made up 80% of the white population.  Therefore, a small minority of powerful and successful white planters controlled most of the land and people in Barbados.

By the beginning of the 19th Century, international opposition against slavery was growing.  The British parliament abolished the slave trade in 1807, but slaves in Barbados had to wait.  One of the most famous landmarks in Barbadian history is the ‘Bussa’ uprising, which occurred in 1816.  The slave rebellion was short-lived but costly in terms of lives taken.  Hundreds of slaves were killed in battle or executed.  Abolition of slavery was finally realized in 1834 (some 29 years before the United States).  However, a period of apprenticeship of four years followed during which ‘free’ men had to work long hours without pay.  A huge social change had been implemented and from this, Samuel Jackson Prescod emerged as the first ‘coloured’ member of the House of Assembly in 1843.

From the mid 1850s Barbadians started to leave the Island in search of better wages.  Many worked on the Panama Canal between 1904-1914.  Many settled in the US and Canada and later in the UK.  The sugar industry went into decline after the First World War and there was large-scale unemployment.  Inequalities were complained of and this led to the riots of 1937.  Out of this, the Barbados Progressive League (later to be known as the Barbados Labour Party or BLP) was formed under the leadership of Grantley Adams.  In 1939, the Trade Union Act was passed and in 1947 the BLP won the general election.  Finally, in 1950 there was universal suffrage.  In 1954, Grantley Adams became the first Prime Minister of Barbados under a new system of ministerial government.  Other political parties were formed after this.

Full Independence was gained from Britain on 30th November 1966.  HM Queen Elizabeth the Second is the titular Head of State, represented by Governor General Sir Clifford Husbands.  The Island is part of the Commonwealth.

Be culturally sensitive to the affects this history has had, and continues to have, on Barbadian society.

Cultural Sensitivities – Dos and Don’ts

  • Do be respectful to others. Barbadians like to greet each other and they feel offended if a ‘good morning/afternoon/evening’ is not exchanged.
  • Do practice courtesy when driving.  Barbadians will stop and give way to cars entering from side turnings and driveways etc.
  • Do accept offers to dinner/lunch, even at very short notice.  Barbadians are fairly impulsive when offering social invitations, but it might be considered offensive not to accept, when offered.
  • Do cover up when leaving the beach and when entering coffee shops, supermarkets and banks.
  • Don’t sunbathe topless, in public, as it is unacceptable in Barbados.
  • Don’t visit Government departments dressed too casually.  Any photographs they require should show you covered, rather than in strappy tops. You are required to cover up for entry into government buildings.
  • Do go to government offices over prepared. It is better to take all forms of ID, Passports, Driving licences and Marriage Certificates with you.
  • Don’t wear anything made from camouflage material (even children) as it is actually against the law in Barbados to dress similarly to the Barbados Defence Force.
  • Don’t think that any tradesman will arrive punctually.  Barbadians say that there are only three things that they need to be punctual for: Cricket, Funerals and the first week of work.
  • Do allow plenty of time for appointments as they may not start on time and take longer than you anticipated.

Do remember why you chose to work here; presumably, you wanted to experience something different? Barbados is an independent country and none of its systems will be the same as those in your home country.  Try to embrace all that it has to offer and when the ‘honeymoon’ period is over just kick back and enjoy what it DOES have.

Outpost Barbados

Focal point: Susanna Wilcock
Office hours: By appointment
Languages: English, Dutch, French
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