Moving Back to Jamaica

A blog about my Move Back to Jamaica after 20+ years of living in the US. Most of the articles focus on the period from 2005-2009 when the transition was new, and at it's most challenging.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Big Ups

In addition to the need to be "Aggressively Polite" is another critical skill to be used here in Jamaica -- "Bigging Up."

Again, this is a difficult behaviour to explain, other than by way of comparison.

In America, there is an "equality ethos" in the way in which people relate to each other when it comes to greetings. in other words, an American will say "Hey Buddy" or "Yo man, wassup" in a familiar way that denotes a strong feeling of "we are all equal, and are friends here."

Here in Jamaica, among strangers, it is much better to greet someone in a way that "promotes" them in some way that goes somewhat beyond what is expected in the situation.

"Yes, Big Man"
"Nice lady"
"Mr. Newspaper Man"
"Good morning, Sir"
"Good day, Ma'am"
"Boss, what can I do for you?

In high school at Wolmers as 11 year olds, we were introduced to a culture in which teachers would say "Good morning gentlemen," followed by a response of "Good morning, Sir" or "Good morning miss."

The socially accepted practice is to promote someone, especially when they are not close friends, but even then the practice is still used.

I remember vividly a moment when my father visited the U.S. when I lived there, and he and I went to see a boxing match at a sports bar. A few white guys in their twenties sitting with us said not more than a few words to him, and I was shocked -- I had never heard anyone ever refer to him with such an utter lack of what we Jamaicans call "respect." They weren't rude -- it was just remarkable that their way of speaking with him was utterly devoid of what one would expect in Jamaica. After all, these were guys in their twenties speaking to someone of my Dad's age and "stature."

My guess is that this is all tied in with slavery, and the gross disrespect that was promulgated by Englishmen on Africans, Arawaks, Chinese, "Syrians" and Indians. Eventually, the practice of disrespect was passed on by them to everyone else, and it continues today in a multitude of forms.

"Bigging Up" is simply a powerful antidote to the demeaning way in which we Jamaicans often relate to each other.


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