The Caribbean is an archipelago of islands nestled east of Central America. A product of colonization, the Caribbean has a distinct flavor with mixes of cultures and races, giving the region a diverse population, customs, and traditions. The path of colonization weaving settlements from the Spanish, British, French, and Dutch resulted in a rooted heritage that has shaped a multicultural profile for each island, defining it as unique in many ways.
Trainers should make time to get acquainted with the root of culture for the destination island and its surrounding nations, as their respective historical trails have a direct influence on each other due to closeness of borders and their shared stages of colonization.
Although known to the world as “the Caribbean,” locals identify more with the specific regional names, such as the West Indies (Christopher Columbus set sail to Asia in search of India, but drifted west to the Caribbean). The West Indies is made up of the Antilles. The Greater Antilles include the biggest islands: Cuba, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, and Hispaniola (the island shared by the Dominican Republic and Haiti). The Lesser Antilles include the rest of the Caribbean islands, from the Virgin Islands to Trinidad & Tobago. Citizens of old British colonies identify as West Indians, and the French islands as “Antillais.” “DOMTOM” (Department d’Outre-Mer or Territoire d’Outre-Mer) identifies the residents of Martinique, Guadeloupe, St. Martin, and St. Barts, who are French citizens.
The Netherland or Dutch Antilles (Aruba, Bonaire, and Curacao) have direct ties with the Kingdom of the Netherlands, also known as and referred to as Holland. St Maarten is also Dutch and shares its land with St. Martin, which is French. U.S.V.I and B.V.I are the Virgin Islands of the Caribbean. The B stands for British and U.S. for United States of America.
- Getting acquainted with the geography, nomenclature, and culture will show respect to training participants and give trainers credibility. Pride and respect are values resulting from overcoming colonization with the abolition of slavery, giving a sense of identity to the Caribbean people who embrace their roots. Because of their painful heritage of colonization and slavery, Caribbean people are sensitive to the perception of their identity the rest of the world may have. Areas of the Caribbean should be referred to as developing nations, not “third-world countries.”
- Due to the relationship and hierarchy orientation of the Caribbean, trainers would benefit from getting to know the background of participants to establish trust. Introductory e-mails using titles and last names, followed by a phone call showing genuine interest in the person first, before getting to business, will go a long way.
- Building on the strong foundation of British or French education, the literacy rate in the Caribbean is high, making education an important part of the citizens’ life cycle. With such a high value placed on education, trainers’ credentials should include university diplomas, extensive global experience, and other field-related certification to establish themselves as respectable experts.
- Trainers must always be professional and never position themselves as tourists on a “business and pleasure” trip. Although tourism is the No. 1 economic sector in the Caribbean, it is a stereotype to assume that island life is “vacation life 24/7.” Besides tourism, the region is rich in natural resources that are globally traded, and its strong banking and real estate sectors create predominate havens of global wealth throughout the area.
- Trainers should expect hospitality with a smile, which often hides underlying values of formality and hierarchy. A trainer’s use of language, dress code, overall attitudes, and composure should mirror and respect those values. These traits are highlighted in my workshops titled “Doing Business in the Caribbean Is No Vacation.” The name speaks for itself!
Patricia Malidor Coleman, senior associate with Global Dynamics Inc., specializes in international business, cross-cultural consulting, and diversity training in various fields, including the hospitality/ travel industry and international franchising management. She has studied, taught, and done business internationally for more than 20 years. She can be reached via e-mail at: email@example.com or by phone at: 305.682.7883