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Visitor, welcome to the Virgin Islands. You may not think it, but you've stepped onto some very foreign territory. Sure we're under the US flag and all of the residents are US citizens, but things work a bit differently here. Now I'm well aware that you as a visitor have been left scratching your head quite a few times wondering what it is you said or did that totally and completely pissed off a resident. Chances are you weren't abiding by some very simple guidelines. No one will tell you what these guidelines are, but I'm throwing you a bone here so listen up:
1. Mind your "manners"
In the Virgin Islands, it is required that you start of your exchange with any resident with the words "Good morning", "Good afternoon", or "Good evening". Unless you do this, be prepared for one very standoffish exchange. This isn't really manners, it's more like a requirement. Trust me, you'll need this very important foot-in-the-door. The best part is it's up to you to keep track of the time to know exactly which phrase to use (we residents always know and will correct you if you screw up). Be sure to ask a fellow tourist what the time is before you start asking questions.
2. Avoid Driving
I know what you're thinking. "I've driven on the freeway, this should be a piece of cake." Man, you don't know how much trouble you just bought yourself. Now I commend you if you truly want to learn our ways, but keep these facts in mind.
*Nobody here drives the speed limit. Furthermore don't expect a speeding ticket unless you actually hit somebody.
*We drive on the left. Seems the US is one of the very few countries in the world that drive on the right. Getting over the mindset that because America does something that the entire world should do it will take you far.
*It's not really that we drive like morons, it's more that we're all fighting for what little road space that's available and you'll probably get caught in the middle. Avoid any James Bond-like tactics and you'll be ok.
3. The Customer Is Always Right...Except Here
You're probably used to getting what you want fast and without hassle. If you don't, the waiter is probably looking at unemployment. Please leave this mentality at home. ANYWHERE you go will take up some measure of time. It may be because the establishment is paying special attention to details or they simply don't give a rat's ass how long you hang around (because you're hungry and you're not going ANYWHERE). Get used to "Island Time". Island Time applies to the checkout lane, the bank line, whatever. Keep in mind you came down her to slow down. Well guess what, that's what you got.
4. Develops Some Cartography Skills
That's reading maps....because you sure as hell aren't going to get accurate directions from a local. Think about any small town you've visited in the past. Remember what it was like asking them for directions? The locals had no idea what any of the streets were named. They guided you by telling you to look out for landmarks. It's the same thing here. So either you learn the map or ask for directions because you won't have them both.
5. Know Your Ride
A taxi isn't just a taxi in the Virgin Islands. We have regular taxis, tour taxis and dollar taxis. Regular taxis are what you probably encountered the minute you got out of the airplane terminal. Tour taxis are more geared towards cruise ship visitors. They charge a bit more for a tour of some of the island sights. If you're here on the cheap, look out for dollar taxis. They stop at designated bus stops. As long as you're traveling withing the town region (aka not going up any hills) the fare is $1. Anywhere else expect to pay $2 and make sure you know where the hell you're going.
6. Don't Wear Socks With Sandals
Actually, this is pretty much taboo anywhere in the world. I just mentioned it because it annoys me to no end. Moving on....
7. Don't Try To Mimic the Lingo
If it's one thing that really irks us is a non-native trying to talk like us. This is the equivalent of saying "Hello-o, do you-o know-o where-o the bathroom-o is-o?" to a Mexican. The Mexican doesn't understand a word of what you said and has put you him his "stupid American" box...which means he'll pretty much ignore your inquiry. Everyone here understands English quite well so speak it freely. If you say "Yeah, mon!" and get smacked don't say I didn't warn you.
8. You're Not Superman/Wonder Woman
People on vacation believe they're invincible. Nothing bad can happen on vacation right? Wrong! The rules here are the same as anywhere else. Don't wander into places that lack a multitude of people, stay in well lit areas, and travel with groups if you can. If you're recreating in the water, please learn how to swim first (trust me, someone will be available to teach you). If you're drinking to forget, be sure to pay the bartender in advance and secure your ride home well in advance.
9. Stop Looking For Creature Conforts
You're just not going to find them. Sure we're got a few major fast food chains but the USVI probably has about 20% of all the stuff that's out there right now. So if you're craving a Quarter Pounder, you ok. If you're looking for the Half Pound Burrito you CAN find it, but just not at Taco Bell. Don't be afraid to ask around for certain types of food. If it's one thing people here are open about it's what they like to eat. Hooking up with a local could mean the difference between a bag of chips or a plate of ribs at 12am.
10. Don't Be Afraid to Disconnect
Yes we have Internet here. Yes we have cable/satellite/digital television. Yes, you can even pick up a copy of the New York Times at select locations. Trust me though, you don't want to deal with all that stuff. Relax! Find a beach and have a drink in a coconut half like they do in the commercials (good luck finding the coconot half, but I'm speaking hypothetically here). You're not missing much and you'll have plenty of time to catch up AFTER your vacation. Live it up! THIS is your world now.
I hope my 10 simple rules for getting along in the USVI didn't scare anyone off. They were in fact meant to encourage you to get out there and do what you came here to do. Get drunk, pick up drunken girls (or guys, whatever your preference is), get wild and have a little fun. So get out there and party, party animal. Oh, and if by some chance you bump into me and ask me for directions you better have a map handy otherwise I'll just tell you to hang a left at Wendy's and keep on driving 'til you get there.
I hate to be the spoil sport here. But, all of these concerns about how to massage the locals into being cordial make me exhausted just reading it.
I mean, if I am cordial to you, and you aren't cordial back, so be it. But, for me to try to recollect a whole list of suggested ways to break the ice with you just so you'll smile for me or be somewhat kind to me seems a bit much. For what? I don't need that bad energy flowing in my direction and would just as soon move on to someone who has a positive energy without me going through 100 gyrations to bring it out.
I don't work that hard unless I am getting paid for it. Being on vacation is not a sales call. Hey, even is sales, they tell you to "mirror" your prospect....
I say go, have a good time, be friendly and move on from those who don't share your vibe...
Re: directions. I disagree with the author. When I first moved here, a wise woman told me to write down the directions someone gives you- down to the "look for the purple whale" and "at the red truck, turn" and "don't go up- go up, up." As you drive along you will see exactly what they mean. Also don't ever ask a local for Route 32- those numbers are there for someone, but I'm not sure who! 😉
Also: whoever was talking about looking someone in the eye- it is rude to many West Indians to do so. I know that is lumping folks together, but there are many who were raised NOT to look you in the eye.
AMEN Blu Water!! Act like you were raised to act and enjoy your stay. You know how many rude folks you run into everyday, no matter what town you live in? In reality, it matters not where you live, travel, or vacation....you will be sure to find miserable souls out there who hate their lives. Tune 'em out and tune in the good karma!! Best wishes
I am glad that you have been to many other island in the caribbean and have been treated friendly by the islanders on the other islands who cares so much about their beautiful island home. Fruity are you aware of the fact that a good portion the islanders or so call local people that live in St thomas are actually not from St. thomas and that's where this don't caring attitude maybe coming from. I am not saying that all of them are like that, you can find some outstanding people from the other caribbean islands who resides in St.Thomas and has contirbuted to the betterment of St thomas but on ther otherhand, a great portion of their loyalty lies with their home island not their adoptive home. I live around them and I hear their comments. welcome to America and our great immigration policies.
yOU'RE RIGHT ON BLUWATER. Who gives a damn what these "locals" think? Most of them wounldn't have a job if it weren't for us tourists,or even a K-Mart to shop in. I've found since visiting St. Thomas every year since 91 that most of the people who are working are not from St. Thomas anyway! The real locals are on U.S. WELFARE. So just enjoy your stay there and try to be polite and have respect for the people and the island and don't worry about trying to make friends of the "locals". Look around....The place is FILTHY. They have no respect for their own hameland. Want proof???take a little visit to Linquist [A locals beach]. Who wants people like that for friends anyway.
Whoa....Why are you visiting St Thomas every year if this is the way you feel? I'm hoping your Tropical Attitude isn't contagious.
Get a life tropical. That isn't at all what I am saying and you are far off base about it. Don't drag me into your idiocy. I don't share you view, at all! I was once a "local" on STT. I bet you've never even been there.
You obviously have a grudge that has nothing to do with what we are discussing here. Lindquist is an amazing beach, which is why it continually shows up in magazines and ads.
US welfare? The people I know on STT and STJ are wealthier than most statesiders I know. It is a VERY expensive place to live. Have you priced homes there? Do you know what they pay to buy a home or a piece of land? You can own a mansion here for what they spend on a typical house. Many of them also own land on other islands.
You've been visiting since '91? Why? You obvious don't like it there. Try Disney World. They smille all day/every day.
Troll on elsewhere. You're on ignore.
to Bluwater, there is one point on which I agree with Tropical Attitude but not with how he said it: Welfare IS a big problem in the USVI but it seems as if no one cares to address it. My husband is from STX, his family goes back 200 yrs, and he in fact WORKED in the projects as a building supervisor for several years in Christiansted....so...based on his firsthand experience...yes there are A LOT of people on welfare and they are, to a certain extent, a big cause of the filth that DOES exist on STT and STX. Not just my opinion, agaain, it is also my husband's. Based on his firsthand experience on how many people LIVE in the projects—if they live in filth, they take it with them to the beach. If you don't care about keeping your own home clean, it follows that you don't care about keeping the beach and environment clean. I know a lot of people will get mad with me for saying all this, but it is a reality of life here, and one that the rich folks (there are lots of them here, too!) don't have to see every day if they don't want to. I don't know...its frustrating when you live here, so sorry everyone, I don't mean to anger anyone but hey there are lots of different realities here and they all exist!
I'd be happy to discuss local politics and community concerns via PM or email - or even on the relo board.
My concerns here are tourism related....and for Trop to make general statements that imply that visitors will encounter an entire population of welfare recipients is ridiculous. Now, if you decide to rent a home in Bovoni or other impoverished area, yeah, you should be concerned about it. Otherwise, go, have a good time, be polite and don't worry about the personal financial situation of everyone you meet.
Again, I'm exhausted with the depth of analysis...LOL
First I have to massage them into smiling for me, then I have to be concerned about the source of their income.
It's just like anywhere else. There are wealthy and poor, and those in between.
I mean no harm, Joan...and I appreciate your comments and your insight into the realities of those who make the VI their home. I just don't see the relevance to this board. We can come up with deep concerns, such as this, for every tourism place imaginable.
Tropical Attitude's e-mail address puts him/her at Rowan University in NJ. This type of attitude is one of the problems on campuses today IMO.
NEW JERSEY!!!??? No wonder! Sheesh
(ha ha - just kidding Jersians)
There are other issues with Lindquist Beach - which is why I have been told all the trash is there. It was fenced off to disallow access, and as all the beaches are public - that was taken as an affront. It is a beautiful beach, though.
Tropical - I am quite sure there are plenty of places around that you would feel happier with, if you don't like St Thomas. Why do you continue to come back? Amazing.
I've found that the locals often treat other locals with the same amount of surliness and disrespect at stores, Innovative, etc., so I accept it as being "equal opportunity" attitude and not directed at me personally.
"I've found that the locals often treat other locals with the same amount of surliness and disrespect at stores, Innovative, etc., so I accept it as being "equal opportunity" attitude and not directed at me personally. "
Definitely!!!! Some of the most gnarly responses I have seen have been when I am with friends who are locals (and black locals, too). I never thought it was a tourist thing or a white/black thing. Yes, it is definitely an equal opportunity attitude 🙂
Max, I am glad you clarified this. It is an important point. Most visitors don't travel around wiht locals, so they don't know what happens in local to local interactions.
Eastender, I always wondered why few of the Islanders made eye contact. That's very interesting. I always thought it was because I wasn't that good looking, and they didn't want to see my face. Thanks for that info. As to the welfare stuff and keeping your homeland clean......I live in NH, and we have lots of people here on welfare, and honestly, they are not the cleanest people around. I work with the public and have seen folks that haven't bathed in awhile, smell, etc, and most of them are capable of getting jobs, but are not motivated enough. (I have some in my family like that, sorry to say). But I'm not in their situation so.....Personally, I have always thought most of the islanders are very well dressed and attractive, but again, that is only the places I frequent. It is not only the islands that there is poverty, welfare, etc. Just look in your own home town. There is plenty of filth and homelessness here.
Just to clarify: I assume that Good Morning changes to Good Afternoon at 12 noon. But when does Good Afternoon change to Good Evening?
They don't use good evening too much - they say "good night" as a greeting in the evening/night...try at sunset.
I did not mind driving in STJ...well, to be honest, on the first visit I cried when my husband was driving, I was so nervous. But after a few visits I got the hang of it and am happy to drive around the island by myself. Keep in mind that, altho the cars drive on the left, they are regularly equipped US cars with the steering wheel on the left....
hey guys, just wondering, why no black socks with shorts and tennis?
white ok ? lol just wondering, i think hubby wears white socks with the tennis. lol scooby
LOL scooby. Your hubby wearing black socks with his tennis shoes (assuming they are white or mostly white) is like you wearing white shoes and block pantyhose......just naaaaaasty!! Women aren't supposed to wear dark shoes with white stocking either...but many do. ick!
Scooby - don't make us call the fashion police on your hubby...and you'll be guilty for allowing him to dress that way 🙂