Jamaican Business Etiquette

Welcome to Jamaica!

When you hear Jamaica, images of beautiful beaches and palm trees come to mind. Or maybe your think of Bob Marley and reggae music, or maybe a Rastafarian with dread locks appears in your imagination.  Although Jamaica is famous for all of these things, it has so much more to offer.

 An island in the Caribbean Sea, Jamaica is a little over four thousand square miles, making it the fifth-largest island country in the Caribbean. Just under three million people live on the island. The economy has made significant improvements since the late 1990s and is projected to grow quickly in the near future. Its major industries include tourism, mining, agriculture, manufacturing, and financial and insurance services.

Before you set sail to do business with the people of Jamaica, let's learn about the dos and don’ts of Jamaican Business Etiquette.

THE LOWDOWN

  • The capital of Jamaica is Kingston, which is also the largest city.
  • The official language of Jamaica is English, although the “de facto” national language is Jamaican Patois, an English creole language with West African languages.
  • The predominant religion is Christianity, with over half of the population believing in various denominations. About 30,000 people believe in the Rastafari lifestyle, while other minority religions include Jehovah’s Witnesses, Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam.
  • Jamaica’s government is a Unitary Parliamentary constitutional monarchy.
  • The currency is the Jamaican Dollar, with coins ranging from 1-20 dollars that are used more frequently than the paper money.
  • The climate of Jamaica is tropical. They have hot and humid weather, and are occasionally hit by destructive hurricanes.

DRESSING SHARP

  • Jamaican business culture is conservative when it comes to clothing. Wear something professional to your first meeting - a suit and tie for men and a business suit for women.
  • It’s okay to dress more casual if you are meeting colleagues outside of work. Jamaica tends to be hot and humid, so khaki slacks and thin material is a good idea.
  • Don’t dress too casual. It can be tempting in hot weather to wear less. Don’t dress too casual or risque, as you might make your colleagues think you’re not a serious business-person.
  • Many businesses, including financial institutions, still provide employees with uniforms.

MAKE OR BREAK MEETINGS

  • Schedule your appointment a few weeks in advance and call to confirm one or two days before the meeting.
  • Jamaicans aren’t always at being on time themselves, but they expect punctuality.
  • When you meet someone, greet them with the proper time of day (good morning/afternoon/evening). Shake hands while making eye contact and smiling.
  • Address people using Mr. and Mrs./Miss, and their last name. Always wait until asked to use someone’s first name.
  • Many employees address their superiors as “bossman” or “bosswoman.”

DINING DECORUM

  • When out to dinner, your host will probably make a toast - “cheers” is the most common. Wait for your host to give the okay to start eating.
  • Manners are important in Jamaica, so make sure you keep your elbows off the table. Don’t rest your utensils on your plate unless you’re done, as this is a sign to the wait staff to take your plate away.
  • Meals are usually used more for trust-building and getting to know you. Don’t talk about business unless your Jamaican colleagues bring it up first.
  • Typically the host will pay, but it is expected that you make an effort. Offer to pay, but don’t push it if they decline. Ten percent is the expected gratuity amount, and usually it’s included in the bill.

GIFT GIVING

  • It is acceptable to bring a small gift to the first meeting, or if you feel a special connection to someone.
  • There are no specific guidelines on which gifts you should or shouldn’t bring.
  • One general rule to follow is common sense when it comes to money. Don’t buy gifts that are too expensive as you don’t want to make your colleagues feel small or inferior.

DOWN TO BUSINESS

  • Bargaining and negotiating are expected in Jamaica. Keep this in mind when stating your initial offer.
  • Build a relationship. Trust and friendship are more important than rules in Jamaica, so building a relationship is important to your business success.
  • Jamaicans are polite and formal, but they are also direct. They will tell you what they think and if they disagree with you. They will expect the same polite directness in return.
  • Do not be aggressive in business. You could lose your relationship altogether by using high-pressure tactics or being too forward with your colleagues.
  • Hierarchy is important in Jamaica. The person with the most authority is going to have the final say on any decisions.

Now that you’re well prepared for your next jet-setting business trip to Jamaica, don’t forget to stay tuned for our next Business Etiquette blurb!

Goodbye!