Social conventions differ from country to country. This sample sociology essay explores Jamaican sociocultural norms and practices; while the somewhat developed nation shares minor similarities with its North American peers, it differs in the way it distributes money and stereotypes people of certain gender and ethnicity, among other things.
Jamaican Social Conventions: The 5D and globe cultural taxonomy models
Many nations differ in terms of social conventions and practices. Jamaica, for example, is an example of a nation that is located near the United States yet still adheres to social conventions from Eastern cultures. In assessing the cultural dimensions with respect to other nations, the 5D model and Globe Cultural Taxonomy dimensions will be used to outline how Jamaica rates in terms of core characteristics. In being a pioneering scholar to outline cultural differences, Geert Hofstede’s National Cultures in Four Dimensions will be used as a guiding document in the analysis portion.
Surely, visiting Jamaica requires understanding the social conventions of the nation because inclusion into any group requires understanding the role of gender roles, nonverbal gestures, and many other factors. While Jamaica is a developing nation, it holds true to following many North American conventions in terms of aggressiveness, masculinity, and other social norms; however, Jamaica’s culture reflects adherence to other traits like being high contact, collective and gender biased.
Background on Jamaica
According to statistics by the World Bank (2012), Jamaica is a moderately developed nation.
- A population of just over 2,700,000 people
- Income level as “upper middle” falling short of other Latin American countries
- Core industries are fishing, mining, and agriculture
These are all convenient as the nation’s geographic location gives it plentiful resources. Moreover, tourism has been cited by the World Bank’s Doing Business (2012) report as a secondary industry that is still developing in the nation. With a poverty population around 10%, there are still many in the nation that struggles. According to the Census, as reported by the U.S. Department of State (2011), the main religion of Jamaica is Christianity, with the presence of different denominations. They celebrate most Christian Holidays as well as National Heroes Day and Independence Day.
Social beliefs of Jamaica
Jamaica’s common norms, beliefs, and practices reflect a very open society. While women are highly unrepresented in terms of positions of power, social conventions reflect egalitarianism. For example, while men and women communicate similarly as they do in the United States, Carol Ember Melvin Ember (2003, p. 560) remarked:
“Jamaican gender relations are in flux” because of confusion regarding the roles of men in such tough economic times when women are prompted to work as well. Traditionally, men held the upper hand in most facets of society. Surely, however, men and women do regularly interact with each other, albeit more closely based on their class (Ember Ember, 2003).
People generally greet each other with slang that is a mix of British and American English. For example, the letter R is usually dropped from the end of words (Patrick, 1999). A few common phrases include: “
- “Wha ‘appen?”
- “Walk Good”
- Others, which means greetings and goodbye
(Visit Jamaica, 2011)
These linguistic conventions can take a few different forms because it varies by region and other local customs.
Jamaican language and social norms
Proprietary language customs are supplanted by other physical conventions in terms of communication. Physical contact is very common, especially among friends and those that greet new people. For example, the United States Army Logistics University (2011) reported in their country notes that touching fists, holding one’s arm for a prolonged period of time and making strong eye contact are common practices in the nation. Eye contact falls in line with standard North American Conventions of conversation where it is used during a conversation but is considered rude towards strangers. Time is also very important and people are expected to be punctual, as in the United States. This falls in line with business etiquette that will be discussed later.
If traveling to Jamaica, it would be important to recognize the intercultural dimensions as reported by the 5D Model. In Geert Hofstede’s (1983) report on fifty nations across four cultural dimensions, he found that Jamaica is an open nation that shares some conventions of Eastern and Western cultures. For instance, their power distance index (PDI) was 45 (overall rank of 17) (Hofstede, 1983).
Consequently, this meant that “power is decentralized and managers count on the experience of their team members… Control is disliked and attitude towards managers are informal and on first name basis” (Hofstede, 2012).
Gender-based nonverbal communication also translates into personal interaction among people. Jamaica also ranked low in the Uncertainty Avoidance Index with a score of 13 and overall rank of 2 (Hofstede, 1983). As reported by Hofstede (2012):
This means that “low UAI societies maintain a more relaxed attitude in which practice counts more than principles and deviance from the norm is more easily tolerated.”
Surely, people communicate in a very informal fashion where there are little hostility and aggression in terms of following convention. Whereas in the United States touching is usually initiated by more powerful people, this is not the case in Jamaica.
Results of the 5D model
Paradoxically, Jamaica also ranked high in masculinity and low in individuality. While Jamaica’s communication conventions are skewed towards being open and relaxed, it is a very aggressive and competitive society that values the group over the individual.
For example, in scoring 39 and being ranked 26 on the Individualism Index, this meant that “Loyalty in a collectivist culture is paramount” (Hofstede, 1983; Hofstede, 2012). Individuals tend to focus on the well-being of the whole group rather than themselves. In terms of masculinity, they ranked 43 with an overall score of 68.
This makes the society very aggressive and competitive because male dominance is a distinct value of the nation. This information is highly useful when traveling to Jamaica because being aware of such conventions helps avoid seeming rude by being selfish or acting overly feminine. In a collective culture high on masculinity, the business world is also much faster paced and there is more accountability on people to take care of others. This makes sense because if men are expected to be breadwinners, they have characteristics that define them as being strong, aggressive and aware of the well-being of others around them.
Additional Reading: Gender Roles in the Workplace
On the whole, Jamaica falls into line with a few major groups within the Globe Cultural Taxonomy. As mentioned that Jamaica is high on masculinity, this also means that they are not as parented towards gender egalitarianism. While gender roles are rapidly changing in the nation, men still seem to have the upper hand on the whole. Also, Jamaican people are surely fixated on in-group collectivism. People place the group’s interests above their own.
Since they a highly masculine culture, they share the qualities of assertiveness, performance orientation, and gender differentiation as part of the normal socialization of children (Hofstede, 1983). However, Jamaica did not rank high on the Long Term Orientation scale. This means that the people are not as much concerned about delayed gratification in comparison to a nation such as China that is. On the whole, Jamaica’s people reflect a mix of values that are similar to conventions of North America while adhering to values of the Eastern world like collectivism and masculinity.
As we have seen, Jamaica surely shares many North American characteristics in terms of culture. As a developing nation in the Caribbean, a few live in poverty and fishing, agriculture and mining are the main industries. The main religions are denominations of Christianity and people speak a language that is a dialect of both British and American English. Jamaica ranked low in terms of power distance and uncertainty avoidance, making them an open and relaxed culture. However, they ranked high on being masculine, aggressive and competitive. Finally, the evidence suggests that Jamaica is group oriented and not a paradigm of gender egalitarianism.
Army Logistics University. (2011). Jamaica Customs. Army Logistics University. Retrieved June 5, 2012, from www.almc.army.mil/ALU_INTERNAT/CountryNotes/SOUTHCOM/JAMAICA%20CUSTOMS.pdf
Doing Business. (2012). Doing Business: Measuring Business in Jamaica – World Bank Group. Measuring Business Regulations. Retrieved June 5, 2012, from www.doingbusiness.org/data/exploreeconomies/jamaica/;
Ember, C., Ember, M. (2003). Encyclopedia of Sex and Gender: Men and Women in the World’s Cultures, Volume 1. New York: Springer Science+Business Media, Inc..
Hofstede, G. (1983). NATIONAL CULTURES IN FOUR DIMENSIONS: A Research-based Theory of Cultural Differences Among Nations. International Studies of Man, 13(12), 46-74.
Hofstede, G. (2012, February 4). Jamaica – Geert Hofstede. Professor Emeritus – Geert Hofstede. Retrieved June 6, 2012, from http://geert-hofstede.com/jamaica.html
Patrick, P. (1999). Urban Jamaican Creole. Variation in the Mesolect. Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company.
U.S. Department of State. (2011). Jamaica. U.S. Department of State. Retrieved June 5, 2012, from http://www.state.gov/j/drl/rls/irf/2007/90259.htm
Visit Jamaica. (2011). Jamaica Talk: A Dictionary of Jamaican Words and Phrases. Visit Jamaica. Retrieved June 5, 2012, from http://www.visitjamaica.com/about-jamaica/jamaica-talk.aspx
World Bank. (2012). Jamaica | Data. Data | The World Bank. Retrieved June 5, 2012, from http://data.worldbank.org/country/jamaica