The small island of Saint Barthélemy in the Caribbean Sea is an idyllic paradise with a fascinating culture and unique habits and customs. From the language spoken to the cuisine enjoyed, the islanders of Saint Barthélemy have created a culture all their own. Whether you're a first-time visitor or a long-time resident, learning about the habits and customs of the locals will help you appreciate the island and its people even more.
History of the Island of Saint Barthélemy
Saint Barthélemy is a volcanic island located in the Caribbean Sea, a part of the French West Indies. Its history is as rich and varied as its customs and habits, spanning some 3,500 years. It is believed that the original inhabitants of the island were Arawak and Carib Indians. The first Europeans to set foot on the island were the Spanish in 1493, who renamed it for Bartholomew Columbus, the brother of Christopher. After the Spanish, the island changed hands among various European nations, including France, which eventually took control in 1784. French settlers arrived in the late 1700s and left their own mark on the customs and habits of the island, which has been preserved to this day. The history of Saint Barthélemy has been a tumultuous one, with slavery having been abolished in 1848 and French rule coming to an end in 1958. Yet the island is still a part of the French Overseas Territories, and its inhabitants share a deep connection to the island’s heritage and culture.
The island of Saint Barthélemy is home to many different languages. The primary language spoken by the inhabitants of the island is French, although English is widely understood due to the British occupation of the island in the past. Although many of the islanders are multilingual, French is the most commonly spoken language. Additionally, the islanders also speak their own dialect of French, known as 'Creole'. This Creole is derived from African languages but heavily influenced by the French, making it unique to the island. In addition to these languages, the islanders also often embrace different languages from other countries, such as Spanish and German, as the island is commonly visited by tourists from these nations.
Food Habits & Cuisine
The island of Saint Barthélemy is known for its diverse food habits and cuisine. The most popular dishes include seafood, curries, and pastries. The seafood dishes are usually made with white fish and shellfish, while the curries vary depending on the local produce. Fruits such as mangoes, papaya, and guavas are also very popular. In addition to traditional cuisine, some dishes are prepared with European ingredients and techniques, introducing a variety of flavors to the local cuisine. Local restaurants serve up a combination of French and Creole dishes, such as the French classic bouillabaisse. The restaurants also serve up a variety of fresh seafood dishes. In addition to seafood, the islanders enjoy many local favorites such as lightly-fried plantain and yams. The desserts are also unique to Saint Barthélemy, with the classic tartiflette, made with potatoes, creamy cheese, and garlic, being the most popular. The locals also enjoy a variety of pastries, such as almond tarts and rum-soaked cakes. All these dishes come together to truly reflect the diverse food habits and cuisine of the island of Saint Barthélemy.
Dress & Appearance
The people of Saint Barthélemy tend to be casual dressers. Sundresses and shorts are the most suitable types of clothing for the warm climate, but there is still an emphasis on looking good. Many of the men wear linen shirts and trousers, while some may choose to wear more formal clothing such as suits or slacks. Women may opt for sundresses, skirts, shorts and t-shirts, as well as more formal clothing such as dresses or blouses. In general, the dress code is not strict, so people feel comfortable wearing whatever they want.
Appearance is also important on the island. Haircuts tend to be stylish, with many men opting for buzz-cuts or shaved heads. Women tend to keep their hair longer, with curls and waves being popular styles. Women also tend to place more emphasis on makeup, often wearing bright colors such as pink, purple and blue. Because of the tropical climate, many people also opt for sunglasses, hats and sun visors to keep the sun out of their eyes.
Music & Entertainment
The island of Saint Barthélemy is known for its vibrant music and entertainment scene. In the evening, bars and clubs often fill with locals, tourists and island-born musicians. The sounds of reggae, soca and calypso fill the air as revelers dance and mingle. On festive occasions, it isn't unusual to see live bands playing local songs and singing along. Music is an important part of island culture, and the celebration of life is reflected in the beats and rhythms.
Other forms of entertainment can also be found on the island, including carnival events and theatrical performances. These activities provide locals and visitors alike with a unique chance to experience the cultural variety of Saint Barthélemy. Carnival, in particular, is an important part of life here, and people can look forward to engaging parades, costumes and floats. It is a truly picturesque island with a rich culture and strong sense of identity, and its music and entertainment scene serves as a reflection of that.
Religion & Holidays
The religion of the island of Saint Barthélemy is largely Catholic, with a few Protestant and Jewish people present. Most of the island's inhabitants are deeply religious and attend mass on Sundays, as well as other religious holidays and festivals. There are also several places of worship on the island, including churches, cathedrals, and chapels.
Apart from religious holidays and masses, two weeks in August are set aside as the National Holidays, which include the island's Independence Day, Constitution Day, and Labor Day. These holidays often involve celebrations with music, traditional foods, parades and fireworks, giving the islanders a chance to celebrate their heritage and culture.
Christmas is also a very important holiday on the island, as it is celebrated traditionally with family gatherings and feasts. During this time, churches and other local venues are decorated with festive lights and decorations, and other holiday traditions are observed.
On Easter Sunday and the day afterward, the islanders celebrate Easter Monday with the ever popular Ti Punch, a drink made with lime, rum, and sugar. This is usually accompanied by live, festive music, as well as plenty of dancing.
The Carnival, or Carnival, is celebrated at the start of Lent every year and is one of the biggest holiday events on the island. The festivities usually involve colorful parades and local musicians and bands, giving the islanders a chance to dress up in costumes and have fun.
Shopping & Markets
When visiting the island of Saint Barthélemy, visitors should be sure to explore the various shopping and market options available. Shopping in St. Bart’s is a unique experience, as most of the goods for sale are imported from France, which offers a different selection than what visitors usually find in the United States. In Gustav, the capital of the island, visitors can find a wide variety of shops, including fashion boutiques, jewelry stores, souvenir shops, and art galleries. The local markets offer a great selection of fruits, vegetables, and spices, as well as locally made handicrafts. St. Bart’s also has its own wine, which can be sampled and purchased at the Margot winery. For those looking to purchase a unique reminder of their trip to the island, the island also has specialty shops where visitors can purchase mementos such as postcards, herbal soaps, and jewelry made from local stones. With a selection of goods this diverse, visitors won’t have any trouble finding something to bring home as a reminder of their time spent in the paradise of St. Bart’s.
Art & Handicrafts
The island of Saint Barthélemy is known for its unique culture and rich history, which is reflected in its local art and handicrafts. Artists from the island have been producing artwork for centuries and the resulting pieces serve as a reminder of the island’s way of life and its heritage. Handicrafts are particularly popular with locals and visitors alike, with many items such as musical instruments and jewelry being produced using traditional techniques. Local potters, carpenters, and leather workers all make items that are emblematic of the island’s cultural identity. These handicrafts can be found in markets, galleries, and even on the side of the road as vendors showcase their work. Tourists flock to the island to purchase souvenirs that reflect the island's beauty and culture, and these items often become treasured family heirlooms. Art and handicrafts from St. Barthélemy make a unique and lasting memento of a trip to the enchanted island.
Leisure Activities & Sports
Leisure activities and sports can be enjoyed on the island of Saint Barthélemy year-round. The warm climate makes it ideal for relaxing at the beach, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving. There are several traditional water sports such as kayaking, sailing and fishing that can be enjoyed by visitors. For larger boats such as yachts, there are numerous marinas that offer everything from refueling and maintenance to long-term storage.
The interior of the island is perfect for mountain biking and exploring its stunning scenery. Several challenging mountain biking trails offer different levels of difficulty and spectacular views of the island and the ocean. Touring the island on foot is also popular for those who prefer to take a slower pace. In addition to the natural trails, there are a few dedicated walking trails.
For those who prefer a competitive activity, Saint Barthélemy boasts a nine-hole golf course located in the hills of Turin. The course is home to a golf pro who is available for lessons and clinics. There are also two tennis courses, a bowling alley, and a shooting range.
No matter what your preferred activity, you can find it on Saint Barthélemy. With its stunning scenery and amazing activities, the island is a great destination for your next vacation.