It is important to mention from the start that little of the information on this page will be obvious to tourists. Parts of the Bahamas are exclusively structured for tourism without any of the real issues or beauty of the country behind it. Tourists can indulge in whatever they want and will often prefer to live life mostly the way they know it at home, only without work and in a warmer climate.
When talking about culture, we refer to west-African traditions mixing with English and American influences and some Haitian (and thus French), but this is shared by other Caribbean island groups and countries as well. Some have more of a Spanish influence, but all are based on west-African styles, as 80% of the permanent residents, at least of the Bahamas, are descended from former slaves. Generally, though, one can say that Bahamian culture is a melting pot of native customs.
Society on the Bahamas is structured into the four categories you can see below. It is hard to switch from one to the other, especially when trying to move up the social ladder. Most people seem to believe that the difference between “old” and “new” (i. e. inherited and earned) money, as well as skin coulor isn’t relevant anymore, but according to the figures, this is not true. However, the adult literacy rate is at 90%, which is about 10% higher than that of the USA.
Though many sources say that wealth inequality in The Bahamas is increasing, there is little data to confirm or deny this. Some sources say that in 2019, they had a Gini coefficient of 82.8%, which makes them the 14th least equal country in the world before the USA and Brazil, but also Sweden and the Netherlands. Other sources say that Sweden and the Netherlands are some of the more equal countries in the world. This makes it hard to adequately judge.
The most common languages spoken are English and Bahamianese, a colloquial dialect of English used on the Bahamas. Immigrants from Haiti also speak French Creole.
Haitians are used as scapegoats for most problems, as they are prejudged to be violent and uncivilized. They usually have jobs no-one else wants to do, but because of this they are seen as job stealers by the rest of society.
Views towards US-Americans are a little more ambivalent. On the one hand, American money is desired and tourism essential for the economy. On the other hand, they are sometimes percieved as neo-colonialists who force their influence on the people. Investors are supposedly arrogant and dominating.
Foreign-born residents of The Bahamas are commonly referred to by their original nationalities, even if they have Bahamian citizenship.
People in urban areas are either employed by the tourism sector or the government while family businesses are still common in rural parts of the country.
By law, women and men are equal, however as in lots of countries it is easier for men to get more prestigious jobs. Women are either housewives or work as teachers and doctors and both options are equally respected, however it is very uncommon for men to stay at home. Generally, traditional gender roles are strong in society.
Music and Dance
There are three main styles of traditional music, some with their own dance styles.
Goombay is descended from African music and relies on drums. It is related to calypso.
Rake’n’Scrape is a hybrid of European and African folk music.
Junkanoo refers to a festive parade with costumes similar to Mardi Gras or Fasching and has its own style of music by the same name and a dance called “rushin”. It originated during slavery and is now a symbol for African-Bahamian pride and unity.
The majority of people from The Bahamas are practicing Christians, multiple churches even in smaller communities are not uncommon.
Some people practice Obeah, a system of spiritual healing and justice practices originating from west Africa. It shares similarities with religions like e.g. Vodou, but has no specific deities and can so be co-practiced with Christianity. Often, but not necessarily, it has malevolent intentions such as cursing. It is officially forbidden, though not easy to enforce because unlike other similar religions, it is practiced in private.
Bahamian culture includes hospitality and humour.
Commonly eaten food on the Bahamas are fruits and vegetables, meat, fish, bread and rice in urban regions. The out-islanders’ diet is often limited to fruits, vegetables and fish.
The national dish is conch with rice and peas. There are no copy-right free pictures for this, but if you are interested, visit this website: https://www.tasteatlas.com/crack-conch-with-peas-and-rice
The Bahamas have their own Olympics team. They compete in sailing and athletics and have received 8 gold, 2 silver and 6 bronze medals over the last 70 years of competing.
Art is usually colourful. Over the years, it has moved from traditional folk art to personal styles. It depicts traditional celebrations like Junkanoo and Bahamian nature and landscapes, as well as semiabstract portraits. Street art isn’t uncommon either.
Generally, as is often the case, Bahamian culture is rooted in traditional values and the struggle of connecting those to the ever-changing world.