Jamaica is much more than reggae music and Rastafarians. The small Caribbean country is a global exporter of rum, bananas, sugar, aluminum and bauxite, according to the World Travel Guide. The main source of Jamaica’s economy is tourism. Jamaica is a member of CARICOM (Caribbean Community), the Caribbean trading bloc, and many foreigners visit the island nation to do business. If you plan to travel to Jamaica for professional reasons, follow these local customs and etiquette rules.
Business culture in Jamaica is typically based on respect and politeness. When first meeting a Jamaican business contact, he may seem cold and standoffish, but he will typically “warm up” after he gets to know you. Jamaicans are usually direct, and they appreciate when you are direct with them. They value tact and manners, and do not appreciate aggressiveness. Relationships are important to Jamaicans, and they are sometimes valued more than the rules, according to Kwintessential.
It is generally easy to schedule meetings in advance with Jamaicans, but confirm the meeting a few days in advance. Always arrive to meetings and appointments on time. Jamaicans expect punctuality from foreigners, but they might arrive a little late. Tardiness on their side is not considered rude behavior. A Jamaican meeting may be formal, but they typically have a friendly tone and usually start out with small talk. Bargaining is very customary in Jamaica, so do not put your best offer on the table at the start of negotiations.
When you are meeting a Jamaican business contact for the first time, show respect and do not try to be overly familiar or friendly. Shake his hand and look him directly in the eye. After your contact gets to know you, he will typically greet you warmly and ask you to call him by his first name or nickname. It is very common to hear the terms “bossman” or “bosswoman” in Jamaica. Some Jamaicans also stand very close when talking, and touch the arm or shoulders of other men.
While Jamaican table manners are relatively informal, always watch what other people are doing and emulate their behaviors. Do not sit down at the dinner table until someone instructs you where to sit, and do not begin eating until the host does. Use continental table manners in Jamaica, which means to hold the fork in your left hand and the knife in your right hand. Eating everything on your plate is a sign of politeness.
The climate in Jamaica can be humid and hot. Most business people wear business casual clothing (khaki slacks and golf shirts) for casual business. They wear suits with jackets and ties to meetings. Women may wear suits or dresses.