Barbados Culture

Where does Barbados culture come from?

Two very distinct influences bleed into the culture of Barbados – one is English, the other is African. This blend of cultural influences makes the culture of Barbados a very interesting and unique melting pot.

Historically, Barbados was an English / British colony dating back to when the first permanent settlers arrived on the island in 1627.

Unlike any other Caribbean island, this reign continued right until the island gained its official independence from British rule on November 30th, 1966.

The African influence on Barbadian culture primarily stems from the slave trade days. Since Barbados is the first island west of Africa, Barbados was a vital trading stop and therefore many West African slaves remained on the island to provide a sugar cane labour force.

This combination of influences can be seen island wide in everything from the people, the food, the local dialect and so much more which makes Barbados incomparable to any other place in the world.

To read more historical facts and figures, please see our History pages.

Legend has it…

There’s an old legend that the Spanish once set out to conquer Barbados. Upon approaching the island, the mission captain looked through his telescope and saw what he thought were hundreds of thousands of English soldiers with long spears standing at attention. On seeing this, he decided to abandon the mission and return home. Interestingly, what that captain actually saw was what we know as cane arrows.

Note: Right before a sugar cane crop is ready for harvesting, the upper end of the stalk bears tiny flowers shaped like upward pointing arrows, or spears. Therefore it can be said our sugar cane crops actually saved us from a potentially defining war.

Crop Over Festival

In line with the historical significance of the sugar cane crop, the major annual cultural festival of Barbados is called Crop Over which signifies the end of the sugar cane crop harvest.

Held throughout July and ending in Grand Kadooment Day parade on the first Monday in August, the Crop Over carnival involves a wide variety of entertainment and celebrations that brings thousands of tourists to the island each year.

In the lead up to the Grand Kadooment Day finale parade, the festival features numerous calypso and soca music competitions amongst other events and cultural activities, all of which have very strong ties back to the original African slaves.

In fact, it is said it was the slaves who actually invented the Crop Over custom by their celebrations of the end of the hard sugar cane labour, when the crops were harvested.

More Info: Get more info about the Crop Over Festival.

Come and see for yourself

The mixture of influences on Barbadian culture make for an interesting cultural combination. The island of Barbados is an eclectic mix of people, nightlife, food and drink, music, style, housing and architecture; the list could go on!

Although it can be said to be quite conservative in nature, Barbados culture is also very open-minded – just ask any local about a good ‘wine’ (not the alcoholic variety) and you’ll understand what we mean.

Culture in Barbados really is a great balance of old and new traditions and you can see this reflected all over the island.

To get a true understanding of what makes Bajan culture so unique, we recommend you come and experience it for yourself.

So…..what are you waiting for?! 🙂

For more of an insight into all things culture, refer to the our collection of local information.

By: Brett Callaghan

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