Barbados Culture

Where does Barbados culture originate?

Two very distinct influences bleed into the culture of Barbados – one is English, the other is African. This blend of cultural influences makes the learning of Barbados a fascinating 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 an important trading stop, and therefore many West African slaves remained on the island to provide a sugar cane labor 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 the history of Barbados, 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. Upon seeing this, he decided to abandon the mission and return home. Interestingly, what that captain 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 saved us from a potentially defining war.

Festival of Crop Over

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 historical ties back to the original African slaves.

The slaves invented the Crop Over custom by their celebrations of the end of the hard sugar cane harvest.

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

Come and see for yourself

The mixture of influences on Barbadian culture makes for an unusual 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, 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 is an excellent balance of old and new traditions, and you can see this reflected all over the island.

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

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

By: Brett Callaghan