Introducing the People of Barbados
Barbados is a melting pot of people coming from many different cultures and influences – both local and international. Read on to see how ‘Bajans’ are a big part of what makes this island so special.
While officially citizens of Barbados are known as Barbadians, the term ‘Bajan’ (pronounced BAY-jun) is also commonly used by locals to describe themselves. It’s suggested this may have come from a localized pronunciation of the word Barbadian, which at times can sound more like ‘Bar-Bajan.’
According to the 2010 Population and Housing Census for Barbados, approximately 280,000 people are living in Barbados.
The Census shows the Barbadian population as a diverse ethnic mix of people, the majority of whom are of African descent. However, Barbados is also made up of people who are of mixed race, Caucasian or European descent, East Indian, Oriental and Middle Eastern.
British English is the official language spoken on the island, although some visitors may wonder at times because Bajan dialect can seem like a language all by itself.
The local slang can be a little confusing to those not accustomed to it; however, it doesn’t take long to get into the swing of things, and start speaking Bajan-style!
Tip: If you want to speak Bajan like a local, you can learn more about the language and dialect of Barbados.
For general statistical information, visit the Barbados Statistical Service and for an in-depth look at the Barbados Census information.
Our People’s History
The Amerindians, mainly the Arawaks and Caribs, were the first settlers and original inhabitants of the island of Barbados.
During the 1500’s, both the Spanish and Portuguese came to Barbados in search of gold. As Barbados had no gold to offer, they chose not to settle and instead used the island as a ‘lay over’ to replenish resources.
It was then in 1627 that the English permanent settlers arrived and established a new colony in the name of the Crown. Interestingly, Barbados continued to remain under British rule right up until 1966, when it gained its independence – unlike any other Caribbean island.
For more detailed information, you can learn more about the history of Barbados.
Over the course of time, things such as historical events and a potent mix of cultural influences have been passed down to create a rich heritage and diverse mix of people who make this island so unique.
Bajans are commonly described as quick-witted, chatty and very friendly people. Boasting a long history of high educational standards, Barbados has supplied the world with a phenomenal array of scholars, professionals, artists, musicians, sportsmen, leaders, and one-of-a-kind characters, to say the least.
Barbados is a caring island community and Barbadians openly welcome visitors to our shores and quickly make them feel right at home.
Because the family unit is considered the core of society, everyone is considered family in Barbados. The island is small and so most people either know of each other or are related to one another by some kind of extension.
This makes for a wonderful close-knit vibe, whereby you can rest assured you will never feel alone in Barbados – there’s always a familiar face just around the corner!
Barbados in a Nutshell
Let’s face it, life in Barbados is relaxed. A ‘Bajan minute’ can last longer than most and ‘island time’ is very much practiced because the attitude of the people is quite laid back. This can be frustrating to some, however, the quality of life on the island is good and the people are genuinely caring and friendly.
The ‘Gem of the Caribbean’, Barbados is the place where solid friendships are made and vacation memories will last a lifetime – a lot of this has to do with the people.
Our People are our Future
Sugar remains the primary agricultural product; however a quick drive around the island will reveal a diminishing number of cane fields and a significant increase in tourism-related development, including golf courses, hotels and upmarket residential communities.
Tourism is now the backbone of the economy, followed closely by international business services and technology-based industries. Therefore, it’s no surprise that the future economic well-being of Barbados is today being built around the country’s greatest asset – our people.
It’s the people of Barbados who have enabled the country to develop into one of the world’s most outstanding free democracies, supported by a deep and universal belief in human rights, the rule of law and the dignity of man.
By: Brett Callaghan