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Interesting Lesson Learned...

Posts: 49
Eminent Member
Topic starter

Good morning everyone!

I thought I'd share a lesson I learned on our last trip down over the Christmas holidays. Some may find it comical, some may find it worthless, but I found it very important. It deals with learning the differences in social culture on the island(s). Bear with me while I type my story...

It was Christmas day on STT. My wife and I always rent a scooter while we are down. We decided to hit Trunk Bay on STJ early that morning to avoid the crowds. Apparently, we weren't early enough though. The parking lot was full. Now usually, we can find a convenient spot to park the scooter that isn't a "real" parking space. If I'm ever in doubt of whether I will get ticketed or yelled at for a chosen place to park the scooter, I ALWAYS ask first so I don't offend/upset anyone or get ticketed.

This morning, there seemed to be a place to park behind/beside the place where the taxis park/set up. Not wanting to be in the way or upset anyone, I pulled up to the little pavilion that the taxi drivers "hang out" under to ask their opinion. I will try to quote as accurately as possible, what happened next:

Pulled up to the group of 5 or 6 taxi drivers at the pavilion. They were talking but when I pulled up, they stopped talking and looked at me so I said:

"I have a question that I think you could help me with".
Taxi Driver #1: "Wait. You see, you have been very rude. We were here talking and you just come here and interrupt us. We do not like this. It is rude. When we greet someone here, we start with 'Good Morning or Good Afternoon', introduce ourselves and wait for everyone to say good morning".

Taxi Driver #1 was really, REALLY offended, and while the words he used seem to be innocuous, the tone he used and his body language indicated he was very angry and offended.

My Response: "I apologize. I didn't mean to interrupt, be rude or offend anyone at all and thank you for educating me. We appreciate it."

Taxi Driver #1: "You see, you are still being rude. You have not said 'Good Morning'.
Taxi Driver #2: "Don't mind him. You want to know where you can park? You can park right there (and he points to the place I was thinking of). Just pull over to the side and that is fine."

Me: "Thank you. Again, I apologize. I didn't mean to offend anyone at all. I just didn't want to upset anyone or get in your way. Merry Christmas."

Taxi Driver #1: "There you are again being rude. We don't do Christmas here."
Taxi Driver #2: "It is okay. Just park there and enjoy your vacation."

Lesson Learned: Now, whenever I approach ANYONE on the islands, no matter where it is (grocery store, taxis, gas station, walking... ANYWHERE -- I begin every greeting with a smile and a "Good Morning" or a "Good Afternoon" and wait for the return.

Seems small and it may have just been that one taxi driver but it does make a difference.

Many people from the mainland would have been very upset at the exchange we had a Trunk Bay, but one thing my wife and I have learned on our PMVs and time down there is you can't get upset over learning how to deal with the differences in the social culture on the islands. Also, you can't be in a rush for anything. Sure, a lot of things happen much slower down there, but isn't that one of the wonderful qualities of island life? My wife and I were talking about how if you can't afford to take a few seconds out of your day for a greeting (at least) or wait 20 minutes for your Subway sandwich, would you make it trying to live down there?

Again, the situation may seem small to many of you, but I think it sparked a much larger "lesson" for us.

Just thought I'd share the lesson/education/story as it is yet another piece of the "island life puzzle" we are working on!

Posted : January 9, 2009 12:58 pm
Posts: 3904
Famed Member

It's very true to say Good Morning, etc. but I think with this statement ("There you are again being rude. We don't do Christmas here.") the taxi driver was being a total jerk. Luckily the other one was helpful but the first one just wanted to bully you.

I was in the BMV this week & some people entering the crowded waiting area said Good Morning. I remember to do it in offices/banks/doctor's office but never think to do it in that situation but many others don't either.

Posted : January 9, 2009 1:11 pm
Posts: 105
Estimable Member

Funny story. My husband and I had a similar experience in St. Croix. We were going to the beach/restaurant at Carombola which we had done many, many times. We usually park not far from the entrance in the parking lot. This time, we had my son and his wife visiting. When we arrived there was a guard at the gate, and my husband neglected to say good morning. Well, that was it. The guard told us we would have to park very far away, and had a terrible attitude. I knew instantly that it was because he didn't say good morning but my husband said just forget it. He didn't want to walk that far so we left.

Posted : January 9, 2009 1:11 pm
Marty on STT
Posts: 1779
Noble Member

Always, always, ALWAYS greet someone here before continuing with a conversation! "When in Rome...", ya know? We always mention it on this board, but a lot of people just don't get it.

THESE are NOT acceptable forms of greetings: "Hello", "Hi", "How ya doin'?", "Hey", "Excuse me", "pardon me", etc., etc., ETC.!! The ONLY way to be treated with respect is to offer it first...."Good morning/afternoon/evening/night" are the ONLY acceptable greetings here...the ONLY way to start a conversation! And, after being here for a while, you'll be amazed at how many goofy looks you get when you are in the States and bring your island customs and mores with you! Haha!

Posted : January 9, 2009 1:25 pm
Posts: 1250
Noble Member

Good day! 🙂 Thanks for sharing this story.

It's true, by USVI standards you were rude in the beginning of the interaction, but by the end of what he said in reply, he was being even ruder, by anyone's standards. Nasty all around. I am so sorry you had that experience -- and glad that you are broad-minded enough not to let it ruin your visit!

The worst rudeness I ever experienced came one day when I'd been on island about a month -- I was sick, barely functioning, and had to go to the grocery store. I was still trying to be polite, but I accidentally said "hello" instead of "good evening" to the cashier. The passive-agressiveness that went into the rest of that transaction was not to be believed. But I never forgot again.

Posted : January 9, 2009 2:05 pm
Posts: 50
Trusted Member

Good Morning everyone,

Since I have been addicted to this sight and have set my plan in motion to come to the USVI, I have tried to change my outlook and my actions here. I have to report that when you say "Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening" here you get some strange looks. I don't care though, I think it is more polite.

As for the story it does really seem that the taxi driver #1 was just being a jerk.

Have a great Day!


Posted : January 9, 2009 2:30 pm
Posts: 2104
Noble Member

The automatic greetings and and manners are one of the pleasantries of living in the VI.

I was told (or read some where) that when the Danes were here if you didn't say good morning or the appropriate greeting they would beat you down with a stick.

Posted : January 9, 2009 2:49 pm
Posts: 1250
Noble Member

Mike and Marty, that is so true! People in the States see this greeting as "formal" politeness. I grew up with British parents, so I was taught Good morning, etc. by their example -- but to fit in in the States, one says "Hello" instead.

That said, I have found that I am treated with more respect even State-side when I begin an interaction with "Good day." It's fascinating, isn't it?

Posted : January 9, 2009 2:53 pm
Posts: 1250
Noble Member

Oh, and -- the only one I find it hard to get used to is "Good night" used as a greeting (after "evening" is over). To me that always sounds like a dismissal, not a greeting!

Posted : January 9, 2009 2:56 pm
Posts: 49
Eminent Member
Topic starter

I have to be honest in stating that the offended taxi driver was also rude, but I also have to give him credit in teaching me a lesson that I won't forget! Though I think he was rude as well, at least I walked away with a better understanding! I'm not sure he got anything out of it!

Oh well!

We did think about just leaving Trunk Bay, but decided life is too short to "hold a grudge". Instead, we looked at it as "lesson learned"!

All's well that ends well, huh? 😎

Posted : January 9, 2009 3:02 pm
Posts: 631
Honorable Member

Even after lots of years, it sometimes feels strange--walking into a full waiting room and saying GM to the room at large...but other places have their own the way many southerners (US) have their kids call someone like me "Miss first name"...and there are some transplanted folks on stx who still teach their kids this way...different from how we address folks here as Miss or Mr in business or gov't offices and on the phone etc...We even had a long time Crucian gardener at one of our places and he was ALWAYS and still is MR. last name...even after he started calling me by my first name, which took years...

Posted : January 9, 2009 3:16 pm
Posts: 2596
Famed Member

My perspective.

Twenty five years ago we had a large influx of Filipino people move into our community in coastal Virginia. I thought they were unbelievably rude. It made me crazy. They would push and jostle me in stores and other public places, interrupt when I was talking and their children were so aggressive that I quit taking my children to school skating parties. I complained to all who would listen about this invasion of rude Filipinos. Finally a well traveled friend took me aside and explained that the Filipinos were not being rude that it was a cultural difference. I replied, ungraciously, that they should have learned our culture before coming to our country and they also needed English lessons. I was tired of trying to understand them. As the years passed, I grew up. As these new people became more immersed in our community, I found them to be lovely hard working people.

I have never forgotten over the years how I felt about these people and how threatened I felt when they moved into our community. It seemed to me that they would completely destroy our peaceful community. Today whenever I travel somewhere new, even within the U. S. I read, study and ask questions before traveling there. It would never occur to me to go somewhere and criticize or complain about how people live or their culture. If I found it unacceptable I would leave.

Imagine how Virgin Islanders feel. How many different countries have owned the VI? I find it amazing that they have been able to maintain their culture at all. When I moved to St. Croix I thought I knew everything I needed to know. I read and studied everything I could get my hands on. Thank goodness that an islander befriended me shortly after I moved there. He has gently educated me on my manners and island culture. Without him I would have fubard many times. He still corrects me from time to time as my natural exuberance gets the better of me.

Is it fair of us, those who move to the VI to constantly complain about how things are done? We complain about the school, government, cruelty to animals, how they displine their children, potholes, the police department, crime rate, ect. We paint all Virgin Islanders with the same broad brush. I have heard so many transplants make the comment, "well you know, it was because I am white", everytime they get poor service or have to wait too long. Did you ever think maybe you were rude or offensive in some way. Maybe you didn't even know it. Sure the VI has problems just like everywhere else. You want to change things? Become part of the community, get involved, vote, learn the culture.

Posted : January 9, 2009 3:22 pm
Posts: 2596
Famed Member

Beachy, I am one of those southerners that insist on Miss and Mr when children address adults. I also do when addressing middle aged people or seniors forgetting I am one of those middle aged people. To this day if my mother calls to me I answer with, Mam? If I had said huh or what she would have smacked my face.

Posted : January 9, 2009 3:32 pm
Posts: 203
Estimable Member

You go girl :o))

Posted : January 9, 2009 3:32 pm
Posts: 228
Estimable Member

I don't think it is totally an island thing. I was always taught to acknowledge people when your paths crossed. In a formal situation it would be a "good morning" etc, if you already know that person it could be a less formal greeting. However, you should never walk right by somebody like they don't exist, or start your interaction with a demand/request.

When I first came to the USA I was shocked when shopping in Publix, and several times people came up to me, with absolutely no greeting, and asked me to do something for them (look for something, read something, reach something etc) I'm not wearing a green shirt with "Publix" on it, so obviously they know I don't work there, so why when they can't even be polite to me, do they expect me to want to do something for them. I was raised to respect my elders, so the first few times I did it, thinking maybe that person was just the rare exception. Now unless that person acknowledges me first, I pretend I can't hear them. Sound familiar? I'm sure that is how this all started in the islands. I don't mean to sound like a bitch, and I am always helping-out people wherever I go, but manners cost nothing, and there is no excuse not to have them.

Posted : January 9, 2009 3:40 pm
Posts: 631
Honorable Member

some of it is just learning how things are done in a new place...many years ago i moved from NYC to a small (10,000) southern town...and I can recall many differences...folks greeted you as you walked past them in town, and in the beginning I was always totally surprised--are they talking to me was my first thought, figuring they were addressing to someone behind me...even if there was no one behind mindset was that you did not speak to people you did not know....I"m sure they thought me a rude yankee till I got the idea...and I can recall how odd folks thought I was years later when I began working in NYC, and automatically answered co-employees with a yes or no sir or ma'am during business presentations etc...different things matter in different places and you either go along or don't get along

Posted : January 9, 2009 4:20 pm
Posts: 129
Estimable Member

good afternoon

hope all are well.

i still say good morning, good afternoon, good evening and good night.....after all these years of being away.

it seems ingrained in my spirit.

ones here are just used to me greeting them this way now.

Sis Irijah

Posted : January 9, 2009 4:29 pm
Posts: 95
Trusted Member

Growing up here, I remember if you started a conversation with someone and forgot to say good morning, ect. it was one of the worse thing you could do. If that person knew your family, or someone in close vicinity knew your family, they would go tell your parents, grandparent, ect about it and you would be in very big problems. I know back in my mother and grandparents days, if this person was very close to your family, they would punish you for not greeting them properly and in turn they would take you to your parents and you would also get punish by them, lol! You would always here the older people make this comment when someone doesn't say Good Morning, "She/He think I wake up in the bed next to them for them not to greet me?" LOL!!!! It's just one of those things that has been here forever, and it's embedded in you after a while.

I remember when living in the states, one day I went to a teacher to buy something from them, and the transaction was made and I walked off. While walking away, I remembered I never said Good Morning, I turn right back about and said, "Oh yeah, Good Morning". The teacher looked at me really funny, and asked "What". I told her I forgot to tell you Good Morning, she had this perplexed look on her face and she shook her head and said ok Good Morning. I walked off and I kind of looked back when I was a ways from her and she had a big ole' smile on her face.

Posted : January 9, 2009 4:37 pm
Posts: 54
Trusted Member

Being from the deep, and I mean DEEP South I can totally understand this. Sounds a lot like southern hospitality but with different words spoken. I always acknowledge a person no matter who it is as well as opening doors for all women and letting them ahead of me. It has been ingrained since I was a a boy. Also ma'am and sir will never leave my vocab. STT is a lot different from Mississippi but I can't wait to get there.

Posted : January 9, 2009 4:57 pm
Posts: 695
Noble Member

I hear you, Sabrina. I spent much of my early adult life under the stress of teaching myself to ignore people after having been raised to greet everyone I passed and to offer common courtesies such as holding doors, etc. I soon learned that it was *not* cool to say good morning to every stranger one passed in most U.S. cities. Nonetheless, I still feel weird ignoring people. In the VI I'm in my element.

Manners are, alas, getting to be a thing of the past. My pet peeve is when people bump right in to you and say "oops" instead of excuse me. It infuriates me. I had to bless out a really old lady who plowed into me and knocked my groceries from my hands a few months ago then offered a cavalier oops--she ought to have known better. I asked her when "oops" became the substitute for "pardon me" or "excuse me." She turned multiple shades of red, mumbled "excuse me" and hurried away. I have regrettably concluded that much of today's absence of manners is really about an unwillingness to accord respect to everyone.



Posted : January 9, 2009 4:57 pm
Posts: 3111
Famed Member

Do most of you think the local children are still being taught to greet people properly? I have very little contact with children on island, so I don't know. I'm just wondering because it seems that kids everywhere have less manners. I hate to admit it publicly, but I watch Judge Judy. The young people (kids through young adult) on there talk to her as though they are the same age, and they are just having a street conversation. They say ...yeah, huh, nope, uh-uh and uh-huh and any number of totally inappropriate responses to a judge, in a courtroom. Anyone know if it's that way in court here? I seriously doubt it. It may not be like that in court in the states, except on TV.

I have noticed that children here do not often give up their seats for older people. My mother would have insisted I offer my seat to an adult, if I didn't have sense enough to do it on my own.

Posted : January 9, 2009 5:47 pm
Posts: 541
Honorable Member

I have on several occasions noticed that it is not good enough to begin with a "good morning/afternoon"; many people expect you to pause, wait for their reply, and engage in some type of chit chat before moving on to the real purpose of your interaction.

Then again, like the taxi driver in the story, some people will shoot you down no matter how hard you try to observe their customs.

It would be nice if your rude taxi driver could also observe a little cultural tolerance.

Posted : January 9, 2009 6:07 pm
Posts: 95
Trusted Member

Do most of you think the local children are still being taught to greet people properly? .

Juanita I, still see kids getting popped in their mouths by parents, when they enter rooms, or start a conversation without the proper greetings. Now I can't say all are being taught to do so, but the vast majority. It is just a way of life. I must admit, when I was younger, I would get so frustrated, upset ect. when I would walk through Christiansted town and I would meet someone older than myself (whether by 5-50 years) and say Good Morning/ Afternoon/ Night and I would not get a response. More than likely it would be a tourist or a transplant, my immediate thinking would be well fine what ever, I won't have to say it any more. Then I would think deep down inside, well these same people are the people that would turn around and say locals are rude, ect. ect. But I was a child and never understood local differences, I just thought they were not raised like me to have manners and respect.

But like I've said before it's something that was embedded in you from childhood, and I plan to teach my son the same thing. Because to me there is no other way.

Posted : January 9, 2009 6:45 pm
Posts: 887
Prominent Member

I was appalled by the behavior, language and mode of speech of the majority of the people in the courtroom the day I had to sit in court. I was also appalled by the apparel people chose (sloppy shirts, shorts, hats, women dressed for a night in a bar). It was very clear they did not respect the court or the judge.

Posted : January 9, 2009 7:29 pm
Posts: 5404
Illustrious Member

I do believe that learning and using the appropriate social greetings will benefit you. There is a small group of people, like taxi man one, who like to employ the rule of "gotcha" to their social interactions. This is part of a subculture of intimidation. Apologizing and letting it roll off is a good idea. What is the Latin? Illegitimi non carborundum? 😉

Posted : January 9, 2009 8:10 pm
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