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Social Customs & Etiquettes in St Kitts & Nevis


All visitors to the islands are cordially welcomed; marriages are valid after two days’ residence. Islanders maintain traditions of calypso dancing and music and this can be seen particularly during the summer months. Etiquette reflects the concept of respectability in which reciprocity and decorum define both inter-personal relations and social acceptability. It is based largely on colonial British models and relaxed only for close friends and family members.

With the exception of moneyed expatriates from the US and UK, the inhabitants do not have a significant class structure based on wealth. The major sociocultural concern of most islanders is to appear "respectable," meaning that one manages an acceptable appearance in possessions and in one's person and behaves in socially appropriate ways, as defined largely by cultural patterns originating in British colonial society. While poverty is inimical to respectability, wealth is not essential for it. Material possessions are important, but as demonstrations of respectability rather than of wealth. Education matters greatly; young people are serious about their studies, and good students are praised by adults and respected by their peers.

Time on the islands is often categorised as “Caribbean Time” and it can mean anything from being an hour late to not showing up at all. It is generally understood that everything starts at least half an hour later than the actual time the event is supposed to start. This is because people value their family and personal life and realise that things come up that are more important than a meeting or event.

In some situations, people are expected to be on time and get very frustrated if you are late. It's generally best to err on the side of punctuality until one is comfortable with the way things work.

Meeting & Greeting

Most people greet one another with a “Good morning,” “Good afternoon” or “Good night”. Just saying “hi” or “hello” is generally considered bad manners unless the person being greeted is familiar with customs from the US.

If you ask people how they are be prepared for the truth instead of the generic “I’m fine” that is customarily offered by many people in the US. People don’t always say goodbye and don’t often feel the need to offer the sort of overly enthusiastic ending that is often common in the US.

Younger people should show respect to elders by greeting them first and it's best to make sure to greet everyone individually in a room/at a function.

Not everybody is comfortable making a lot of direct eye contact but it usually makes one appear more trustworthy.

Communication Style

Most people from St Kitts & Nevis are very direct about some things and not so direct about others. If you show them a dress you bought and ask them what they think, be prepared to hear the truth.

In some cases, people won’t tell you the truth if they think it will hurt your feelings. For example, sometimes you do things that are the norm in your culture but a little taboo in theirs, so they think you don’t know better and probably won’t tell you of your errors.

It takes time getting to know people and gaining trust and respect. People will be friendly from day one but to gain trust and respect is a much longer process. It's best to not try to rush it.

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