Barbados: How to Spot An American

Barbados: How to Spot An American

A fashion statement in the U.S.

The unzipped-jeans-to-reveal a bikini, common in Miami Beach, is a fashion that has not yet appeared in Barbados.

I didn’t really notice how enormously fat and slob-ish (the two NOT being related) so many Americans had become until I moved to Barbados and began to live in a culture that is a size the U.S. used to be and also generally neatly dressed.

I just returned to my Barbados home after five days in the States, my home country. When I boarded Flight 651 out of Miami, I was concerned that my seat mate was a walking refrigerator who would infringe upon my seat real estate.  He was doubly afflicted: very large and also sloppily dressed. He wore a shiny sleeveless polyurethane sheath of a garment that had “Lightning Jack” embroidered across the back. If his girth hadn’t kept him pinned into his seat, his shiny poly shorts with elastic waist would have caused him to slip out of the seat onto the floor of the plane. Where he would not have been able to get up.

Just as I was praying that he wasn’t a fellow American, his large, furry arms began flipping through his well-stamped passport. I glanced over (eesh, his long grey hair was pasted to his neck). Sure ‘nuf, a fellow Yank. A Yank who is signaling to me and the rest of the world via his dress that he needn’t be bothered to make the smallest effort.

Americans dress badly

An American man, from the site called

He wasn’t the only American slob (fat or otherwise) I saw during my stay in Miami: Men wearing grungy worn-down flip flops; sports-team jerseys on men reflecting fantasies of playing pro ball; men stuffing pizza into their faces while walking (at least Americans can still multi-task); stretched-out t-shirts with vulgar sayings …. (Women date these guys??)

Actually, perhaps these are the women these guys are dating: Women with bikini tops that cover the nipple-but-not-much-else of a silicon breast; unzipped jeans revealing an itsy bitsy bikini; girth squeezed out of the top of their jeans, aka “muffin tops”; kids’ strollers equipped with a food-holder for mom’s Biggie Fries …. there’s more but I’m feeling queasy.

Miami Beach dress

Snappy. In Miami Beach, these are the well-dressed men.

By contrast, Barbadians are generally tidy dressers: collars on shirts, shirts tucked in on men and, on women, peeks of cleavage instead of the whole – um, enchilada, jeans zipped and buttoned … and I’ve yet to see the Hefty-bag-shiny clothing of my seat mate.

I’m not saying that Barbados is a prim society; I’ve seen video of some goings-on in Barbadian night clubs that make me cringe. Still, as I grossly generalize that Americans are often fat and slob-ish, I also grossly generalize that Barbadians are usually well-kept and neat. It helps that Barbados society isn’t, like US society, 67% fat or obese.

Bajans are taught manners in dress at an early age. Children in Barbados wear uniforms to school and are required to keep their hair neat and tidy.  Barbadians dress for church — including hats on women.  And while you see flip-flops and cut-offs at churches and funerals in the States (“Just be glad people are still going,” you hear), you do not see that here in Barbados. In fact, in recent years church-goers were tending toward more casual and revealing dress but the ministers here put their collective foot down and banned such clothing.

My husband and I are not immune to complaints about our appearance. Greg and I met for lunch recently at the beautiful golf club at Royal Westmoreland, where he’s a member. I had come from a business meeting and was dressed up in skirt, blouse, and heels; Greg had come from his office and was wearing a button-down, long-sleeved tailored shirt, ironed dark jeans with a belt, and tassled loafers with socks.  We were seated and graciously served — but at the end of the meal as we were leaving, the maitre d took Greg aside and told him to please refrain from wearing jeans to lunch at Westmoreland in the future.

19 Responses to “Barbados: How to Spot An American”

  1. Stephen says:

    They can’t all be so bad, there must be one or two who don’t follow the rules and live in St Lawrence!
    School uniforms are a great idea; no fashion rivalries for those with/without money and confidence in supporting and representing their school.
    If you can’t wear jeans to RW, then eat elsewhere. There’s plenty of other choices, even if they were a Wal-Mart $3 special!

  2. RumShopRyan says:

    Great post. I agree with your perspective. Usually Miami is scene as one of the most healthy cities in the states. Everyone wanting to look good for everyone else and have the great beach body. Maybe the people you saw were majority vacationers from the north. Either way, the states are an obese society and getting bigger sadly. Exercise is important that’s why I do it 4 times a weeks. Great post. Cheers.

  3. Good morning, RumShopRyan,

    Are you a Yank? If so, I didn’t mean to offend … I’m just commenting on how evident America’s obesity issue is when coming from a country where people are generally of normal size.

    A friend sent me this tidbit this morning:

    NJ Woman Eats 12,000 Calories A Day, Wants To Weigh 1,000 Pounds
    Donna Simpson currently weighs 600 pounds, so she’s going on a diet in hopes of reaching what she considers her ideal weight: 1,000 pounds.

  4. My point is about respecting a given standard of decorum. I want to eat at Royal Westmoreland .. it’s so, so lovely and the food and service are first-rate .. I’m happy to respect their dress code in order to have the opportunity to eat there in the future.

  5. Starfish says:

    “Still, as I grossly generalize that Americans are often fat and slob-ish, I also grossly generalize that Barbadians are usually well-kept and neat.”

    I would only comment that our country certainly isn’t well kept and neat! 67% of Barbados is a refuse bin!

  6. CanadianViewpoint says:

    Wow. The only thing I found more shocking than the sweeping generalizations, lack of empathy and condescending tone of this blog post was the fact that it originated from someone in the “hospitality” industry.

    Some other data of note: In 2009 approximately 20% of tourists visiting Barbados were Americans. 34% of TripAdvisor reviewers for St. Lawrence Beach Condominiums were Americans.

    In fairness to future guests, I suggest you post a link to this blog on TripAdvisor as it appears you’ve redefined your target market, intentionally or otherwise.

    My husband and I are visiting Barbados from Canada for the first time later this month and I’d found your sight to be quite informative so had returned here with the intent of contacting you about viewing your villas for a future visit. Needless to say that won’t be necessary.

  7. I’m sorry I offended you. It was not written in a spirit of negativity or prejudice against Americans. I am myself an American.

    I wrote this post because I was shocked by the expansion of the American waistline over the 2-3 years that I’ve been away; no one can deny that Americans are getting fatter; in fact, obesity has become the #1 health risk in the U.S. I’ve read about it … but seeing it in person took my breath away. Seeing the man next to me on the plane labor to take a breath and struggle to walk the length of the plane saddened me; he’s still a young man.

    Unrelated to a person’s size was my second point: how sloppy we Americans have become in our dress! When I was in a shopping mall in Miami I saw such cute clothes in the windows of the stores … but almost no one was wearing those cute clothes, just sloppy jeans and stretched-out t-shirts.

    I’m sorry you found my tone condescending; I don’t feel condescension in my heart. I tried to poke fun at an undeniable fact: Americans, as a whole, have become quite fat and, to my mind, quite sloppy in their dress. I appreciate your pointing out that I need to be more careful (i.e., more PC) in the future.

  8. Stephen says:

    The truth always upsets some. You can’t keep all the people happy all the time. Most sensible people will know what you meant and you didn’t mean to offend. If you can’t talk about your own people, what can you talk about without having a go at all other nations… Unfortunately, a lot of Bajan’s have too much around the waist which leads to the high diabetes problem we have here.
    If you find this post is affacting business you can always erase it! LOL

  9. Greg says:

    “Canadian Viewpoint” must be a Sheriff in the PC Police. You know, “You can’t call a person fat!” and so on. The truth hurts sometimes, but it also helps.

    I wonder what she would say about this CNN link?

    To threaten to punish you by not staying at your rentals … how low is that? She’s saying, “We have ways of making you write what we want”.

  10. Thank you, Stephen. I appreciate your comment.

    It upset me, of course, that I offended someone. I didn’t mean to. Something occurred to me when I was out walking this evening: Bajans are very casual about commenting on another person’s weight and I think I’ve become far more casual about it as well. A week or so ago someone told me that I looked like I was getting fat. I laughed about it and responded that maybe I was getting into the yummy Bajan sweets too often.

    When I first moved here, I wrote a blog post about how upset a similar comment made me. But neither time did the speaker mean anything … it’s just that people here are blunt. It’s refreshing, actually … at least people are being real; in the States I could double my weight and no one would say a word … but what’s wrong with saying something?? It’s not a put-down; it’s just a comment, just something someone noticed. To not mention something doesn’t make it not so. And to mention it doesn’t make it derisive.

    Actually, Stephen, I can apply this thinking to your comment about deleting the comment. To delete it doesn’t mean I no longer notice that Americans are getting fatter and deleting it doesn’t mean I didn’t say what I said, either! Thanks for writing … I really appreciate what you said.

  11. Rod says:

    Hi Jane,

    Leave the post about Americans being grossly overweight and sloppy.I think it needs to be said.

    I happened to visit a International House of Pancakes on a trip to Baltimore.Sadly,nearly everyone in the place was 300lbs.If someone cannot lose weight,fine.But why load up on a three course meal of a cheese omelete,with greasy home-fries,bacon,ham,white toast with butter and then follow with six stacked pancakes laced with maple syrup and whipped cream?

    Culturally,something is wrong……but is it my business?

    Look at it this way,if Obama has his way,all Americans will be living under the same medical tent. Collectively,all
    Americans will be paying for these blood pressure meds and heart bypasses.

  12. Rod, good morning.

    Whipped cream on pancakes? That’s a new one.

    I realize I’m not addressing your point when I say that the more I think about it, the yummier that sounds!

  13. Bill says:

    I hope #11 balcony can hold my fat butt for 10 days because I intend on living on that balcony. Well slightly chubby, But hey I have 7 months to whip into shape!

  14. Hardy har har. Everyone thinks he’s a comedian!

    Whatever its size, bring it – and the rest of you – on down to Barbados, Bill …. I’ll be very happy to meet you!

    I see a rum punch in your future ….

    xx Jane

  15. Evelyn says:

    Such witty comments are exactly why I am coming to visit your condominium! We are so looking forward to visiting Barbados and have chosen your place to stay because I have enjoyed the pictures and your blog very much. I am one of those Americans that you so “fondly” spoke of and I have been able to lose 60 pounds and keep it off for over 2 years. My husband has been living/working in Trinidad for the past year so it has been easier to keep it off since I have to remain in the states for my work. I am a health care provider and see such obesity every day as well as get threatened because of what I say to people about this problem. You will continue to have my support, I wish the values that I see from Barbados could be re-established in the US. Thank you for being so bold.

  16. Evelyn, thanks for this comment. I love that you planned a last-minute trip to this beautiful island and welcome you warmly to our pretty condo.

    Well, we’re in the same club, Evelyn. I also lost 60 pounds! I was 28 and completely addicted to food … it was an emotional thing, I know now. I can’t believe that was nearly 30 years ago now. You are living a reborn Evelyn and I’m so, so happy for you. Enjoy your beautiful self in Barbados!

    xxoo Jane

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  19. Patrick says:

    I am in general agreement on the subject of the general slovenly appearance of Americans. I find that much of this “slob fashion” is displayed by the youth culture. It is possible that we are just getting old and regurgitating the same verbal expressions of disgust as our parents when they queried “you must be joking… you are not leaving the house in that get up ” What were YOU wearing when your parents objected to your attire?

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