What the Locals do in the Bahamas
If you want to experience more of the Bahamas than just the sand at your resort's beach, make like a local and try one of the following.
Enjoy a Boil' Fish Breakfast
Pass on the eggs and pancakes and try a real Bahamian breakfast of boil' fish. Meaty fillets of grouper, turbot, or muttonfish are cooked up in a delicious peppery lime-based broth with onions and potatoes. It's served with steaming grits or a chunk of hearty johnnycake. Alternatives on the Bahamian breakfast menu include stew' fish or conch—similar to boil' fish but cooked in thick brown gravy—chicken, pig feet, or sheep tongue souse. Even though all of these dishes are soups and stews, they're never served for lunch or dinner.
Worship at a Jumper Church
Religion plays a central role in the lives of many Bahamians, and there's a church on just about every corner of every island. While there is an array of traditional Anglican, Catholic, Presbyterian, and Lutheran churches, the Jumper Baptist services are often the most lively and unique. Think fire-and-brimstone sermons, boisterous singing and dancing, and choruses of "hallelujah" and "amen." Congregations welcome out-of-town guests, but expect to stand up and introduce yourself. Bahamians put on their Sunday best for church but won't turn away a visitor who isn't dressed the part; please be respectful.
To the untrained ear fresh off a cruise ship or plane, it could seem as if Bahamians are speaking a foreign language. English is the native tongue, but get a group of locals engaged in hot debate and you won't be able to keep up. Words are strung together, the letter ‘g' is dropped from the ends of most words, and quite a few slang words are thrown in for good measure. If a club is too crowded, a Bahamian might leave, saying "it's too jam up in dere"; your taxi driver might warn you that he needs to "back back" the car; a rude child might get a "cut hip" from his mother; the word "dead" is used to intensify any adjective as in "dead ugly"; and ask someone when they're going to do something or go somewhere and they'll likely respond "terreckly," which means soon. Despite what you may see printed on T-shirts, Bahamians don't say "Hey mon!" If you don't understand, just ask the Bahamian to slow down and they'll quickly start speaking the Queen's English.
Just about anywhere you see a group of men gathered around a makeshift table, you'll find a dominoes game in progress. Usually games are played for bragging rights and not money, and matches can get loud and raucous as it's customary for anyone making a big play to slam the plastic tile down on the table. Ask if you can get in on a game (the same rules as American dominoes apply), but don't expect any mercy.
Eat a Fish Top to Tail
Order a fried, grilled, or steamed snapper at any local restaurant or fish fry and be prepared to have your meal looking up at you from the plate. In the Bahamas, this tasty dish is served up whole, from head to tail. Take a look at a Bahamian's plate at the end of his meal and you'll never guess it once held a fish; all that's left is a pile of sucked-clean bones. If you don't think you can stomach the whole fish, ask your waiter to remove the head before bringing it to the table. Just be warned, the sweetest meat is found in the cheeks.
Fodor's Trip Planning Ideas
- Fodor's Go List 2014: Where we are going in 2014
- World Cup Fever: Start planning your trip to Brazil!
- Fodor's 100 Hotel Awards: Check out the winners of 2013
- Weekend Getaways: Fodor's Recommends the Best Weekend Escapes in the US
- Great American Vacation: Find Your Next U.S. Trip with Fodor's
- 80 Degrees: Fodor's Helps You Find Your Best Beach Vacation Spots
- Best of Europe: Fodor's Picks the Best Places to Visit in Europe