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Ramblings of an Island Girl

Riselle Celestina

Email me with your questions about the Caribbean

Wow! My very own column. This is definitely a big reason to celebrate.

Hi there, my name is Riselle and besides being a contributor and now, a brand new columnist for Mélange Travel & Lifestyle Magazine, I also wear many other hats. A girl’s gotta do what girls’ gotta do to survive in this crazy world, am I right?

I’m a blogger at The Traveling Island Girl, a travel writer, animal advocate, eco warrior, content creator and event consultant on the dual nation island of St. Maarten/St. Martin. I was born and raised on the Dutch Caribbean island of Curaçao and one thing I love most, after my furry kids and my husband of course, is to explore the other Caribbean islands.

The islands fascinate me, Each one is so different from the next, yet we are all very much the same. To me there is nothing like a good local Caribbean dish served with a side of culture. Yes, the islands fascinate me and I guess they fascinate you too.

As an island girl born and raised, I get to experience both sides of the medallion. When I travel the Caribbean I get to experience other islands as a visitor and when here on my home island of St. Maarten I get to experience it as a host.  So, I guess I am the right person to answer many of your Caribbean travel questions.

So, in this first ever column by yours truly I would like to tell you about four very important Do’s and Don’ts when visiting the Caribbean.

The Caribbean has a very rich history and even richer culture with deeply rooted traditions and values. Manners are very important to us and rudeness is quickly met with a stern look, especially from the elders.

The very first and most important Must Do when in the Caribbean is to greet someone when you enter a store or place of business or before asking someone for directions.

I know this is not exactly a North American practice but here asking someone for anything without first saying good morning, good afternoon or good evening or a simple hello is considered extremely rude.

A big Don’t while vacationing in the Caribbean is making fun of our accents or our way of life. Yes, we may sound “funny” to you when we speak English but you may want to note that while you’re here, you are the one with the accent. Ever thought how funny you might sound to us?

It’s hard to imagine that life in paradise is anything like life in the mainland but in a lot of ways it is. We too get up in the morning and go to our jobs like you do. There are schools, and banks, and shops, and everything else to make a functioning community.

Our internet may be slower than yours but why let that bother you if you are here for the 4 things we do best anyway: Sun, sand. sea and rum punch.

So, when here, remember that our way of life is ours. Things don’t run the same way it does in your country because this is completely a different society and a different country.

While you’re here as a guest it may be important to remember not to compare our way of life to yours. It is so completely different and different definitely does not mean less important than yours.

Let’s talk about another big Don’t and that is Jamaica. No, I don’t mean that Jamaica is Don;t. Jamaica is a definite Must Do, just like all the other islands but Jamaica , while the most well known Caribbean island is not the entire Caribbean. So many times a person decides to pretend to speak Caribbean English and says things like “Yeah Mon” thinking it’s funny. It’s not, simply because “Yeah Mon” is something said in Jamaica. Each island has its own English dialect and own sayings. None of us sound the same. You just need to listen a little deeper.

While we’re on the topic of Jamaica, it is also important to remember that Reggae is also Jamaican and is not the sound of the entire Caribbean. There is also Soca, Zouk, Merengue in the Spanish islands and Tumba and Tambú in the Dutch islands.

Another Must Do to remember is to support local businesses. The Caribbean attracts many people year round. Some fall in love and decide to stay and many expats make the decision to open a business serving what they know best, which most times is exactly what you’d be getting at home. I mean, Jimmy Buffet even made a song about Cheeseburger in Paradise but I can guarantee you that while we islanders love a burger just like any other, it is not a meal we call our own. What I”m trying to say is that while hanging out with people you consider to be like you is definitely familiar and comfortable, dare to try something more local when you’re here.

Travel is all about new experiences. Try our local food, our local drinks and our local products. Shop local. Support local small businesses. The Caribbean islands are filled with truly talented people. Check out the island’s most well known local artists next time you’re here or that old local lady selling her crafts on the side of the road. A lot of these businesses are not listed in your usual guide so you might want to ask around or just explore and find them on your own.

As a Caribbean girl I thank you for visiting our islands. Your visit is much appreciated and much needed. We get to do what we do best, and that is to make sure you have a great time in paradise. But like I stated above there are some ground rules, some little things to keep in mind while you’re here. Follow them and you will have an even better time than you thought you would. Respect is earned not bought.

If you have any questions related to the Caribbean, please don;t hesitate to let me know I will gladly be your Dear Abby for Caribbean questions 😉

Yours Truly,


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