Island Life and Culture

Island Life is Fun & A Little Different

here are a few things to know

Barge – The boat that transports motor vehicles between St. John and St. Thomas. Not to be confused with the ‘ferry’ which transports people.

Callaloo – A leafy green vegetable which is edible when steamed.

Cay – Pronounced “Key,” this term refers to a low island of sand and coral.

Conch – Pronounced “Conk.” Large edible mollusk typically served stewed, marinated in lime juice, or pounded for use in salads.

Country – All of St. John except Cruz Bay. There is more to St. John than beaches; go explore!

Fungi – (Say “foongee”) Cornmeal based side dish similar to polenta.

Good Morning/Afternoon – The essential greeting of the Virgin Islands. Use of this greeting is deeply rooted in local culture and a quick way to show respect and friendliness.

Island Time – The pace of life here is different so be ready for things to take a little longer. We like to think of it as slow enough to be just about right.

Jumbie – Caribbean term for spirit or ghost. Mocko Jumbie, stilt walker

Love City – The nickname for St. John. Rock City -St. Thomas. Twin Cities- St. Croix

Painkiller – The classic Caribbean cocktail, made from dark rum, Cream of Coconut, pineapple juice, orange juice and a dash of nutmeg.

Palou – Local dish made with rice, chicken & vegetables.

Salt Fish – Salted dried cod or sometimes mackerel. A local staple.

Tamarind – A tree which produces the brown sweet/sour fruit of the same name. The tree in the middle of the South Shore Road at The Westin.

Yank – Someone from the U.S. mainland. Also, the more formal diction used by locals when talking to tourists…as opposed to speech steeped in slang.

1. Keep to the LEFT! We drive on the left here and you’ll find that the steering wheel is also on the left. If it helps; follow the person in front of you and hope they are locals.

2. Slow down. The speed limit is 10mph in town and 20mph otherwise, but the quality of the road will often dictate your speed.

3. Be patient. You will find that people treat traffic rules as suggestions so it won’t be uncommon to see two cars stopped in the middle of the road to chat or the occasional delay due to donkey, cow, goat or pig crossings.

4. Don’t confuse the “ferry” which is the passenger ferry and the “barge” which is the car barge. The ferry is located in downtown Cruz Bay. The barge is located next to the water treatment plant before the Marketplace.

5. Three main roads:

  • Centerline Road which crosses the center of the island and connects Coral Bay with Cruz Bay.
  • North Shore Road begins just past Mongoose Junction, and the St. John Properties building and hugs the coastline heading north and east. Take this road to the prominent north shore beaches like Hawksnest, Caneel Bay, Trunk Bay, and Cinnamon Bay. Eventually North Shore Road turns into Centerline Road.
  • South Shore Road exits Cruz Bay by the Marketplace and gas station. Take this road to the Westin and south shore locations. After going up Gift Hill, South Shore Road turns into Centerline Road.

6. Buckle up. The police are vigilant about seatbelt use.

7. No cell phones while driving. Use your stay on St. John to get away from your cell phone and be aware that local police will issue fines for motorists caught driving while on the phone.

8. Remember to make use of your lower gears, especially on hills and switchbacks.

9. Hitchhiking is allowed on the island and you will likely see people along the roads looking for a ride. Instead of pointing a thumb in the direction they are going hitchhikers will use their pointer finger. While picking up hitchhikers is safe it wouldn’t be expected from someone driving a rental car.

10. Have fun. You are allowed to have open containers, even while driving! However, there is ZERO tolerance for drunk driving, so do drink responsibly.

Following Directions

Following directions on St. John is a unique experience. We don’t have traffic lights and few streets have names so directions here are given based on landmarks. A few major landmarks include:

  • The Westin on South Shore Road which has notable signage and a tree growing in the middle of the road.
  • Mongoose Junction which is a collection of food and retail vendors at the north end of Cruz Bay and right next to the St. John Properties building.
  • The Ferry Dock where you disembark from the St. Thomas (people, not cars) ferry. Also a good place to find a cab.
  • Wharfside Village is the collection of vendors located just south of the ferry dock and right on the beachfront.
  • The Marketplace is another major collection of shops and home to the largest grocery store, Starfish Market. It is at the south end of Cruz Bay on South Shore Road
  • The gas station (not to be confused with the Texaco Station as per below). We only have one gas station in Cruz Bay and one in Coral Bay. The Cruz Bay gas station is located on South Shore Road just after the Marketplace.
  • Jacob’s Ladder refers to the steep portion of road heading south towards the Westin on South Shore Road (just after the gas station). Be mindful of the cars in front of you as some of them struggle more than others with the sharp grade of the road. And, always wait for trucks to get to the top before following them up.
  • Texaco Station is a reference point that no longer exists but is nonetheless still prevalent in direction-giving. The site of the former Texaco station is situated at the construction site on Centerline Road where it meets with South Shore Road. Perhaps more visible and just as useful is the school baseball field immediately across from the “Texaco Station.”
  • Dumpsters are frequently used as landmarks. One of the more frequently referred to dumpsters is the one next to the basketball courts on South Shore Road after the Marketplace.
  • Woody’s Seafood Bar & Grill is distinctly located in the center of Cruz Bay. There are usually people hanging out by the outdoor seating and occasionally in the middle of the road.
  • Speed bumps are also helpful markers though be vigilant as they are not always boldly painted so they can sneak up on the unsuspecting driver.
  • Switchbacks are common place on the roads here as they help navigate the rugged terrain. Counting the number of switchbacks on a road can be a useful tool for finding your way.

Wha yuh sayin – Means what’s up, How are you

Hail up – Hi, hello

Cyan (sometimes spelled “kyan”) – Means cannot

Safe – All right, or okay, i.e. “you safe”

I/he/she gon to come back – I/he/she left and am/is returning shortly

He/she ain deh – He/she isn’t there

Come heh – Come here

Eat me out – Annoying/Aggravating, as in “boy you does/duh eat me out!”

Kill me dead – Hilarious/ Very funny as in “da one deh does/duh kill me dead!”

Deh – Meaning there, i.e. the car over deh

Dem – Meaning them, i.e. what are dem man doing

Parah – Meaning crazy, paranoid

Bus’ off – Means to leave

Vex – Is an island word for upset

Nah – No

Wuk up – To dance (usually specific to calypso or soca music)

Mahgah/Meeguh – Meager, extremely skinny

Foh true? – You serious?

Yuh sick de man? – Are you crazy?

Pickin Whelks – Wearing pants with pant legs that are obviously too short

Buss Ah Lime – “Lewee Go Buss Ah Lime” (Let us go out.)

Bag-up – Grounded, in punishment

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