Tag Archives: Trinidad

Fetiquette

“The bouncing done, the bouncing done, the bouncing done!”

Ash Wednesday and I’m recovering (slowly) from Carnival. I meant to post this last week but the partying got in the way. Use the Trinbago dictionary if you are struggling with the slang!

Fetiquette

Carnival season is a wonderful time in Trinidad and Tobago. The country buzzes with energy and a sense of excitement seems to engulf the whole population, irrespective of whether they take part in Carnival activities. The wonderful thing about Carnival in T&T is that it can be enjoyed at everyone’s level. You can spend as much or as little as you want to indulge your Carnival passions.

For many people the fun lies in attending the increasingly expensive all-inclusive fetes.  When I first returned to Trinidad as an adult, the average cost of an all-inclusive fete was circa TT$300 (US$50). Consequently I went to many such events. One memorable season when I was between jobs I hit eleven fetes.

Times have changed. Ticket prices shot up – $800 (US$130) is now considered reasonable for an all-inclusive fete ticket; especially in light of the Hyatt charging $3000 (US$500) to attend its LIME fete.  My income has…ahem…not kept up with the increase in ticket prices and I am now very discerning in my fete attendance.

Over the years I’ve come to understand the unwritten Fetegoers Code of Conduct, or Fetiquette that governs the all-inclusive party. There are many rules, but I’ll stick to the basic six which every feter should know.

Rule Number 1 – Arrive In Daylight

There are several reasons for this. After spending the equivalent of a Latin American GDP on clothes, shoes, makeup and hair, one needs to be seen.  Equally important is who one is seen with. Men want their peers to see the attractive arm candy (of either sex) standing in the shadow of their biceps. Women want other women to know

a)      I arrived with a man – stay away from mine; or

b)      I arrived without a man – hold onto yours; and

c)       I look good and I know it (I may be delusional).

As members of a bourgeois society, a significant percentage of fetegoers want people to know they can afford the exorbitant ticket prices. So what if they’re secretly living on bread and cheese? Update your Facebook status – “On my way to Salybia!” –  tweet about it, post a picture of your fete tickets on instagram, change your BBM and whatsapp status to “Having fun at… insert fete here”.

Rule Number 2 Better Belly Bus Than Good Food Waste

The good stuff goes early and quick. Check out all the food options as soon as you arrive and decide which food queue to join first. If moving with a posse it may be wise to strategise. One person can queue for doubles, while another hits up the bake and shark stall, and you load up on Chinese. Always remember the fetegoers mantra – I paid for it. Eat everything. Leave it too late to eat and you’ll be lucky to get the pomerac chow no-one wanted.

Ironically, at a fete Trinis will line up in sun, rain and mud to sample cuisine normally rejected by their pets. The queue for horse meat at Old Hilarians’ All-Inclusive is always extensive. Take note Tesco.

Rule Number 3 – Bus De Bar

Start with the premium drinks and work your way down to puncheon. What is your mantra? I paid for it.

Rule Number 4 – Dress to Distress

Carnival fashion has nothing to do with style or modesty and the all-inclusive fete is the ultimate peacocking opportunity. Choose an eye-popping outfit you wouldn’t want your mother to see you in and make it worse. When it comes to Carnival fashion, more is more. To quote the Dowager Countess Grantham – nothing impresses like excess. Over accessorise – wear bangles, garish earrings, glitter, press on jewellery and have all your tattoos on display. Better still if you have gold teeth or a mouth grille.

Rule Number 5 – Control Your Property

Swappi  said it best – What yuh mean yuh cyar wine? Trinis are born knowing how to wine. It’s in their DNA. While other nationalities are learning the Three Rs in school, Trinbagonians are taking lessons in how to bubble and flex.  Trini men are programmed to track it, grab it, and wine on it. When soca music infects the brain it’s hard for women to resist the urge to put their hands on their knees and push it back.

Nothing Trinis like better than an opportunity to display their skills, but time and place people, TIME AND PLACE. You do not want to end up featured on the front page of the dailies doing the wheelbarrow.  Save the dutty wining for a private audience.  There is life after Carnival. Nobody wants to be remembered by their pundit/boss/peers for sending Shakira into early retirement.

Rule Number 6 – Spread Your Hands and Leh Go

Have fun! Whatever you end up doing for Carnival – partaking in the festivities, spending quiet time at home, or having a mini vacation – enjoy it to the max. YOLO is real. We get one shot at life and it is up to us to make it good. As I write this my neck, shoulders and feet are sore; legs are covered in unexplained bruises; and after two days in the sun I am so black I’m blue. Worth every minute.

Tell me your Carnival experience. What do you like/dislike the most about Trinidad Carnival?

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You Is Ah Gonian If

The recent Tobago House of Assembly election was a stark reminder of the many differences between Trinidad and Tobago. Tobagonians  are fiercely proud of their heritage and the election result – a resounding victory for the PNM – was further proof that Gonians will resist any attempt of perceived Trinidadian dominance. Tobago culture is an enigma to Trinidadians. To understand it, you have to be one of them.

Let me stake my claim to being half-Gonian thanks to a Patience Hill born-and-raised father. Despite spending most of my childhood in Trinidad, I didn’t gain Trinbagonian citizenship until adulthood. I  entered the world in England, Mother is a Bajan, and no-one in my family was born in Trinidad. So you see I’m really not a Trini at all. I’m a fake.

Having said that, I’m more Trini than Gonian and with typical Trini arrogance here’s my take on what defines the Tobago native. Use the Trinbago Dictionary if you need translations!

You Is a Gonian If…

…You eat crab and dumplings at least once a week

…You race your pet goat

…You can dance the Heel and Toe

…You believe Trinis are always in a hurry

…Six of your relatives share the same name

…You use words like ninyam “Meh put ninyam pon table” and pickney “Where mih pickney an’ dem?”

…You love a good Bongo Night

…You think all Trinis need to humble themselves

…You grew up chasing crabs on the beach

…You not-so-secretly want Tobago to secede from Trinidad

…Your uncle has a fishing boat

…You look forward to  Great Fete Weekend

…You never miss a village harvest

…You know nothing about cricket but would never admit this

…Half of your family works for the Tobago House of Assembly. The rest are in the hospitality industry

…Going to church is a social event

…When talking to two or more Gonians, Trinis can’t understand you

…You have 100,000 extended family members. 80,000 of them live in Tobago; 40,000 live in the USA, and one lives in Trinidad

…You exist in a different time universe to other nationalities. One Tobago minute = One hour elsewhere

…You can make a cook anytime, anywhere, with anything

…You know where to get pacro water and bois bande

…You dislike Trini politicians…in fact, anything Trini…

…You consider turtles to be unofficial wild meat

…You’re related to me!


Yuh Know You Is A Trini If…

I’m often asked by non-West Indians what distinguishes Trinidad and Tobago from other Caribbean nations. The answer is complex. The Trinbagonian love of partying and having a good time is well known, as is the country’s dependence on oil and natural gas for its main source of income.

There is a unique set of characteristics which defines the Trinbagonian  and sets him/her apart from Caribbean brothers and sisters. Within this character set are the subsets Trinidadian and Tobagonian. You would think that being a twin island state the differences between occupants of the two isles would be minimal. You would be mistaken. Trinidadians (Trinis) differ in many subtle ways from their northern neighbours. I’ve decided to document some of the differences, starting with the Trinis. For the benefit of those not familiar with Trini parlance, refer to the Trinbago Dictionary here.

Please add your own observations in the comments below!

Yuh Know You Is A Trini If…

…You never leave home without vex money

…You have an uncle named Junior and a cousin called Baby

…You can fete whole night and wake up for work the next day no problem

…You treat the shoulder on the highway as the real outside lane

…No meal is complete without the mother-in-law

…You take out a loan to play mas

…The back seat of your car is a set of speakers

…Everyone in your family has a home name

…Sunday lunch must include callaloo and macaroni pie

…You pitched marbles as a child

…You have no idea what an orderly queue is

…You sing lustily to every parang song but can’t speak Spanish

…Your ring tone is a soca tune

…You bathe pizza in ketchup

…You give every flu virus a name  e.g. “I was home sick with Section 34”

…Your smart phone cost more than your car

…You have at least one item of red clothing in your wardrobe

…You believe every sporting achievement should be rewarded with house, land, and a public holiday

…No drink is finished until you’ve eaten the ice

…You have KFC delivery on speed dial

…You can’t foxtrot, samba or waltz but you can wine, jook, jam, and palance

…Your favourite card game is All Fours

…You collect rain water in buckets for “in case”

…You put up new curtains every Christmas

…As soon as you jump on a plane to “go foreign” you lose the Trini accent

…You know everybody’s business

Liming takes priority over all other activities, especially work

…You drink bush tea to cure every ailment

…Your pit bull knocked up the neighbour’s pompek

…Scotch and coconut water is your favourite drink

…You skive off work to watch cricket in the Oval

…You arrive two hours late for every event

…Last minute beating book got you through school

…You’ve been to New York more times than you’ve been to Tobago

…You support Manchester United and either FC Barcelona or Real Madrid

…Words like broughtupsy and bobol are part of your everyday vocabulary

…You can’t understand how all dem Jamaican and Bajan make the West Indies cricket team

…You take your pet bird for walks in its cage

…You know God is a Trini!


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