Hello, my name is Thomas Sykes, and I am an international student from the Bahamas.
Yes, I am white. Yes, I am a minority in my country. Back home, you’ll find that I have a car, house and maintained yard. However, to your potential chagrin, I must let you know that I do not ride a dolphin to school, use coconuts as currency and I don’t have a Jamaican accent. Along with that, I haven’t met Bob Marley and more importantly have never swum to the U.S.
Hopefully, through reading this article, you will have a better understanding of what the Bahamas is truly like from a local’s perspective. One of the more popular questions I get about life in the Bahamas is, “Do you live on the beach?”
No, I do not live on the beach. I live in a house…in a subdivision… with utilities…and access to clean running water. To many, this comes off as a complete shock to find out that an island nation would be able to produce such amenities without being attached to the United States in any way. I mean after all, I live on an island. There is absolutely no other way to live on an island than reside in a beach hut and throw coconuts at each other, right? Another one of my favorite conversations is the classic race one.
“Shut Up! You are not from the Bahamas.” “Yeah, I am.” “But you’re white. White people don’t live in the Bahamas. Only Jamaicans and black people live there.” You see, conversations like these make any white Bahamian’s blood boil. Not only the fact that we get denied our nationality rights, but also the fact that we get called Jamaicans. Jamaicans come from Jamaica. Bahamians come from the Bahamas. It’s not only white people who get offended by this. You see, in America, people love censorship. A prime example would be converting the word “black” to “African- American.”. So another problem arises. Bahamians are not American. The African part is correct, as 85 percent of Bahamians have descended from African roots, but we are not American. That would be the equivalent of me calling an American, Canadian or Mexican. Not only is it incorrect, but it can also be offensive to some people.
There are many stereotypes about the Caribbean nations, including the Bahamas. The all-time favorite of mine is that the Bahamas is “the land of paradise.”
I beg to differ. For the tourist, it may be paradise. We contain tourists in only certain parts of islands and well-policed areas. For the locals, though, things can get rough. With a population just over 300,000, we have already had 85 cases of homicide for 2012. On averaged, 27 in 100,000 people will be killed every year. Bars line windows and doors, and concrete walls or fences patrol every square foot of land available. In some cases, razor wire has been used to top the chain-link fences. Growing up, these things were normal. Car alarms and packs of stray dogs roaming the streets are normal sights and sounds of commuting in the Bahamas. Aside from crime, the cost of living is significantly higher.
Gas prices float between $5.00 and $6.00.In June, gas was $5.32. Believe it or not, I was excited when gas came down to $5.00. Import tax can be extremely high, depending on what you plan on buying. For example, a brand new Kia Soul in the United States retails at just shy of $20,000. In the Bahamas, that same Kia Soul will run you about $30,000. And that’s just a small car. The bigger the engine is, the higher the import tax.
Similarly, the same types of rules apply to groceries, hardware and anything that has to be imported (which is pretty much everything). I hope that you’ve learned a little bit about what the negatives to being a local in the Bahamas are. Life isn’t all about sand and sun. The only real differences between you and me are that things are a bit pricier and on the drive to work, I see an ocean, whereas you see a mountain.
And please, before you stereotype me, or any other international student, learn a bit about the background and ask a few sensible questions, emphasis on sensible. A question such as “What are some differences between the Bahamas and the United States?” will not get you hit. Asking whether or not I ride a dolphin to school will.