Facts and Statistics
Location: Caribbean, chain of islands in the North Atlantic Ocean, southeast of Florida, northeast of Cuba
Climate: tropical marine; moderated by warm waters of Gulf Stream
Population: 307,451 (est. 2008)
Ethnic Make-up: black 85%, white 12%, Asian and Hispanic 3% Religions: Baptist 35.4%, Anglican 15.1%, Roman Catholic 13.5%, Pentecostal 8.1%, Church of God 4.8%, Methodist 4.2%, other Christian 15.2%, none or unspecified 2.9%, other 0.8% (2000 census)
Government: constitutional parliamentary democracy
Language in the Bahamas
English is the official language and is widely spoken. Creole is used among Haitian immigrants.
Bahamian Society and Culture
The Role of Hospitality
Bahamas are known for being friendly, outgoing and informal. However they also maintain a sense of decorum and are very polite. Hospitality is an extension of this and they like to get to know people, say hello to strangers and invite people into their homes. Sharing a meal is the most common way to build a relationship.
Bahamians have a good sense of humour and use it often in all manner of situations. One facet of this with a certain cultural element to it is the use of self-deprecating remarks or jokes. In essence this emanates from the people’s lack of toleration for condescension and superiority. They respect people who are modest and humble. Being self-deprecating, especially if it is done in a humorous manner, displays their down to earth sensibilities.
As well as making fun of themselves they excellent at teasing others. Poking fun at each other is seen as harmless, good-natures banter.
Relatively speaking Bahamians take religion seriously. Most are devout Christians. It is not uncommon for everyday speech to the peppered with verses from the Bible and government programs or events and opened with short prayers. Sunday is a day for church going and prayer. People dress up in their best clothes to attend religious services.
The week after Christmas is one long party in the Bahamas. Starting with the goombay music on Boxing Day through the Junkanoo Parade on New Year’s Day, Bahamians dress in masquerade costumes and dance to goombay music. Goombay, the indigenous form of music, is derived from the African slaves who used songs as a form of social commentary and way to hand down traditions. To the beat of goatskin drums, people sway to the music and loose themselves in the haunting melodies.
Etiquette and Customs in the Bahamas
Gift Giving Etiquette
If you are invited to a Bahamian’s house:
Watch your Table Manners!
Business Etiquette and Protocol
Meeting and Greeting
Bahamian Communication Style
Bahamians have a lyrical, musical quality to their language which probably descends from their West African roots. Although they are direct communicators they are also quite adept at modifying their language to make it come across as friendly and insensitive. Humour is also very much part of their communication style.
Arrive at meetings on time. Although promptness is important you may find differences in the approach to meeting times and deadlines depending upon the age of your Bahamian business associate and the industry they are in. Older businesspeople or those who work in smaller companies may not be on time, especially if they are speaking with someone else, since it would be rude to hurry other person. They will treat you with the same respect when they are meeting with you.
Bahamian business culture is strongly influenced by the USA and the UK, so meetings will reflect a combination of these cultures. However, Bahamians are more hierarchical and as a result meetings are more about communicating information and decisions that have already been made rather than having discussions.
Meeting schedules are not rigid, and while there may be an agenda, it serves as a guideline and acts as a springboard to other related business ideas.
Since relationships are highly valued, plan to spend time during the meeting to talking about non-business related topics. Likewise, time is quite fluid and will be spent on more personal discussions as well as business-related.
Being a Manager in the Bahamas
The business set-up in the Bahamas is generally straightforward. Many business practices mirror the UK or the USA. To ensure successful cross cultural management it is worth remembering that although status is important, it is a good idea to treat everyone with respect and dignity.
When managing in the Bahamas, it is important to keep in mind that each person has a very distinct role within the organization. People believe that their supervisors have been chosen because they have more experience and it is, therefore, unnecessary, and even inappropriate for them to consult with lower-ranking individuals when decision-making.
Role of a Manager
Successful intercultural management will be more easily established remembering that employees expect their manager or supervisor to provide clear instructions as well as the necessary tools to complete the task and they expect the manager to be approachable so that they may go to him with a question or if a problem arises.
Managers will praise employees, although not generally in public. Subordinates expect their efforts to be recognized and rewarded. At the same time, Bahamians are suspicious if praise is excessive or undeserved.
Approach to Change
The Bahamas intercultural competence and readiness for change is high. Businesses in the Bahamas have a high tolerance for risk and a ready acceptance for change. The underlying mindset is that change, while difficult, usually brings improvements and that hard work and innovation will bring a better tomorrow.
Approach to Time and Priorities
The Bahamas is a moderate time culture and therefore there may be some flexibility to strict adherence to schedules and deadlines. Nevertheless, the expectations of intercultural expansion and global business have caused the Bahamians to adopt relatively strict standards of adhering to schedules.
When working with people from the Bahamas, it’s advisable to reinforce the importance of the agreed-upon deadlines and how that may affect the rest of the organization.
Although many businesses retain hierarchical structures, decisions are often made after reaching a consensus of the stakeholders. Few individuals have full authority to make binding decisions concerning anything but mundane matters.
Most decisions are consensus driven, and will therefore take time for a final decision to be reached.
Boss or Team Player
If you are working with people from the Bahamas, it is important to remember the role that hierarchy plays in teamwork and collaboration. Traditionally, the supervisor is seen to hold that position because of superior knowledge and skills. It would traditionally have been unthinkable for someone of a higher position to collaborate with, or ask ideas of one of a lower status.
This is changing somewhat in younger generations, particularly those employed by multinational corporations. If you would like to encourage participation it is important first to clearly establish a non-threatening work environment and communicate clearly that their participation is desired.
Successful cross cultural management will recognize that teamwork is becoming increasingly important in most organizations.
Communication and Negotiation Styles
Successful cross cultural communication will avoid "hard sell" techniques. Do not take Bahamians’ relaxed attitude as indicative of a lack of attention to detail. Communicate directly without using hyperbole or superlatives and expect some small talk before getting down to business.
While it is common for businesspeople to want to get to know you before doing business, younger businesspeople are likely to start business discussions with a bare minimum of formalities. English is the language of business.
Hierarchy is important, although not always apparent, and successful intercultural communication will be down to the individual’s ability to remain sensitive to clues that indicate status.
Businesspeople are generally direct and say what they mean, although they will not be confrontational and remember that bargaining is not customary.
Bahamas related links and resources
* Currency - the currency of the Bahamans is known as the Bahamian Dollar. Use the free currency converter to compare to dollars, GBP or Euro.
* Weather - visit Yahoo!'s up to date Weather for the Bahamas.
* News - check out all the latest news from the Bahamas.
* Dialling Code - the international dialling code for the Bahamas is +1 242.
* Time – The Bahamas are -5 hours GMT.
information provided by www.kwintessential.co.uk