Barbados is a Northern Atlantic island country, and can be found about 60 miles east of the Caribbean Sea. It was initially colonized by the English in 1625, who arrived on the ship Olive Blossom to claim the island. The land was quickly cultivated and used to grow sugar, tobacco and cotton. The country’s sugar industry was so successful that sugarcane continued to be the central aspect of Barbados’s economy until the 1970s. Now, half of the economy is dependent on tourism. Due to its British roots, English is the official language in Barbados.
Because of the country’s plantation-centric history, the culture has become a mixture of West African and British tradition. Though Bajans—the colloquial term for Barbadians—speak English, the vocabulary of their dialect and unique accent reflect African influence. One of the most prominent displays of combined African and British culture in Barbados is the tuk band—a traditional musical collective where the members dress in bright, intricately patterned clothing reminiscent of tribal garb. The strong beats of African drums and British flutes come together to create the unique sound of tuk music.
- Barbados is called ‘the land of the flying fish’ because of the abundance of flying fish in its waters. These flying fish are a national symbol and a culinary speciality in Barbados.
- If you encounter a mongoose, Barbadians consider it very good luck.
- Barbados is the furthest east Caribbean island. Regionally, it is part of the Lesser Antilles.
- Barbados is incredibly sunny—it gets more than 3,000 hours of sunshine annually. On average, throughout the year, the daytime temperature is between 29 and 31 degrees Celsius.
- Barbados is Rihanna’s birthplace. She immigrated to the United States when she was 16 to further her career in music.
- The Crop Over festival is a major holiday on the island that celebrates the success of a fruitful sugarcane season.
- The national meal is Cou-Cou and Fried Flying Fish with spicy gravy, a unique dish of corneal, okra and fish.
- Many still associate sugarcane production with Barbados, but there are only two sugar processing facilities on the island today despite the fact that Barbados once had almost 500 sugarcane fields.
- Barbados is well known for its rum and exports almost $30 million worth of rum each year.
- Barbados has a literacy rate of almost 100 percent. It is the Western Hemisphere’s third most developed country, trailing behind only the United States and Canada. Barbados’s motto is “Pride and Industry”.