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Coconuts, Donuts, and Conch: An Insight into Bahamian Culture

As I was preparing for my Summer Study Abroad Trip to the Bahamas, I wondered what kind of interactions I would have with the locals. Of course I had heard of culture shock, so I was unsure of how the locals would look at a scrawny Korean American dude with a bad haircut. It was a fleeting thought as my excitement for snorkeling and conducting research quickly drowned out my apprehensive thoughts. But as I left the gigantic Atlanta airport, my mind started to worry once again.
However, once I touched down in the Bahamas, I was immediately met with a pleasant surprise. The locals of Nassau and Andros Island were quite welcoming and good-natured. As I came to find out, these people were some of the most friendly and hospitable I have ever encountered.

Everywhere we went, cars would honk at us as they passed. However, these were no New York City honks. They were cheerful *beeps*. These honks didn’t come with flipped hands or angry remarks but cheerful smiles and waves.

Another example of the friendliness of the islands was the hotel owner, Wilfred. I only saw Wilfred with one face, a beaming smile with happy wrinkles. One morning, we woke up to 2 dozen Dunkin’ Donuts, and one night we came back from a long day of data collection to boxes of Domino’s Pizza. Wilfred exemplified hospitality and great service, and we were all touched by his kindness. We met others such as a boat captain named Charles, a wood carver named Henry, and a craftsman named Nicholas. They taught us things about their home like how fishermen make their living, how palm leaf baskets are made, and how land crabs are harvested for annual festivals. All of these people accepted us with big smiles and friendly humor like we were old family friends. It was such a refreshing experience to be met by such enjoyable company.

Now I couldn’t finish this post without talking about some of the food. The Bahamas is known for its seafood and man oh man did it show. Locals cooked us authentic Bahamian food and it was so delicious. Conch is quite abundant in the Bahamas, and they eat it as often as we eat chicken or beef. We ate all different types of conch during our stay. (Read in a Bubba Gump voice) Cracked conch, steamed conch, conch fritters, conch salad, even conch burgers, and it was all so good. We also ate our share of lobster, shrimp, snapper, and grouper. Typical sides consisted of peas and rice, coleslaw, plantains, mac and cheese, and the occasional broccoli and carrots.

They never fed us coconut, but I knocked open every coconut I saw. The coconut water was good and so was the flesh of some of them. I felt like Bear Grylls in the middle of the wilderness, even though I was usually about 10 feet away from an air conditioned car. Nevertheless, opening up coconuts and trying all the different foods the Bahamas had to offer was quite a thrilling experience.

I thoroughly enjoyed my time in the Bahamas and the culture I was met with was nothing short of amazing. I hope to return sometime soon.

That One Time I Used 98% Deet: Field Work and Group Research in the Bahamas – Read more about Nathan’s time in the Bahamas