Top Menu

Happy May Day everyone! To begin, I’d like to say thanks to Steve from Uncommon Caribbean for giving us a shout out on his fantastic website. He has been all over Martinique so I’m sure that he’s well aware of things that we’re only just now beginning to learn about this amazing island.

For example, here’s a funny Martinique anomaly that we’ve just discovered: people here typically start saying bonsoir, French for good evening, right after noon hour. Weird, huh? It seemed so to us.

In our minds, when greeting someone during the day time, bonjour (good day) would be the appropriate thing to say. And if you search this on the internet, you’ll see that most people agree that you shouldn’t switch to bonsoir until after 6:00 PM, if at all. When I quizzed our Martinique friend on why the discrepancy, she could only reason that people here watch TV from France, and thus are more in tune with the time overseas. Whether that’s the reason or not, the fact is that it’s just what people do.

Related to this, we have only just gotten used to saying ‘good night’ as a greeting in Grenada, in place of ‘good evening’. Where we come from, you only say ‘good night’ when you are leaving, and are saying good bye.

Here is another language thing to be aware of. When in the English-speaking Caribbean islands, if you order a roti at a restaurant, what you’re most likely to end up with is a burrito-type dish filled with a curry mixture of vegetables and/or meat. They’re very tasty! In Martinique though, and the other French islands, a roti generally refers to a rotisserie chicken. That’s worth noting!

Roti flavored potato chips! πŸ™‚

These two examples reinforce my belief that until you spend a month or more on an island, you can’t even begin to understand it. Given the language barrier for us here, I’m guessing it would take a year of more for us to get the same result.


  1. My French isn’t a good at it should be. The various versions hurt my head. Then there’s Haitian Creole. . . double ouch.

  2. Very informative! Thanks.

  3. Ha! This reminded me of when we sailed to Madagascar when I was a teenage cruising kid. Walking around town one afternoon, I greeted a group of women with “Bonjour,” only to be kindly corrected with “No, no! Bonsoir!” Confused, because 1) I spoke hardly any French and 2) thought Bonsoir was only for evening time, I did the only thing I could think of: smiled the smile of an unknowing visitor, replied with my own Bonsoir, and shuffled along.

    So, not just in Martinque!

  4. Hey Mike – just a thought about your feeling the need to be in a location for a month or more to get a feel for an island. In college when I was doing my master’s research, I joked about going to Belize and laying out on the beach to do a research project. My linstructor informed that I would be required to be local for at least six months before I would be alowed to develop a project, because the scholars felt it would take that long to begin to know enough about the local culture to be able to make intelligent questions. Needless to say, I haven’t been there yet. Still trying, but …..

  5. In french : “rΓ΄ti” is an adjective, it is more the way you cook the chicken than the chicken itself : equivalent of the “roast chicken”. So we never order “a roti”, we order a “poulet rΓ΄ti” : “roast chicken”. (poulet = chicken / rΓ΄ti = roast).

  6. French, quite confusing, even for us lol

    • πŸ™‚

      I think the hardest thing for us to grasp is the concept of masculine and feminine. We have the same difficulties with Spanish and Portuguese, and I suspect Italian although I don’t know any of that language.

Comments are closed.