Culture is no small force; it shapes individuals and impacts tremendously on politics (McCartney, 2004). Nations are made up of people, who, from the moment of their birth, are deeply and profoundly shaped by the cultures and customs from whence they came (McCartney, 2004). Because history and culture are two such inseparable animals, it's worthwhile to take a brief look at the history of the Bahamas.
Many history scholars believe that the first inhabitants of the Bahamas were Aborigines of Mongol ancestry who migrated there 100,000 years ago via a bridge which connected Alaska and Siberia. However, others attribute original dwellers of the Bahamas to have come from Haiti (McCartney, 2004). And yet still other scholars believe that the original inhabitants of the Bahamas were the Lucayan Indians (Arawaks) that Columbus met when he arrived there in 1492 (McCartney, 2004).Despite Columbus's "discovery" of this land and these people on behalf of the king and queen of Spain, the Spanish influence never took hold in the Bahamas (McCartney, 2004). This didn't stop the Spanish from seeking to attempt control over these people: "the Spaniards had enslaved or transported the Arawaks; some 40,000 were transported to Hispaniola where they died working in mines. British pirates also used the islands, and in 1629 the islands were given their first constitution as part of the Carolinas (USA)" (nationsonline.org, 2012). The strongest foreign influence on the Bahamas was the British, starting from 1647 to the present; the British influence can be seen heavily on the Bahamian laws, parliamentary and court structures, educational systems, as well as cultures and customs (McCartney, 2004).
Because the bulk of the Arawaks all died as a result of Spanish enslavement or from the diseases the Spanish brought to the islands, they remained deserted for a couple hundred years aside from pirates like Blackbeard, Calico Jack, Sir Henry Morgan and others. In the late 1700s the area was taken up again by a group of Americans referred to as Loyalists: "The Bahamas lay close to the North American colonies and the outbreak of the American Revolution put the Bahamas in the firing line. The islands ties to the 13 colonies were intimate, for Charles I's original grant to Sir Robert Heath had lumped the Carolinas and the Bahamas together. Trade and family ties bound the islands to the colonies" (Baker, 2001, p.23). This meant that when the American colonies received an independence, a large bulk of English loyalists vacated, moving to the Bahamas, and essentially tripling the population there from 1783-1785 (Baker, 2001). One could argue that the Loyalists introduced two things to the Bahamas that would come to be of extreme importance in shaping their future: slaves and cotton (Baker, 2001). However, despite the intentions of these American colonists, many of them didn't have a strong background in farming, coming from essentially merchant backgrounds and -- combined with the infertile and finicky soil of the Bahamas -- such agricultural efforts failed (Baker, 2001).
This essentially saved the Bahamas from having a massive slave trade and from the brutal subjugation and barbarous oppression of a mass amount of people. It did however cause the population to become dominantly black almost overnight (75% by 1788) and caused a weaving of African culture into what was once mainly British culture (Baker, 2001). Thus, slavery failed, slaves were emancipated and became the foundation of the population today.
Bahamian Culture and Lifestyle
Given the multi-colored and multi-faceted history of the Bahamas and the range of nations and ethnicities that had a hand in shaping the way that it is today, and taking into consideration the racial tensions and debilitating issues which exist around the world, it's indeed quite a surprise that peaceful coexistence between races is an overall trend in this area (Barlas, 2000). Racial conflict is rare, even though Bahamians have clear distinctions and divisions by color, ethnic origin doesn't concern them much (Barlas, 2000). Some superstitions do still exist and are believed by certain Bahamians, although friendliness and chattiness (even to perfect strangers) are hallmarks of the culture (Barlas, 2000).Bahamian culture places a strong emphasis on the importance of the family, and the extended family. There's a definitive "laid back" quality to the way of life, where many argue that the inherent priority revolves around enjoying life, rather than being worried with what might occur tomorrow or the next day (Barlas, 2000).
On the other hand, some scholars assert that income is a big determinant of class in Bahamian society, but one which can be made more complicated by historical circumstances which connect class with race and where certain modern developments can create illegal economic activity, such as the drug trade (Hackert, 2001). As Hackert argues, some of these complications, so unique to the history of the Bahamas combined with issues of the drug trade can mean that social class within the Bahamas is something else completely -- falling out of typical class models (Hackert, 2001). Hackert gives the example of the Family Island whites, explaining how despite the fact that this family is undereducated, they still warrant a certain degree of social respectability as a result of the fact that they have a strong hold on the fishing, boating and tourism industries (2001). Likewise, individuals involved with drug trafficking might live in "the ghetto" but have massive amounts of capital at their disposal at any given time, even though this can't quite be counted as "income" (Hackert, 2001).
However, as some rightly point out, whether or not the Bahamas are more British or more American is definitely a point worth discussing. "Of course, the Bahamas were British for more than three hundred years and the British legacy is still visible in the country's schools, courts and its parliament; nevertheless it was American settlers and their slaves who, at the end of the eighteenth century, almost overran the little colony" (Hackert, 2004, p.31). Thus, while the British gave the nation its foundational and perhaps most lasting foreign cultures, the Americans has a tremendous impact on it as well during the 18th century -- and even today. North America is the "mainland" and millions of American tourists visit Bahamas each year. Just as many Bahamians assert that they speak the Queen's English there's also, some might argue, a lilt and musicality to their speech that some deem to be Creole (Hackert, 2001). And yet, from underneath the American vs. English debate is the fact that strong West African influences impact the culture and customs even today. For example, Junkanoo is a lively new year's celebration which is known for goombay, a type of music that originates from Bahamian slave music made with a range of instruments including the goatskin drum, which serves as a replacement for the massive drum used in the massive forests of West Africa (Dold, 2003). Church and religion is still a big part of Bahamian culture, with Baptism being the predominant religion and some scholars and historians viewing the islands as a continuation of America's southern Biblebelt (Hackert, 2001). In fact, things like rigging and chatting are gospel traditions used in many Bahamian churches and are things that one would definitely witness within southern churches (Dold, 2003).
The Bahamian National Trust (BNT) has been attributed by many to have acted and to continue to act as a major player in the task of cultural heritage preservation via "balancing the domestic and international factors of growth and development" (Hoffman, 2006, p.436). The BNT originated in 1959 when Parliament gave it the freedom to make its own rules and laws with the government signing off on them (Hoffman, 2006).
Hofstede: A Framework of Cultural Dimensions
The framework of cultural dimensions is one of the outlines of cultures developed that can be used as a resource for professionals within the global business community, and is one which is extremely well-known. One of the hallmarks of this outline is that Hofstede developed five dimensions which could be used for comparing and contrasting cultural distinctions and areas of overlap, these dimensions are: "power distance, uncertainty avoidance, individualism/collectivism, masculinity/femininity, and long-term orientation" (Stonehouse et al., 2004, p. 46). Power distance refers to a dynamic of acceptance within people in society that the power of the society is distributed unevenly. When power distance is high, people generally accept that the power distribution is uneven; when power distance is low, there is discord and dissatisfaction with the way that power is divided (Stonehouse et al., 2004). A clear example of this would be in Brazil which has a high tolerance for power distance and where 10% of the country receives 50% of the wealth and people accept this as simply the way it is and will be (Peng, 2010). On the other hand, in Sweden, the richest 10% of the population only get 22% of the national income (Peng, 2010).
European and American societies tend to have low tolerance for…