Six Questions People Ask Kittitians Living Abroad
Saint Kitts and Nevis are sisters in a two-island Federation. For that reason, Kittitians (from Saint Kitts) and Nevisians (from Nevis) living abroad are considered fellow citizens of the same country. They are likely to be asked the same questions and to give similar answers.
Both the questions and the answers are intended to create a smile; not to poke fun at either the questioner or the responder. There is so much we all can learn from each other.
View (From Tourist Ship) of Basseterre, the Federation Capital
(1) Are you from Jamaica? I hear an accent.
Firstly, we’d prefer that you wait for us to answer when you ask where we’re from. We hate it when you make a wrong guess. It is important for you to know that everything Caribbean is not Jamaican.
You see, Caribbean islanders—like all other patriots—have native pride, and when you suggest that Jamaica (one of the Big Islands) is the only Caribbean island you know, and that you have never heard of our little islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis, we feel compelled to tell you why we’d rather be Kittitians or Nevisians.
Secondly, we don’t want our accent to be the first thing we talk about. We recognize your accent too. We can guess whether you’re from New York or Louisiana in the United States, from Birmingham in England or from Johannesburg in South Africa. But we’d prefer to share a greeting and a common point of interest before we discuss the differences we hear.
(2) What language do you speak in Saint Kitts and Nevis?
In an English-speaking country, we’d wonder whether you ask that question because you find our English faulty; but we choose to take your interest at face value.
The official language of Saint Kitts and Nevis is English—the Queen’s English we like to say, since our grammar and word usage reflect the British influence in our school textbooks. Most of us can engage in our native dialect at will, and we do when we’re with other Caribbean friends; however, we speak Standard English effectively when we are in the presence of other company.
(3) Do you have stores (cars, roads, TV stations) like we have here?
We do not have traffic lights and we do not have a McDonald’s Restaurant. Still, we have all the basic amenities which civilized nations have. We may have one where other nations have many, and we have smaller versions of the large versions other countries have.
We have shopping malls, though in most of them if you shout at one end, you can be heard at the other. We have roads, hard to see because they're so narrow when the latest models of vehicles are passing each other. We also have the latest electronic gadgets with services from two providers. Our White Pages Directory for Saint Kitts and Nevis total 79 pages, and our Yellow Pages have a total of 99; both White and Yellow come in one publication. We have it all—though in smaller amounts than most!
(4) Do you know (name of Kittitian)? He’s from Saint Kitts.
Or, do you know (name of Nevisian)? She’s from Nevis.
Some people ask Kittitians and Nevisians this question, fully expecting the answer to be “Yes.” They reason that on a small island, everyone meets in the marketplace. However, most people know that there’s a chance of the answer being,"No.” The latter group is wiser.
The population of Saint Kitts is around 40,000. The population of Nevis is around 12,000. The number is small compared to the population of most countries, but not small enough to guarantee that all the residents will meet, let alone that all would be acquaintances. People who live in large, spread-out and densely populated cities really do not understand the extent of small areas and small numbers. Small in comparison to what they know could still be too large to accommodate familiarity.
Sorry we do not know everyone on our islands; we don’t even know everyone in our extended families. How about you?
(5) Where are Saint Kitts and Nevis?
First, we have to make sure that the questioner is not asking for directions, because we have heard really strange questions from the geographically challenged. Like, “How long will it take us to drive from here (on another continent) to there?”
On a world map, because the islands are so small (68 square miles and 36 square miles, respectively) they would appear as tiny dots with not enough space to write their names; therefore a map of the Caribbean is the best visual aid for locating the islands. In conversation, without the availability of a map, we would be sure to say that the Caribbean islands lie between North and South America. (See Florida, USA, North America up at the top and Venezuela, South America below?) Saint Kitts and Nevis are in the eastern group of islands.
Saint Kitts is about 1,200 miles from Miami; 1,600 miles from New York; 4,000 miles from London and about 45 minutes by plane from Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. Ferry service from Saint Kitts to Nevis takes 45 minutes.
Nevis in the forefront of renewable energy: any questions?
(6) So what made you leave your island to come here?
Usually, people ask Kittitians this question after we have talked with pride about our beautiful island and our friendly people. It might sound as if they’re suggesting that Saint Kitts couldn’t be the paradise we say it is, else we wouldn’t leave. Again, we take the question at face value.
Instead of the usual “I came here for college or university,” or “I came here because of the opportunities we have here to improve our lives,” these days we can say, “We came here for the same reason people from everywhere are coming to Saint Kitts.”
They come for vacation to enjoy life in a different part of the world. They come to visit relatives, some of whom they haven’t met before. They come for education at our institutions like International University for Graduate Studies, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine and (not many) others. They come for business opportunities and for work they are qualified to do.
There are similar reasons that Kittitians have for traveling. There are even a few of them who travel just because they can afford to make the trip. Well, there are also a few who travel for medical attention. Hopefully, they would be spared the question.
© 2013 Dora Weithers