Culture

The island of St. Maarten is ½ Dutch, ½ French and 2/3rds Caribbean. As you can see from the math, the sum of the whole is greater than its parts.

 

Characterizing the 2 sides of the island, we see that the Dutch side has retained more of the Caribbean flavor, and less of the European influence is seen than on the French side. This perhaps is typical of the two countries historical colonization patterns. The Dutch have been historically great traders, and their cultural impacts on the countries they have owned or occupied have been less than that of many other nations. Adapting to their surroundings while making sure of a good flow of Guilders (the Dutch currency prior to the Euro) was more their style. On French St. Martin you will see more of the culture of France as we know that the French have always believed that one of their greatest gifts to a colony was their culture.

Chef Dino Jagtiani and guestLanding on St Maarten (National Geographic - photo of the day)Carnival - a real St Maarten specialty

However, on both sides of the island you will see more of a younger culture, that of the African Caribbean. When the Africans were brought to the Caribbean as slaves by the Europeans, they came from many diverse areas of Africa and lacking a common historical culture, they immediately set out to form a new one. Given their separation by the physical barrier of the Caribbean Sea, each island has evolved its own unique culture with its own flavor.

 

For St. Maarten/St. Martin, from the 1800s to the 1960s there has been a mingling of peoples and families within the closest islands, Anguilla, Saba, Statia, St. Kitts/Nevis, St. Barths and to a lesser extent as the sea miles add up to other nearby islands. There also has been added to this the various migrations as work was available in Guadalupe, Martinique, Aruba, Curacao and even the Dominican Republic. St. Maarten/St. Martin, lacking many resources was a quiet backwater, where people enjoyed a peaceful and relatively comfortable life, earning it the reputation as the “Friendly Island”.

St Maarten Heineken RegattaCruiships anchored in PhilipsburgMegayacht entering Simpson Bay

From 1970 on, as tourism started to develop in earnest, people flocked to the Island from over 100 countries to provide the services and to make a good living. Today’s culture is one that can only be described as metropolitan, where people from all over the world live in a remarkable harmony of diversity with a heart that is still St. Maarten/St. Martin. High-speed internet and one of the highest per capita usage of fast computers, cell phones, satellite television, and the easy movement of both goods and people have changed the island from a sleepy backwater to a vibrant and exciting place to live.

 

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