Customs, Traditions, & Local Festivals
Once known as the "islands time forgot," the Cayman Islands have been catapulted into the 21st century at, some say, an alarming rate. In spite of the Island's rapid development, many deep rooted customs and traditions still play a part in day-to-day Cayman life.
Interestingly, the last decade has seen a determined effort to maintain the delicate balance between preserving the essence and simplicity of the Cayman Islands’ past while moving resolutely into the future to maintain the country’s status as one of the world’s premier tourism, banking and finance centres.
Many Caymanian customs and traditions are linked inextricably to religious holidays. Whether camping by the sea at Easter or hunting for land crabs during the rainy season, these events are social in nature and family-oriented. Visit East End on any given Sunday and you will see families and friends, recently returned from church, ‘shooting the breeze’ on their front porches or enjoying a noisy game of dominoes under the shade of a breadfruit tree (what’s ‘breadfruit’ you ask? There’s a great local food glossary on Cayman Good Taste!).
Being up on the ‘Marl Road’ (local gossip) for some, is as important as drawing breath! And if you want to sound like you’re really in the know, never, ever refer to the Cayman Islands as ‘the Caymans’! We simply say CayMAN as in… “aren’t you lucky to live in Cayman.” Also, don’t leave without finding out about Cayman’s colourful carnival Batabano plus other local festivals.
Family outings to the beach on the weekend are a major part of Caymanian culture, but sand plays another very important role in Cayman at Christmas time.
Unlike many parents around the world, Caymanians have always been able to guarantee their children a white Christmas. The tradition of ‘backing sand’ has stood the test of time.
Often, beginning as early as October, Caymanian women and children could be seen by the light of the moon carrying ‘ground baskets,’ woven from leaves of the magnificent thatch palm trees that tower loftily over the islands, brimming with powder-white sand from the beaches. The sand would be deposited in the front yard and on Christmas Eve raked into intricate patterns and decorated with shiny new conch shell pathways.
Cayman’s proud maritime history has served to provide many lasting traditions. The Catboat, a simple but highly maneuverable sailing boat once used for fishing and turtling in and around Cayman waters, is enjoying a revival thanks to the efforts of the Cayman Islands Catboat Club.
Regular regattas are held in Grand Cayman and the sight of these small, skillfully crafted vessels tacking their way around George Town’s bustling harbour, vying for space amid cruise ships, dive boats and tenders, is a truly remarkable snapshot of the juxtaposition of past and present in Cayman.
For more information on the Catboat and Cayman’s maritime heritage visit Cayman Islands Catboat Club. This organisation is always looking for supporters to help them preserve and promote Cayman’s vibrant seafaring past.
In 2009, the Cayman National Cultural Foundation formed the Cayman Islands Folk Singers, a company dedicated primarily to preserving, celebrating and propagating the musical traditions of the Cayman Islands.
The company exists to bring the people of the Cayman Islands folk music works of the high artistic and technical standards and production values, and works reflective of the Caymanian image and appreciative of our place in the Caribbean region and the wider world. Since its inception, the group has been showcasing Cayman’s rich musical heritage through song.
The Folk Singers have an impressive repertoire of Caymanian composition, as well as beloved songs from around the region. For more information email: [email protected].
Centuries before the Cayman Islands became a global financial centre, the hunting of sea turtles, rope making, logging and exporting coconuts were the principal economic mainstays of the country. Read on to learn about Cayman’s fascinating early industries and the ingenuity of the early settlers.
Residents in the Cayman Islands are generally a fashionably casual bunch. But during the work-week men who are business professionals may wear long trousers, long sleeved collared shirts and a tie. Jackets are very rarely worn, even in board meetings but are compulsory for lawyers attending court proceedings. You may see women in Cayman wearing a smart skirt, dress or slacks with a blouse at the office – all very appropriate for a professional setting.
From the highly anticipated Pirates Week and Batabano (Cayman’s annual carnival) to the popular local play Rundown, there are a host of traditional events, festivals and holidays that make the Cayman Islands especially unique and of course a fabulous place to call home! Click the the links below for more!
The Cayman Islands use the English date system: day/month/year. However, because of the influence of the US, some people write the date as month/day/year.
While Cayman businesses and government institutions normally use the English date system, business forms will usually indicate whether the date or month comes first. If you are dating a professional document, you may enquire how the date should be written if you are unsure. A good rule-of-thumb is to write out the month.
English Date System Examples: 21st, May 2019 or 21/05/19
US Date System Examples: May 21, 2019 or 05/21/19
Typical business opening hours are Monday to Friday 8.30am-5pm. Most banks in the Cayman Islands are open Monday-Thursday from 9am-4pm and Friday from 9am-4.30pm but some bank branches are also open on Saturdays between 9am-1pm.
By law, most businesses in Cayman close on Sunday. Places that do remain open include some pharmacies, gas stations, major restaurants, hotels (including their bars), Camana Bay’s cinema and even the Mountain Dew Black Pearl Skate Park.
Emergency services in the Cayman Islands such as police stations, fire departments and the public hospital remain open seven days per week, 24-hours per day.
The greeting customs of the Islands are as follows: always say “Good morning,” or “Good evening” on first meeting someone. If you are talking to a Caymanian, then we usually use the first name but preface it with a ‘Miss’ or a ‘Mr’. ‘Mrs’ is rarely used.
The Cayman Islands or “CayMAN” as the locals say (and never the ‘Caymans’) is generally a welcoming place and the ‘Caymankindness’ found in the country is embodied by many, so be sure to engage with people you meet if you are a first time visitor.
Caymankind is a local’s way of presenting themselves to the world: they are generally courteous, compassionate and caring. People here will usually greet you with a smile or say a warm hello or perhaps even say something to make your day brighter than it already was. That’s Caymankindess!