Tag Archives: how to survive in Guadeloupe

Ignore that last ‘Doh!’ of a post (new features confuse me)….How to Communicate in Guadeloupe without speaking French or Creole

28 Dec

I recently read this great post about non-verbal communication by an ExPat named Russel V J Ward.  This sparked my memory regarding some local communication skills I’ve noticed. Some I’ve mastered. Others, not so much. For quite some time I’ve thought I should try to explain them and that piece was just the kick in the pants I needed to get moving. Thanks, Russel.

There is no way to cover all of the non verbal communication in one post. You’ll likely be bearing more about it. I’ll start with a few of the things I notice most often…

Non verbal communication in Guadeloupe, type: Movements used to get around – crossing the street.  A full description of this would be: Crossing the street in such a way that you seem to be entirely unafraid of being hit by the cars that you see, and yet oblivious to the cars at the same time.

How to do it: Stand at the side of a busy road. Do not look into oncoming traffic. Look across the road, at something interesting, or pretend there is something interesting.  Step without hesitating into the road, making the distance between you and the passing traffic very small. Scary small. At the same time, hold out your left hand in a position we Americans fondly know as the ‘talk to the hand’. Keep it cool though, low, never above the waist, although flat, like talk to the hand. Good. With your other hand you may a)talk on your phone, b)hold a small child (please note this does not necessarily increase your chances of crossing safely) or c) casually rub your nose or other part of your face to seem casual. Now, just cross. It’s all in the hand motion combined with the casualness/oblivious that you project. Everyone will know what you are talking about.

Non verbal communication in Guadeloupe, type: movements to show your driving style – hand out the window.

I have noticed, and I beg anyone to differ, that the amount of arm hanging out of a car window directly correlates to the slowness of the driver. If I am driving behind someone with their hand out the window, it’s a slight warning. They may wave to people as they pass. I don’t believe they really know these people, but it’s more of a local past time. If I am behind someone with an entire arm out the window, this is trouble. The entire arm out the window signifies a few things. For one, you’re local, so you probably do know everyone you pass on the road. For another, you have all the time in the world to get where you are going and you will not only wave at people but stop your car in the middle of the road during the busiest time of the day to have five to seven minute conversations with drivers on the other side of the road who are also hanging their entire arm out the window. You, my good sir, make the Boston in me come out. The no R Boston who uses lots of swear words. You bother me. In any case, that’s the arm move. If you want people behind you on the road to know what to expect, choose your length of exposed arm wisely.

Those are some handy ones. We’ll move onto eye contact at a later date because that one’s a subtle one. Not for beginners. It will be about the art of looking just past someone. You’ll get there, grasshopper.



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