Do Hotel Resorts Exaggerate Stereotypes to Entertain Tourists?

My wife and I recently returned from a vacation in Jamaica during the holiday break.  I noticed an interesting trend while we were there…

Everywhere we went we were greeted with a “Yeah Mon!” and every time we said thank you, the response was always “No problem Mon!”  The resort staff also played Bob Marley songs ad nauseam and there were even bongs sold in the gift shop.

Six months earlier, my wife and I spent our honeymoon in Hawaii.   We were greeted everywhere with an “Aloha” and bid farewell with a “Mahalo.”  Street peddlers would throw the “hang loose” sign at anyone with sunburned skin at the International Marketplace in an effort to get them to buy a souvenir.   Musicians at restaurants would pick up their ukulele and serenade the guests in Waikiki with Iz’s “Over the Rainbow” on repeat.

Basically every stereotype that we knew of in these two cultures seemed to be out in full force for all the tourists to see. This got me wondering and I posed this question to my wife on both trips:

Is this really how these cultures speak and act or do they just do this to entertain the tourists?

Do citizens of Hawaii go around saying “Mahalo” instead of thank you in the privacy of their own home?  Do Jamaicans really say “Yeah Mon!” every five seconds? Do these cultures pile on the stereotypes so Americans can go back to the states or the mainland (as Hawaiians call it) with a rasta man hat or a flowered shirt and brag to their friends about how cultured they are? I know this stuff is part of their culture to a certain extent, but the stereotypes seemed overblown from what I saw.

I live in New York, which of course is also a big tourist spot.   I wonder if hotel staffs in midtown Manhattan go around saying “Yo” to every guest and responding with a loud and animated “Fugheddaboutit!” when a tourist says thank you.   Perhaps they even refer to New York City as “The Big Apple” (which no native New Yorker actually does) and play Frank Sinatra’s “New York, New York” constantly.  Maybe hotel staff will even stage a mock mugging for tourists to see, so they can return home with a great story to tell.

As ridiculous as this prospect sounds, that’s how it must seem to the natural citizens at these vacation spots.   Is there anyone from Hawaii and Jamaica, or any other vacation spot, reading this that can offer some insight on this matter?

3 comments for “Do Hotel Resorts Exaggerate Stereotypes to Entertain Tourists?

  1. Skyler Raine
    September 3, 2011 at 10:47 pm

    This is so true! I live in Hawaii, and the stereotypes about it just make me want to laugh. Nobody walks around in grass skirts or coconut bras, hardly anyone says “aloha” unless they work in tourism, and although I’ve lived here all my life, I’ve never surfed, rode in a canoe, or even met a “native Hawaiian” person. I consider myself a normal teenager who lives in the city. The kids here go to public/private school or are homeschooled like I am and wear Aeropostale and Hollister and Gap just like kids anywhere else in America. Sure, there’s the beach, which is a lot of fun, but it’s not true that we go there every day. Once a month at the most, maybe. We’re busy people and don’t have the time to go snorkeling every day. And while there is Hawaiian food, that’s a treat–usually we eat Chinese takeout, pizza, McDonalds, all that.

  2. September 4, 2011 at 5:55 pm

    Thanks for the insight Skyler. I’m glad someone can back up my theory.

  3. Charles Stone
    September 6, 2011 at 11:22 am

    I lived in Hawaii during high school (Radford High School in Honolulu, graduated in 1997) and I live in the Cayman Islands now. The tourist destinations in Hawaii and the Caribbean are exaggerated stereotypes, but the words are used. In the Caribbean I use the phrase ‘yes man’ or ‘yeah man’ everyday… as well as ‘soon come’… which means ‘I’ll be there soon’, or ‘an event will take place soon’. I do like reggae music, but I go to the bars that play a mix of everything… the tourist spots will play nothing but ‘island’ music and it drives me nuts. In Hawaii, there are very few (maybe none) true Hawaiians left. They have been mixed over the years with Japanese, Filipino, and Americans. I did not use ‘aloha’ too often as a greeting but ‘mahalo’ was used quite a bit. They have a broken English slang they call Pidgin (pronounced like the bird pigeon) and that is reality, not the tourism version. The Jamaicans’ broken English slang is Patois (pronounced pat-wah) and this slang is reality… not the tourism version. I agree with Skyler that we live real lives on these islands so we have laundry, dishes to do, bills to pay, etc. It is definitely not all fun and games when living in tropical environments.

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