21 Things To Do When You’re Invited to a Jamaican Cookout


So your Jamaican friend invites you to a party and you are scared of being the only Non-Jamaican there. You are afraid that you will stick out like a sore thumb and you have no idea what the Jamaican Cookout etiquette is like. Well, here is a list of things we like and don’t like at Jamaican Cookouts.

1. The invitation says come at 4pm but you should not arrive before 5pm, preferably, closer to 6. Chances are that the sound man (DJ) has not even started to string up the box yet (set up the equipment) and you will be stuck helping the host, unless you like that of course.

2. Do not walk with two long hands. Always try to bring something. However, do not bring food unless the host has asked you to. Jamaicans are very funny about who prepares their food and do not like to eat from strangers. Bring some beer or hard liquor. We like that.

3. Do not dress all fancy. This is not high tea and this is not a nightclub. Comfortable and casual is the way to go. Ladies, do not wear super high heels that make you look like a newborn calf when you walk. We will laugh at you. Also, those stilettos will poke holes in our lawn. We do not want you making animal tracks in our lawns. We don’t like that.

4. Please do not get all fancy if you are asked to bring food. We don’t like to eat food that we cannot identify or pronounce. If you know you cannot cook, just bring some hard dough bread. We like that.

5. When it’s time for the food to be shared allow others to join the line before you. You do not want to appear greedy. We don’t like greedy people.

6. Conversely, if you are on a diet, be prepared to break it that day. We don’t like picky eaters. Jamaicans get very offended when you refuse our food. Unless you are Rastafarian or Muslim, you better ask Miss Betty how she makes her jerk chicken and pretend to like it. Well, you know you really do like it. If eating meat eats at your conscience too much then stick to the hard dough bread, festival or the salad. Be sure to rave about it too so the host knows you are enjoying their food. We like that.

7. Do not go for seconds until everyone has eaten. Before you do though, be sure to complement the chef. They will encourage you to have more if they see that you truly enjoy it. We’re like that.

8. Do not pack a to-go plate unless the host has asked you to. Also, do not travel with Tupperware. If you must, do not take it out your car. Just hang onto the foil covered paper plate until it’s time to go then do a quick swap in the privacy of your car.

9. If the host does not have foil (or is unwilling to part with it) and you did not bring Tupperware, ask for a plastic bag instead. They are great for keeping food filled paper plates together after cookouts.

10. When it’s time to dance, don’t just stand there gawking at everyone. You will stick out like a sore thumb and we will assume you are not enjoying yourself. Do a little rock from side to side. Most Jamaican music is rockable. We like that.

11. Many Jamaicans claim to not love soca but whenever “Tiney Winey” comes on, they forget its soca music. You have to actually wine to this one. Your waistline may not be accustomed to this dance but it’s kinda like the hokey pokey with a twist. Just move with it. We like that.

About the author

Seanna Bowen-Wishart