Roatan is an interesting collection of different cultures, colors and contradictions. We, of course, have the Honduran Latin culture, with a strong influence from British and local Garifuna culture. We are not a small island (between 70,000 to 100,000 people and 32 miles long) but our communities are, and everyone knows everyone, or at least knows of everyone. We are a tourism destination, but unlike a lot of other Caribbean tourist islands, our island is one where people actually live, work, breathe.
Roatan may also be one of the friendliest places in the world. On Roatan, you greet everyone on the street, whether you know them or not. While “hello” is, of course, a completely acceptable form of greeting, you’ll often hear the word “buenas” as you walk down the street. Buenos dias, buenas tardes, buenas noches – with the number of greetings we give in a day, it’s easier to combine all greetings into one succinct “buenas”.
Most people aren't great at this when they first arrive. In most other parts of the world, you're not raised to greet total strangers as they pass you by, and in many places it can get you into a tight spot. On Roatan, it’s weird if you don’t greet strangers. Downright rude, even.
I had thought this culture applied to all of Central America, but I found myself on the receiving end of strange looks as I walked the streets of Tegucigalpa and San Salvador saying “buenas” to everyone on the street. They were all probably wondering who that crazy gringa lady was! When I continued to greet people on the streets of downtown Los Angeles (because LA, amirite?), I was told to cease and desist immediately because even the crazy people were getting weirded out about it. I spent two and a half years forcing myself to say hello to people, and then I was told to stop! Nothing made me happier than coming home to Roatan afterwards and uttering my first "buenas" again.
So when you’re on Roatan, say hello to everyone you see! The culture of “buenas” is one of the things that makes Roatan unique and great, so embrace your friendly side and enjoy la buena vida en el Caribe!