Monday, 7 November 2011

The language of honking

One thing I've noticed about Jamaica is that here you can say many things with your car horn.  When I first arrived, I was frustrated by how I would often get honked at by cars coming up behind me.  I eventually learned that it is usually a taxi wondering if I want a ride.  If I ignore it, it will pass without stopping.

The horns here have many more tones than those at home, both literally and figuratively.  At home, you honk out of frustration or as a last resort before an accident. Consider this common scenario: you're approaching a bend on a narrow road so you let off one clear blast to alert any traffic on the other side that you're coming round. Then, if on the other side you see that another car has stopped to the side to let you through, you would tap lightly on the horn as a "thank-you". 

I've also heard drivers use their horn as a greeting to people they know, to encourage the traffic in front of them to start after the light turns green, or to notify a bike or slow truck that they are coming up behind them.  The horn is a very important part of driving in Jamaica, and not just because the traffic laws are generally seen as guidelines, only to be followed if convenient. 

Of course, the first car I rented in Jamaica had no horn to speak of.  We banged in the centre of the wheel and a pathetic wheeze came out...

You will have to imagine the soundtrack to these photos.  

You can see the mountains north of Kingston

Downtown Kingston

Nice sign
Check out the pothole - I've seen worse since!


  1. I enjoyed this post. Thank-you Julia.

  2. Julia Pitkin-Shantz11 November 2011 at 09:33

    Mikhael just sent me the link to your blog. I've really been missing you from the Legacy team and am glad to see that you are making a different type of difference in Jamaica.
    Keep in touch!
    Julia Pitkin-Shantz

  3. Hi Julia,
    Nice to hear from you. You're right, being in Jamaica is very different from Legacy! Hope your campaign is going well.