So perhaps you've booked a cruise that passes through St Thomas and or St John. Maybe you've decided to go all out and book a hotel in St Croix for the week. Either way you choose to travel the Virgin Islands is a gorgeous and fun-filled part of the United States that everyone should visit, however its hard to visit just once. Although I'm a Chicago native I've been living in the Virgin Islands for almost five years and just keep coming back. The culture and sense of freedom that I feel here are irreplaceable. We thrive off of tourism here but many people don't know much about the islands before the arrive. Here are a few things NOT to do during your visit to ensure you have to best possible time, gain respect of the locals and go from tourist to traveler in no time.
1. Don't Spend All Day in the Jewelry Store
St Thomas has over 300 jewelry stores. If jewelry is what you love, you will definitely be in heaven. On our slice of paradise you can find everything from independent designers to big name brands. There are plethora of stores to shop in however these stores are obviously in steep competition. They work very hard to be sure that they don't all have the same exact designs. If you see something that you like, buy it and explore the island! Hunting around all day to save a $100 on a diamond ring is a waste of your time, the sales consultant's time and a sure fire way to irritate your travel partners.
2. Cover Up in Town
The Virgin Islands or VI as we affectionately call it is predominantly Christian can be conservative in some areas. Although its very warm walking around town in a bikini is not considered respectful unless perhaps it's Carnival. A beach cover up or tank and sarrong will be sure to get you more smiles and better customer service.
3. Don't Expect Constant Smiles
Many people do not realize that smiling is actually a form of communication that is dictated often times by our culture. Not everyone will smile at you all day long. This does not necessarily mean that they don't like you or that you are not welcome. It simply means that perhaps that person doesn't want to smile. If you visit the Czech Republic for example, no one smiles, however in Thailand people smile all day long. Different cultures do things differently. The Virgin Islands is a place where the culture is not about smiling all day. The mandatory smile is replaced by greeting everyone with a "Good morning", "Good afternoon", "Good evening" or "Good night" and is a way to acknowledge your fellow human being. Once people warm up to you and get to know you, you will find lots of beautiful, warm people that will look out for you.
4 Don't Leave Knowing Only the Price of Rum
Too often people leave the Virgin Islands having learned very little about the Virgin Islands other than the price of rum and cigarettes. Unfortunately the Virgin Islands does not yet have a history museum however taking an island tour and talking to the locals is a great way to learn more about the islands. There is a rich history, diverse population and a great deal to explore in the VI.
5 Stop Shopping Only Corporate Stores
Cruiseship passengers rarely have any idea how intense the marketing is on the ships. Basically every business that you are told to shop at is either owned by the cruiseship or has had to pay tens of thousands of dollars to be included in the advertising. This marketing leaves numerous small businesses completely out of the loop and creates a very negative impact on the economy. Thousands of people visit the islands daily but the local people often see very little positive impact in their home. Far too often the community is only left with the trash and traffic. Put down your ad brochures and dare to shop local and eat local. The people of the islands should be benefiting from the tourism, not only the big corporations.