St. Martin/St. Maarten: Language, Courtesy
French is the official language of St. Martin but you may also hear some of the locals speaking Créole. Since so many Americans visit St. Martin, English is also widely spoken throughout the island.
For non-French speakers, a mini-phrase book or a small dictionary may prove to be invaluable. Online translation sites and smartphone apps can also be helpful. Please don't expect that others will always speak or understand your language. When you are in French St. Martin, you are in France.
If you make some efforts to speak a little French, it will be greatly appreciated. If you make some mistakes, don't worry. They will just make your attempts at French more charming. Of course, a smile is the easiest and most universal form of communication.
Dutch is the official language but, as on the French side, English is commonplace. Visitors may also hear Spanish, French, Papiamentu, Italian, Hindi, Chinese and other languages in both sides of the island.
It's important to remember that you are a guest in another culture. If you treat others with respect and kindness, they generally reciprocate. If you want to take someone's photo, always ask their permission first. And don't forget that everything moves at a slower pace in the tropics, so you shouldn’t expect or demand speedy service. If you can downshift and relax, you will blend right in and have a great time doing so.
In the US, making a circle with the thumb and index finger means "OK". In France, it can be taken as an insult. It can mean "worthless". A raised thumb gesture (one thumb up) will work better and avoid misunderstandings.
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