Living in Trinidad and Tobago

Culture

The culture of Trinidad and Tobago is the result of mixing influences from different ethnic groups, which make up the population of the country. Trinidad and Tobago is noted within the Caribbean region for its ethnic, religious and cultural diversity and tolerance, and the country encourages respect of persons regardless of sex, race, ethnicity, religion or disability.

The estimated population is about 1.3 million. Women and men make up almost equal numbers of the population and East Indians and Africans are the two largest ethnic groups in Trinidad and Tobago, with a growing Mixed (dohgla or dougla) population. There are small populations of Chinese and Syrians. The country also has a rich religious composition. The main religious groups are Roman Catholic, Hindu, Pentecostal/Evangelical/Full Gospel/Presbyterian, Spiritual Shouter Baptist and Islam.

Trinidad and Tobago is a stable democracy with high levels electoral participation and a low level of political violence. Changes in the political leadership of the country have been largely uneventful since its independence and the population is known to engage in the lively scrutiny of their leaders in a safe political environment.

Language

The official language of Trinidad and Tobago is English and all government and business activities are conducted in Standard English (United Kingdom).

Trinidadians and Tobagonians often speak quickly and mix local references and creole (local dialect, patois and Hindustani) into everyday conversation. However, when asked, many are willing to repeat or explain what they are saying.

There are growing communities of Spanish and French speakers, and these languages are taught to students in many high schools across the country. Hindi is also taught at a few schools in Trinidad.

Social Conventions

The common greeting for both men and women in Trinidad and Tobago is a handshake. Well-acquainted persons may hug and kiss each other on the cheek.

In formal situations, in which you do not know the person or the person is older than you are, it is customary to use “Mister” or “Miss” to address them, unless the person requests a greater degree of informality. Persons will also clarify their title to you – e.g. Mrs, if the woman married or Dr, where qualified.

Dress Code

A strict dress code is enforced in government and court offices and buildings in Trinidad and Tobago. Sleeveless dresses and tops, transparent clothing, mini-skirts and dresses, shorts and capri pants, tights, and leggings, vests, and slippers are prohibited in these institutions. Some banks prohibit the wearing of caps and hats for security reasons. However, there are no dress restrictions imposed in everyday life within the country.

Workplace Behaviour in Trinidad and Tobago

For job interviews, Trinidadians and Tobagonians dress in formal western attire (for example suits, pants or trousers, knee-length skirt, dress shoes and a shirt). The most appropriate greeting is a handshake, and when addressing the person conducting the interview (the interviewer), you should use “Mister” or “Miss”, unless the interviewer displays a greater degree of informality.

Trinidad and Tobago legislates the equal rights of women. Statistically, women make up 55% of the labor force in the country, so it is normal for women to have supervisory responsibility and positions of authority in all sectors.

Transport

Public transport in Trinidad and Tobago is relatively inexpensive and easy to use, though it is not well organized. Your main transportation options are the public bus, maxi and taxi.

N.B. It is important to note that public transport is often delayed.

Bus

This is the most inexpensive form of public transport. Most buses go to and from bus terminals around the country and there are bus stops along the main roads. Visit http://www.ptsc.co.tt/ to learn about the bus routes, fares and schedules.

Maxi

This is the most popular form of public transportation. Maxis are privately owned minibus taxis that come in 12 and 25-seater versions and carry official license plate numbers beginning with an H – e.g. HBB 0000. They operate on specific routes around the country and are relatively inexpensive. They do not operate on a schedule. The fares are fixed and are posted on signs inside the maxi. The minibuses are white with different coloured stripes depending on the route of the maxi:

  • Port of Spain to Arima (and onward to Sangre Grande) – Red Band (East)
  • Port of Spain to Diego Martin, Petit Valley or Chaguaramas – Yellow Band (West)
  • Port of Spain to San Fernando (passing Curepe, Chaguanas and Couva) – Green Band (South)
  • San Fernando to Princes Town (and onward to Mayaro) – Black Band (South)
  • South of San Fernando (Point Fortin, Cedros and Siparia) – Brown Band (South)
  • Tobago – Blue Band

Taxi

Taxis are privately owned cars that carry license plate numbers beginning with an H – e.g. HBB 0000. These are officially licensed taxis. They operate on specific routes but can go off-route for an additional fee. The fares are fixed and are posted on signs inside the taxi.

Taxis are shared in Trinidad and Tobago so be vigilant of other passengers. It is recommended that women do not travel in vehicles where there are predominantly men.