Yes, you are in the islands, but you should still follow basic common sense and etiquette.
Good manners are an essential feature of daily interactions in the Virgin Islands . The only way to begin a conversation with people is to first wish them a “good morning,” “good afternoon,” or “good night.” Indeed, these should be the first words out of your mouth when you enter a room with others already inside or walk up to a group of people. Of course, if the roles are reversed the only correct way to reply to someone else’s “good morning” is to echo the words. Only then can you begin to talk of something else.
In some situations, it is also good manners to ask how the person is, or offer an observation about the weather before delving directly to the business at hand. This may not be appreciated by the immigration officer who has a whole line of people to deal with, but in slightly less congested situations, it is the right thing to do.
Very mannerly people will look you in the eye when they meet you on the street and wish you a good day, regardless of whether they know you or not. This is a delightful practice, and if you do it you will soon be overflowing with love for yourself, the people you meet, and the day ahead.
Probing questions are considered rude. You may very well wonder where your hostess lives, whether she went to school, if she has any children, or whether she is married, but for heaven’s sake, don’t ask her. Virgin Islanders cherish their privacy and resent your intrusion into things that do not concern you. If you really cannot bear not to know, then learn the very Virgin Islandish art of careful observation and listening.
Virgin Islanders like to joke with each other and have developed very thick skins for this very purpose. Friends who meet each other on the street will immediately start giving each other a hard time about whatever comes to mind. If a barb is thrown your way, you are expected to respond in such a careful way as to throw an equally stinging barb back to the other person. This kind of exchange has nothing to do with embarrassing or insulting your friends, but is merely the way in which people interact. Even business conversations usually begin with a few moments of lightheartedness.
Acknowledge people when you come into contact with them, with a handshake, nod, or eye contact. A smile is appreciated, but don’t take it too far. Virgin Islanders appreciate sincere friendliness, not pretense. Stand at least a few feet away from the person you are speaking to.
In keeping with the generally conservative and mannerly culture of the Virgin Islands , courtesy titles are used frequently and extensively. Until you are told otherwise, it is best to call people Mr. or Mrs. so-and-so. Police, immigration, and customs officials are often Officer so-and-so. Lawyers are Attorney so-and-so, and the list goes on.
On the opposite end of the spectrum from courtesy titles, nicknames are commonly used and generally lots of fun. Some people are better known by their nicknames than their given names. The sports field, the ocean, and the playground are places especially conducive to nicknames, although those that are particularly evocative seem to find a foothold in every setting.
Virgin Islanders are not hung up on table manners. You would no doubt feel awkward slurping your food at a fine dining restaurant, but that has more to do with the restaurant itself than the country in which it is set.
While Virgin Islanders do not employ strictures about knives, forks, and elbows on the table, they do like to be left alone while they are eating. If you happen upon people enjoying lunch, don’t interrupt and don’t expect them to stop eating to attend to you.
Both the U.S. and British Virgin Islands have stiff drug laws. Marijuana, cocaine, and other drugs are illegal here. The islands are also a major drug transshipment point—for your own safety and health, don’t get mixed up with drugs while you are in the islands.