St. Barthelemy: Culture and
St. Barthelemy is usually called St. Barts or St. Barth is the smallest of
the islands known as the French West Indies. This island has a mixture of European
cultures, as it was the first overran by the Spanish who found very little
worth their time, as they were fanatically interested in gold and silver. The
Swedes then took control of it, and, finally the French took possession of
it. It attracts the world's rich and famous to its exclusive resorts and its
villas. It is the first choice for the champagne and caviar jet set that pour
their money into this little island with seemingly reckless abandonment. It
is a very expensive place in which to live.
St. Barts is the only island in the Caribbean that has a Swedish heritage.
Its capital is called Gustavia, which was named after the Swedish king, King
Gustaf. Even though the Swedes returned St. Barthelemy to France in 1878 they
retained their Freeport, tax-advantaged status.
St. Barthelemy is unlike the other islands in the Caribbean because it is
rocky and hilly and the climate is extremely dry. It is therefore was not
developed with large sugar plantations and thus did not need labour intensive
help. The majority of the people there are white and/or are of European
descent, either from Sweden and the French provinces of Brittany and
Normandy. French is the official language, even though English is widely
used. The culture is therefore very much like European Normandy with a little
The French settled in St. Barts in the seventeenth century, which is a
fishing island, and they imported a few African slaves and Asian indentured
servants. The residents speak a form of patois - a French dialect which
French visitors have difficulty understanding. The island's tourist industry
caters to millionaire tourists but they have been additional resorts that are
less expensive. The island continues to be a favourite celebrity hideaway.
The island's main industries are fishing and tourism and its population
number about five thousand. St. Barts is a dependency of Guadeloupe, which is
a Department and Region of France. St. Bartians are therefore French
citizens. There a number of beautiful beaches that surround this eight square
mile, arid, rocky island.