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Communicating with locals on Curaçao: Papiamentu

Curaçao is well accustomed to accommodating international visitors. And if you speak Dutch or English, you won’t struggle to communicate with the locals here. Furthermore, because of the island’s proximity to South America, many locals also speak Spanish. That said though, Curaçao also has its very own unique language - Papiamentu. Read on for a crash course that’ll win you brownie points with the locals.

History of the Language

Curaçao boasts a rich history and the island is now home to a diverse mix of cultural influences which brings with it a combination of languages, Influenced by the Arawak Indian and African languages, Papiamento, has evolved over time. Made up of a blend of Spanish, Portuguese, and Dutch as well as a little French and a touch of English too, Papiamento is a really unique sound in that it can sound familiar and completely foreign at the same time.

Useful Words and Phrases

One thing is for certain, the people of Curaçao are incredibly hospitable and friendly and as such, you can expect a warm Caribbean welcome from the moment you arrive on the island. That said, learning a few key phrases will certainly win the hearts of the locals who are sure to appreciate the effort. Here are a few useful phrases to get you started:

The Conversation Starters

  • Bon Dia - Good Morning
  • Bon Tardi - Good Afternoon
  • Bon Nochi - Good Evening
  • Kon ta bai? - How are you?
  • Ayo - Bye

Minding your manners

  • Por fabor - Please
  • Danki - Thank you
  • Di Nada - You’re welcome
  • Despensa - Excuse me

And for the foodies

  • Mi ke kome - I want to eat
  • Mi tin hamber - I am hungry
  • Kuminda - Food

A bonus word which will help you fit right in

Dushi (Doo-She) - The original meaning is sweet and tasty so you’ll commonly hear it used to describe food, but It is also used as a term of endearment loosely translating to ‘honey’ or ‘sweetie in English.

Local language T-Shirt: SuperDushi

The Best Bits of Papiamento

Because Papiamento is a mix of so many different languages, you’ll find that most people on the island can actually speak 3, 4, or even 5 languages pretty fluently. This means that the majority of international visitors don’t struggle to communicate at all. So you can rest assured, that wherever you come from the chances of you having to deal with a language barrier are minimal. Furthermore, the locals of Curaçao are known to be very kind and do their utmost to welcome foreign visitors. They’ll go out of their way to help and ensure your experience on the island is nothing short of wonderful.

Learning a new language is never easy. And sure, it requires you to get out of your comfort zone. But making the effort to engage with the local people in Papiamento will profoundly improve your holiday experience on the island. Speaking even a few words of the local language will allow you to interact with the locals on a deeper level and provide an opportunity to strike up new friendships. And what better way to get to know this beautiful island than learning from those that experience it on a daily basis? Hopefully, this crash course will be just the thing you need to strike up a conversation during your island vacation. Good luck!