One of the things that really took me by surprise on my first visit to Anguilla was the way that locals were so quick to offer their greetings to tourists. Depending on the time of day, it was rare not to get a “good morning”, “good afternoon” or “good night” (considered to be a greeting in Anguilla) from a friendly Anguillian or two. This wasn’t just confined to the grounds of the resorts either, but also in local establishments like stores, restaurants and bars. It wasn’t uncommon for a local to strike up a friendly conversation even as I was just walking down the street. I felt happy, warm and completely welcome. It made me feel like I was where I was supposed to be. I felt like I had finally come home without knowing that I had ever been away.
If anyone was that forward in approaching me here at home in DC, I have to ashamedly admit that I would be a bit apprehensive – the exact opposite of how I felt on the island. The truth is that I felt that the whole vibe was completely different on Anguilla. I’m sure that may have had to do with the fact that I was on vacation and maybe I “let my defenses down” a bit, but in general, I remember thinking that the creepiness-level there was much lower than at home… and that’s when I became embarassed about my big-city attitude.
I realized that here at home, I am more likely to automatically assume that people have ulterior motives if they approach me. I think that we, as a society, are trained to be this way because of the abundance of crime and the bizarre set of social standards that surrounds us. Anguilla has simply not yet been affected as much by these kinds of phenomena and it is my sincere hope that they never do. I know it’s an unrealistic wish, in general, but I hope that the natural and friendly Anguillian mentality is different is enough to make them more resistant to the changes in attitudes that we have experienced here.
I now find myself constantly comparing my attitudes and experiences here at home to those that I had in Anguilla. It saddens me that I feel the need to act so differently in different places and it has made me want to try to be more open and friendly at home. It’s a bit of a challege because I think that most people here at home are a bit more weirded-out when dealing with strangers, but luckily that’s not true about everyone. Every so often I find someone here willing to exchange a friendly hello and a smile as we pass, and though it’s not quite the same as on Anguilla, it is a start. I do miss that island though… it’s definitely one of a kind.