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Antigua and Barbuda - Speaking the Language

No other country now owns the island of Antigua or its smaller sibling to the north, Barbuda. For more than three centuries, the islands were a British colony. However, in 1981, the residents of Antigua and Barbuda gained independence and since then, they have run their small nation as a parliamentary democracy.

The independent country is a member of the Commonwealth of Nations. By choice, the British Monarch is their head of state, represented in person by the Governor-General of Antigua and Barbuda. As a result of its history as a British colony, the country of Antigua and Barbuda uses English as its official and common language.

Antigua and Barbuda is not part of the United States. However, the combination of a warm climate, low levels of crime and an English-speaking environment brings huge numbers of US tourists to the country each year. Many of these people dream of coming back for a relaxing retirement. As we set out in the Visas section of this country guide, if you have adequate resources, the government can help you turn this dream into a reality.

Antiguan Creole

As expats often discover, what appears to be a simple situation can have many layers. This is certainly the case with the use of English on Antigua and Barbuda.

Whether you arrive from the UK or US, local people will typically understand what you are saying. There are some dialects which can cause a bit of confusion - strong Glaswegian or Geordie dialects can even test Londoners, never mind people who have lived in the Caribbean all their lives - but slowing down and speaking more clearly will resolve the situation.

There are more than four thousand miles between London and Antigua. With such a distance, even a colony composed entirely of English citizens would have developed its own accent, vocabulary and grammatical quirks over the centuries.

In fact, the majority of the population on Antigua from the 17th century until midnight on August 1, 1834, was made up of slaves who had been transported from a wide range of communities in Africa. The 32,000 emancipated slaves, who spent their first day of freedom in religious celebration, far outnumbered the island’s white community.

This had an impact on the use of English on Antigua before and after Britain’s Act of Emancipation. People of black and white heritages did not mix socially. Ann Hart Gilbert and Elizabeth Hart Thwaites, the freeborn daughters of a black slave-plantation owner and poet, may have educated hundreds of slaves in a schoolroom built by volunteers from the slave community in about 1815, but it was another 70 years before an official school opened for black people. Even then, the progressive Antigua Grammar School only accepted boys, and the modest fees would have been beyond most parents.

When Ann married her white husband John Gilbert, they had to leave Antigua to do so. His family was so incensed by the interracial engagement that they prevented everyone capable of performing the wedding ceremony on the island from doing so. Very few marriages like this occurred until recently.

It’s not surprising then, that the slaves’ Creole flourished on Antigua and became the dominant dialect on the island, evolving over the years to become what is now Antiguan Creole.

Spanish In Antigua And Barbuda

The Dominican Republic is located in the Caribbean Sea, to the west of Antigua and Barbuda. It’s a much larger territory and the island is shared with Haiti. Spanish is the dominant language there.

For a wide range of reasons, many stemming from financial need, huge numbers of the Dominican Republic’s citizens have moved abroad. Many of them came to Antigua and Barbuda. As a result, your chance of coming across a fluent Spanish speaker in Antigua and Barbuda is high.

The Same Language Does Not Mean The Same Culture

If you are an expat from an English speaking country and arrive in Antigua and Barbuda, you might assume the culture and values are the same.

However, the community of Antigua and Barbuda are conservative and religious. Wandering into a cafe in a bikini or loudly announcing your atheist beliefs in public will not go down well.

Whilst criminals have not been hanged since 1991, it was 2016 before the final death row prisoners were released, and the death penalty is still supported by many local people.

It is a strongly heterosexual society and sadly, homophobia is the norm. Certain sexual acts between same-sex couples are illegal and this prohibition is widely supported by the local community. People who reveal their LGBT status face discrimination, verbal abuse and even physical attacks. Activists are trying to change local attitudes, but this is proving a slow process.

It’s an offence for anyone, including children, to wear camouflage clothing even as a fashion statement.

You might believe that Antigua and Barbuda are relaxed about drugs, but this isn’t the case. Severe penalties exist and the local prison is not a place for a naive expat. There are very few places you are likely to be offered drugs, and they are usually in the neighbourhoods that are not safe to be in anyway.

Newspapers In Antigua And Barbuda

The website is the online presence of the Daily Observer. You can read the latest news and weather information as well as sports, lifestyle, business and entertainment articles plus opinion pieces there.

The website belongs to the Antigua and Barbuda High Commission. It essentially publishes press releases. Its audience is perhaps narrow, but you may find items of interest.

Caribbean 360 includes news about Antigua and is also a good site to read to catch up on the key events around the Caribbean.

Antigua Nice is essentially a site dedicated to selling real estate and promoting local businesses. However, it is well designed and makes it easy to track down the type of services or leisure destination you are interested in. You can even find a convenient beach or check the current opening times of your local restaurants.


Cable and satellite television packages are purchased by almost every home and many businesses across Antigua and Barbuda.

The channels and sports events will depend on the supplier you choose and the package you select. If you want premium sporting events and great movie channels you will normally have to pay more.

Content from the Caribbean is popular. Expats will find it easy to keep up to date with news and entertainment from home, particularly with shows from the US.

Read more about this country

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