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Exploring the Culture of Curacao: A Blend of Dutch and Carribean

One of the most fascinating aspects of visiting the Caribbean is the variety of cultures that interwoven throughout the islands. Many of the islands feature one main culture, but some, such as Curacao, have a mixture of two or more. When choosing which island to at which to vacation, it might be helpful to consider which cultures you’d enjoy exploring. Curacao is a unique blend of both Caribbean and European cultures, and we’re going to share with you the easiest ways to explore both cultures during your visit. 

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Culture on Curacao- What We Love

Cuisine

The easiest, and most delicious, way to explore each of the different cultures prevalent on the island is through the cuisine. Curacao is a constituent country of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and as a result, features an array of Dutch food, alongside the Caribbean cuisine. Some of the dishes we recommend trying to include:

  • Keshi Yena – Perhaps the closest thing to a signature Curaçaoan dish. Known as “stuffed cheese,” it’s a traditional dish made with chicken, vegetables, seasonings, and raisins all of which are stuffed into a cheese shell. The cheese shell is usually Edam or Gouda. 
  • Bitterballen – A Dutch delicacy; fried breaded balls filled with beef or other meat. Frequently eaten as a snack, with the “bitter” part of the name referring to the bitter herb-flavored liquors that used to be served alongside the snack. 
  • Fuchi + Tutu – Funchi is similar to polenta. It’s made of cornmeal seasoned with butter and salt which is poured and then stirred in boiling water. Sometimes left mushy in a mound, other times served stiffer having been molded into a dumpling shape. Tutu is similar to Funchi, the difference being mashed black-eyed peas.
  • Kabritu – An extremely flavorful stew featuring cubed goat meat (or lamb) accompanied by onions, garlic, tomatoes, and jalapenos. Usually served with the Caribbean-style rice and beans. 
  • Stoba – Stoba simply means stew, and there are so many different kinds on Curaçao; try them all! Many popular Stoba variations include beef, goat, cucumber, pumpkin, and more!
  • Stroopwafels – Dutch to the core, Stroopwafels are a delicious sweet treat comprised of two waffle cookies with a thin layer of caramel-like syrup in between. 

RELATED: Foodie Alert – This Caribbean Paradise is a Culinary Treasure Trove

curacao museums

Museums

Another great way to understand the different historical chapters of Curacao is by visiting one of the many museums on the island. Whether you’re interested in learning a general overview of Curacao’s history, or are itching to understand the island’s unique Jewish cultural history, for example, there’s a museum for you. Here are five of our favorites:

  • Curacao Museum – The Curacao Museum was the first and only museum for quite some time. It is set in a traditional Dutch colonial building with original furniture from the 19th century. We appreciate this museum for its ability to give visitors a well-rounded experience of the islands vast history and cultural facets. Visit the website.
  • Kura Hulanda Museum – The Kura Hulanda Museum tells the story of each segment of island inhabitants, including the harrowing tale of the slaves that were brought to the island and their lives after slavery was abolished. Visit the website.
  • Curacao Maritime Museum – Journey back 500 years to the beginning of sea navigation and how it changed the course of Curacao and history altogether. Visit the website.
  • Jewish Cultural Historic Museum – One of the most surprising chapters in Curacao’s history is that of its Jewish emigres. You’ll learn all about the islands Jewish history while visiting the oldest surviving synagogue in the Americas. Visit the website.
  • Savonet Museum – Curacao’s first inhabitants arrived more than 4,000 years ago and The Savonet Museum tells their story. Visit this museum to get to know Curacao’s history from the very beginning, at least as far as people are concerned! Visit the website.

Language

Even if you don’t go out to eat outside of the resort or visit a museum, you will experience the culture blend through the language of the island and its locals! Most islanders speak Papiamentu, a Creole language, in addition to Dutch, with English and Spanish being next in line. Papiamentu is extremely engaging to listen to, and fun to try and speak! Here are a few phrases you’ll hear often. 

  • Dushi (doo – she) – The most important and prevalent word on the island. It can mean a variety of things, it all depends on the context. A few of its common meanings include sweet, delicious, nice, babe, gorgeous or darling. 
  • Bondia (bon – dee – ya) – Another of the more common and immensely useful words. Essentially its a greeting and it also means ‘good morning.’ 
  • Danki (daan-kee) – You won’t want to visit the island without learning this! It means ‘thank you.’
carnival curacao

Events

One of our favorite ways to interact with the different facets of Curacaoan culture is through island events interspersed throughout the year. If you have flexibility on when you can visit and are interested in coming during a cultural celebration, here are some to consider:

  • Koningsdag – Also known as King’s Day, the day the Dutch King is celebrated. The island turns into a sea of orange, the King’s color. 
  • Carnival – If you can only choose one event to visit during, this is our first choice. Carnival is celebrated in many countries in the Caribbean and in South America, yet Curacao’s celebration is quite unique. It lasts for weeks, spanning across the end of February and into March. Plenty of festivals, parades, dancing and more to enjoy. 
  • Simadan – This is a cultural harvest celebration held around Easter.

The island is overflowing with culture to savor and explore. No matter what you do or where you go you’ll come into contact with the mixture of, mostly, European and Caribbean influence. One more way we didn’t list, yet highly recommend, to learn all about the culture, is to chat with the locals! Learn about their daily life and what they enjoy about the culture of the island.

To enjoy Curacao’s culture while also indulging in the luxury of a Caribbean getaway, book your stay at Santa Barbara Beach & Golf Resort!

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