1Exploring new places and new cultures is something humans have always been doing. There were of course many reasons for this, whether economic, political, military, religious or scientific. During the XXth century in Europe, transportation technologies developed greatly on the one hand and on the other hand unions fought increasingly to offer paid leaves to workers. Europeans started to go on holidays: mass tourism was born. Boyer (1999) writes that the dissemination of pictures of « the tropical sun » is also an important aspect of the historical construction of mass tourism.
2By the end of the XXth century, just about half of the all cruises around the world were going to the Caribbean Sea (Dwyer & Forsyth, 1998). One might argue that this shows how tourists are actively pursuing the continuing romantic urge to see the tropical sun.
3This paper focuses on the specific relationship that cruise tourists entertain towards cultural diversity and exoticism. A three month fieldwork study completed in 2010 in the touristic area of Roseau, Commonwealth of Dominica, will be myempirical basis to discuss interactions between Dominican locals and travelers in the context of food practices.
4The purpose of this research was to understand what kind of relationship locals and foreigners are building through food in the context of cruise tourism.In other words, we are trying to grasp how locals and visitors relate to each other, and how they represent themselves through that relationship, and finally where and what are the limits of thisrelationship?
5Food is universal. It is a biological need that binds every human being. The human diet is qualified as omnivore; it is composed of an unlimited choice of products. As food is a choice, societies have created norms around it. Fischler (2001) says that everything that is biologically edible is not culturally edible. He speaks about the « omnivore paradox » to highlight the fact that individuals are pulled between neophobic and neophilic tendencies (fear of the unknown/attraction to the unknown). As food is an activity regulated by social and cultural norms, the question is what happens when people meet another culture through food. Tourism is an activity that implies the discovery of another culture; how do tourists react to that? Are they more neophobic or neophilic ?
6According to Dominica’s Tourism Master Plan 2005-2015, the amount of cruise visitors in Dominica has been increasing tremendously in last decade (+117% between 2003 and 2004). In 2006, they constituted 80% of all visitors to the island.Besides investments in big infrastructures in the ports, Dominica had to create a marketing concept that would make it unique and unavoidable.They had to make sure both passengers and cruise organizers would want to come by the island.They decided to present themselves as « the nature island of the Caribbean».
7People have always had a special connection to Nature in Dominica. Before the colonization of the island by the Europeans, Igneris and Caribs connected with nature through agriculture, fishing but also through religion. Waiti’kubuli, the carib name for Dominica means « tall is her body». This shows the importance the natural environment had in their daily life. According to Honychurch (1995), specific features of Dominican nature delayed the island’s colonization. Then, it helped Caribs and slaves run away from their European masters as they hid in the rain forest. Delumeau (1992) writes that Europeans coming to Central America during the XV and XVI centuries were looking for the lost paradise, Eden. The lush vegetation as well as the island being surrounded by the sea seemed to fit the biblical description of paradise and led them to believe they had found it.
8During the XXth century, Dominicans made their living mainly on natural resources through agriculture. Nowadays, Dominican nature has become a brand to sell the island overseas. This marketing picture is very effective; indeed, many websites are talking about the amazing natural features that Dominica offers, like the boiling lake, the underwater volcanoes or the amazing waterfalls. We will discuss later how an important part of Dominican identity is connected to that special relationship to the « nature island».
9In this section, my analysis is going to focus on the discourses of tourists about Dominican food. The point is to understand how they perceive the island’s gastronomy.Moreover we will look at the different aspects that come into play in the negotiation of the omnivore paradox and more generally of their relationship to cultural alterity. These observations are based on a questionnaire that 300 cruise passengers replied to in February of 2010.Cruise passengers had to choose from a list of qualifiers to define Dominican food.
Figure 1: Qualification of Dominican food by cruise passengers (%)
Data collected on February 1st, 2nd and 4th 2010
10This graph shows that the respondents mainly perceive Dominican food as spicy and exotic. It seems important to me to take a moment with theseresults given the strong link between tourism andexoticism.
11The origin of the word « exotic» is the greek eksôtikos and the latin exoticus, which both mean alien. Several authors (Amirou, 1994; Bourde, 1991; Segalen, 1986) wrote about exoticism. Amirou says for example that, in tourism, exoticism is a way of getting familiar with otherness. At the same time, starting to know a new country too well also means losing any sense of exoticism. Amirou comes back saying that it is not the particularities of a landscape that make it exotic but the fact that it represents an otherness and that it is a support forthe imagination. According to him, two dimensions of imagination are to be considered: geography and temporality.
12The geographical sense is to be understood through insularity. We discussed before that Europeans in the XV and XVI centuries believed they had found the lost paradise in Central America. Today, the island is still a subject of musing. Just as in the tale of Robinson Crusoe, the island is often represented as an enchanted country.A place where the sweetness of the climate allows you to let go, far from the stress and the violence of western civilization.In this perspective, otherness also takes its temporal dimension: the island is a place outside of History, a place that the speed of the modern world hasn’t reached yet. People today are thus not so remote from their ancestors in the Middle Ages, who came together in search of paradise, a place far from the European decline.
13With this theoretical perspective, we have a possible insight into the reasons why the qualifiers « spicy» and « exotic» were dominant in the responses to the questionnaire. Both adjectives are associated because they participate in this construction of the insular exotic imagination of sunny tropical islands. Tourists may perceive local food through these two qualifiers for several reasons: on the one hand because they stay only one day and don’t have time to go deeper into discovering local culture, and on the other hand because most of them have never tried Dominican food. They remain in the process of knowing the otherness as Amirou would say.
14The purpose of the following enquiry was to consider how deeper knowledge of the culture would influence the approach to the exotic aspect of Dominican food. If exoticism is the process of knowing the unknown, let’s have a look at a variable that could make our results evolve: having more information about Dominican food. Indeed, travelers were asked if they had looked for information about Dominican gastronomy before their trip, on the cruise ship or once in Roseau. 19.5% of them had done so.
Figure 2: Qualifications of Dominican food by passengers who have had information about it (%)
Datas collected on February 1st, 2nd and 4th 2010
15This figure presents slightly different results than the previous one. The « exotic» qualifier comes in only as the seventh most common response. On the other hand, the « spicy»adjective stays ahead. This seems to portray the transitional aspect of exoticism as described by Amirou.
16In the previous graph, we could see a connection between the qualifiers « spicy» and « exotic». In this one, tourists who had more information reintroduce the exotic dimension through the gustative adjective. These informed tourists don’t see the food as exotic in a general way anymore, but specify their perception of the culinary alterity by the selection of the « spicy» qualifier.
- 1 « Thegenerous natureof Dominicaallows it to be plentiful infruits and vegetables.Taste thefresh fru (...)
17Further down the scale, the qualifiers chosen by the respondents relate to the small size of the production and consumption systems of the island (Traditional, Local, Fresh, Healthy, Natural). The tourists who gave these answers said they had consulted various tourist guides and internet sources for information about Dominican food. Let’s have a look at two main references they mentioned: Le Routard (website consulted on August 10th, 2010) and Lonely Planet (2005). Both sources talk about the abundance and the variety of fruits on the island: « La nature généreuse de la Dominique lui permet de regorger de fruits et légumes. Goûtez aux fruits frais que l'on vous proposera.1» (Routard) « The Island produces a lot of fresh fruits, including bananas, coconuts, papayas, guavas, pineapples and mangoes, the latter so plentiful they commonly drop along the roadside.» (Lonely Planet 2005: 542). This picture of a friendly and generous nature can explain the results presented in the previous graph. Indeed, we see here the dimension of the locality of the production system through qualifiers such as « traditional» and « locally made». This underlines the fact that tourists have integrated discourses about the local production of food. Characteristics drawn from a valuation of nature (Fresh, Healthy, Natural) also reflect this emphasis on the nourishing earth in these travel guides.
18Tourists who know more about Dominican food can be said to have more neophilic tendencies than others. Indeed, they did spend time getting interested in local cooking. However this effort is not always made in a perspective of opening to the other. Indeed it can be done with the goal of reassuring one’s own norms and ideas. The subject of hygiene is a recurrent one in travel guides. They caution readers about raw dishes or tap water, as potential carriers of parasites and diseases. « Though tap water is generally safe, most visitors stick with bottled water. » (Lonely Planet, 2004: 542). Here the guidebook warns about sanitary risks. Doing so adds on to the tourist’s neophobic tendencies.
19Let us now consider the local’s point of view about what defines Dominican food. The data is based on semi-direct interviews conducted with the staff-members of several restaurants (cooks, waiters and managers). Fourteen restaurants of the bay front were selected. Two main themes came out of the survey.
20The first dimension of Dominican food I wish to discuss here is its creolity. Indeed, there are several different meanings and levels of understanding when one speaks of Dominican food as « creole ».First of all, the creole definition of food makes sense through cooking techniques. A cook said:
« Creole cuisine, we use a lot of local herbs, fresh herbs, hot pepper, and we like to make one pot. We soak beans in it and the ground provisions or you might make one pot with your rice and chicken, its called pelau. The salt fish is very popular here too. Smoked haring is very popular.»
21In another perspective, creole refers to the plurality of origins and influences of Dominican cooking in relation to the island’s history. Elwin (1998: 7) summarizes the different influences of Dominican food as coming from four main cultures : « What is most significant is that the Dominican cuisine has been influenced by four main cultures: Carib, French, British and African. » Here creole is about the general sense of creolisation as cultural diversity. In this perspective, creolisation is a general process of interbreeding, about food in this case, which is not contingent to the Caribbean area. The general dynamic of approaches to otherness evolves with the history of the various social groups involved. The different levels of food creolisation (ingredients, techniques, dishes) show its evolving nature. It also shows that the process will never be finished. Future interbreeding will take place according to the currents of new influences and new visitors. Among them, there are the tourists, who have already produced an effect on the local food offer in Dominica. Indeed some restaurants adapted the menus to tourists’ taste. Soon these new references might be likened to the former and will be part of the Dominican culinary corpus. The creole character of Dominican food, finding its roots and developing within a relationship to otherness, allows for certain flexibility in the continuing mutation of meals and recipes.
22Finally the creole definition of Dominican food also has to be understood in relation to the Caribbean area and its history.Dominica is a small country of 75 000 people, which limits its production capacity as well as its economic influence on the global economic arena. Several countries of the former West Indies are facing the same problems. They unite within international organizations in order to have a place in the worldwide political and economic debates. The regional level is therefore meaning full on political and economic levels for these countries but also at a level of identity. In 2006, 470 830 foreigners visited Dominica (New Horizons for Dominica Tourism, Tourism Master Plan 2005-2015: 1). This is more than six times its national population. It shows that this country is strongly confronted with cultural alterity. In this context, its alliance with the other small English-speaking islands of the Caribbean islands allows Dominica to strengthen the valuation of its cultural references by inserting them into a larger group.
23The common valuation of the Creole character within the Caribbean islands enables them to create an entity and a regional cultural identity. Creolisation in this case draws back to the origins of the term and to the common fate of the former West Indies countries. Moreover the concept is not reduced to its culinary content although that is the direction in which it is developing there today.
24The second important dimension to consider about Dominican food is the notion that it is natural.A lot of the people I talked to spoke about the freshness of the products:
« We have our local Dominican food, which is, we have fresh local fish, hum, and we have the mai-mai which you call it dolphin but it's not the flipper. We have like malen, and tuna, it's all fresh from Dominica water. And along with our salt fish, codfish and provision is our ground food grown in Dominica, lots of vegetables grown here, and, because it's so fresh and natural, most of the people like to try it. Along with our fresh local juice also all squeezed here, not imported. And don't forget our local, our water. Pure, fresh, spring water »
25What stands out quite clearly here is that the quality of the local products is justified by its freshness and natural character. The recurrence of this kind of discourse in the interviews shows that the restaurant workers value the use of products grown in Dominica.By affirming the freshness of their food, the subjects participate in the added value of the island’s agricultural system. Food works here as a meeting point between primary and tertiary sectors of economy. Food is a support of Dominican farming and a display of the quality of the production. This aspect is of course very much symbolic as well. Indeed the discourses bring to light the identical importance of this valuation of nature and of the agrarian tradition of the country.
26This importance of nature must also be considered in the particular context that I have explained above Dominica is strongly exposed to foreigners. The valuation of nature also contributes to defining what Dominica is in opposition to others. The Bello factory says:
« Our products are just unique, one of a kind. Our products are like natural products in terms of the natural products we use there, without artificial. They’re all natural from natural fruits, the real fruits. Real peppers, real tamarinds, real passion fruits, real guavas, real everything. »
27Pratt (2007: 293) notes that the authenticity of goods is built on the basis of an opposition to modernity and that it makes reference to a place as well as to craftsmanship« The concept of authenticity evokes a range of meanings – that which is original, genuine, real, true, true to itself. [...] It is defined against modern, ‘mass’ culture. » The locals show their distance with regard to modernity and the western world. They value the technological gap by praising the advantages of their situation as a developing country. They express on the one hand the fact that their local economic system allows them to have a direct link between production and consumption. On the other hand they emphasize that the manufacturing processes are limited to a traditional level and so do not go through the denaturalization process of industrialized techniques.The geographical closeness of the production allows for greater information and awareness about the production process. In other words, people know what they are eating. These discourses give Dominicans the opportunity to position themselves in the global arena by emphasizing the particularities of their local traditions. The identity of Dominican food takes on two distinct features: distancing – from the food industry– and praising–the advantages of the small locality of the Dominican economic system.
28Now that we have considered the discourses of both locals and tourists on their perceptions of Dominican food, let’s take a look at the practices. It is always interesting to consider the gap between discourse and practice, which although entirely unsurprising, can provide insights into the specific value systems and representations of either group.
29Let’s consider the eating habits of the cruise passengers. In general, passengers mainly said they ate on the boat (42.5%). Then, a fair proportion of the sample respondentsdidn’t eat anything, among which some say they took a large breakfast aboard the ship (31%). Only 11.8% of the respondents spoke about having eaten on the island, of which only 4.9% in Roseau (that is 15 out of 300 people). It would seem that the cruise tourists follow a mainly neophobic tendency rather than neophilic.
30The question is why don’t cruise tourists eat on the island? What slows them down in the perception of cultural alterity? Various cruise companies are selling their trip on board with the food included. While filling the questionnaires, several passengers underlined that food on board was not free but that they had already paid for it. So, the food budget for the journey can be perceived as already spent by the vacationer. However there are two theories I would like to propose as relevant on this subjecthealth and communication issues.
31Beardsworth and Keil (2003) write that the omnivore paradox takes shape in three different ways. The interesting point here is the tension between the biological need to eat and the fear of food poisoning. « The health/illness paradox is based upon the fact that, while food is the source of physical energy and can be conceived of as the foundation of vitality and health, it is also recognized as having the potential to introduce disease-inducing substances or organisms into the body.» (Beardsworth &Keil, 2003: 153)
- 2 Trans. : « Hesitation about cleanliness. »
32We saw above that the local’s presentation of their food as fresh and natural allows them to position themselves in opposition to the modern western world. With tourists, the relationship between health and disease also seems to work as a kind of border that is hard to cross. Several people wrote about their fear of eating in Dominica: « This place is scary and doesn’t seem clean! », « We wouldn’t eat in Roseau for fear of getting sick », « Unsicherheitbezüglich Sauberkeit»2. Hygiene is the element which stands out from these discourses. The principle of incorporation, according to which people incorporate the cultural properties of the product by eating it (Fischler, 2001), is perfectly demonstrated through the refusal to eat a food perceived as dirty.
33It is interesting to compare the use of the same rationale by tourists and locals to define their relationship to food. In both cases, nobody wishes to become sick with what he/she eats. However, visitors and residents perceive the same food in a completely different way. It’s not about which group is right or wrong, but rather a question of understanding why and how this situation comes about.
34An explanation can be given on the basis of Beardsworth and Keil’s work (2003: 153) « An anticipation of continually rising standards is established, and members of the public become less and less tolerant of real or supposed food hazards, although the priorities accorded to such hazards may be very different from those calculated by scientists, who may perceive a rather different hierarchy of risks. » Book guides, tourist agents or internet websites are using scientists’ work to give information to travelers. But global information is understood by each one of us in the framework of one’s own identity. In other words global information is adjusted to each person’s local point of reference.The confrontation to cultural alterity is the opportunity to underline one’s own norms with regard to the other. This operation works as a protection of one’s identity, but also as a validation of it. In Roseau, this hypothesis becomes reality with tourists who prefer to eat on the boat, convinced that Dominican food does not follow western rules of hygiene.
35It is important to underline that both tourists and locals use the same strategy towards each other. Indeed, they’re both using global information to define the other. Tourists remember problems related to hygiene in developing countries. And Dominicans remember the junk food coming out of industrialization in the West. These ideas are so simplified that they function as prejudices which leave little room for nuance. The production of a typified image of the other from both sides helps them dissociate and distinguish themselves from each other by putting forward their own qualities and identities.
36The second issue that furthers the gap between tourists and locals is the variety of food Roseau offers. Indeed, it stands out from tourists’ comments that they did not eat in town because the choice of restaurants was too limited. The visitors couldn’t find any place they were comfortable with.However, the fourteen restaurants I selected for the fieldwork offer a wide range of culinary choices. They can be broken down into three main groups :
« Dominican way »: The first group combines the restaurants which are characterized by a simple decoration, which does not portray a specifically Caribbean setting. As for the menu, it is rather sober and short. A variety of Dominican snacks are on display in the establishment’s windows. Daily's specials are proposed and they combine the major aspects of a Dominican buffet: chicken and/or fish, fried or cooked in a sauce, rice and beans, mac and cheese, carrots and cabbages in a salad. Most establishments do not provide detailed information about the dishes they propose. There is no table service the order has to be made by the customer at the bar. However, the staff clears the tables.
« Please everybody »: The second group gathers the majority of tourist restaurants in the area; they are characterized by a feeling of the Caribbean through decoration and the layout of the place. This characteristic has various forms: artists' paintings, objects such as shells, fishing nets or Creole cloth.Every restaurant advertises its offer to the clientele with an appealing board placed outside and/or with a paper menu inside. In almost every restaurant, the order is taken at the customer’s table. The service is always provided by the waiter as well.These establishments propose a variety of dishes from both Caribbean and international cooking. In general, these establishments are sensitive to the requests of foreign customers. Efforts are made about the culinary offer, service and decoration. Here, Dominica is staged and plays on the various references so that customers, tourists as well as locals, meet in an environment which corresponds to their imagination about Dominica.
« North America comes to Dominica »: In this third group, I place establishments of North American inspiration in terms of decoration and cooking but also in terms of service. They have air conditioning, wireless internet access, hot chocolate, various coffees, wraps pizzas, sandwiches or enormous cakes.
37These three categories of restaurants show different levels of neophilic and neophobic implication. Tourists who want to eat in a restaurant of the first group will have to adopt a decisively neophilic behavior. Indeed, it is their job to go inquire about the menu and the prices. There is no picture of the dishes or any description, so the customer must essentially trust the cook. Furthermore, the implicit freedom of access to the tables prevents the customer from building a private bubble for him/herself within the restaurant.
38In the third group, a foreigner would maybe be more at ease and have fewer efforts to make in terms of adaptation to alterity, given that they would find the usual standards of social interaction and known food references.
39However several tourists' comments show a gap between the food offer in Roseau and their feelings « Very few lunch options.» « There wasn't really authentic food available where our cruise ended. » It seems that a contradiction is taking place between visitors’ comments and locals’ discourses. Indeed, the locals insist on one hand on the authenticity of the proposed goods « Everything is from Dominica, fresh from the market. » And on the other hand on the variety of the offer: « A taste for everybody in the world. »
40A fundamental difference of opinion seems take hold between cruise tourists and Dominicans. Looking at strategies of communication used by locals to attract tourists will give us a key to understanding the gap.Four strategies are used mainly by locals to communicate their offer and attract customers: the situation of the restaurant, the advertisement of the menu outside of the restaurant, internet access and hearsay. These techniques of communication towards tourists remain very simple. No advertising is done on the boat or in collaboration with cruise agencies. A couple establishments have websites or put up advertisement at the tourist information front desk. The limited scope of advertising and communication can often lead tourists to completely miss out on one or another establishment. We can observe a gap between the advertising strategies of restaurant managers and the reception by foreign customers.
41Cohen and Avieli (2004) write that a wide range of seemingly insignificant elements, such as knowing the name of dishes proposed for example, can play a big role in the tourists’ ease. The confrontation to cultural alterity is bigger if the tourist has no help to understand the place he/she is visiting. Ill-at-ease in this situation, he/she would prefer not to venture and put him/herself in an uncomfortable situation. And in the Dominican case, tourists go back to the ship to eat. A taxi driver highlights this issue by saying that it is normal that tourists don’t want to stay in town because nothing is done to attract them to stay and eat in Roseau: « There is nothing here, no grill. You don’t smell the jerk; you don’t hear the chicken fry! People don’t know how to do their business here! It’s a waist! » Again, what stands out is a problematic situation in terms of communication about culinary options in the bay.
42This small restaurant marketing is coherent with the image of Dominica as a society protected from globalization, an image advertised by the islanders. Indeed, restaurant owners don’t use many technologies relative to global flows of information to reach the potential consumers. However, tourists are consumers of these global flows of information, through the internet or travel guides for example. We saw the importance of information in the construction of an idea about Dominica before travelling, which brings the cruise passenger to figure out that one cannot go shopping on the Nature Island. The information of the global flow thus influences the way tourists perceive the place they visit. Without this kind of information about gastronomy, cruise tourists have fewer elements to prepare themselves to confront otherness and will lean towards prudent solutions rather than adventurous endeavors.
43In conclusion, let’s look back to the initial enquiry of this article: understanding the difference between locals and tourists, in their worldviews as well as in their communication strategies. The goal was to consider how cruise tourists deal with the tension of the omnivore paradox, and which solutions they opt for to negotiate their approach to alterity. First of all, we discussed how cruise passengers deal with foreign food by seeing it as exotic. According to Amirou’s definition of exoticism, it is a transitional phenomenon in relation to otherness, a kind of taming of the strange. The purpose of the discourse analysis was to see which tools tourists are using in their discovery of the other. Now we can say that Dominica’s visitors have different sensibilities in their relationship to cultural alterity. At the level of discourses, cruise passengers have different points of view according to their relative knowledge of Dominican food. At a practice level, only a few are showing neophilic tendencies by actually eating on the island.
44As for the locals, the issue was to see what the recurring discourses on local gastronomy are and how they’re produced in the context of mass tourism. Creolisation is the first element which stood out, through historical heritage, cultural mixity and geographical localization. That gave Dominica’s food identity a dynamic component. Then, the valorization of locality and freshness was highlighted by Dominicans. It enables them to praise Dominicans’ agriculture and savoir-faire, and be valued in comparison to western countries.
45Finally, we discussed an interesting parallel between both groups’ rationale. Indeed, they use a similar identification mechanism both use hygiene issues to emphasize the norms of their system of reference and distance themselves from one another.
46The context of tourism allows for a particular study of the confrontation to cultural alterity. However, as Appadurai (2005) underlined it in his writings, flows of people allow for an infinite variety of connections to the foreign. Economic or forced migrations as well as leisure activities offer a wide spectrum of interactions within which individuals of diverse horizons have contact.
47In this paper, approaches to cultural alterity have been discussed in the framework of tourism. However, the model can be considered on a broader scale. Indeed, social actors are constantly in an interpretation process of the environment in which they evolve, whether it is in confrontation with cultural otherness or not. Erwin Goffman (1973) demonstrated how every individual adjusts his/her behavior according to the various representations he/she has of the lived situations those of his/her interlocutors, those of the context of the relationship, those of him/herself within the relationship. A relationship between two people, whatever the origin, the age, the social group or the type of interlocutor, is characterized by the necessity to adhere to an accurate display of one’s self in regard to one’s perception of the other. The famous theatrical metaphor that Goffman uses to illustrate the ability to adapt to every situation of interaction brings to light the change of display that every social actor operates in his various daily interactions.