The Culture of St. Martin

The French and Dutch sides of St. Martin share a similar culture, but each has its own distinguishing features

Photo credit: © Ramunas Bruzas |

Culture of St. Martin

Both the French and Dutch sides of St. Martin are rich in culture that has been influenced by Africa and Europe. Although French St. Martin and Dutch St. Maarten are in fact two distinct countries, they share a single small island. Each side has an an intriguing culture of shared and individual aspects seen in the religion, language, cuisine, and music.

Combined, the French and Dutch sides of St. Martin have a population of about 69,000 people. In the past 20 years, immigrants have flocked to the island to find employment and better living conditions, and the native population of Creoles has been greatly outnumbered by those who have migrated to the island. Today, representatives of 70 different nationalities live on the island and speak a number of different languages.


The native inhabitants of St. Martin can trace their roots to Africa, the Netherlands, or France, as St. Martin was a crossroads for visitors to the New World. Dutch, French and British traders inhabited the island. The border between the Dutch and French sides of the island is virtually imperceptible, and although the two countries share many aspects of culture and heritage, each side has retained much of the distinctiveness of its own national culture.


Dutch is the official language on the St. Maarten side of the island, while French is spoken on St. Martin. Although Dutch and French are the primary languages on the island, English is also widely spoken and is taught in schools. Afro-Caribbean people brought their culture and language to St. Martin, and some of the native islanders speak a French-based patois, which is a mixture of French, African, and other dialects. In addition to these languages, Spanish and Papiamento (a dialect of the former Netherlands Antilles) are spoken on the island.


The main religious influences on St. Martin come from European cultures. The majority of the people on both sides of the island follow Roman Catholicism. The Methodist church is the second most popular denomination on both sides of St. Martin.


...delicious authentic cuisine...


The cuisine on St. Martin is a collaboration of tastes from Europe, the Caribbean, and Africa, and showcases the diversity of the island's people. In both French and Dutch St. Martin, the cuisine reflects the island's blended culture. You'll find delicious authentic cuisine all over St. Martin. The most well-known dishes on the island include French, West Indian, and Creole foods, and featured island dishes include a mixture of French, African, and Indian recipes.


The true voice of the Caribbean is found in the region's unique musical styles. The original rhythms of this amazing part of the world mostly come from African roots and use a lot of drums. The types of music that have originated from the Caribbean region include calypso, merengue, soca, zouk, reggae. All of these styles of music share certain distinguishing features such as infectious dance rhythms and outlandish lyrics.


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