How I Realised I was Buttu



A Jamaican Creole term which means uncouth, out of fashion, or uncultured.




A Jamaican Creole term which means classless, tasteless, loud, or obnoxious.


I did not realise that I was a buttu until I was in my late 20’s.

Yes, I get loud at times — but I blame that on an inner skettel that comes out when I hang with J. Ray and his nephew.

Not once did it cross my mind that I may be uncouth or that I lacked class.

The realisation struck sometime in 2012 when a GF invited me to her wine and cheese themed birthday party.

All I said was:


“Wine and cheese? No, thanks. I am more of a Fries and KFC kind of girl.”

I still don’t see anything wrong with what I said — I honestly prefer a night of taboo-playing, wings-eating, and soda-drinking to wine and cheese — well, the wine is fine, but, I much prefer it in the center of a table surrounded by wings, fries and soda.

Needless to say, Claudia — I mean my GF didn’t give me any more invites.


Buttuism showed up again when a guy offered to buy me a pair of expensive shoes.

I told him I wanted the money instead.


Listen, I love nice shoes as well as the next girl. But, I don’t think it is wise to spend exorbitant sums on Louboutin when you can get three good pairs of stilettos for the price of one.

I took the money, went into Payless, got a pair of sneakers, two pairs of sturdy stilettos and had money left over for cheap earrings and lunch.


Sometimes I wonder if that’s why he stopped talking to me — hmmmm.


Oh well. As Shakespeare says:


This above all: to thine own self be true,
And it must follow, as the night the day,
Thou canst not then be false to any man.

I don’t believe in pretending to be someone I’m not, so once I discovered I had buttu tendencies, I avoided events that called for a sense of decorum and a show of class.

That’s why I got nervous — petrified in fact when I was invited to dinner by a lovely Japanese couple.

I thought about backing out — but the Japanese are big on honour, respect — and all those things buttus don’t care much about.

I had to go.

The Kamiya Family insisted on impressing me.

Even when I explained that I wasn’t hungry. Even when I told them a coffee shop would do just fine. Even when I told them I just mastered my knife and fork and wasn’t too keen on chopsticks.

They were intent on showing me the finer side of Japanese dining — give me a look into how the petite bourgeoisie lived.


Maybe if they’d taken me to a place like Omotesando — even Roppongi, I would be fine. There new money, loud money, buttu money is always on display. But, they took me to Ginza, a part of Tokyo where you could still smell money — but it wasn’t loud, or ostentatious. It was quieter, more reserved, cultured — classy.

I was doomed.



I did not sit around a table and order food from a menu. It was a bar-like setting. I sat at a counter where I could watch the food being prepared.

The Kamiyas’ explained that no menu was necessary. I simply trusted the Sushi Master to feed me. All I needed to do was tell him if there was anything I couldn’t have.   Since I’ve always had an excellent relationship with food, I told him I could have anything.

I forgot, however, to explain that I prefer my anything cooked.

That is why I sat immobile staring at the fresh —- top of the line — premium — raw fish.


I could feel their eyes on me. They were watching me intently. I had two choices.

  1. Stay true to my buttuism and refuse to eat OR
  2. Acknowledge that before anything else I am Jamaican — and the Jamaican thing to do is allow buttu behavior to take a back seat to manners and respect.

I looked at the Kamiyas’. Looked at their hopeful smiles as they waited for me to taste my fish.

I reflected on how nice they’d been to me since I moved to Japan.

I thought about work.

Thought about how they’d updated their music catalogue to include Bob Marley’s One Love and how they managed somehow to insert something about Jamaica on almost every single worksheet.

The Japanese were going out of their way to include pieces of my culture. They were going out of their way to make me comfortable.


This was not arbitrary.

Neither was sitting here with people who wanted me to share in a piece of their culture.

I looked at their smiles and I knew — deep down — I knew the difference between being perceived as those Jamaicans:


As opposed to those Jamaicans:



Rested solely on me eating my raw fish.

So, for the first time in my life — in the name of being a perfect representation of my country — I ignored my buttuism and ate my food.



“Oishii,” I told them. “Oishii, it’s delicious.”

Then, I watched as their faces relaxed and I winced — smiled as I was given ‘the catch of the day’ a healthy serving of diced Octopus.


Until next time — 

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