Two Nations, One Island
St. Maarten is a place like no other and we like to think it’s our binational and multicultural identity that enchants locals and visitors alike. The residents know that better than anyone else. Some live on one side and go to school or work on the other. This isn’t a new phenomenon. In the past, people would walk miles over hills to visit the marketplace, go to a moonlight dance, or even meet a lover, because no matter what side you stand on, this island is one.
A Bit of History
The oldest treaty in effect in the Caribbean is the Treaty of Concordia which was signed between the Dutch and French for the partition of St. Martin in 1648. The partition was based on the economic needs of each state and the proximity to nearby colonies. With this treaty, both parties agreed to share resources, and protect one another. It was violated over a dozen times before truly being enforced and respected. Nevertheless, today both sides enjoy the cultural and economic ties, strengthened over centuries.
Two Countries, One People
Although both sides are governed by two different bodies of government and each follows its own set of unique laws, the connection between locals is undeniable. It’s a great benefit to be able to access services on either side of the island but also witness the duality in lifestyles. Sint Maarten, the Dutch side, is located at the south of the island and is one of the four constituent countries that comprise the Kingdom of the Netherlands. While Dutch is considered the official language on the Dutch Side, English and a local English-based Creole are widely spoken around the island, and visitors can expect to hear many more languages spoken on the island. The Dutch side of the island is home to the island’s airport, cruise port, and the cosmopolitan capital of Phillipsburg. While the country’s official currency is the Netherlands Antillean Guilder (ANG), the US Dollar is more commonly used.
Locals and visitors alike have noted that this side of the island has a more Caribbean vibe than its northern neighbors, but Saint Martin has its own attractions that travelers must take advantage of. The French side, located in the north, is quieter and leans more to European culture, and provides fuller views and experiences of nature. The euro is the main currency used and stores are closed between noon and 2 PM for lunch, a habit adopted from the French. Both capitals, Philipsburg and Marigot, display the quaint structure of the island’s traditional architecture, industrious market vendors, and shopping experiences.
A Melting Pot
The island’s unique social landscape becomes more special when you add the 100 plus nationalities that call St. Maarten home, making the island burst at the seams with languages, food, and traditions from around the world. Imagine each day being able to eat a different cuisine at least twice a day. The diversity makes St. Maarten the culinary capital of the Caribbean. Whether you’re seeking finger-licking local food or creative cuisines from award-winning chefs, there is a fine dining experience for all. Simpson Bay, in the south, and Grand Case, in the north, are stretches of eateries and deciding where and what to eat is all you need to worry about. Both sides are hubs that provide a clear and charming view of surrounding islands. However, the two sides have a bicultural environment that is sensational with lots to explore.