C’EST PAS ÉVIDENT,” the locals and expats told me when I asked how to get more involved in local life: It’s not obvious, self-evident, or straightforward.

It took me two trips to Martinique, one of the French overseas departments in the Caribbean, to figure out that simply being in a place didn’t necessarily mean that I would be able to give insight into what it’s really like. It has taken learning new things, being open enough to put myself in uncomfortable situations, and the strength to overcome the discomfort to discover the tip of the cultural iceberg on this island.

Back in university, I had a Caribbean history professor tell me that one of my essays about politics in Martinique gave her the impression that I had a rose-coloured view of the country.

It was upon returning home after the first trip that I realized how superficial my knowledge of Martinique was; I had spent so much time trying to find the familiar — going on hikes and partying with people with a similar language and cultural background — that I’d missed out on what was special about the place.

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