There is a universally accepted adage which states that there is more happiness in giving than there is in receiving. Though this may be true, it certainly seems that in Jamaica nothing compares to the immense joy of receiving something of value absolutely free of cost – a phenomenon commonly referred to as ‘freenis’.

Jamaicans love freenis and we have mastered the art of putting ourselves in the position to be the beneficiaries of free stuff. Thus, we will immediately jump at an offer of a free ticket to a movie, concert or even a high school barbeque. Similarly, glimpsing free t-shirts or mugs being given away at a party will make some of us slice through a crowd, straight to the source with ninja-like dexterity. And some would even consider a free igloo set the deal maker when deciding to buy living room furniture!

While the majority of us expect some freenis every now and again, there are some among us who take it a step further with the expectation that they must, without any effort on their part, always get something for nothing, thus developing what’s known as a Freenis Mentality.

Persons stricken with this condition are generally considered a nuisance to society and are often identified by their frequent use of the following expressions when communicating with family, friends and others unfortunate enough to cross their paths (the translation in italics indicates the actual meaning of their barefaced utterances):

“Yuh want dat?”
(Even though you probably spent money on it, surely you don’t want it…can I have it instead?)

“Yuh have an extra one?”
(I know you didn’t offer me any, but I just figured you have another one somewhere…can I have that one?)

“Is really sell you going to sell it?”
(Why make monetary gain for it when you can give it to me for free…I would like to have it!)

“Gimme it nuh?”
(I have no shame and yes, I want it! Now!)

…and finally, the tried, tested and true:

“Beg yuh….”
(Yes, I’m a groveling mess of a human being. But I still want it.)

No doubt, none of those expressions has ever escaped our mouths…Right? Closely examine the following scenarios though, see if any of them relate to you, and then make a realistic assessment of how highly placed on the freenis meter you really are.

Ok, you might just love freenis if:

  1. A promotional offer makes you buy products you have no desire of consuming, just to have a chance of winning a prize. In your cupboard one will find an assortment of wrapper-less tins and bottled items, the labels having long been mailed-off in the hopes of winning millions.
  2. You are a fixture in the sample line at the supermarket. Granted, you may opt out of the short line promoting a newly packaged sardine with cream crackers, but if it’s a new flavour of Häagen-Dazs ice-cream then you have no hesitation joining a long, meandering procession of bodies stretching to the back of the supermarket near where the empty boxes are stacked.
  3. You have no intention of leaving town, but with the offer of a free ticket to a $4000 all-inclusive party in Negril, you spend $17,000 on an outfit, another $5,000 to fill the gas tank of your car, drive to that party and maybe sleep in the car afterward, content in the knowledge that it didn’t cost you a thing.
  4. You get lured into buy-one-get-one-free offers to purchase items you have previously gone on record as saying that you dislike and would never use. So, there you are, back from the supermarket, unpacking that obnoxious smelling bottle of disinfectant, just because it came with a free mop. Likewise, in the vain hope of a change in the chemical formula, you buy on a two-for-one special, that carbolic-fragranced body lotion that had on a previous occasion sent you to the hospital with a terrible skin irritation.
  5. You are almost trampled to death in the middle of a stampede of persons trying to get pre-issued tickets for a free Independence Day concert at the National Stadium.
  6. You find yourself in the midst of a political rally – a veritable cornucopia of freenis - wearing the appropriately colored shirt, thus guaranteeing all the beers (Red Stripe or Heineken, depending on your party) and free food you can consume. You can neither see nor hear who is on stage but on cue, you break out in spontaneous applause and nod in agreement as a new promise is made.

Now, if you answered in the affirmative to even 1 of these 6 scenarios, you are definitely a freenis-loving Jamaican.

But then, I already knew that!