The atmosphere in Anguilla is relaxed and English customs prevail, and the people are incredibly friendly and hospitable. Although the daily pace is generally relaxed and unhurried, Anguillans maintain a degree of formality in public life. Politeness and manners are considered important. As Anguilla's popularity as a tourist destination has grown, Anguillans have found themselves faced with confronting the problems that tourism can bring while trying not to lose an important source of income. Nude sunbathing is strictly prohibited, and wearing swimsuits anywhere outside of beach areas is not permitted.
Anguillans always address each other by title – Mr, Mrs, etc. – unless they are on very personal terms. People in positions of importance are addressed using their job title with their last names, such as Nurse Smith or Officer Green.
The extended family is central to Anguillan and West Indian societies in general. Despite the strong influences of the Methodist and Anglican Churches, historically marriage was not considered obligatory for the creation of a family or a domestic living arrangement. During the 18th and 19th centuries, apart from the small upper class of English landowners, social conditions and slavery made the creation of long-lasting unions very difficult. Men and women frequently lived together in common law marriages for varying lengths of time. It was not infrequent for women and men to have children with more than one partner. Marriage in the Western sense was more likely to occur among the upper and middle classes. Today marriage is considered a cornerstone of family and social life, and weddings are community events.
The extended family, particularly the network of female family members, often extends to include whole communities in Anguilla. The island's population is descended from the small group of people who arrived there two centuries ago, and as a result family groups are the basis for Anguillan society. Kin groups are extensive yet closely-knit, united by their collective past. A kin group can include many related families living near each other, or families in various parts of the island bound by surname. In terms of domestic organisation and management, kin groups are matriarchal in nature, with mother and grandmothers taking responsibility for important family decisions.
The government is anxious to set limits to the commercialisation of the island and visitors will find that social life is centred on the tourist areas. In an effort to maintain its low crime rate, Anguilla also enforces a strict anti-drug policy, which includes careful search of all items or luggage brought onto the island.
Anguilla has a number of annual festivals and holidays, most of which celebrate important historical events that have helped to shape the island's culture. The most spectacular cultural celebration on the island is the annual Summer Festival. This event is held in August and begins on a Monday at 5 am with an early-morning jam called the 'J'Ouvert Mornin'. This festival celebrates the emancipation of African slaves on Anguilla. The festivities includes dancing, parades, fairs, and other colourful events. During this and other festivals, the days consist of picnics on the beach as well as sail boat racing, which is Anguilla's national sport.