Local traditions and culture in Cameroon

  • Local Customs
    by Wafro
  • Local Customs
    by Wafro
  • Local Customs
    by Wafro

Most Viewed Local Customs in Cameroon

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    Carrying water on the head

    by Wafro Written Nov 16, 2011

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    Carrying water from the source or rivers to the house is the responsibility of the women in Africa, so also in Cameroon.
    They carry large buckets on their head and how strange is might look, the bucket seldom falls. They start with this practice at an early age and the older the women get the larger the burden.
    You also should try it, it could be very refreshing!

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    ATMs Proliferating

    by Over60 Updated Jan 6, 2011

    Some guide books indicate that ATMs are available in Cameroon only in Yaounde and Douala, but I found ATMs that took my US Visa card at BICEC and other banks in Buea, Bamenda, Bertoua, and Maroua. Contrary to my experiences in other developing countries, these machines always worked reliably. Using them is vastly easier than toting thousands of dollars in hard (and expensive)-to-cash traveller's checks and less risky than carrying a lot of cash, but the situation has not yet progressed to the point where one can be confident of finding an ATM on every corner.

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    Traditional Dances

    by janiebaxter Written Aug 7, 2010

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    Traditional dances are very popular in Cameroon and are performed at many ceremonies, along with the traditional music. Each province has its own style of traditional dance which is passed down through the generations.
    We saw the dancers of the West and Northwest in Bafut and Babungo. The professional dancers wear masks, often carved, and elaborate costumes made from skins and feathers and they use traditional sticks and animal tails.
    In Babungo we attended a Prince’s funeral and the dancers even fired guns into the air. Here all the people attending danced too, each group taking turns to sing and dance in tribute to the Prince. We found we were obliged to give money to the professional dancers if we took photos.
    In Bafut Palace we were given a demonstration of Traditional Dancing by the Princes. The King has many wives and many many children and the family like to make sure the royal children are all aware of their heritage so they are all taught singing and dancing.

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    Millet

    by janiebaxter Written Aug 4, 2010

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    Millet is a staple cereal crop in West Africa and is often seen in big sacks in the markets.
    In Cameroon millet is plentiful. It can be stored for use during the dry season in special grain stores.
    White millet is used for food and red millet is used to make beer.

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    FuFu

    by janiebaxter Written Aug 4, 2010

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    FuFu is a staple food made by pounding root vegetables in a pestle and mortar until they are finely ground into flour and then boiling the vegetable until it forms a gloopy lump. Sounds awful but it's actually quite pleasant, certainly no worse than potatoes.
    It is served with spicy stew or a tasty sauce and eaten with the right hand.
    FuFu is made from whatever root crop is grown locally. Popular types of FuFu are corn, yams, cassava or rice.

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    Looking After Babies

    by janiebaxter Updated Aug 4, 2010

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    We stayed 2 nights in a village near Wum, spending time with the people and learning about their way of life.
    Families are quite large and it is common for the older children to look after their younger brothers and sisters. It is taken for granted that girls will take care of their younger siblings from a very young age and they seem perfectly at ease doing this. We saw many girls carrying very young babies on their backs and looking after them. The girl in the photo is carrying a 3 week old baby and was very surprised we found it interesting and wanted to take photos.
    I guess when they have their own children they will already be experienced and know what to do to look after them.
    Babies are always carried on the back. We never saw any being carried the way we carry them in Europe and interestingly although there were lots of babies in the village we never heard any of them cry, they were always contented. It was suggested that the babies are happier because they are wrapped in the cotton wrapper used to tie them on and have the warmth of the person who is carrying them. Seems to work very well.

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    Palm Wine

    by janiebaxter Updated Aug 4, 2010

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    Palm Wine is made from the date palm and is found throughout Africa. It is used socially to offer to visitors and for celebrations just like we drink alcohol in the UK.
    When it is newly made it is not too strong but the longer it stands and if it is distilled it can get to quite a high strength.
    We were given it by the King's wife when we went to visit the Palace at Bafut and I found it quite a pleasant drink. I was concerned that it was made from local water and would give me a bad stomach but it was absolutely fine and I had no adverse effects.
    If you visit a village or want to ask somebody for a favour it is a good idea to give them some Palm wine to share.

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    Language – French English and Pidgin

    by janiebaxter Written Aug 3, 2010

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    The main language in Cameroon is French but some English is spoken in the North West near the border with Nigeria.
    After the first world war Cameroon was seized from Germany, divided between French and English administrations and called The Cameroons. Some of the English part was in what is now Nigeria, where it was ruled from, and the French part was ruled from Youande. When Cameroon gained independence in 1960 the Northen part of English Cameroon joined Nigeria, leaving the rest in Cameroon. Consequently the West is English speaking and the Central and Eastern parts are French speaking. Travelling between Bamenda (English speaking) and Bafoussam (French speaking) the switch between languages is most noticeable, as the two main towns of the North West area are quite close together.
    Most of the English spoken is Pidgin which is an abbreviated form of English used in West Africa and the Caribbean. It can sound quite abrupt, like a command, but is fairly easy to understand once you get attuned to it.
    If you want to ask for food in Pidgin you say “give me chop.”

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    Religions of Cameroon

    by janiebaxter Written Aug 2, 2010

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    Many people follow the “traditional” animist religion in Cameroon alongside their Christian and Muslim beliefs. Travelling through the towns and villages we passed many churches and many mosques.
    You can see examples of the strong links to the traditional religion if you visit a celebration or a ceremony. We visited a sort of memorial service in Babungo where various groups, often from churches, took it in turns to dance and sing traditional songs. The traditional songs and dances are handed down through the generations and still taught to the children who will also attend church or go to the mosque. There is no religious conflict in Cameroon today and the various beliefs happily co-exist.

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    Photographing People

    by janiebaxter Written Jul 24, 2010

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    We found there is no hard and fast rule in Cameroon about photographing people and each area of the country varied greatly. In Bamenda walking around the market I was asked by many people to take their photograph as I had my camera around my neck. None asked for money – they just wanted to see their photo on the camera. The lady in the photograph insisted on having her photo taken twice.
    In the village we stayed in we were contributing to the local economy so were allowed to take photographs freely while wandering around and I got some great shots of people going about their daily lives.
    The only place where we had a small problem was in Rhumsiki, which gets more tourists than most places. People here are used to asking for money so we did not take individual photographs, but could get away with taking general shots in the market although we got a few frowns.

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    The Tribes of Cameroon

    by janiebaxter Written Jun 24, 2010

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    The earliest known tribe in Cameroon are the Baka “pygmies” in the forests of the South. They still keep their traditional way of life living off the food and animals found in the rainforest. In the Grasslands area the Bamoun and the Bamileke are the biggest groups. The Bamileke are renowned for their trading and business skills and the Bamoun are, who can trace their royal dynasties back to the 14th century and built many palaces, are famous for their woodcarving and craft skills.
    In the North and far North are the Fulani people who are spread across a large part of the West African Savanna and were originally nomadic cattle herders. In the Mandara Mountains there are the Kirdi tribes which include the Kapsiki of Rhumsiki. These tribes never accepted the Christian or Muslim religions and retreated to the mountains many years ago so as to avoid having to abandon or change their beliefs.

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    Odours in the forest

    by Wafro Written Feb 29, 2008

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    During my last trip in Cameroon I was confronted with something we unlearned during the centuries. OUR SMELL, we can recognise strong and specific odours, but when my Baka (pygmy) guide stopped and told me we were approaching gorillas I thought he was joking. No way! He was right, they can smell animals. He proofed it several times during the expedition, gorillas, buffalos, antelopes, I was speechless. There are no better animal trackers than Bakas.

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    Greeting people and shaking hands

    by tom_chapman991 Written Nov 24, 2007

    A few tips:

    --When shaking hands with an older or important person you can grip your forearm wit your free hand to show respect.

    --If you go to shake someones hand and they offer you their wrist take it. This is normally the case when someone has dirty hands and they do not want to dirty your hands.

    --Men hold hands - this is a completely acceptable and normal part of Cameroonian life. If a male friend holds your hold it is a sign of friendship.

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    Showing respect

    by IngaRita Written Sep 15, 2006

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    Especially if you are in a village, talk to people. Make pleasant conversation. And shake hands with your right hand, if you want to show respect hold your right wrist with your left hand while you are shaking. If your hands are dirty offer your wrist instead. Someone may offer you their wrist instead of a hand, shake their wrist instead. Give money with your right hand only.

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    Meeting Pa!

    by lovin_it Updated Aug 12, 2006

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    Pa is the greeting given to any 'older' man (over about 50) - out of respect. Things considered rude when in the presence of an older man, official, tribal elder or Fon (Chief) are: wearing a peaked hat and strangely, crossing your legs!

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