Papua New Guinea Local Customs

  • Local Customs
    by hassan_abu
  • Local Customs
    by Ramonq
  • Local Customs
    by jadedmuse

Papua New Guinea Local Customs

  • Extending a Warm Sepik Welcome

    As I've stated before, it was with a kind of sad feeling that I traveled through this area, for reasons aforementioned.But I'll never forget how, when we arrived at one of the villages, they'd been awaiting us and had prepared a tribal "welcome" in the form of a very exuberant dance.I felt privileged to see them in action.So friendly and humble,...

  • When Children Misbehave....

    This is an unusual item to include, but it was fascinating so I have to include it here:At one of the Sepik villages - the same one where we saw the kids making clay pellets - the kids had somehow shot these pellets into some flowerbeds.The consequences of such a transgression was to be (loosely) tied to a pole with an evil spirit mask looming over...

  • Juicy Grubs for Lunch!

    Similar to the Karawari River area, the Sepik villagers depend on the sago palm as a regular staple in their diets. A special treat is to dig up fat, juicy grubs and eat them on the spot - or better yet, roll them in the sago pulp and cook them up.I recall entering one such village where the smell of grubs cooking in a mass of sago palm, had a kind...

  • Sepik Village Life as a Child

    The children here in the Middle Sepik region (vs. the Karawari area) seemed to be better nourished. I think there was a fair amount of trade going on between the villages and so items could more easily be transported among themselves. Their economy was better, they had better tools, and they probably had more opportunities for hunting (and...

  • Children Playing Along the Karawari...

    The Sepik people hold the crocodile in high regard, and the croc is the prevailing symbol throughout the Sepik region (more on this in my Yentchan pages).The canoes are even carved to resemble this ferocious animal.

  • Crocodile Canoes in the Lower Sepik...

    The Sepik people hold the crocodile in high regard, and the croc is the prevailing symbol throughout the Sepik region (more on this in my Yentchan pages).The canoes are even carved to resemble this ferocious animal.

  • Cargo Flies Coach - and So Do You!

    Don't be surprised to find a branch of bananas or a huge bag of sweet potatoes occupying the seat next to you in the plane - or maybe at your feet in the aisle.When you're taking small cargo planes to and from the different areas, it seems to be a free-for-all!

  • Turning the Sago Palm Into Food

    The sago palm grows prolifically in the Sepik region, and the natives depend on it as a staple in their monotonous and somewhat nutritionally void diets.Sago is basically a starchy compound. The women distill the pulp by washing it over and over with water as it slides down a make-shift chute. As the water washes over the pulp of the plant, the...

  • Some Helpful Pidgin Words/Phrases

    ...Monin - Good morningApinun - Good afternoonGut nait - Good nightTenk yu- Thank youEm hamas? - How much is that?Mi laik baim - I would like to buyToilet We? - Where is the toilet?Halpim mi plis - Help me pleaseNogat - NoMi no laikim - I do not like itYumi go we? - Where are we going?Kai Kai - FoodKa - CarMani - MoneyMan - Man or maleMeri - Woman...

  • 800 Dialects - Thank God for Pidgin...

    Since there are over 800 dialects spoken within Papua New Guinea, there is a tacit use of pidgin english amongst them, which makes it even a bit easier for foreigners to communicate. For example, the sign on the door begins with "TAMBU" which is one of the first words you'll learn when in means something like "PROHIBITED" or "FORBIDDEN"...

  • Jawbones, anyone?!

    I'm not quite sure what these were to be used for, nor from what animal they came. But as far as photo opportunities go, this one was too good to resist.

  • Reverence for the Departed

    I love this picture because it captures the West meets the East....Here we see a Highlands (Huli) man who proudly displays his father's skull on a raised platform...the skull of his dead father is believed to contain a powerful spirit that will ward off evil and keep the remaining members of the family safe from harm.Meanwhile in front of this...

  • Tribal Sing-Sing Celebration

    Since I was unable to witness a real Sing-Sing, I can only share a scanned postcard.Notice how the men are lined up, looking straight ahead. A typical Sing-Sing consists of two line-ups facing each other. Off to the side may be someone playing a percussion instrument, but largely the Sing-Sing is made up of swaying, circling and jumping maneuvers,...

  • Highlands Sing-Sing Decor

    If you're lucky enough to catch a real live "Sing-Sing" then you'll have seen everything.I never did see a true Sing-Sing - one that was orchestrated by the locals in honor of some tribal festival or wedding or special celebration - but we did get to see someone decked out in what would be typical "Sing-Sing" decor.I'm attaching my photo which is a...

  • Pass the Pipe

    It is customary for the village men to sit around and pass the pipe...nothing narcotic about the tobacco, although the tobacco itself is raw and really harsh. I can't recall if I tried the pipe (for fun)...I'm sure I did.If you get the opportunity to try anything offered to you by a local, it's a good (and gracious) idea to always indulge.

  • Never Leave Home Without Your Make-Up!

    I was fascinated to learn that it is the men, not the women, who wear "make-up".In fact, we learned that the men spend most of their day in groups, chatting, gossiping, smoking their pipes, and putting make-up on. (This is when they are not engaged in a tribal fight or a sing-sing, a colorful group dance which the Highlands villagers do during...

  • Catching a Good Night's Sleep is...

    I could have fainted with relief when I saw how this guy was sleeping....realizing that there were groups like the Sierra Club and other environmental organizations where you can spend a night or two with the locals, which includes the sleeping accomodations...!In all seriousness, the Huli people are accustomed to sleeping like this and find no...

  • Making Fire is Easy...NOT!

    We were treated by one of the villagers, showing us how he makes fire. It was like something out of the film "The Gods Must Be Crazy".....Of course when I tried to make fire that way, we could have sat there all day waiting for a tiny column of smoke to appear!It's safe to say this guy had a lot more practice "making fire" than I did....

  • Not Exactly Skeet & Trapshoot...

    Women don't normally run around shooting bows & arrows (that's mens' work) so our host is probably thinking I must be a bit strange.....We were lucky enough to be driving over to this villager's place when we were stopped in the road by a man who seemingly appeared out of nowhere....he had a bow and arrow and wasn't exacly the welcoming committee...

  • Where's a Plow When you Need One?!

    I soon learned that women do the brunt of the daily work, as seems to typify many cultures.Here we see a Highlands woman showing me how she plants her crops (in this case, cabbage or taro). We were encouraged - much to the delight of the villagers - to "try" whatever it was they were doing, which in this case, was back-breaking work!I found it...

  • South Pacific Festival of Arts

    The South Pacific Festival of Arts was held in Moresby one year, as it did its once-per-year cycle around the countries in this part of the world. It was quite a show with delegations of indiginous people and dancers from all over the area - Aborigines, Cook Islanders, Tahitians, Bouganvillians and so on. The photo was taken from a peak in downtown...

  • The Asaro Mudmen

    The Asaro Mudmen performed their dances in the hills surrounding Port Moresby and we would sometimes travel up on a weekend excursion to take in their performance while also escaping the heat and humidity of the coast! Pidgen English is the language used by most locals to compensate for their many local dialects (over 500 languages spoken in PNG)....

  • Sepik River Council House.

    I came across this traditional Council House at Angoram on the Sepik River on one of my trips to a remote diesel station. Following a regular airline flight to Wewak on the north coast, I flew into Angoram with a Papuan assistant on a small Cessna charter aircraft. Flying over miles and miles of dense rain forest made me conscious of the fact that...

  • Payday Alert!

    There were another couple of local customs that were new to me: 1) Payday was every second Friday for most workers so, in order to prevent the men from drinking away all their hard-earned cash before their wives could get their hands on it, all of the beer/wine/liquor outlets had to close on the preceding Thursday evening (for the whole weekend as...

  • White men can't dance....

    White men can't dance. Although you will be invited in the Trobriands to join in the dancing -you won't look cool.

  • Tipping is not recognised....

    Tipping is not recognised. Please be aware that Papua New Guinea is a very different place and a lot of the things you will see may shock you, the villagers still carry out scarcifying (cuttings patterns on their bodies. Remember this is their culture, you are only visiting.

  • TIME: Time in PNG tends to be...

    TIME: Time in PNG tends to be narrowed down no further than morning (monin -- MO-neen), afternoon (apinun - a PEE noon) and night. Don't count on specific hours and just forget about minutes. It can be frustrating at first, but you'll soon see -- if you don't feel this already -- that it's a far more sane way of being.

  • MONEY DOES NOT TALK. I have...

    MONEY DOES NOT TALK. I have been with visitors to PNG who have assumed that because they're paying, they deserve to be served. Not so in PNG, and pushing it too far at the wrong time can get you in serious trouble. ALWAYS be polite and respectful. Do not expect 5 star service.

  • There are a number of cultural...

    There are a number of cultural things about PNG that are VERY important to know if a traveller wants to avoid causing offence and/or putting him/herself in danger.** Women should always wear skirts, the longer the better. There's a cultural understanding that displaying or outlining the thighs indicates that the wearer is available for hire. This...

  • Alright. Papua New Guinea has...

    Alright. Papua New Guinea has many distinct and varying cultures. PNG contains hundreds of different tribal groups - and over 800 languages! Thus there are many different subcultures within the 'Melanesian' culture. Some general tips are:1. Don't step over anything, especially other people or food. Walk around.2. It is best to ask before taking...


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Papua New Guinea Local Customs

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