The people are mostly descendants of the Papuans – Melanesians closely related to the islanders of Fiji, New Caledonia and Vanuatu. There are just over 5 million people living in Papua New Guinea – more than a third of them in the rugged Highlands. The traditional Melanesian cultures are kept alive in elaborate rituals that accompany deaths, feasts, marriages, compensation ceremonies and initiation rites.
Variations in village construction, dialect and dress are common in country areas while annual Sing Sing shows, part of the Papua New Guinea Cultural Events Calendar, see villagers from around the country demonstrate their singing, dancing and elaborate bilas (traditional costumes). The shows at Goroka and Mount Hagen are among the country's most impressive, attracting thousands of spectators to Papua New Guinea each year. Our selection of vibrant cultural Papua New Guinea images show these fantastic costumes.
More than 800 local languages (in addition to many minor dialects) exist in Papua New Guinea – about a third of the world's indigenous tongues. Pidgin (Tok Pisin) is common to most Papua New Guineans, and learning a few words can be handy, especially when travelling in more remote areas.
Many people still live in small villages making a living from subsistence agriculture or specializing as gardeners, fishers, hunters or craftspeople; women are responsible for daily household and village work, while men take care of hunting, trade and warfare. Taking a Papua New Guinea tour to stay in a village is a wonderful way to learn more about the local culture and lifestyle, during your Papua New Guinea holiday. However, remember to be respectful of local customs and religious beliefs, and do not wander off alone – always take a local guide with you. Most land is owned by a community or village, which means visitors will need to ask for permission to enter.
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