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East Timor Culture and Traditions

Customs and traditions

The East Timorese customs have their roots in both indigenous cultures that were established long before colonialism as well as Portuguese and Indonesian customs and customs. In addition, the area has a long trade tradition, which means that the residents got in contact early with Indians and Chinese.

The vast majority of East Timorians are rural residents, whose lives are largely characterized by the changes of agriculture and seasons. Most residents work on farming, animal husbandry and perhaps fishing and hunting for the family's own livelihood.

  • Countryaah: Overview of the capital city of East Timor, including information about its population, economy, geography, history and map.

Maize and / or rice are basic food and chicken and pig breeding is common. Some also stick with cows or water buffaloes. Possible abundance in production is sold on the local market.

Greetings, calls and invitations

The most common way of greeting a new acquaintance is to take care, while meeting each other's looks and smiles. Greet everyone individually if you walk into a room where several people have gathered. Common greeting phrases are Bon dia (Good day) and Bon tarde (Good afternoon). Ola is more informal and means about Hello. Foreign visitors are often used to address Mister or Miss.

After saying your name, you are happy to talk about general things such as where you come from. Say a few kind words about East Timor, or ask about the country's food and traditions. Feel free to view photos of your friends and relatives, but wait a while to ask questions about family relationships.

Culture and Traditions of East TimorEast Timorians appreciate humor and use it frequently. You may be joking about a person's appearance, which can feel a bit uncomfortable for a European.

Be careful to ask about the country's difficult history and political contradictions. It is possible to talk about such things but it should be done with finesse, since many residents are directly affected by these events. Questions about losing loved ones and friends during the Indonesian occupation, for example, or if someone has been in prison, should wait until you know the person a little better.

Avoid criticizing the Catholic Church, which for East Timorians is closely associated with the resistance movement. Compared to Europeans, East Timorians are often more conservative in value and do not like to talk about topics like sex, homosexuality, the right to abortion or divorce etc.

Avoid body contact when meeting people you do not know, and above all do not touch anyone's head. It is perceived as disrespectful. Don't speak with a too loud voice. It can be perceived as impolite and turned into aggressive.

Strong feelings should not be shown in public space, especially anger. Only married couples can hug and kiss each other in public.

When visiting someone's home, older respect and children are given special attention. Wait until you are told to do so. The same goes for eating or drinking. Suitable gifts are some candy for the kids, coffee or cigarettes for the adults.


East Timorians are usually freely dressed in airy pants and patterned shirts or blouses. In the cities, western clothing applies. Out in the villages, you dress up in festive occasions in traditional home-woven clothes. The women then wear sarong and shawl. Costume is rarely used because of the warm climate.

Working life

Working life is usually top-down: the manager decides and subordinates rarely take their own initiative, without waiting for orders.

In the office, most women wear blouse / shirt and skirt or dress, while men wear long pants and short or long sleeve shirt. In very formal contexts, men wear suits and women dress / costume. In working life, it is common to address colleagues with senhor (men) or senhor (wife), regardless of status. At tetum there are several different word words and it is safest to wait to use them, so that you do not risk using mistakes.


In general, East Timorese can be said to have a relaxed relationship with time. It is not uncommon to arrive late for a meeting, both at work and at leisure. Leaving the workplace for family reasons is also accepted.

Meals and food

You usually eat three times a day: breakfast, lunch (about 12-14) and dinner (about 18-20). You never eat with your left hand, it is the right hand that applies to everything concerning food and eating.

The eating habits have Chinese, Portuguese and Indonesian influences. Rice is included in most meals. Other common crops are cassava, corn and potatoes. Many dishes are spicy and based on coconut milk. Common drinks are coconut milk, soda and coffee. Rice wine and spirits can be purchased at bars and restaurants as well as beverages in the villages.

A traditional dish is tukir, which is lamb cooked in a bamboo tube with lots of spices. On the coast around Dili saboko is made ; sardines, tamarind sauce and spices are packed in palm leaves and cooked over an open fire.


In Catholic East Timor, Christian holidays such as Easter, Christmas, All Saints' Day and the Immaculate Conception (December 8) are national holidays. Also Muslim holidays, such as id al-fitr (marking the end of the fasting month of Ramadan) and id al-adha (sacrificial feast), are national holidays. The dates of the Muslim holidays vary from year to year as they follow the lunar calendar. There are also holidays that are celebrated for secular (non-religious) reasons, such as New Year's Day, May 1st (Workers' Day), Independence Days (May 20 and November 28), National Youth Day (November 12), and National Heroes Day (December 7).



Four-party alliances are formed

Government formation becomes problematic. Fretilin calls for the Prime Minister's post as Parliament's largest party. But CNRT forms a coalition with PSD-ASDT and PD, and thus gets the support of 37 members. The Four-Party Alliance takes on the name Alliance of Parliamentary Majority (AMP).


Fretilin wins in parliamentary elections

Parliamentary elections will be held on June 30 under calm conditions. The election is referred to as free and fair by the EU election supervisor. Fretilin will be the largest party with 29 percent of the vote, a sharp reduction from 57 percent in the 2001 election. This gives the party 21 of the parliament's 65 seats. CNRT takes home 24 percent (18 seats). Alliance Social Democratic Party-Timorese Social Democratic Alliance (PSD-ASDT) gets 11 seats, the Democratic Party (PD) 8, while the other 7 seats are divided between three small parties. The turnout is 80.5 percent.


Ex-president wants to become prime minister

Outgoing President Xanana Gusmão announces that he is aiming for the Prime Minister post after the parliamentary elections. To get a political platform, Gusmão forms a new party, the National Congress for the Reconstruction of East Timor (CNRT). In particular, the party emphasizes the fight against poverty in its campaign.

The transitional government is appointed

A transitional government is set up with the task of leading the country up to the parliamentary elections in June of that year. Temporary Prime Minister becomes Estanislau da Silva.

Western friendly and market liberal president

Ramos Horta is considered by many East Timorians, especially young people, as part of an older, Portuguese-dominated political elite. He left East Timor a few days before Indonesia invaded the territory in 1975 and became leader of East Timorese in exile. He also became one of the most important people in the work to make the world aware of the oppression in East Timor during the occupation. For that effort he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996. Following the 1999 referendum, Ramos Horta returned to East Timor. He was initially associated with Fretilin but after 1999 acted as an independent politician. Ramos Horta is considered to be Western friendly and market liberal.

Ramos Horta wins the election

The second round of the presidential election is held. During the election campaign, Guterre emphasizes increased security in the country, while Ramos Horta emphasizes poverty reduction. Election day goes on peacefully. Ramos Horta wins with 69 percent of the vote against 31 percent for Guterres. The turnout is 81 percent.


Guterres and Ramos Horta move on

Guterres receives 28 percent of the vote and Ramos Horta 22 percent. Since no candidate achieves the 50 percent required for victory in the first round, a second and decisive round will be held in May between the two candidates who received the most votes: Guterres and Ramos Horta. The turnout is 82 percent.

Successful election day

However, the election day on April 9 will be calm. In addition to problems with getting enough ballots in some quarters, international observers from, for example, the UN and the EU, consider the election to be free and fair.

Violence despite observers

A few hundred international observers are monitoring the election process, and about 3,000 international police and soldiers are tasked with ensuring that the election is calm. Nevertheless, violence erupts on several occasions when Fretilin supporters and opponents clash.

Presidential elections are held

The first round of the presidential election is held. The incumbent President Xanana Gusmão does not stand for re-election. The main candidates instead will be the independent politician Josť Ramos Horta and Fretilin's chairman Francisco "Lu Olo" Guterres.

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