A land originally Kanak but which has experienced several waves of colonisation then immigration, New Caledonia forms a very rich kaleidoscope of communities. Melanesians, New Caledonians of European origin, French from France, Vietnamese, Polynesians and Indonesians all speak French. The mixing of these various ethnic groups has unquestionably led to a singular culture.
Relations among the population
In New Caledonia everyone is “family”, as they say… This is why from Noumea to Koumac, from Hienghène to the islands, everyone courteously acknowledges each other, with a wave of the hand, a smile or a knowing look. The political tensions between loyalists and nationalists give way in daily life to a relaxed politeness which is considered appropriate among all ethnic groups, even if the communities live differently and separately. Outside Noumea, Kanak culture is part of daily life and it is usual, when you arrive in a tribal village, to go to the petit chef, the village chief, or the high chief (if he is available) and make him a gift which increases in size depending on your requests (a 1000F note folded up in a manou, a length of coloured fabric). This is what is called here “faire la coutume”, making a custom offering. Respect for the Kanak people is shown by this very widespread practice that you must be aware of. In exchange, you will be warmly welcomed and this offering will be returned to you a hundredfold, by allowing you to taste the region's specialities and fruits and inviting you to share a unique moment of discovery. Respect for custom can also be shown through the ban on entering certain taboo places without prior permission from the clan or tribal chiefs. Before visiting these places, you will sometimes have to make a verbal request or ritual act in a custom ceremony, during which words of welcome are pronounced following an exchange of gifts. Do not hesitate to ask for information from Kanaks whom you meet; they will explain the meaning of these symbolic acts to you and will show you the procedure to be followed.
Find out more about custom…