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Culture & Identity of Timor-Leste

Introduction

Life in Timor-Leste (East Timor) is unique in their region as the people's Catholic faith has sort of placed the country on an island (or half an island) as this faith is an important identifying feature of the people. However, the Catholic faith only alters the daily way of life to a small degree and in many ways the lifestyle of the people is similar to that of neighboring islands.

Most of the people of Timor-Leste live in rural settings as nearly two thirds of the people work in agriculture. For these people the strongest influence on their way of life comes in their occupations as the sun, weather, and seasons dictate when a person works and when free time can be had. Schedule revolves around work, but life still revolves around family and community.

For the urbanites life is somewhat different as their daily schedules are also heavily determined by work life as some people have set working hours, which typically last from about 8:00 am to about 5:00 pm. Again for these people family is what life is all about.

Since family is so important in Timor-Leste, education and school is also very important as many families place this among their top priorities. However, education levels vary significantly as there are few qualified teachers and some children don't have access to schools.

None-the-less, the people of Timor-Leste tend to stress education and family. Likewise, community and religion are important aspects of their lives as time away from work is often spent with family, friends, neighbors, and for many Catholic mass on Sundays.

Identity

The people of Timor-Leste identify in multiple ways, but primarily by either their ethnicity or by their country. The country itself was founded due to a differing past and religion from that of Indonesia and the national identity is closely attached to these differences. As a former Portuguese colony, the people are primarily Catholic, which immediately puts them in stark contrast to the primarily Muslim population of Indonesia and this, along with citizenship, is the primary means of defining an "East Timorese." More often though, the people of Timor-Leste identify by their local ethnicity, which generally speaks a different language, wears different dress, eats different foods, and has numerous other cultural differences from the other people in the country and on the island as a whole.

This page was last updated: November, 2013