Situation and Outlook - People and Their Diet
Britain and Ireland
The ethnic make up of England is 81.5% English, 9.6% Scottish, 2.4% Irish, 1.9% Welsh, 1.8% Ulster, and 2.8% are West Indian, Indian, Pakistani, as well as a variety of other ethnic groups. These people were believed to have descended from the varied ethnic stocks that settled there before the 11th century. The pre-Celtic, Celtic Roman, Anglo-Saxon, and the Norse influences were blended in Britain under the Normans, Scandinavian Vikings who had lived in northern France. Although Celtic languages persist in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland, the predominant language has been English, primarily a blend of Anglo-Saxon and Norman-French. Two other languages that are used but not as dominant are Welsh and the Scottish form of Gaelic.
The primary religion is Anglican with 27 million people. The second is Roman Catholic with 9 million. After the first two however, there are many more religions with less than a million people: Presbyterian, Methodist, Sikh, Hindu, and Judaism.
England's high literacy rate, 99%, is attributable to the introduction of public primary education in 1870 and secondary education in 1900. Education is mandatory from ages 5-16.Years compulsory are12 with attendance being nearly 100%. Approximately one-fifth of British students go on to post-secondary education.
In London, variety is the key word for food. Culinary specialties of a couple dozen countries and regions reflect the nature of the city. Different areas of the city contain different cuisines. Examples of these cuisines include Chinese and authentic Indian food. For something cheap and filling, try a pub--traditional meals with beer or wine by the glass. A more upscale version of this with the same theme would be a wine bar. Wine bars usually serve bottled, rather than draft, beer though. Traditionally, London has had good restaurants offering cuisines from its former colonies, but now a renaissance in quality and creative cuisine has suddenly created an obsession with good food. The "New British" cuisine consists of traditional English ingredients blended with Continental style.
When dining in London, it is a good idea to reserve a table at all restaurants, save the most humble. Dining out is expensive. Most restaurants accept major credit cards. Menu prices always include 17.5% VAT but don't usually include the gratuity, which may be added to the bill by the waiter. If no service charge is added you are expected to tip 10-15%. Some restaurants--typically Italian ones--assess a cover charge to each person to cover the cost of bread or other nibbles placed on the table.
For many centuries there was continual strife between the Celtic Scots of the Highlands and the Western Islands and the Anglo-Saxons of the Lowlands. Only in the 20th century has the mixture been widely seen as a basis for a rich unified Scottish culture; the people of Shetland and Orkney have tended to remain apart from both of these elements and to look to Scandinavia as the mirror of their Norse heritage. Scotland is remarkably free from racial and religious strife. The Church of Scotland is the established religion and largest communion, though membership has been steadily declining. It is Presbyterian in structure and evangelical in doctrine. The Roman Catholic Church is organized into two archdioceses and six dioceses. Roman Catholics have their own schools, built and staffed from public funds on the same terms as the state schools.
Scotland's linguistic heritage is complex. Though the vast majority now speaks English, two other languages, Gaelic and Scots, still have wide influence. Gaelic, the Celtic language brought from Ireland by the Scots, is now spoken by a small minority mainly in the Western Isles and western Highlands, with pockets elsewhere, especially in Glasgow. Although it now faces a strong possibility of extinction, interest in Gaelic has increased in recent years and its literature flourishes as never before.
Painting and sculpture flourish, as evidenced not only in official exhibitions but also in many of Scotland’s small galleries. In music the Scottish National Orchestra, Scottish Opera, and Scottish Ballet have achieved international standing. The annual Edinburgh International Festival has become one of the world's largest cultural events. Scotland has an unparalleled wealth of surviving traditional music, ranging from the work songs of the Hebrides to the ballads of the northeast. There has also been renewed interest in Scotland's traditional instruments, the bagpipe, the fiddle, and the clarsach (the small Celtic harp). All aspects of traditional culture are researched, archived, and taught in the School of Scottish Studies in the University of Edinburgh.
Sports play an important part in the life of Scottish people. Association football (soccer) still has a wide following and is dominated by the Glasgow clubs, Rangers and Celtic. Rugby Union football (amateur) is played especially by private schools and by their former pupils, but in the towns of the Borders region it draws players and spectators from a wider social range. In the Highlands, shinty, a hockey like game, is popular, Curling is another traditional sport, though temperatures are seldom low enough for it to be other than an indoor sport played on man-made ice. Golf, which originated in Scotland, is accessible not merely to the affluent through private clubs as in many countries but to most Scots through widespread public facilities. Scotland has outstanding natural advantages. Skiing facilities have been developed in the Cairngorms and other areas. Hunting, shooting, and fishing are traditionally the sports of the rich, but the last is popular with all classes. Other outdoor sports, such as tossing the caber (a heavy pole) and throwing the hammer are integral to the Highland games, at which pipe bands and Highland dancers (usually solo) also perform.
Scottish diets traditionally consist of seafood, red meats and game, and the use of traditional ingredients such as oatmeal and wild berries. Scottish meals are not always so simple. For example, take an old favorite called haggis, a delectable mix of chopped lungs, heart, and liver mixed with oatmeal and boiled in a sheep's stomach with surprisingly tasty results. Vegetarian versions are also available. City Scots usually take their midday meals in a pub, wine bar, bistro, or department store restaurant. Scottish people generally eat inexpensively and quickly at a country pub or village tearoom. Places like Glasgow, Edinburgh, and Aberdeen, of course, offer restaurants of cosmopolitan character and various price levels; of these, the more notable tend to open only in the evening. You will come across restaurants that offer a "Taste of Scotland" menu. The Taste of Scotland scheme, initiated by the Scottish Tourist Board but now run independently, has helped—almost by accident—to preserve some of the Scots language, especially the names for a variety of traditional dishes. Most smaller towns and many villages have at least one restaurant where—certainly if a local is in charge—the service is a reminder of a Highland tradition that ensured that no stranger could travel through the country without receiving a welcome.
Scottish people have similar eating habits to Americans. They traditionally eat three meals a day, and around the same time as Americans. Breakfast generally consists of bacon and fried eggs, served with sausage, fried mushrooms and tomatoes, and, often, fried bread or potato scones. Scotts also eat kippers (smoked herring). All this is in addition to juice, porridge, cereal, toast, and other bread products.
In a country so involved in the tourism industry, "all day" meal places are becoming widespread. The normal lunch period, however, is 12:30–2:30. A few places offer "high tea"—one hot dish and masses of cakes, bread and butter, and jam, served with tea only, around 5:30–6:30. Dinner is usually served anytime after 6:30.
The Celts, Iron Age warriors came from Eastern Europe and reached Ireland around 300 BC They controlled the country for 1000 years and left a legacy of language and culture that survives today. During the 8th century Viking raiders began to plunder Ireland's monasteries. The Vikings settled in Ireland in the 9th century, and formed alliances with native families and chieftains. They founded Dublin, which in the 10th century was a small Viking kingdom. The English arrived with the Normans in 1169, taking Wexford and Dublin with ease. The pope recognized the English king, Henry II, as Lord of Ireland and he took Waterford in 1171, declaring it a royal city. Anglo-Norman lords also set up power bases in Ireland, outside the control of England.
English power was consolidated under Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The last thorn in the English side was Ulster, final outpost of the Irish chiefs, in particular Hugh O'Neill, earl of Tyrone. In 1607 O'Neill's ignominious departure, along with 90 other chiefs, left Ulster leaderless and primed for the English policy of colonization known as 'plantation' - an organized and ambitious expropriation of land and introduction of settlers which sowed the seeds for the division of Ulster still in existence today.
The newcomers did not intermarry or mingle with the impoverished and very angry population of native Irish and Old English Catholics, who rebelled in a bloody conflict in 1641. The native Irish and Old English Catholics supported the royalists in the English Civil War and, after the execution of Charles I, Oliver Cromwell - the victorious Protestant parliamentarian - arrived in Ireland to teach his opponents a lesson. He left a trail of death and destruction, which has never been forgotten.
In 1695 harsh penal laws were enforced, known as the 'popery code': Catholics were forbidden from buying land, bringing their children up as Catholics, and from entering the forces or the law. All Irish culture, music and education was banned. The religion and culture were kept alive by secret open-air masses and illegal outdoor schools, known as 'hedge schools', but by 1778, Catholics owned barely 5% of the land. Alarmed by the level of unrest at the end of the 18th century, the Protestant gentry traded what remained of their independence for British security, and the 1800 Act of Union united Ireland politically with Britain. The formation of the Catholic Association by the popular leader Daniel O'Connell led to limited Catholic emancipation but further resistance was temporarily halted by the tragedy of the Great Famine (1845-1851). The almost complete failure of the potato crop during those years - during which Ireland exported other foodstuffs to England - led to mass starvation and set up a pattern of emigration that continued well into the 20th century.
The bloody repercussions of the 1916 Easter Rising in Dublin added impetus to the push for Irish independence and in Britain's 1918 general election the Irish republicans won a large majority of the Irish seats. They declared Ireland independent and formed the first Dail Eireann (Irish assembly or lower house), under the leadership of Eamon de Valera, a surviving hero of the Easter Rising. This provoked the Anglo-Irish war, which lasted from 1919 to the middle of 1921. The Anglo-Irish Treaty of 1921 gave independence to 26 Irish counties, and allowed six, largely Protestant, Ulster counties the choice of opting out. The Northern Ireland parliament came into being. The politics of the North became increasingly divided on religious grounds, and discrimination against Catholics was rife in politics, housing, employment and social welfare. The south of Ireland was finally declared a republic in 1948, and left the British Commonwealth in 1949.
Today there are 3.7 million people in Ireland. Their nationality is known as Irishmen or Irishwomen (the Irish). Ethnic groups include the Irish, with English minority. Religion is primarily Roman Catholic (91.6%), followed by the Church of Ireland (2.5%), and other (5.9%).
Education: Compulsory--up to age 16. Enrollment rates--5-14-year-olds 100%, 15-year-olds 95%, 16-year-olds 92%. Literacy--98%-99%.
A social custom that you will not find to be common in the U.S. is Jigging an evening away to Irish folk music. Most traditional music is performed on fiddle, tin whistle, goatskin drum and pipes. Almost every village seems to have a pub renowned for its music where you can show up and find a session in progress, even join in if you feel so inclined. Young artists have their own takes on Irish folk, from the mystical style of Clannad and Enya to the sodden reels of the Pogues. Irish rock is always in amongst it, from Van the Man, Bob Geldof and crabby Elvis Costello to Sinéad O'Connor and The Cranberries.
Although English is the main language of Ireland, it's spoken with a mellifluous lilt and a peculiar way of structuring sentences, to be sure. There remain areas of western and southern Ireland, known as the Gaeltacht, where Irish is the native language - they include parts of Kerry, Galway, Mayo, the Aran Islands and Donegal. If you intend to visit these areas, it would be beneficial to learn at least a few basic phrases. Since Independence in 1921, the Republic of Ireland has declared itself to be bilingual, and many documents and road signs are printed in both Irish and English.
Irish cuisine has traditionally been about meat - (in particular, beef, lamb and pork chops) and potatoes, cooked well but with few frills by way of spices and sauces. Traditional Irish breads and scones are also delicious. On the true Irish menu, you'll find abundant vegetables; delicious homemade soups farmhouse cheeses, some of the best seafood in the world and specialty dishes such as boxty (potato pancake), colcannon (potato, scallions and kale), and bacon and cabbage. In pub restaurants this type of cuisine still predominates. In Dublin, restaurant culture is rapidly changing. In addition to a greater selection of ethnic eateries Eating out in Dublin is not cheap. Unlike the U.S., extras such as free drink refills are rare, and don't be surprised if you have to pay for ketchup in some fast-food places. Irish coffee is not traditional, and is only offered in touristy hotels and restaurants, but the Irish drink lots of tea. The main meal of the day tends to be lunch, although black gold (Guinness) can be a meal in itself. If stout disagrees with you, there is a wide range of lagers available. And when ordering whiskey, never ask for a Scotch. Ask for it by brand.
The people of Denmark originated from a tribe known as the Danes. The Danes were from Sweden and they migrated to the Jutland Peninsula around 500 AD Since then there have been a number of attacks that have caused turmoil in Denmark. The most notable was the fact that in the 9th century Vikings conquered the Jutland Peninsula and are said to have created the oldest known monarchy. Along with this the country of Denmark was converted to Christianity almost exclusively. The heritage traces back to the Danes however there is also Germanic influences in Denmark. This is due to the invasions that occurred in World War II. This is evident by the Germanic dialect that is spoken in Denmark.
The culture of Denmark is not like we traditionally think in Europe. Denmark doesn’t practice the cultural festivals as much as do most European countries and they are open to new and modern ideas. The people there are laid back and very modern. The Danes are open to many different peoples and are very relaxed. They are tolerant to different lifestyles and aren’t given to extremes. Denmark has allowed same sex marriages since 1989, and they consider being comfortable and cozy the utmost lifestyle.
Denmark’s diet consists of many types of bread with the most prevalent being smørrebrød (`buttered bread'). Danish food relies heavily on fish, meat and potatoes. Some typical dishes are flæskesteg (roast pork with crackling), gravad laks (cured or salted salmon served with a sweet mustard sauce) and hvid labskovs (a stew made of square cuts of beef boiled with potatoes, bay leaves and pepper). The Danish as its known in America is called wienerbrod in Denmark and nearly every bakery has them in various flavors. Denmark's Carlsberg and Tuborg breweries both produce excellent beers. The most popular spirit in Denmark is the Aalborg-produced aquavit. Beer and wine are staples of the diet in Denmark also; most meals have some sort of beer or wine served as the primary drink.
In France students spend 10 years in compulsary education. The country has an overall literacy rate of 99%. The organization of national education is highly centralized. In France there is both public and private education. All public education is free and is administered by the Ministry of National Education, which draws up the curricula, employs the staff, and exercises its authority through rectors placed at the heads of academies.
Education is free and compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. Before the age of 6, children can go to écoles maternelles (nursery schools) or classes enfantines (kindergartens), and they receive their elementary education between the ages of 6 and 11 in primary schools. Secondary education is first given in the lycées, the collèges d'enseignement général (CEG), and the collèges d'enseignement technique (CET) from the ages of 11 to 15. Further secondary education is given in classical, modern, and technical lycées, leading to the national baccalauréat examination. Courses of study lasting from one to three years can lead to professional certificates or diplomas. Experiments in educational methods have been numerous since 1960. Since 1968, teachers, parents, and pupils have been represented on the boards of directors of secondary schools.
The law of Nov. 12, 1968, changed higher education profoundly, though many centralizing features of the past remain. Previously, universities had been divided into faculties or colleges according to the subjects taught. After 1968 the faculties were replaced by teaching and research units regrouped into autonomous, multidisciplinary universities comanaged by representatives elected from among the teaching staff, students, and administration. These establishments determine substantially their own research programs, teaching methods, and means of assessment. Much of the curriculum is decided upon at the national level, however.
The state grants funds to the universities, which they divide among their departments. The degrees given are the licence (roughly comparable to the British-American bachelor's degree), maîtrise (master's degree), and doctorate. There are also special teaching qualifications, one of which is the agrégation, a rigorous, competitive examination. Students may also apply to a number of prestigious grandes ecoles, which are even more highly regarded than the universities, especially in the engineering and technical fields. The best-known among these is the Ecole Polytechnique ("Polytechnic School"); it was founded in 1794 to recruit and train technicians for the army but has become the most important technical school in both the public and private sectors.
Private education is mostly Roman Catholic. Although the French constitution proclaims that the state is secular, a 1959 law allows private establishments to sign government contracts that procure them financial support in exchange for some control. Despite attempts made by the Socialist government of the early 1980s to bring private schools closer to the public sector, the system has remained basically unchanged.
Teachers are highly unionized, largely in the Federation for National Education and the National Syndicate of Instructors, as well as in other left-wing unions. The main student unions are the National Union of French Students (Union National des Étudiants de France; UNEF); the UNEF Renouveau, which is near-Communist; the Union of Communist Students of France; and the National Confederation of French Students.
In this large European country (as is true in many larger countries), the diet may vary widely from north to south with climate, cultural differences, and available foods. The mid-Europe northern area consumes more meat and a generally heavier diet, while the southern, Mediterranean regions eat more fish, local vegetables, and a lighter diet overall. In most countries of the world, especially the European ones, the native, rural, or peasant-type diet contains a higher amount of natural foods than the urban diet. For example, a typical meal served in American "French" restaurants is rich in creamy sauces, gravies, pastries, sweets, fats, cheeses, bread, pates, and, of course, wine. This type of food is also consumed by the wealthier classes and in the fancier restaurants in France.
In general, the French are very involved with food, and often consume multiple course meals as is true in much of Europe. There are local street markets that provide fresh seasonal foods and their special cheeses and sausages. The French tend to shop often, preparing their meals to suit the locally available foods. The more rural or peasant diet in France consists of potatoes, some meats and "charcuterie" (sausages and cold cuts), poultry, breads and cheeses, and vegetables. Meals often include a small green salad, and finish with cheese as "dessert." Breads, croissants, and pastries, are often consumed daily. Wine and very strong coffee are the national beverages. Overall, the French diet is richer and higher in fats and refined flours than many other European countries.
Vines, fruits, and vegetables cover only a limited area but represent more than one-fourth of the total value of agricultural output. France is probably more famous for its wines than any other country in the world. Viticulture and wine making are concentrated principally in Languedoc-Roussillon and in the Bordeaux area, but production also occurs in Provence, Alsace, the Rhône and Loire valleys, Poitou-Charentes, and the Champagne region. There has been a marked fall in the production of vin ordinaire, a trend related to EEC policy, which favours an increase in the output of quality wines.
The people of early Germany are believed to have come from Scandinavia about 100 BC probably because of overpopulation. By 400 AD the early Germanic tribes had moved into the Roman Empire. One of the largest Germanic groups, the Franks, was ruled by Charlemagne in 800 AD and was divided over a couple of generations into early France and Germany. In 911, they elected Conrad I to be King. Historians regard this as the beginning of German history. There were many small entities within Germany which were frequently at war until 1871 when they were all united. Generally, Germany has a long history of wars. Since World War II, Germans who had previously resided in German territory and offspring of German settlers who in previous centuries had settled in areas of Eastern Europe and Russia were allowed the right to German citizenship. These people are called Ethnic Germans. In the mid 1980’s about 40,000 Ethnic Germans migrated into Germany; 80,000 in 1987; 160,000 in 1988; 400,000 in 1990; 400,000 from 1991-1993; and since January 1993 Germany has set a limit of 220,000 people per year. In 1994, there were 6.8 million foreigners in Germany: 1.9 million Turkish; 930,000 Yugoslavian; 565,000 Italian; 350,000 Greek; 260,000 Polish; and 185,000 Austrian. About 38% of Germans are Protestant, 34% Roman Catholic, 1.7% Muslim, and the other 26.3% are unaffiliated or other.
About 60% of Germany’s people belong to the middle class and are well educated. There is a small upper class and a poor class, but at least 99% of the population is literate.
Germany is truly a meat and potatoes kind of country. Germans start the day with a huge breakfast of rolls, jam, cheese, cold meats, hard-boiled egg, and coffee or tea. Lunch is the main meal of the day. Dinner is lighter but can still mean a plate full of sausages and dumplings. Beer is the national beverage and each region has a beer with a distinctive taste and body.
The Germanic diet is a little spicier and even sweeter than the British diet, with more breads, cakes and other sweets, potatoes, and meats, and especially the sausage-type meats. Butter and lard are used as the main cooking fats. Baked goods are a staple of the German diet. The German diet is high in fat, carbohydrates, and sugars. It is also deficient in fruits and vegetables. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and sour cream may help the body handle this higher-fat, low-fiber diet. Fresh fruits are less available and the colder-climate vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and potatoes are used the most. They have a high consumption of alcohol and tobacco. It is estimated that 30-40% of the population has a health problem related to their diet. It is also noted that the former East Germany has a more natural and diet with less sweets and more pickled products because they are poorer than the industrialized West Germany.
Italy was first settled by the Etruscans, which found the peninsular country by traveling the Mediterranean Sea. They arrived between the 12th and 8th centuries BC. The country of Italy itself is very old and has a number of things that have shaped the culture and the people there. The Roman Empire took control of the Italian peninsula and started the first Roman Republic around 509 BC. The large Roman Empire was hard to control therefore the republic began to fade and the northern portion of Italy was often invaded. They were overrun by Hungary at one point and the Germans another time. This has spawned the industrial expansion in the north while the south remained poor. Finally, in 1861 Italy declared its independence and formed a government. This was however very partisan because the economic differences were so great between the north and south.
The culture backing this country goes back centuries and has influences in the arts. A large number of artists, musicians, writers and philosophers came from Italy. Everywhere you look you can see the paintings, sculptures and other works of art and architecture. The rich culture attracts many tourists and Venice, Milan, and Rome are considered to be some of the most interesting cities in the world. The culture is evident everywhere, including festivals and gatherings on saints’ days, first communions and other religious holidays. This is because 80% of the people profess the catholic religion, and the Vatican is located there (home of the Pope).
Italian food is famous the world over and is based on pastas and breads. However, the diets of Italy differ considerably because of the varying economic status of the north and south. The north for example eats rich and creamy dishes, and the south’s specialties are hot and spicy food. The north has claim to spaghetti bolognese, lasagna and tortellini - and is also home to the best prosciutto and mortadella. Some of the other cuisine is pesto, sun-dried tomatoes and foccacia bread. The dishes that are found in Italy also have exotic meats and seafood included in them. Some of these include frogs, donkey steaks, and entrail pudding. Desserts are known to have come from Sicily and include cassata, cannoli, zabaglione, granita, and marzipan. The other large island contributes spit-roasted piglet to the vast array of foods that come from Italy. Finally, the drinks that are the most common are coffee, beer and wine.
Located at the crossroads between Europe and Africa, the Iberian Peninsula has always been a target for invading races and civilizations. The Romans arrived inn the 3rd century BC but took two centuries to subdue the peninsula. Gradually Roman laws, languages and customs were adopted. In 409 AD, Roman Hispania was invaded by a massive contingent of Germanic tribes and by 419, a Visigothic kingdom had been established. The Visigoths ruled the kingdom until 711, when the Muslims crossed the Strait of Gibraltar, and later had their run of the peninsula. But in 722, there was a battle between the Visigoths and the Muslims that the Visigoths won. Symbolically, this battle marked the beginning of the Reconquista, the reconquest of Spain by the Christians.
The Spanish state encompassed numerous distinct ethnic and cultural minorities. New 1978 Constitution recognizes and guarantees autonomy of nationalities and regions making up Spanish state, and seventeen autonomous communities existed in late 1980s. Major ethnic groups: Basques, Catalans, Galicians, Andalusians, Valencians, Asturians, Navarrese, and Aragonese. There is also a small number of Gypsies. Ethnonationalistic sentiment and commitment to the ethnic homeland varied among and within ethnic communities. Nationalist and separatist sentiment ran deepest among Basques.
In Spain, Primary education (age six to fourteen) is free and compulsory. By 1965 country had achieved nearly universal enrollment in primary grades. Secondary school attendance optional, but students deciding not to attend secondary school had to attend vocational training until age sixteen. In 1985 estimated 89 percent of students did attend secondary school, and 26 percent attended university. The adult population is 94-97 percent literate in late 1980s.
The Spanish diet is similar to the Italian, at least along the coastal regions. Having more inland terrain, Spain’s beef production and consumption is higher than in other Mediterranean countries. The Spanish enjoy a wide variety of foods, including fish and meats, olive oil, tomatoes, greens, wine, white bread, and citrus and other fruits. Wine is consumed regularly with meals. Problems with refined foods and animal fats are beginning to appear in Spain. Coffee consumption and cigarette smoking are also high.
The Spanish people love to be with one another. Enjoying food together is perhaps their primary means for sharing their lives with one another. The typical day of the Spaniard is punctuated with opportunities to be with friends, family and even strangers. In the morning, on the way to work, they stop for coffee and chocolates. In mid-morning they pause for sweets, churros-morning tapas.
The institution of siesta is central in preserving the unique family structure, which is Spain. Rather than grabbing a plastic wrapped sandwich or hamburger to eat at their desk, many Spaniards protect the sanctity of their family by closing their business and going home, there, around the table with those they love, then enjoy lunch. All of this is followed by a snooze.
After returning to complete their business day it is time for the paseo where they stroll around town, greeting friends, enjoying their children who are playing in the neighborhood.
Spanish food as a deservedly fantastic reputation and tapas are probably one of the most civilized inventions since cold beer. Paella, gazpacho and chorizo may be familiar to most Western diners, but the range of meals goes well beyond this, with a smorgasbord of rich stews, soups, beans, seafood and meats, all of which have been influential in Latin American cooking. It is a good idea to reset your stomach-clock when traveling in Spain because lunch is usually the main meal of the day, and is eaten between 1:30 and 4 p.m. The evening meal is lighter and is served between 10 and 11 p.m.
Switzerland was called Helvetia in ancient times. In 1291, Switzerland was a league of cantons in the Holy Roman Empire - much like early Germany. In 1648, Switzerland obtained its independence from the Holy Roman Empire and by 1815 the Congress of Vienna guaranteed them neutrality and independence. Also in 1815, the French and Italian speaking peoples were granted political equality. It seems that today the Swiss are of German, Italian, or French decent. These are also the three most common languages in Switzerland.
Switzerland brings to mind several cliches: irresistible chocolates, kitsch clocks, yodelling Heidis, humorless bankers, international bureaucracies, and an orderly and rather bland national persona. Known for their intelligence, the Swiss have won more Nobel Prizes and registered more patents per capita than any other nation on earth. The Swiss people are 46.1% Roman Catholic, 40% Protestant, and 5% have other religious beliefs while 8.9% have no religion (est. 1990). Ethnically, the Swiss people are about 65% German, 18% French, 10% Italian, 1% Romansch, and 6% other ethnicity.
Switzerland, like Germany, has a large middle class. Most of the population is educated and the country has at least a 99% literacy rate.
Switzerland doesn’t have a great tradition of foods - they borrow the best of the German and French cuisine. Emmentaler and Gruyere are combined with white wine to create fondue, which is served up in a vast pot and eaten with bread cubes. Rosti (crispy, fried, shredded potatoes) is German Switzerland’s national dish. Fresh fish from the numerous lakes frequently crop up on menus, especially perch and trout.
Also similar to Germany, the Swiss tend to have a diet that is spicier and even sweeter than the diet of the British. They eat considerable amounts of breads, cakes and other sweets, potatoes, and meats. Sausage is also popular. The people of Switzerland are known for being especially fond of cheese and chocolate. Fermented foods, such as sauerkraut and sour cream may help the body handle this higher-fat, low-fiber diet. Fresh fruits are less available and the colder-climate vegetables, such as cabbage, cauliflower, and potatoes are used the most. Beer consumption is also high in Switzerland.
Modern Austria is the homeland of world renowned skiers, talented musicians, lovers of table etiquette, and most of all people big on cooking, eating, and drinking well. This active European republic today only covers a small fragment of the former Austrian Empire. For over 600 years, until World War I, the Austrian Empire had extended its national borders into modern Switzerland, France, Germany, Italy, former Czechoslovakia, Hungary, former Yugoslavia, Poland, and old geographical areas that were once upon a time called Bohemia and Moravia. It is a multi-ethnic melting pot that includes over 8 million people, who are 99% German-speaking but are not Germans. It is a country of Austrians who speak Viennese with a special, softer, Germanic accent, Austrians who commonly are bilingual and who speak Austrian/German with either a Hungarian, or Serbo-Croat, or Czech, or Northern Italian-Tirolean accent. Austrians are very educated with an adult literacy rate of 99.9 percent.
Austrians tend to be quite formal in both their social and business dealings. They do not use first names when being introduced, but after the initial meeting first names are often used. Handshaking is normal when saying hello and good-bye. It is considered impolite to enter a restaurant or shop without saying Guten Tag or, more usually, Grüss Gott; similarly, to leave without saying Auf Wiedersehen can cause offense. If invited out to dinner, flowers should be brought for the hostess. The Church enjoys a high and respected position in Austrian society, which should be kept in mind by the visitor.
Austrian cuisine in general, is the culinary reflection of an ethnically mixed people who, during the many centuries of the Austrian Habsburg empire's expansion and contraction, have exchanged culinary know-how. Typical Austrian dishes vary today according to the region’s culinary history and to each region’s agriculture with its export/import tradition. For example, Burgenland cuisine is influenced by its flat topography and proximity to Hungary. Its specialties are prepared with abundant locally grown fruits and free roaming chicken and geese. East southern Carinthia and Styria's cuisine’s, with Hungarian, Yugoslavian, and Italian culinary influences, feature Mediterranean style foods, including ham, a favorite ingredient, and mild climate herbs and vegetables. Upper Austria and ancient Salzburg states, which border with Germany and the Czech Republic include culinary classics like the well known "Linzertorte" (a flaky cake lined with currant or raspberry jam, encased and covered by a lattice of cake dough), and Mozart's home town's specialty, "Salzburger Nockerln" (a very light dessert souffle dusted with vanilla sugar). Tirolean and Vorarlberg specialties, inspired by ingredients native of mountainous poor soil and cool wooded areas with a tradition of importing from Italy and exchanging with Switzerland, include "Tiroler Leber mit Polenta" (veal or beef liver with onions, "speck," capers, lemon juice and white wine served on corn mush), "Groestl" (sliced pan fried onions and potatoes with or without meat), or "Schlutzkrapfen" (spinach stuffed pasta pockets, served like "ravioli," without tomato sauce only topped with melted butter and Parmesan cheese).
Vienna' s cuisine is unique and international. Viennese specialties were created by, and for, people who were influenced by a monarchic system that until the early part of this century was among the most influential European political powers and which had cultural ties to Europe as well as the American New World. As Vienna's Habsburg royal family was involved in power politics as far away as Spain, its cuisine absorbed many international ingredients.
A typical Austrian meal includes usually from 2 to 7 courses according to the importance of the meal's guest or occasion. It is usually made up of an appetizer, a soup, and a main course with one or two either raw or cooked side dishes. It may also include a dessert which can be either a cake ("Kuchen" or "Torte"), any baked specialty made with flour ("Mehlspeise"), or a warm or cold after-meal sweet treat ("Nachspeise"). With a fine meal, Austrian adults favor drinking either beer, wine or "sekt" (sparkling wine). Fruit juices, soft drinks like fruit flavored waters, and wine spritzers are also favorites among the younger generation of Austrians.
Hungarians are of Finno-Ugric origin and as a people have lived in their present-day homeland, the Danube Basin, for more than 1,000 years. The single largest group among the nationalities is represented by German speakers. Large numbers of ethnic Germans settled along the western borders, the Transdanubian central hills, around the capital and in the Mecsek hills, Southern Slavs (Serbs, Croats, Slovenes, Sokac and Bunevac) are concentrated in the southwest, Romanians along the southeastern border, and the Slovaks in the southeastern county of Békés and near the capital. Hungarians are also quite educated with an adult literacy rate of 99 percent.
Hungarians tend to have a skeptical view of faith (some suggest this is why they have a high success rate in science and mathematics), but of those declaring religious affiliation, most would say they're either Roman Catholic, Calvinist or Lutheran. The country also has a small Greek Catholic and Orthodox population, and a thriving Jewish community in Budapest.
Most Hungarians enjoy modern music and dance, although older people still preserve their old traditions and culture, particularly in small villages. Handshaking is customary. Both Christian name and surname should be used. Normal courtesies should be observed. At a meal, toasts are usually made and should be returned. A useful word is egészségünkre (pronounced Ay-gash-ay-gun-gre), meaning 'your health'.
You'll have to dig a little to unearth the wonders of Hungarian cuisine. Flavors of Hungarian dishes are based on centuries old traditions in spicing and preparation methods. The exquisite ingredients are produced by local agriculture and husbandry. Paprika and garlic is to be found everywhere. The natural abundance of fruits and vegetables should make eating here a delight, but unfortunately this is often not the case. Generally, basic dishes consist of fatty meat (pork is generally preferred) or overcooked fish, some sort of starch, and a small garnish of pickles. These include: pörkölt (stew, and what everyone calls `goulash' abroad); gulyás (a thickish beef soup); and halászlé (spicy fish soup cooked with paprika). If you keep your eyes open for jokai bableves (bean soup), hideg gyumolcsleves (cold fruit soup made from sour cherry) or palacsinta (stuffed crepes) your taste buds will thank you for it. Decent wine isn't difficult to find (but you'll have to look hard for the very good stuff), while the beer is good, and the brandy (pálinka) strong.
The people of Slovakia are descended from the Slavic peoples who settled the Danube river basin in the 6th and 7th centuries BC. Traditionally the Slovak people were relegated to the peasant class and even after emancipation they have had strong links to tilling the soil.
The development of Slovak culture reflects the country’s rich folk tradition, in addition to the influence of broader European trends. The impact of centuries of cultural repression and control by foreign governments is also evident in much of Slovakia’s art, literature, and music. The scars from a long tradition of ethnic cleansing on the part of the Hungarians in the Austro Hungarian Empire have yet to heal. Slovaks can never forget, and must never forget, the cultural genocide precipitated by their former masters, the Magyars (Hungarians).
Under communism some industrialization was undertaken and today Slovak society includes both elements of folk traditions and modern society. Most towns have their own folk festivals, with dancing, local costumes and food. These tend to be in the summer months leading up to the harvest festivals in September.
The Slovak constitution guarantees free education at the primary and secondary levels for all citizens. Education is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16 and usually includes instruction in a major foreign language. General secondary schools offered preparation for university study. Vocational secondary schools offered training in technical and clerical fields and the service industries.
Their Diets are very similar to our own here in Nebraska they enjoy a lot of beef and pork of witch they raise. While beef is still very important to their diets it still primarily comes from dairy cattle an area for improvement. They have also developed a strong taste for sunflower seeds and enjoy spiting and eating the seeds much like some of us. They also enjoy sea fish, as Slovakia is inland, all sea fish have to be imported. It is estimated that the import of sea fish and sea fish products amounts to about 12 thousand tons.
The People of Czech Republic are also descended from the extreme western Slavic people along with their cultural traditions. Most of the western cultural influences on the Czech lands have passed through a German filter, and for this reason Czech cultural traditions are marked by a strong sense of national identity.
They also have a rich folk tradition in the areas of arts and crafts, which include wood carving, fabric weaving and glass paintings. These folk traditions are more prudent in the rural areas. Music has also long occupied an important role in Czech folk tradition.
The Czechs have a strong tradition in the graphic arts. This includes many forms of Caricature. Czech painters and graphic artists have on the whole followed the broad European movements since the 19th century, but realism generally prevails. One of the best known painters is Josef Manes.
Compulsory education lasts 10 years, from age 6 to 16, and usually includes instruction in a major foreign language. General secondary schools are attended by pupils from 15 to 18 years of age and offer courses mainly directed to preparation for university study. Vocational secondary schools offer four year courses that prepare students to compete for jobs in various sectors of the economy.
Czech food consists of dumplings which they love and pork is their favored meat. They also enjoy geese (over duck), chickens, and trout from mountain streams. They harvest Carp from ponds for their Christmas Eve meal and many kinds of delicious edible mushrooms come from virgin woods and meadows. They know and like cereal products such as noodles and naturally top every meal with a Budweiser or Pilsner Urquel.
Romanian is the spoken language in Romania. Speakers of French, Italian and Spanish won't be able to understand much spoken Romanian but will find written Romanian more or less comprehensible. Romanian is spelt phonetically so once you learn a few simple rules you should have no trouble with pronunciation. Romania is the only country with a Romance language that does not have a Roman Catholic background. It is 86% Romanian Orthodox, 5% Roman Catholic, 3.5% Protestant, 1% Greco-Catholic, 0.3% Muslim and 0.2% Jewish. The ethnic groups that make up Romania are: Romanians 89%, Hungarians 7.1%, Germans 0.5%, and Ukrainians, Serbs, Croats, Russians, Turks, and Gypsies 2.5%. Romanians are extremely hospitable. They will welcome you into their modest homes, feed you until you burst, and expect nothing in return other than friendship.
Those who live to eat will find life pretty dull in Romania. Restaurants tend to offer the same things with tedious consistency: grilled pork, pork liver, grilled chicken, tripe soup and greasy potatoes. Romania's most novel dish is mamagliga, a hard or soft cornmeal mush that is boiled, baked or fried. In many Romanian households, it's served as the main dish. The other mainstay of the Romanian diet is ciorba (soup). The sweet-toothed won't starve: typical desserts include placinta (turnovers), clarite (crepes) and saraille (almond cake soaked in syrup). Romanian wines are cheap and good. Tuica (plum brandy) and palinca (distilled three times as much as tuica) are mind-blowing liqueurs taken at the beginning of a meal. Avoid the ubiquitous Ness, an awful instant coffee made from vegetable extracts, and try cafea naturala, a 'real' coffee made the Turkish way, with a thick sludge of ground coffee beans at the bottom and a generous spoonful of sugar.
The people of Poland come from a specific Slavic tribe known as the Polanie or "people of the plain." The Polanie people migrated into the flatlands of Europe, which is now Poland, following the fall of the Roman Empire in around 960 AD. Currently, the ethnic background is considered almost entirely Polish (98%) with only a few people of German, Ukrainian, and Belarusian background. The dominant religion of Poland is Roman Catholic (95%). The effect of Catholicism on food consumption is similar to what is experienced in the U.S. (i.e. increased consumption of fish). There are apparently very few social taboos related to food consumption as I found no documented information on that subject.
The educational system in Poland has been a fairly high priority throughout history. Currently, students are enrolled in eight years of primary school beginning at about age seven. Following primary school, students can go on to secondary school (high school). Entry into secondary school is dependent upon students’ performance in primary school and entrance exams. Typically, the top students from primary school will go on to take college preparatory classes, and the students’ with lower achievement in primary school will take trade-school classes. Following secondary education, many will continue on to post-secondary schooling in their above areas. This amount of education has led to a literacy rate of 98% for people 15 years of age.
The diets of Polish people are fairly simple. Meals often consist of soups, meat products, and potatoes. Sausage meats are popular as well as sauerkraut. Polish people also consume a lot of rye bread and some fish. Due to the cooler climate, food is often pickled for preservation. Since Poland is poorer than the Western European countries, they eat fewer sweets and pastries.
It is common in Poland to eat four meals a day. Beginning in the early morning, a large breakfast is eaten. Later in the morning a second breakfast is eaten. This is usually just more of a light snack. After work, a substantial lunch is eaten. Then, just before going to bed, a small supper is eaten.
Scandinavia and Baltic Nations
Norwegians can seem worldly, but also isolated. Liberated, yet morally square. Norwegians are travel hungry, but teary-eyed upon returning home to their mountains and snow. As a people, they are tight-knit, but as individuals, they can be aloof to one another.
On close inspection, Norwegians are less homogeneous than their reputation suggests. The term "Norwegian" covers a wide variety of types distinguished by outlook and dialect.
Dozens of distinct dialects developed among Norway’s once-isolated valleys, plateaus, peninsulas and islands. Colonial Danish authorities superimposed their own language on Norway, but the country had developed its own language by the 19th century. Now Norway has three official languages: the predominant bokmål whose center of gravity is Oslo, the rural nynorsk, and the much different language of the Sami or Lapp people in the far north.
In many cases names link Norwegians to a region or village. But when it comes to social and financial status, Norway is nearly class free. "Middle class" describes almost everyone.
Evangelical Lutheran is the predominant religion of Norway with 87.7 percent of the population practicing this denomination. Other Protestants and Roman Catholics make up a mere 3.8 percent of the population.
Almost all Norwegians are nature children at heart. It is said that Norwegian babies are born with their skis on. Skis, skates, sleds, and snowsuits do account for a large chunk of every family budget. Winter sports are a national pastime.
Norwegians are thinkers. Neither anger nor joy slips out uncontrolled. Forming an opinion or making an important decision takes time. This goes for individuals as well as companies and the government. Once a stand is taken, the Norwegian is sometimes called "stub-born." This annoys him because he knows his mind was wide open at the start.
During the long winter, Norwegians spend more time at home. In addition, they are notorious readers. No country publishes more books per inhabitant.
Food on the Norwegian table tends not to be fancy but is always wholesome and abundant. The Christmas table may contain platters of fatty pork rib, ham, poached cod or salmon, pinnekjøtt (dried lamb rehydrated by steaming) and lutefisk. The latter is an only-in-Norway recipe of cod soaked in lye.
For everyday, there is a meat or fish dish and usually boiled potatoes with a sprinkle of dill. The potatoes often generate the most comment, particularly if they are "new" Norwegian potatoes. The potato is one of the few things that grow well in Norwegian soil.
Carrying a sack lunch to school or work is a very Norwegian practice. Similar to the US, the lunches usually contain open sandwiches with cheese, ham, or other cooked meats.
The quality of Norwegian produce is excellent, though imports, particularly of fruit, are needed to satisfy demand. The long summer sunshine and cool nights bring out extra sweetness in berries, so say the farmers, anyway. It is true that no chemical pesticides are needed because insect pests cannot tolerate the cold winters. Controls on fish, meat, eggs and milk are extremely strict. In a 1994 test of meat samples throughout Europe, Norway was the only country in which not a single salmonella bacterium was found. The effect of free trade on food quality is a factor in Norway’s disinclination to join the European Union.
After your Norwegian dinner, you’ll discover that Norwegians are the world’s leading consumers, per capita, of coffee. It is drunk invariably strong and black. Pastries are also common. Brown goat's cheese is a Norwegian specialty found in every home. It is a rather sweet cheese made of both goat and cow milk.
The Nordic diet of Sweden, Norway, and Finland has many healthy aspects for such a low agricultural area, however, there are several types of food that are over-consumed, thus increasing the potential for degenerative diseases. Because of the cold climate, a higher fat diet is the common faire. Cod and herring are very popular, but these are often pickled or smoked. Fish is widely consumed, but other meats and milk products are as well. The high-salt Scandinavian diet also increases incidence of hypertension and other cardiovascular problems.
Some wholesome traits of the Scandinavian diet include the regular use of rye as crackers and whole grain breads, which add fiber and important nutrients. Sweets are not common and pastries tend to be light. Fresh fruits and vegetables are available during the three to four warmer months of the year. Nordic peoples would be wise to dry and store fruits that are more wholesome, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes, to use through their long winters. Sprouted foods are ideal for cold climates or areas of low agriculture.
In Norway, wine and spirits can be purchased only through Vinmonopolet, the government-run monopoly. In some cities, there is only one outlet. Upon entering Vinmonopolet you pick up a brochure-sized catalog of the month’s offerings, proceed to the counter to request a bottle of this or that. The goods are then retrieved from a storage area in the back.
The entire arrangement is designed with two goals: first, to restrict alcohol consumption for health and social reasons, and second, to maximize income flow to the state. Any Norwegian with a basement, by the way, is likely to be a talented brewer and distiller.
The people of Sweden are known as "Swedes". Sweden’s population is 8.8 million. The country's largest ethnic and linguistic minorities include 15,000 Lapps and 50,000 indigenous Finnish speakers in the north as well as 960,000 immigrants mainly from the Nordic countries, but also from Asia, Africa, South America, and the rest of Europe. More than 1 million people, one-eighth of the population, are either foreign born or the children of immigrants.
The Swedish language is a Germanic one related to Danish and Norwegian but different in pronunciation. English is by far the leading foreign language, particularly among students and those under age 50. Sweden has a 99 percent literacy rate. Sweden has an extensive child-care system that guarantees a place for all young children from 2-6 years old in a public day-care facility. From ages 7-16, children attend compulsory comprehensive school. After completing the ninth grade, 90 percent attend upper secondary school for either academic or technical education.
Swedes benefit from an extensive social welfare system that provides for childcare and maternity and paternity leave, a ceiling on health care costs, old-age pensions, and sick leave among other benefits. Parents are entitled to a total of 12 months' paid leave between birth and the child's eighth birthday, with one of those months reserved specifically for the father.
Hungry Swedes eat fish, which is usually poached or fried in lard. Pickled herring is especially popular and the potato is indispensable. As well as being the vegetable of choice, spuds are critically important in the production of excellent Swedish aquavit. Strong beer, wines and spirits are sold by the state monopoly system, "bolaget", at outlets in the cities and towns, which are open weekdays. You must normally decide what you want from price lists and displays and then take a number and wait: Friday afternoon queues can be long.
Because of the cold climate, a higher fat diet is the common faire and is probably handled better than in most other areas of the world. Sweets are not common and pastries tend to be light.
One of the country's most enduring traditions is known as Snaps. Snaps, which is also often referred to as Akvavit or Brännvin, is a spiced drink distilled from potato or grain alcohol. Some of the more common flavors are fruit, berries, and lemongrass. People in Sweden once thought it cured just about any ailment and called it "Akvavit," which translated means "water of life". In the 17th century, snaps, was refined and mass marketed, and since then various labels have achieved connoisseur's status. It is a mainstay at every Swedish celebration. Once the shots are poured, it is time for the toast, called skål (pronounced "skoal").
Lithuanians are a gregarious, welcoming, and emotional people. They place greater emphasis on contacts and favors than on calculation and method. Lithuanians are far more emotional than there Baltic neighbors. Lithuanians took the lead in the struggle for Baltic independence from Russia in the early 1990’s, with over 20 people dying.
Roughly 80 percent of the population is native Lithuanian, meaning they descend from the original Balt tribes. Other major ethnic groups include Russian at 8.7 percent and Polish at 7 percent. Ninety-eight percent of the population over the age of 15 is literate. The vast majority of Lithuania’s population is Roman Catholic, even though Lithuania was the last European country to convert. Some Lithuanian’s still practice the pagan religion, which is centered on nature.
Most of the social customs are based on folk art. During the summer, many art festivals include theater, music, and crafts. An interesting folk-art tradition is the carving of large wooden crosses, suns, weathercocks, or figures of saints on tall poles and placing them at crossroads, cemeteries, village squares, or at the site of extraordinary events. This activity was banned during the Soviet rule, but a large collection of these works remains at the Hill of Crosses.
Breads, particularly those containing rye, are not only the most important food in the diet but also very important in many rituals and customs. An old tradition involved placing a loaf of bread in the foundation of a new house to ensure that the family would never run out of bread.
Pork is the second most important food to Lithuanians. Even to this day, every family that lives in the country keeps pigs and slaughters them before Christmas and Easter. The most popular pork products are flitches and skilandis, which are a kind of preserved and smoked sausage. Fresh fish is also very important to those who live near the Baltic Sea or along one of the many rivers.
Dairy products are also important. Cottage cheeses and sour cream are very important parts of many traditional recipes. Potatoes have become the most important vegetables since being introduced to the area in the 18th century. A traditional way to serve potatoes is to boil them and serve them with fresh or sour milk. Mushrooms are also very important to Lithuanians, with over 20 different varieties being used in recipes.
Alcoholic drinks are made by mixing rye with scalding hot water. After it is cooled, it ferments. Birch sap is also a very popular drink and flavoring. Beer began being brewed in the 15th century and is very popular (and strong) in several districts. The diet is becoming more uniform over the country, but there are still differences between ethnic regions. Zemaitians are still fond of all kinds of porridges and kastinis. Dzukians specialize in buckwheat and mushroom dishes, Suvalkians in smoked skilandis and sweet cottage cheese. Aukstaitians love to have large pancakes for breakfast; eels remain a special treat among the inhabitants on the Baltic coast.
With a population of just over 5 million people, Finland appears to be a very homogenous country. Ninety-three percent of the country's population is actually Finnish, 89 percent of Finland is Evangelical Lutheran, and 93.5 percent of the country speaks the official language (Finnish). It is estimated that 100 percent of the countries population can read and write by the age of 15 years. Finland’s population growth rate is 0.15 percent and average life expectancy is over 77 years.
Finland’s traces of human settlement date back to the thaw of the last Ice Age some 10,000 years ago. The Finns ancestors seem to have dominated half of northern Russia before arriving on the north of the Baltic coast well before the Christian era. By the end of the Viking Age, Swedish traders and chieftains had extended their interests throughout the Baltic region. Over centuries, Finland had sat precariously between the Protestant Swedish empire and Eastern Orthodox Russia. For seven centuries, from the 12th century until 1809, it was part of Sweden. After being plagued with war and famine for years, Finland was eventually lost to Russia in 1809. The downfall of the tsar of Russia, and the Communist revolution in 1917, made it possible for the Finnish senate to declare independence on December 6, 1917.
Finnish food has elements of both Swedish and Russian cuisines, but with a lot of variations and local specialties. Potato is the staple food, served with various fish or meat sauces. Some traditional meals include game: snow grouse, reindeer stew, glow fired salmon or raw pickled salmon. Strong beers, wines and spirits are sold in licensed bars and restaurants, and by the state network, Alko. Coupled with strict import restrictions, this make alcohol prices prohibitively high and merry-making a serious business.
China, Taiwan and Hong Kong
The earliest known settlements in what is known today as China were discovered in the Huang Ho basin around 5000 BC. The Huang Ho basin lies in south central China right north of Vietnam. It was between 1500 and 1000 BC that experts believe the first signs of China’s modern writing system were developed.
Calligraphy is one of China’s highest forms of art. A person’s character is judged highly by their handwriting. Calligraphy art is found all over China, from temples and monuments, to caves and sides of mountains. China’s official language is Mandarin, but there are a lot of different dialects connected to this language. Opera is very popular in China because of the important role of music. Martial arts, acrobatics, and stylised dance all have become popular in China through their link to Opera.
Education has come a long way in China in the past 50 years. Since the communists came to power in 1949 literacy has risen rapidly. Until the 1970’s, stress was placed on a good political background as a benchmark for higher education. At that time, the average primary school student had less than a one percent chance of attending college. Only forty percent even attended a middle school. The political climate has also changed since then. Since 1978, the only requirement for admission into college is passing a college-entrance exam. Today over eighty percent of adults are literate, although only three percent of high-school graduates go on to college.
Chinese food is very diverse because of the size and population of the country. It can be broken very broadly into Northern and Southern styles of cooking. Northern dishes uses more noodles, whereas southern dishes are usually accompanied by rice. The sole reason for this is because of the greater supply of rice in the southern part of China. Northern dishes are oily and usually served with steamed bread. Southern style cooking is famous for their liberal use of spices and chili peppers. Seafood is found is southern cooking while duck and other meats are usually found in the north. Preparation methods consist of stir-frying, stewing, steaming, and deep-frying. Color, aroma, and flavor share equal roles in Chinese entrees. They normally try to arrange a very colorful look through different types of vegetables and meat.
More people are dining out in China than they ever have before. This holds very true in the major cities. Beijing is known to have the most authentic dishes from all over China. Service tips are not expected at restaurants and may even be seen as offensive. Any gratuity is figured into the price of the meal. Meals must be taken while seated, and there is a specific order of who may be seated first. The order goes from men to women and old to young.
Their eating habits are very similar to ours except that they normally use chopsticks to eat their food. Generally lunch is served from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Most restaurants are then closed until 5 p.m., and then reopened for dinner from 6 to 10 p.m.
The ethnic groups of Taiwan are 84% Taiwanese, 14% mainland Chinese and 2% Aborigine. Taiwan has 21.5 million people in the country. About 18.5 million of the "native" Taiwanese are descendants of mainland Chinese who migrated from the Fujian and Guangdong Provinces. Taiwan’s culture and customs are very similar to those of China’s. Taiwanese opera, which is basically Chinese opera, is an integral part of their culture. The costumes, music, acting, and atmosphere are very extravagent. Taiwanese people celebrate the Chinese New Year on the first day of the first lunar month. Other customs are held at the same general time of year, but not always the same exact date.
There is a 9-year educational system that has been in effect since 1979. About 90.7% of the students continue their studies to high school from junior high. Each year about 100,000 students take the college entrance and about 61% of them pass. There is a 94% literacy rate in Taiwan.
The Taiwanese take pride in their food, and they love to feed guests. Food in Taiwan is very similar to Chinese food, except Taiwanese have added a subtropical flavor with plenty of seafood and the liberal use of sugar. When the Taiwanese eat out they order exotic, high-priced dishes and compete with each other to pay the entire bill. While eating out, they eat dog, snake, and bear organs, which are some of the more expensive dishes. Even in home cooking, whether for everyday family meals or entertaining guests, food is prepared with sophistication and variety. Some of the foods they eat for a regular meal includes Peking duck, smoked chicken, chafing dish with sliced lamb, beef with green peppers, and dried scallops with Chinese white radish balls.
There are a number of rules and customs associated with eating. For example, meals must be taken while seated. There is a set order of who may be seated first among men, women, and, old and young, while the main course must be eaten with chopsticks, and soup with a spoon.
It was really shocking when I saw this article in
your web site.
I am from Taiwan, and what is described about Taiwanese cuisine in your article is eaxactly inccorect.
We do not eat dogs and bears! Snakes, yes, but it happens only in some special districts for yourists!
As the statistic data is so acurate, I cannot believe that this mistake was caused by the difficulties of data collecting. This is a terrible mistake becuse it is an article for education purpose. Please put some note in this article to correct the mistake or just to delete it. It is not good to educate people with bias.
Ninety-eight percent of the population of Hong Kong are ethnic Han Chinese. The Han dynasty is the reunited dynasty of the Qin dynasty of 221 BC. Of these, ninety percent speak the Cantonese dialect of Chinese, and come from southern China. The other ten percent of Han Chinese come from other regions of China and speak one of the other five dialects of Chinese. Chinese and English are Hong Kong’s official languages. Many people practice ancestral worship, with the influence of Confucianism. Confucianism is the major system of thought in China, developed from the teachings of Confucius and his disciples.
Hong Kong is among the highest urban densities in the world. Although birth and death rates are comparatively low, migration from other parts of China creates a high population growth rate. A population estimate in 1996 showed 6,305,413, indication a population density of about 15,194 persons per square mile. The population is unevenly divided with some districts having population densities of about 100,000 persons per square mile.
Education is free and compulsory for all children from the ages 6 to 15. The adult literacy is over 90 percent. Only a small percentage of high school graduates attend college or university on a full-time basis. There is however a large number of people that attend technical institutes. There are seven colleges and universities in Hong Kong. The largest and oldest university is the University of Hong Kong.
Hong Kong’s economy is reflected in the lifestyle of its people. They have the highest standards of living in all of Asia, and it is more than 30 times higher than China’s average. Hong Kong has a variety of cultural activities that are influenced by both China and Western culture. Hong Kong Arts Festival and the Hong Kong International Film Festival are annual events. They also have many professional music and dance companies. The territory also has a thriving film and television industry.
The diets of the people of Hong Kong are identical to those in southern China. Rice is the staple of the diet. The basic Chinese diet is fairly consistent, containing polished white rice, cooked vegetables, mushrooms, tofu, and small amounts of meat, pork, or fish, with occasional poultry and eggs (a luxury). Large amounts of meat are rarely consumed at one meal. Fruits are eaten as they are available. Soybeans are used in a variety of ways, mainly as tofu (soybean curd) or as soy sauce, a favorite flavoring. Milk products are consumed infrequently, mostly as yogurt. Pickled, smoked, and salted foods, usually fish or meats, are also common to the culture.
Japan and South Korea
Japan is one of the most densely populated nations in the world. Over 330 persons live per one square mile. The Japanese are considered to be of Mongoloid descent that is closely related to other major groups of East Asia. Although there is some evidence that has indicated that there are some Malayan and Caucasoid strains with in Japanese ancestry. The first signs of civilization in Japan are found to date back to 800 BC. The people living in Japan at this time are considered to have a strong connection with Korea and their development of the wet cultivation of rice. During 800 AD, the Japanese defeated the Ainu people of the island of Hokkaido. Japan’s border now stretched from the southern island of Kyushu to the northern island of Hokkaido. The Samurai were also created at this time because the prominent Japanese social classes grew very rich.
There are three major religions in Japan. They are Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism. Buddhism is by far the most important religion within Japan. It was introduced from China by the Korean Kingdom of Packche in the mid sixth century AD. Shintoism is a native religion of Japan based of the concepts of both Buddhism and Confucianism and its underlying principle is the reverence of one’s ancestors. Confucianism is yet another religion brought to Japan from China. It is primarily based off of etiquette and ritual. It also has a strong adherence to the organization and management of society.
The people of today’s society in Japan are very focused on the education of their youth. It is a very competitive atmosphere and parents are always trying to get their children in to the best schools at every level. Japan has the highest literacy rate in the world and over 90% of their students graduate from their three-year high school. The Japanese are also a very loyal people. Many Japanese work well over 18 hour days including commuting time to work. They are also a very structured people who are humble and do not like to receive praise for their accomplishments. The Japanese especially look down on the people who are a bit eccentric.
Over 2000 years ago the Japanese began to cultivate rice. As a result it has became their most fundamental kind of food. Bowls of rice are served with almost every Japanese meal, and the rice is usually sticky so that it is easier to eat with chopsticks, not silverware. Along with the rice and ample amounts of soy sauce the people of Japan eat sushi, tempura, sukiyaki, and many other seasoned dishes. The consumption of seafood is much higher than neighboring Asian countries. Even though eating is an enjoyable event, drinking is the glue that holds Japan’s society together. Everyone, including most teenagers, drink a good share of alcohol nearly every day. Beer is the favorite beverage of the Japanese and it’s dispensed everywhere from vending machines to temple lodgings. Not every drink in Japan has alcohol in it though. Japanese green tea is another preferred beverage, mainly because it contains a lot of vitamin C and caffeine
In Japan the basic tendency is to eat two light meals a day, and a larger more elegant meal at a restaurant in the evening. The two snacks during the day usually come from vending machines, since everyone is always busy and in such a hurry. These machines carry everything from sandwiches and fruit, to coffee, cigarettes and beer. Dinner in the evening is anything but quick and light. Most restaurants specialize in one type of cuisine, and cook everything to perfection right in front of you. Almost everyone eats at a restaurant in the evening even though it is a very expensive dining experience.
Archaeological evidence indicates that people inhabited the Korean Peninsula as early as 500,000 BC. Most of the ancestors of today’s South Koreans were latecomers of the Neolithic Period. Most South Koreans trace their origins to those who lived in Central Asia, Mongolia, and coastal regions of the Yellow Sea. Several thousands of years ago, these people began to migrate into South Korea. When these people migrated they were confronted by natives who were forced out and had to move to other regions.
Freedom of religion is constitutionally guaranteed in South Korean, and there is no national religion. There is also little uniformity of religious beliefs, this means people can belong to one religion while also following another religion. In South Korea 51 percent of the people are religious. Of the South Korean population 23 percent are Buddhist, 20 percent are Protestant, 7 percent are Roman Catholic, .4 percent are Confucian, and 1 percent belong to other religions.
The traditional customs of South Korea have undergone a great deal of change due to the rapid modernization of society. Despite these changes there are still long cherished customs that influence Koreans’ newly acquired modern ways. In the past several generations often lived together and many children were desired for the future security of the family. It was not unusual for a dozen people to live in one house. In the transition to urban areas newly married couples move in their own houses instead of living with other family members
In South Korea the people are fairly well educated. 99.3 percent of males and 96.7 percent of females over the age of 15 are literate. Only 8.5 percent of the people haven’t had a formal education, While 17.7 percent have a primary education, 53 percent have a secondary education, and 20.6 percent of the people have a post-secondary education.
The South Korean diet is well balanced and low in calories. The per capita calorie intake in South Korea is 3,268, which is 139 percent of the FAO recommended minimum requirement. This calorie intake is made up of about 84 percent vegetable products and 16 percent animal products. A typical South Korean meal consists of steamed or stir-fried vegetables, thin sliced meats, grilled fish, and bean-baste soup. South Korean meals are usually accompanied by a side dish call kimchi. Kimchi is a spiced and fermented mixture of radish or cabbage with hot pepper powder, green onion, garlic, and salt. This kimchi can be made differently according to the climate of the region. In the south where it is warmer, chotkal and chili powder were used so that the kimchi wouldn’t go bad. In the north where it is colder the kimchi was less salty and punget. Today many firms are mass-producing kimch. Some other dishes in South Korea are pulgogi, p’ajon, and pinaeddok. Pulgogi, which is the national dish, is made up of strips of beef marinated in soy sauce, sesame oil, garlic, and chili. P’ajon, and pinaeddok, which are pancakes, are the most popular street food. P’ajon is a pancake made with green onion and pindaeddok is a pancake made with bean sprouts and pork.
Meal times at home bring the entire family together. Korean’s usually enjoy wine and drinks before meals. Entertaining guest with traditional wines is customary. Koreans who are not asked to fill up an empty or half-empty glass frequently would think it very rude on the part of the host. South Korea’s social life revolves around tea and coffee rooms, which have famous herbal teas. A meal in South Korea can range from 10 to 16 dollars for a mid-range restaurant meal to 20 dollars plus for a top-end restaurant.
India, Thailand, and Vietnam
India's people inherited a civilization that began more than 4,500 years ago, one that has proven capable of absorbing and transforming the peoples and cultures that over the centuries have come to the subcontinent. India has long supported a large population of great diversity. The people in India’s intricate network of communities speak literally thousands of languages, practice all of the world's great religions, and participate in a complex social structure that incorporates the caste system, a rigid system of social hierarchy.
To gain even a superficial understanding of the relationships governing the huge number of ethnic, linguistic, and regional groups, the country should be visualized not as a nation-state but as the seat of a major world civilization on the scale of Europe. India has two large ethnic groups which are 72% Indo-Aryan, 25% Dravidian and 3% Mongoloid and others.
There are more than 150 indigenous languages spoken on the Indian subcontinent. No one common language is spoken on the entire Indian subcontinent. Hindi and English are the co-official national languages of India. The Indian constitution also recognizes 18 state languages, which are used in schools and in official transactions.
There were three stages in the history of the Indo-Aryan language branch. The first, Old Indo-Aryan, comprises the Sanskrit language (1500-200 BC). The second stage was Middle Indo-Aryan, which embraces vernacular dialects of Sanskrit called Prakrits (3rd century BC-12th century AD).The final stage, the Modern Indo-Aryan vernaculars, had begun to develop after the 12th century. Roughly 35 are of some significance, particularly Hindi, Urdu, Bengali, Gujarati, Punjabi, Marathi, Bihari, Oriya, and Rajasthani. Also there are about 23 Dravidian languages are spoken by 150 million people in southern India.
There are several groups that descended from ancient settlers in India. These groups include the Jews, the first group of whom are said to have migrated from West Asia, a second group of Jews who fled the Arabian Peninsula in the face of Muslim ascendancy in the seventh century, and the Parsis, who came to India in the eighth century AD to escape Muslim persecution in Persia.
The European powers left a small ethnic imprint on India. The Portuguese came first and left last, but at no time had they extensive dominions such as the Indian kingdoms and empires or the lands of the British in India. There are around 730,000 Portuguese Indians, commonly known as Goans or Goanese, about half of whom live in the state of Goa and the others elsewhere in India. They are descended from Indians in the former Portuguese colony who assimilated to Portuguese culture and in many cases are the descendants of Indo-Portuguese marriages, which the Portuguese civil and religious authorities encouraged.
The largest group of European Indians, however, are descendants of British men. From some time in the nineteenth century, both the British and the Indian societies rejected the offspring of these unions, and so the Anglo-Indians, as they became known, sought marriage partners among other Anglo-Indians. Some Anglo-Indians left the country in 1947, hoping to make a new life in Britain or elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Nations, such as Australia or Canada. Many of these people returned to India after unsuccessful attempts to find a place in "alien" societies.
Still another foreign-origin group, usually known collectively as Siddhis, are the descendants of Africans brought to India as slaves. Although most African-origin Indians are descendants of the large influx of slaves brought to western India in the seventeenth century, the first Africans reportedly arrived on the Konkani Coast in the first century AD as a result of the Arab slave trade. Most modern-day Siddhis are Muslims and are engaged in agricultural pursuits.
Education is divided into preprimary, primary, middle (or intermediate), secondary (or high school), and higher levels. Primary school includes children of ages six to eleven, organized into classes one through five. Middle school pupils aged eleven through fourteen are organized into classes six through eight, and high school students ages fourteen through seventeen are enrolled in classes nine through twelve. Higher education includes technical schools, colleges, and universities. State governments provide most educational funding.
India's official goal for education since independence in 1947 has been to ensure compulsory education for all up to age 14. At independence 25 percent of males and 8 percent of females were literate. In 1995 those figures had been raised to 66 percent of males and 38 percent of females—52 percent of the overall population.
Religion is very important in India, with deep historical roots; Hinduism and Buddhism both originated here. Most people in India practice Hinduism with Islam a distant second. Other important religions include Christianity, Sikhism, Buddhism, and Jainism. In 1991, 82 percent of Indians were Hindus. In 1991, 12 percent of the Indian population practiced Islam, which also is divided into several different communities. India’s other major religious groups include Christians (2.3 percent of the population in 1991), Sikhs (2 percent), Buddhists (0.7 percent), Jains (0.4 percent), a small number of Zoroastrians (or Parsis), and a few thousand Jews.
In the last 20 years, there have been no significant changes in patterns of dietary intake. Cereals remain the staple food in India providing most of the energy intake. Since the seventies the consumption of foods like pulses, roots and tubers has fallen, while that of other foods like sugar, jaggery, fats and oils and green leafy vegetables have slightly increased. The average Indian diet remains largely deficient in green leafy vegetables, meat, fish, milk and milk products. Moreover, it also remains deficient in some micronutrients such as vitamin A, iodine and iron. The small amounts of meat that they do eat include lamb, goat, beef, chicken, shark, lobsters, shrimp and lots of fish. Some of the different types of fish that they consume include: dogfish, haddock, cod, monkfish and chilly fish, plus many more.
According to 1995 statistics in India the average daily per capita caloric intake is 2,388 (vegetable products 93%, animal products 7%); 108% of FAO recommended minimum requirement.
Meals in village India consist mainly of the staple grain—rice, or wheat in the form of unleavened bread baked on a griddle—with stir-fried vegetables, cooked lentils, and yogurt. Each part of the country has its own cuisine, with differences in the kinds and mix of spices, in the cooking oil used (mustard oil in the north, coconut oil in the south), and in favored vegetables or meats. In seasons of scarcity, such as the months before the harvest, the poor may be reduced to having just a chili pepper or salt to flavor their rice or bread. Vegetables are those in season, and cooked food is generally not stored. Food at weddings or other celebrations can be very elaborate, with city-style soft drinks and snacks brought in. Men drink alcohol, most often fermented toddy palm juice in the south, or cheap distilled spirits in the north.
In urban areas meals are still organized around a staple grain, but the variety and amount of vegetables and meat are greater. Food is bought and consumed on the same day, and even those families with refrigerators typically use them only to keep water, soft drinks, or milk cool. Social visiting in cities is also mainly with relatives or among students with their classmates. The upper classes will entertain friends or business acquaintances at home, but men of other classes will more often meet at restaurants or tea stalls to socialize.
In the north, much more meat is eaten and the cuisine is often 'Mughal style', which bears a closer relationship to food of the Middle East and Central Asia. The emphasis is more on spices and less on chilli; grains and breads are more popular than rice. In the south, more rice is eaten, there is more vegetarian food, and the curries tend to be hotter. Another feature of southern vegetarian food is that you do not use eating utensils; just scoop the food up with your fingers - though not with those of your left hand.
The earliest civilization in Thailand is believed to be that of the Mons in central Thailand. The Khmer culture was also one of the first to develop large kingdoms in Thailand. The Thai, who originally lived in southwestern China, migrated to Southeast Asia over a period of centuries. In 1238, a Thai chieftain declared his independence from the Khmer and established a kingdom at Sukhothai (the center of modern Thailand). Today, the inhabitants of Thailand include 75% Thai, 11% Chinese, 3.5% Malay, along with Mon, Khmer, Phuan, and Karen minorities.
Buddhism is the dominant religion in Thailand, with 95% being Buddhist and only 4% being Muslims. Thai is a complicated language with a unique alphabet. The Thai alphabet is based on Indian and Khmer scripts.
Thai women are more conservative than women from other countries. In Thailand, holding hands, hugging or kissing in public is not permitted. Respect should always be shown for Buddhist monks, temples and statues of the Buddha. Thailand is the land of smiles, so losing your temper in public is not allowed. Instead of shaking hands with people, Thai’s press the palms together in a prayer-like gesture called a wai. Other social rules include never touching a person’s head and never pointing at anything with your foot.
The Thai government supports universal free primary education. More than 85% of the population is literate. The education system provides six years at the primary level, three years at the upper secondary level and four years at the tertiary level. Since only six years of primary schooling is required, fewer than three out of ten children continue school beyond elementary level. More than a dozen universities and specialized post secondary institutions provide higher education for 3% of the youth.
Thai cuisine is unique to other cuisine around the world, but if compared to other cuisine it is a combination of Chinese and Indian. Rice and noodles, the staple food, make Thai cuisine similar to the Chinese and the curries make it similar to Indian cuisine.
Meals in Thailand are informal affairs. A Thai meal should consist of soup, a curry dish with condiments, a dip with accompanying fish, and vegetables. There must be a harmony of tastes and textures within individual dishes and the entire meal. Eating out in Thailand is a bargain. Street kitchens provide a full meal for 15 to 40 Bath (about 40 cents to one U.S. dollar). The street kitchens, which primarily serve soup, are frequented by both the poor and the rich. Beer, in Thailand, is very costly due to a heavy tax. A small bottle of beer can cost more than the meal itself. Thai’s prefer Mekong, a whiskey more reasonable priced than beer.
The Vietnamese people represent a fusion of races, languages, and cultures, many of which are still unknown. As was true for most areas of Southeast Asia, the Indochina Peninsula was a crossroads for many migrations of peoples, including speakers of Austronesian, Mon-Khmer, and Tai languages. The Vietnamese language provides some clues to the cultural mixture of the Vietnamese people. Although a separate and distinct language, Vietnamese borrows much of its basic vocabulary from Mon-Khmer, tonality from the Tai languages, and some grammatical features from both Mon-Khmer and Tai. Vietnamese also exhibits some influence from Austronesian languages, as well as large infusions of Chinese literary, political, and philosophical terminology of a later period.
About 88% of the people in Vietnam are ethnic Vietnamese with the remaining 12% consisting of Chinese, Thai, and various mountain groups. The official language is Vietnamese, with English being the favored second language. Chinese and French are also spoken in Vietnam, this is due primarily to fact that they were under French and Chinese control during periods in their history. Additionally, Buddhism is the preferred religion with a limited number practicing Christianity, of which most are Roman Catholics and a small number of Protestants.
The government administers virtually all educational facilities. Literacy is high among the general population, approximately 88%, and most Vietnamese have at least a primary school education. However, government efforts to upgrade school facilities and improve the educational infrastructure have been hampered by Vietnam's high birth rate and continuing economic problems. Additionally, the number of parochial and private schools has grown as the Vietnamese education system has deteriorated. Vietnam’s educational emphasis is on applied sciences and vocational training. The school system consists of nine years of primary and junior high school, and three years of secondary school, with the first nine years being compulsory. Also, Vietnam has 93 colleges and universities, with close to 130,000 students enrolled, but is able to admit only 10 percent of applicants.
Cuisine in Vietnam differs strikingly between the north, south, and central regions, but two key features stand out. First, rice plays an essential role in the nation's diet as it does throughout southeast Asia. But this is also a noodle-crazy population, regularly downing them for breakfast, lunch and dinner, in homes, restaurants and at roadside stands. Noodles are eaten wet and dry, in soup or beside soup, and are made in different shapes and thicknesses, of wheat, rice and mung beans. Secondly, no meal is complete without fresh vegetables and herbs. A key portion of every meal, north, south and central, is a platter containing cucumbers, bean threads, slices of hot pepper, and sprigs of basil, coriander, mint and a number of related herbs found principally in southeast Asian markets.
Due to its proximity to the border, north Vietnam reflects more Chinese influence than central or south. Soy sauce rarely appears in Vietnamese dishes except in the north. It is replaced by what is perhaps the most important ingredient in all of Vietnamese cuisine -- fish sauce or nuoc mam. Stir frying plays a relatively minor role in Vietnam and once again is seen more in the north than elsewhere. And indeed, with the heavy reliance on rice, wheat and legumes, abundance of fresh herbs and vegetables, minimal use of oil, and treatment of meat as a condiment rather than a main course, Vietnamese food has to be among the healthiest on the planet.
Malaysia, Singapore, and Indonesia
The 3.5 million people of Singapore are known as Singaporeans and have an annual growth rate of nearly 2.0%. There are three main ethnic groups. Chinese make up most of the population with 77%, and the Malays and Indians are second and third with 15% and 6.5%, respectively. Most people of religion are Buddhist or Muslim. Taoism and Christianity are both prominent. While there are four official languages, Chinese, Malay, Tamil and English, there is only one national language, which is Malay. Malay was adopted when Singapore was part of Malaysia. The government has mandated that English be the primary language used at all levels of the school system, and it aims to provide at least ten years of education for every child. The literacy rate is at 92% and 12% of the population is in primary or secondary school systems.
With the GDP per capita so high, it is easy to understand why the people of Singapore love to eat out and shop so much. The choice of many teenagers include such restaurants as Burger King, KFC, and McDonalds. Most meals are vegetarian based, with many eating grains and vegetables. They also eat some meat and poultry, with occasional fish in their diets. Singaporeans have lower incidence of heart attacks and strokes due to their more natural, healthy diets.
Malaysia has a population of 22.2 million that averages over 174 people per square mile. Their population is also relatively young with over 34% under the age of fifteen. There are four major ethnic groups in Malaysia: 47% are Malay, 25% are Chinese, 11% are Indigenous, and 7% are Indian. Their major religions include Islam, Buddhism, Confucianism, Christianity, and many others.
Malaysian people have a relatively good level of education. Ninety-nine percent of the population completes primary education (U.S. grades K-8), 82% complete secondary education (U.S. grades 9-12), and their literacy rate is 93%.
Due to the wide variety of religious beliefs in Malaysia, there are a variety of foods available. Rice is the most popular food and is said to be a part of every meal. They also eat a variety of vegetables and meats including fish, beef, chicken, and pork. Individual religions do have specific foods forbidden that must be adhered to. Malay Malaysians do not eat pork and Indian Malaysians do not eat beef due to their religious beliefs. There is also a very obvious American influence on the Malaysian diet. American fast food chains such as Burger King, McDonalds, KFC, and TGI Friday’s are common in the major cities.
There are very few differences between Malaysian and U.S. eating habits. The most common one I found is that you must be sensitive to the beliefs of your present company at the dinner table. For example, if you sit down for supper with a Malay Malaysian, it would be improper to order pork chops. Other than that, Malaysian diets and eating habits are similar to those of the U.S.
The people of the country are referred to as Indonesians, since like Americans in the United States, they are considered a "melting pot" of cultures. Origination of the Indonesian people is believed to have ties to several different cultures including China, India, many Polynesian tribes, and the Dutch. There are over 300 different ethnic groups in Indonesia and approximately 583 other languages and dialects, however Indonesia’s official language is Bahasa Indonesian. English is the language of commerce throughout Asia, the South Pacific and the Pacific.
The primary religion in Indonesia is Muslim – 87%. The education system in Indonesia consists of a twelve-year system. There is a mandatory primary level, with an optional secondary education. The adult literacy rate is 84%. There are approximately 900 institutions of higher education; the University of Indonesia in Jakarta, founded by the Dutch in the 1930s, is one of the largest.
Indonesia taught the world the use of exotic spices and herbs. Indonesian cuisine is known for its deliberate combination of contrasting flavors and textures. Many Indonesian dishes are Chinese-influenced. Rice is the basis of each meal, eaten as a soup or with an assortment of hot and spicy side dishes. All traditional Indonesian food is designed to complement or be made of rice. Nasi goreng (fried rice) is the most common dish, while sate (skewered meats with a spicy peanut sauce), gado-gado (bean sprouts and veggies in peanut sauce) and seafood are also popular.
Beef products are consumed mostly by the wealthy urban population. Rural consumption of beef is kept to a minimum since buffalo are used as draft animals and cattle are used for milk production. Chicken and goat are also common staples in the diet. Indonesia also has a large amount of fresh seafood such as tuna, shrimp, lobster, crab, anchovies, carp, prawns, and sea slugs.
About the only drink Indonesians take with their meals is China tea. Water is generally consumed only after the meal. Dutch beer also goes well with Indonesian food. Another complement to Indonesian food is the variety of tropical fruits grown, which includes custard apples, durians, guavas, jackfruits, mangoes, papayas, starfruits and rambutans.
Food is usually eaten quite rapidly and without speaking, using the fingertips or with a spoon or fork. While visitors are not expected to eat only with the right hand, do not touch food with the left hand.
Oceania and the Philippines
The original people of Australia are the Aborigines, a hunter-gatherer people. They now make up only about 1.7% of the population, and they lead a traditional lifestyle in northern, central, and western Australia. Immigrants make up the majority of the Australian population. Most of them have come from Britain or Ireland, and people of European descent make up 92% of the population. However, immigrants recently have come from places such as the Middle East, Asia, and Latin America. Since World War II, the population of Australia has more than doubled due to a planned immigration program. Almost one of every four Australians was not born there.
The Australian people are very proficient in knowledge; there is a 99% literacy rate. Education is required until age 15, and until age 16 in the state of Tasmania. The major language spoken is English. Most of the people (85%) live in urban areas.
Australian diets are somewhat unique. Food of Asian origin is the current norm. The people of Australia eat more meat than most other people in the world, and it is of very high quality. Barbecues are popular, along with sausages, chicken, kangaroo, and water buffalo. Native animals are not widely farmed for production, but this will possibly happen in the future. Milk-fed lamb and veal is a high value restaurant meal. There are many foods that are native to Australia. Bush Tucker is a term used to describe the immense variety of herbs, fruits, vegetables, animals, etc., that are native to the country. Tucker is another word for food. Amber fluid is another way to term beer. There are many other terms to describe different Australian foods.
There are a few customs in Australia that are not commonly practiced in the U.S. Many restaurants that are not licensed to sell alcohol allow patrons to bring their own. There is usually a "corkage" charge; this is for opening the bottle and providing glasses. Sometimes Australians take a light meal in the afternoon, which they call a tea. This term can also refer to the main evening meal.
The majority of the residents of New Zealand are of British descent. Approximately 14% of the people are of Maori origin, which is Polynesian. These fishing and hunting people arrived over 1,000 years ago. In the late 18th and early 19th century, European settlers came to New Zealand for the whaling, seal hunting, and lumbering. This led to conflict with the indigenous Maori people. However, the British prevailed over the resistance, and many of the native people died from disease and warfare. The Maori eventually recovered from this, and have now accepted and adapted to European culture. Much of this is from interaction and intermarriage with the settlers, as well as missionaries. Recently, the Maori people have become more culturally and politically active.
There is now little immigration into New Zealand; over 75% of the population growth in the last century has been from natural increase of the citizens. About 85% of the people live in urban areas, and about 75% of the people live on the North Island. The primary languages are English and Maori, and the literacy rate is 99%. There is mandatory education from ages 6 to 16.
As in Australia, lamb is a popular dish. Sausages are called bangers and chicken is called chook. A Maori delicacy is muttonbird, which tastes like fish-flavored chicken. A wide variety of seafood is available, including shellfish, lobsters, scallops, and crayfish. Bluff oysters and marinated mussels are pricey restaurant dishes. There are fresh fruit and vegetables available throughout the year, including kiwi, blueberries, eggplants, and feijoas, which are an exotic fruit.
A traditional and famous desert is pavlova, which is made of meringue filled with whipped cream and fruit. It is so named to honor the dancer Anna Pavlova, who visited New Zealand in the 1920’s. A Maori feast, called a hangi, is prepared by steaming the food in an underground oven. Another common practice is to serve beetroots (red beets) on nearly everything. If you want ketchup, ask for tomato sauce to get the traditional American ketchup. New Zealand’s version of ketchup is much different.
Most of the Filipinos are descendants of Indonesians and Malays. The history of the people can be divided into four eras. During the first, the people are thought to have migrated to the Philippines across land bridges and in boats many years ago. In the second, the country was claimed for Spain by Magellan. The Filipinos did not subscribe to Spanish culture, and resisted their authority until the Americans defeated the Spanish in Manila Bay during the Spanish-American War. The islands were ceded to the U.S. in the Treaty of Paris, which marks the third era. Control was given to the Japanese for a short time during World War II, but with the cooperation of the Americans and Filipinos, the islands were returned to the United States. Since then, the U.S. has helped the Philippines become an independent and democratic country. This happened in 1946, and the people are now in their fourth era. The country is called the independent Republic of the Philippines.
Other than Indonesians and Malays, many of the people are of Chinese descent. About 90% of the people are Christian, making the Philippines the only Christian country in Asia. There are 87 languages spoken there, although eight of them are the first language for over 85% of the population. The country has slowly been moving to a national language of Pilipino, which is gaining acceptance. English is spoken by almost half of the people. The literacy rate is over 90%. There are six years of required education in the country, and a little over half of the people continue past that level.
Food is very important to Filipinos; it is considered the basis of their social life. They eat three meals a day. There are also two snack times in between meals. They get up early in the day, so a second breakfast is sometimes eaten at about 10:30. There is also a merienda, or a mid-afternoon snack. Regular mealtimes are followed strictly. People who live in rural areas have their main meal at midday, while urban folk have theirs in the evening. Bars are also a major part of Filipino life, as drinking is basic to the social life there. They drink large amounts of beer, gin, and rum. The majority of Filipino food is of Malay origin, with American, Chinese, and Spanish influences. A typical meal would include rice and a combination of meats, such as pork and fish or chicken and shrimp. The food is usually fresh or salted, since refrigerators are uncommon.
There are a few social practices that a visitor would want to be aware of. Strangers are often invited to eat with natives, but it is polite not to accept the first invitation. If they insist further, the invitation is genuine, and it is correct to accept. It is also polite to wait until told to sit at the table or to begin eating. Guests indicate that the meal was good by leaving a small portion on the plate. It is polite to eat a small amount of the meal even if it is not enjoyed. Food is eaten with a spoon in one hand and a fork in the other. Knives are rarely used. Rural residents often eat with their hands.
Papua New Guinea
The population of Papua New Guinea is perhaps one of the most unique in the world. There are thousands of small, separate communities, each with only a few hundred people. These villages differ in customs, language, and traditions, which occasionally causes warfare among them. Much of this separation is due to the forbidding mountainous terrain, which discourages interaction. A folk saying in Papua New Guinea explains much: "For each village, a different culture." Typical social structure includes the following: a subsistence economy, strong bonds of kinship that extend beyond immediate family, acquired rather than inherited status, and a strong commitment to the land.
The first people of Papua New Guinea were hunters and gatherers that managed the environment. Their origin is not clear. By the time Europeans became aware of them, the inhabitants had a productive agricultural system. Only about 1% of the country’s population is of foreign origin. Since the country gained independence in 1975, only 900 people have acquired citizenship through naturalization. About two-thirds of the population is Christian, with others being involved in spirit worship or ancestral cults. English is spoken by educated people. Motu is the official language, and there are over 700 other languages in use. The literacy rate is 72%, and there is no mandatory education requirement.
There is no national cuisine in Paupa New Guinea. Local food is made up of bland starchy foods with very little protein. A typical western diet is not acceptable to the general population.
Russia and the FSU
Belarus's origins can be traced back to the late ninth century AD. After the death of a ruler from a Slavic state, the people split into a number of principalities which each centered around a city. One of the cities formed became the nucleus of modern-day Belarus. The Belarusian language is an East Slavic tongue closely related to Russian and Ukrainian, with many loanwords from the Polish. Although the Belarusian language had not changed over the last 400 years, with the instatement of the Soviet Union, most people converted over to the Russian language. By the early 1990’s only 11% of the population was still fluent in Belarusian.
The origin of many customs, holidays, and customs do not often relate to the Christian holidays, as much as ancient ceremonies. However many holidays have been adapted to the Christian holidays. The festive merry days of Christmas are called Yule-tide in Belarus. Maslyanitsa is Pancake week right before Lent, also called a cheese week. Historians say that those were really "mad" days in the past. It was just a celebration of the passing of winter, were people drank wine and cooked pancakes all week. Easter comes from the Christian holiday, but they celebrate it by baking round-shaped sweet bread called Easter cakes. Eggs are also painted and there is a proverb that says if you wash your face in water with the Easter egg in it, you will always be healthy and beautiful. The final main holiday is the spas. In August after the harvest is sown, they celebrate three spas. Spas bring cold dew to lands and meadows. After the first spa honey is collected, the second brings fresh fruit and the third one, nuts.
Of the population over the age of fifteen 97% of the people are literate. Of the male population 99% of the people are literate. Although most children do attend school in their teens very few have the opportunity to go on to post-secondary education.
Russian cuisine is famous for exotic soups, cabbage schi and solyanka, which is made of assorted meats. Russians are great lovers of pelmeni, small Siberian meat pies boiled in broth. The recipes with the most choice are that of mushrooms. There are an abundance of these recipes since there is an unlimited amount of woodlands to support the growth of mushrooms. "No dinner without bread," goes the Russian saying. Wheat loves have dozens of varieties. As to rye bread, Russians eat more of it than any nation in the world. As the Belarusian custom has it, a festive table isn’t worth this name without a bottle of vodka. Belarusians are traditionally hearty drinkers: as good whiskey shall come from Scotland, and port from Portugal, so Russian wheat vodka is the world’s best. For soft drinks, kvass is the best known. It is made of brown bread or malted rye flour. If you add it to chopped-up meat and vegetables you get okroshka, an exquisite cold soup.
Throughout the history of Georgia, many different cultures have sought out to conquer the land. Being that it was a link between Europe and Asia Georgia became a battleground for different cultures that wanted control of the country. Although the likelihood is great that Georgians have always lived in this region. The name Georgia was giving to them by the Persian Achaemenians who controlled the land at different times between 300 BC and 550 BC.
The Georgia of today is now an intermixed culture, with many different groups of people living there. The Georgians themselves make up 70% of the population, while Armenians, Russians, Azerbaijanis, Ossets, and Greeks make up the final 30%. The majority of the Georgians worship their God in the Georgian Orthodox church, while the remaining cultures attend to the Russian Orthodox, Muslim, Armenia Apostolic, and Jewish churches.
Georgians are highly educated citizens with 99% of the population, over the age 15, being able to read and write. The people of this land are also considered to be optimists. Although a civil war in the early 90’s led to economic hardship the Georgians feel that their economy is improving and believe that they can become the "Switzerland" of Easter Europe. Also when visiting Georgia one may find that the people of this land are the most cultured on earth. Georgians always like to invite tourists into their home for a good home-cooked Georgian meal. Now to refuse an offer to dine with a Georgian family is considered to be a major insult. When dining with a family we must also remember never to raise our glasses in a toast before the tomada. The tomada is considered to be the toastmaster, and always chooses the subject of the toast. To change the theme of the toast is considered an insult to the tomada, so an appropriate response to the toast would be a simple speech of thanks. It is also important to never take sides on political issues dealing with the internal problems of the country. Emotions run high in this land and the people of Georgia have a habit of carrying guns that can turn a political argument into a lethal situation.
Food in Georgia is one of the biggest attractions for visitors and is the centerpiece for domestic cultural activity. During the Soviet rule many restaurants spread out through the land, and are still considered to be favorites among the Russians and the surrounding states. Each part of the country has its unique cuisine with many flavors derived from spice combinations, but the focus on herbs and garlic predominates. Cafes and restaurants serve Georgian and traditional European foods, while the fast food chains serve dishes such as, khinkali, kabob, barbecue and khachapuri. The American fast-food chains serve the traditional hot-dogs and hamburgers. For a different taste for breakfast one must try the khachi. This dish is a soup or tripe, cow hoof, and lots of garlic. Coke and Fanta in this country are ubiquitous, however traditional Georgian mineral waters and fruit drinks have a well-deserved reputation.
Russia is the most ethnically diverse population out of the 15 union republics of the former Soviet Union, with more than 70 distinct nationalities. Ethnic Russians constitute 81.5% of the 146,393,569 inhabitants of Russia, followed by Tatar at 3.8%, Ukrainian at 3%, Chuvash at 1.2%, Bashkir at 0.9%, Byelorussian at 0.8%, Moldavian at 0.7%, and the remaining 8.1% being represented by a multitude of various ethnic groups. This diversity has led to numerous conflicts in which ethnic differences have been at the forefront as the major cause. This is most evident presently in the Russian province of Chechnya, as a civil war is dividing two of the ethnic groups, which inhabit the area. Chechnya is just one of the 21 minority republics that divide Russia along ethnic boundaries. Within the Russian republic alone there are 10 autonomous districts and an autonomous region. Those regions of the republic, which do not form autonomous territories, are divided into 6 regions and 49 provinces.
Linguistically, the people are divided of primarily 4 major groups and several smaller, less prominent groups. The first group is the Indo-Europeans who are comprised mainly of East Slavs who are mainly Russian. This linguistic group represents 85% of the entire population of Russia. The emergence of the Slavs can be traced back to between the third and eighth centuries in Eastern Europe prior to the emergence of the Slav state, Kiev Russ in the 800s. Following the Mongol invasion, the Russian Empire expanded further to the Arctic, Baltic, and Pacific. In addition to Russian, there are also Indo-Iranian and German speakers.
The second linguistic group is the Altaic group, which is dominated by Turkish speakers. These people inhabit the central Asian republics. In eastern Siberia, the Evenk speak Manchu-Tungus languages and those who live near Lake Baikal and the lower Volga, the Buryat and Kalmyk respectively, speak Mongolian tongues.
The Uralic group is a very complex linguistic group located in the Eurasian forest and tundra areas comprised of Finnic, Mordvins, Mari, Udmurt, Komi, Karelians, Finns, Vepps, Mansi, and Khanty. The Caucasian groups are located south of the Caucasus Mountains. In the Far East of Siberia, there are several groups that live in similar fashions, but differ in language.
Each of the Russian ethnic groups, no matter how different, has each held religion as being an important element in their lives. Under Communist rule in the Soviet Union, religious activities were greatly restrained and religion was dictated for the most part by political events. Participation in religion was thought to be incompatible with Communism and a hindrance to the advancement of both the individual and the country. In more recent years, with the dissolution of the Soviet Union, religious freedom has become a reality and the Russian Orthodox church has emerged as a major player in Russian culture. Other less prominent religions include Islam (Turkish speakers) and Buddhist (Mongolian speakers).
Russian customs and etiquette are often centered around the consumption of liquor, which is of great importance in Russian life. By far, vodka is the liquor of choice among Russian inhabitants. It is a serious breach of etiquette to refuse a drink or toast from a Russian. Russians are able to accept the fact that someone does not have the desire to drink, but if you begin to drink with them, you are expected to continue drinking to show true camaraderie. As in the West, it is appropriate to bring the host or hostess of a party a gift, such as an odd-number of flowers for the woman and wine or vodka, of course, for the man if he drinks. Greetings among friends include hugs and kisses on the cheek and handshakes and statements of names between people who are less familiar with each other.
The Russian educational system is quite similar to Russian religion in the fact that the demise of the Communist system have allowed major revisions to be made in the determination of the subjects that are taught. In addition, Russian children are no longer required to be immersed in compulsory indoctrination in Marxist-Leninist Theory. Free compulsory education begins at age 7 and continues for 8 years, but most children continue to attend school until age 17. Admission to institutions of higher education is highly selective and very competitive.
The Russian diet is proportionally higher is complex carbohydrates and conversely lower in proteins than other diets of their close European neighbors. Despite their enthusiasm for the consumption of alcohol, Russians have tremendous longevity as their are more centenarians found there than anywhere else in the world. The healthiness of their diet is dominated by dark breads, buckwheat, goat’s milk and yogurt, potatoes, other root vegetables, cabbage or beet borscht (soup), and some meats.
Some of the Russia’s finer foods include blintzes (stuffed pancakes), zrazy (stuffed fried fish or seafood), stroganoff, beef cooked with onions in sour cream, or rakov, a seafood pie. Other culinary specialties include zakusky (hors d’vores), Potage Bagration (cream of veal with asparagus tips), botvinya (green vegetable soup with a fish base), solyanka (cucumber soup), pelemeni (Siberian meat dumplings, boiled, fried, and served with sour cream), kasha (buckwheat porridge), holubtsi (Ukrainian stuffed cabbage), bitki (meatballs or fish balls with strong spices), paskha (cottage-cream cheesecake with candied fruits made in a pyramid shape for Easter), and babka (a round coffee cake).
The population of Ukraine is only slightly smaller than that of such western European countries as France, Italy, or the United Kingdom, but it is only one-third that of neighboring Russia. When Ukraine was part of the Soviet Union, a policy of Russian in-migration and Ukrainian out-migration was in effect, and ethnic Ukrainians' share of the population in Ukraine declined from 77 percent in 1959 to 73 percent in 1991. The 1991 Soviet census also revealed Russians to be the largest minority, at 22 percent. The remaining minorities, in 1991 making up about 5 percent of the population, include Jews, Belarusians, Moldavians, Bulgarians, Poles, Hungarians, and Romanians. The Crimean Tatars, who were forcibly deported to Uzbekistan and other Central Asian republics in 1944, began returning to the Crimea in large numbers in 1989 and now number about 250,000. The predominant religion in Ukraine is Eastern Orthodoxy, although in western Ukraine the Ukrainian Catholic faith prevails.
During the Soviet period, Russian was the required language of government administration and public life. In 1991 Ukrainian once again became the official language, though in the Crimea, where there is a Russian-speaking majority, Russian is the official language. In addition, primary and secondary schools using Russian as the language of instruction still prevail in the Donets Basin and other areas with large Russian minorities. Ukrainian--belonging to the East Slavic language family that also includes Russian and Belarusian--uses a form of the Cyrillic alphabet. It is closely related to Russian, and the two languages are mutually intelligible. Significant minorities speak Romanian, Polish, Belarusian, Bulgarian, or Hungarian.
More than one-half of the population lives in urban areas. The highest population densities occur in southeastern and south-central Ukraine, in the highly industrialized regions of the Donets Basin and the Dnieper Bend, which together contain more than one-third of the total urban population. The major cities in Ukraine are Kiev, Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Odessa, Zaporizhzhya, Lviv, and Kryvyy Rih. Of the rural population, more than half live in large villages (1,000 to 5,000 inhabitants), and most of these people are employed in a rural economy based on farming. The highest rural population densities are found in the wide belt of forest-steppe extending east west across central Ukraine, where the extremely fertile soils and balanced climatic conditions are most favorable for agriculture.
Central America and Caribbean
Bahamians take great pride in their past. The "Lukku-cairi" or island people, as they called themselves, were the first settlers. Originally from South America, they meandered up through the Caribbean and finally arrived in The Bahamas around the Ninth Century. Known as Arawaks, they are also called "Lucayans" and "Indians"- a label bestowed by Columbus, who mistakenly thought he found the East Indies when he dropped anchor in San Salvador in 1492. The 275,000 people who live in The Bahamas are predominantly of West African descent. Their ancestors were slaves brought to the islands to work the cotton plantations until 1834, when Britain abolished slavery in all its territories. Most white residents are descendants of the first English settlers, who emigrated from Bermuda in 1647 to gain religious freedom. Some are also related to the Loyalists who fled the southern United States during the American Revolution.
The 18th Century Privateers' Republic has become the 20th Century banker's paradise, at least on New Providence and Grand Bahama. On the other islands, once known as the Out Islands but now euphemistically called the Family Islands, the atmosphere is less oriented toward the North American tourist and more toward the rhythms of West Indian life. 85% of the population is black, with the remaining 15% white. English is spoken throughout the country.
Religion is an integral part of Bahamian life. Even the tiniest village has a church, sometimes two. The people's religious ardor and high regard for education are evidence of their Puritan heritage. In fact, the country claims the greatest number of churches per capita in the world.
Music is also in the very bones of the people. African rhythms, Caribbean Calypso, English folk songs and the uniquely Bahamian Goombay beat echo in the air. The fast tempo of "goom-bahhh" resonating from the drums can be traced back to the days of slavery and is used both for story telling and dancing. Bahamian kids also play basketball with a passion. They live on the basketball court, and most towns have a small court with makeshift stands. Bahamians follow the US basketball (and baseball) leagues with intense fervor.
The laid-back attitude of Bahamians is often misunderstood by those unaware that it evolves from years of a good life in a land where nature provides every need. There is always time to worry about the bad things tomorrow. Bahamians are humorous, helpful people who love to celebrate. There are several national holidays that are huge events in the Bahamas, comparable to Mardi Gras in the US. Weddings and funerals in the Bahamas are especially important social events. People begin celebrating a marriage weeks before the official ceremony begins, and the passing of loved ones is commemorated by parties long after they are gone.
There aren’t many social taboos in the Bahamas. One to keep in mind is that the US dollar is widely accepted, while European currencies are usually frowned upon. Other than that, Bahamians are pretty laid back.
Education is important to Bahamians. There is little illiteracy in the Bahamas, with adult literacy rate at 98.2%. Schooling is compulsory from five to 14 years of age. Public secondary and technical schools have been expanding, and college schooling is also available.
The cuisine of the Bahamas is never bland. Spicy and uniquely flavored with local meats and produce, more than any other cuisine in the West Indies, Bahamian cooking has been influenced by the American South. "Fish’n’grits" is one example of this. The Bahamian diet consists mostly of seafood products. Conch, meat from a large ocean mollusk, is very popular and is served in many different dishes. Fresh fish also plays an important role in the diet. Bahamian soups are very popular. Peas are one of the main ingredients in these soups and are used in many different types of soup.
Partly due to the strong North American influence on the islands’ culture, the eating habits are quite similar to the United States’. There are no apparent taboos to speak of.
Unlike many of their Central American neighbors, present-day Costa Ricans are largely of European rather than mestizo descent; Spain was the primary country of origin. Few of the native Indians survived European contact; the indigenous population today numbers about 29,000 or 1% of the population. Descendants of 19th Century Jamaican immigrant workers constitute an English-speaking minority and, at 3% of the population, number about 96,000.
Costa Rica’s education consists of 9 compulsory years. Attendance to school is nearly 100%. The nation's literacy rate is around 94%. Spanish is the main language spoken. The area of Puerto Limon however, is mainly English speaking with a Jamaican dialect
Costa Rica is noted more for its natural beauty and friendly people than for its culture. The overwhelming European influence erased almost all indigenous culture, and because Costa Rica was a country of subsistence agriculturists until the middle of the 19th Century, cultural activity has only begun to blossom in the last 100 years.
Over 90% of the country are Roman Catholic, at least in principle. In practice, most church attendance takes place at christenings, funerals, and marriages. Blacks on the Caribbean coast tend to be Protestant, and there is a sprinkling of other denominations in San José, including a small Jewish community. Spanish is the official language, though English is understood in tourist areas. Many Caribbean Blacks speak a lively dialect of English, known as Creole. Indian languages are spoken in isolated areas, primarily Bribri, which is estimated to be understood by about 10,000 people.
Costa Rican cuisine is tasty rather than spicy-hot and is centered around beef, chicken, and fish dishes, with rice, corn or beans, and fresh fruit as supplements.
Despite the best efforts of the power to its north, the sun still shines on Cuba. It's the Caribbean's largest and least commercialized island and one of the world's last communist countries. The island's political isolation has prevented it from being overrun by tourists and the locals are sincerely friendly to those that do venture in.
The Cuban population is made up mainly of three groups. Approximately 66% of the population are white and mainly of Spanish descent, 22 % are of mixed racial heritage, and 12% is black. Almost all of the people are native born. It's thought that humans first came to the Cuban island from South America around 3500 BC, and were joined some time later by Arawak Indians. The Spanish arrived in the late 15th Century, and imported thousands of African slaves. This helps to explain the large Spanish population and the smaller black population in Cuba.
Historically, Roman Catholicism has been the dominant religion in Cuba and it remains so, with around 40% of Cubans at least nominally Catholic. Around 4% of the population are Protestant and 2% are Afro-American Spiritist - devotees of Santería. The loose institutional organization of Santería's adherents hides the fact that a majority of Cubans are affiliated with this Afro-Catholic religious fusion in one way or another, and their numbers have grown since the government ended its official atheism in 1992.
Music and other arts are very popular in Cuba. African slaves brought rhythms and ritual dances to Cuba where they were blended with Spanish guitars and melodies and then appropriated and developed throughout the Americas. The conga-line dance was developed by slaves shackled together, while much of contemporary Cuban dance has important associations with Afro-Cuban Santería religion. The most popular Cuban music today is son, which developed in the hills of the Oriente before the turn of the century and incorporates guitars, tres (a small Cuban stringed instrument with three pairs of strings), double bass, bongos, claves, maracas, and voice. Mambo, bolero, salsa, and chachachá music also derived from this form. Cuban music continues to evolve and there are many artists still making great music.
After the revolution the government actively supported the arts. Many theatres, museums, and arts schools were founded, musicians were guaranteed a salary, and a national film industry was established. The government has sought to redress the influence of North American mass culture by subsidizing Afro-Cuban cultural groups and performing ensembles.
There are several things in Cuba that shouldn’t be done for particular reasons. No one is allowed to criticize the Cuban government, a crime punishable with prison time. Also, no American credit cards or travelers checks are accepted. However, the use of the US$ is allowed (since the Cuban government legalized its use in 1993).
Education is important to the citizens of Cuba. School attendance is compulsory and free for children in Cuba between the ages of 6 and 11. Enrollment in primary, secondary, and higher education institutions is high. The adult literacy rate for those over 15 years of age is about 96%.
Cuban cuisine is a mix of Spanish and African techniques, using local produce. Dishes like Moros y Cristianos (Moors and Christian; black beans and rice), arroz con pollo (chicken and rice), and picadillo (minced beef and rice) are common, as are soups made with plantains, chickpeas or beans. There are, however, food shortages in Cuba and eating out can mean long waits at state-run restaurants or hotel dining rooms. Cuban beer (cerveza) is excellent and the cocktails are legendary.
There aren’t many food taboos in Cuba. Tipping is not essential and was once actively discouraged, but a tip of one dollar is greatly appreciated. Also, it has been said that tourists to the country should avoid the water because "drinking tap water is guaranteed to result in instant weight loss and possibly hepatitis A." Eating habits are similar to those in the US, except that many Cuban don’t eat out in restaurants because they are so poor. They will, however, wait in very long lines during the heat of the day outside an ice cream stand.
About 90% of the population are Mestizo (mixed Indian and European). There also are small minorities of European, African, Asian, Arab, and indigenous Indian descent. Most Hondurans are Roman Catholic, but Protestant influence has resulted in significant numbers of converts. Spanish is the predominant language, although some English is spoken along the northern coast and on the Caribbean Bay Islands. Indigenous Indian dialects and the Garifuna dialect also are spoken.
The restored Mayan ruins near the Guatemalan border in Copan reflect the great Mayan culture that flourished there for hundreds of years until the early Ninth Century. Mayan artifacts also can be found at the National Museum in Tegucigalpa. Columbus landed at mainland Honduras (Trujillo) in 1502. He named it "Honduras" (meaning "depths") for the deep water off the coast. The Spanish began founding settlements along the coast and Honduras came under the control of the Captaincy General of Guatemala. The cities of Comayagua and Tegucigalpa developed as early mining centers.
The art and architecture of pre-Columbian and Spanish colonial periods are strongly evident in Honduran culture. Of special interest is the great Myan city of Copan, which was restored in 1839 after its discovery in a thick jungle more than 250 years earlier; it represents the height of the Mayan Classic period. Spanish architecture reflects Moorish, Gothic, and, especially, Baroque styles. Modern Honduran culture has not produced many strong representatives of its art, the country’s widespread poverty being a major impediment. Most contemporary artists reflect their colonial heritage, while the pre-Columbian heritage is seen mainly in Indian crafts. Social themes may also be reflected in paintings and literary works, the latter being generally represented by poetry and short fiction. Family recreation often revolves around religious festivals honoring local saints. Soccer (football) is the favorite team and spectator sport, and international matches often arouse great emotion.
The Honduran educational system follows the European model of centralized control through the Ministry of Public Education. According to law, education is free and, at the primary level, compulsory for all children. Efforts have been made to combat illiteracy, which is very high for older people. Literacy rates in Honduras are about 73% for adults over 15 years of age.
Poor food productivity and low incomes lead to a very low standard of living in the countryside, where illness and poor diets are endemic. The typical diet of the rural population consists of corn—by far the primary staple and most widely planted crop—made into tortillas, beans—the main source of protein—cassava, plantains, rice, and coffee, with only occasional supplements of meat or fish. Although pigs and chickens are widely raised, meat is infrequent in most rural diets, as are green vegetables. Given the nature of the typical diet and the fact that food production has been insufficient for the country’s needs, widespread malnutrition complicates the population’s fragile health. Population growth exacerbates the problem; creating a vicious cycle of more mouths to be fed, yet lower agricultural productivity, as well as transportation and distribution difficulties. The country's cuisine is based around beans, rice, tortillas, fried bananas, meat, potatoes, cream and cheese.
The island's rich artistic heritage reaches back to pre-Columbian days when the Arawak Indians etched petroglyphs on the ceilings and walls of caverns. Examples can still be seen in caves dotted throughout the island. The aboriginal Arawak Indians were exterminated by the Spanish colonists by the time the English invaded the island in 1655. The Spaniards themselves disappeared as a population element shortly afterward. With the large-scale introduction of African slaves to work the sugar estates, the English settlers were soon greatly outnumbered. Today the population consists predominantly of the black and mulatto descendants of those slaves. Small minority elements originate from the United Kingdom, India, China, Syria, Portugal, and Germany.
Today Jamaica, and particularly Kingston, is a center of Caribbean art, its vital cultural energy having flourished tremendously since independence in 1962. Edna Manley, wife of Norman Manley, Jamaica's first Prime Minister, was instrumental in the unshackling of Jamaican art from European aesthetic prescriptions. From the 1920s until her death in 1987, Manley was a central figure in the Jamaican art world both for her sculpture, and for her vigorous promotion and encouragement of local artists, which included the island-themed primitives (labeled 'intuitives') and a more internationalist group of painters schooled abroad. No collective visual style defines Jamaican artworks, but many emphasize historical roots in their works. The international success of reggae music has had a profound effect on Jamaican visual arts. Rastafarians are common subjects, as are market higglers, animals, and religious symbols merged with the myths of Africa. From the suburbs to the discos, Jamaica reverberates to the sounds of calypso, soca (a soul-calypso fusion) and reggae. Reggae is associated above all with one man, Bob Marley, who helped spark a “Third World consciousness” by being both a musical superstar and a consistent voice against racism, oppression, and injustice.
Officially English is the spoken language but, in reality, Jamaica is a bilingual country and English is far more widely understood than spoken. The unofficial lingo is patois, a musical dialect with a uniquely Jamaican rhythm and cadence. Patois evolved from the Creole English and a twisted alchemy of the mother tongue peppered with African, Portuguese and Spanish terms, and Rastafarian slang.
The major religion in Jamaica is Protestant with many denominations present. The Church of God is the largest denomination comprising 21.2% of the religion. The people are also well educated. 85% of the population is literate (def: age 15 and over who has ever attended school).
Jamaica's homegrown cuisine is a fusion of many ethnic traditions, with Arawak Indian, Spanish, African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, and British influences all detectable. A typical Jamaican breakfast is ackee, a tree-grown fruit which bears an uncanny resemblance to scrambled eggs when cooked. Lunch is usually a light snack, maybe a heavily seasoned meat or vegetable pie. Main meals usually feature goat or pork, usually curried, served with rice and beans. Seafood dishes are also popular, often pickled and fried with peppers and onions. Jamaica's most popular dish is jerk, a term that describes the process of cooking meats smothered in tongue-searing marinade, and barbecued slowly in an outdoor pit over a fire of pimento wood, which gives the meat its distinctive flavor. Tea is a generic Jamaican term for any hot, brewed drink, and may be herbal, mixed with rum, milk, spices, and even fish. Beware of marijuana or hallucinogenic mushroom teas, which may be more than you bargained for in an after-dinner digestive! Skyjuice is a favorite cool drink, made from shaved ice flavored with syrup. Coconut juice, straight from the nut, is also popular. Beer and rum are the most popular alcoholic drinks. Jamaican Blue Mountains coffee is among the most flavorsome in the world, but due to farcical authentication and licensing requirements, much of what is sold as the genuine article is not all it's cracked up to be.
Most Nicaraguans have both European and Indian ancestry, and the culture of the country reflects the Ibero-European and Indian heritage of its people. Only the Indians of the eastern half of the country remain ethnically distinct and retain tribal customs and languages. A large black minority (of Jamaican origin) is concentrated on the Caribbean coast. In the mid-1980’s, the central government divided the eastern half of the country, the former department of Zelaya, into two autonomous regions and granted the people of the region limited self-rule. The 1995 constitutional reform guaranteed the integrity of the regions’ several unique cultures, and gave the inhabitants say in the use of the area’s natural resources.
Roman Catholicism is the major religion, but Evangelical Protestant groups have grown recently, and there are strong Anglican and Moravian communities on the Caribbean coast.
Nicaragua has rich cultural traditions that reflect long-standing, sharp class and ethnic cleavages. The elite "professional" tradition was exemplified in the late 19th and early 20th Centuries by the literary works of Ruben Dario, known as the "prince of Spanish-American poetry." The folk traditions were expressed in beautiful arts and crafts, popular religious ceremonies, and country music (corridos). Fiestas based on religious holidays occur throughout the year. The celebration of the Immaculate Conception, "la Purisima," culminating on December 8, is the most important holiday. Baseball is the nation’s most popular sport.
After decades of neglect by the Somozas, social programs for the poor became a central concern of the Sandinistas. The 1980 National Literacy Crusade reduced adult illiteracy from more than 50% to less than 15%. Standard education at all levels was also greatly expanded. Health measures were taken that significantly reduced infant mortality and increased life expectancies.
A typical meal in Nicaragua consists of eggs or meat, beans and rice, salad (cabbage and tomatoes), tortillas, and fruit in season. Most common of all Nicaraguan foods is gallo pinto, a blend of rice and beans, with cooking water from the beans added to color the rice. Other traditional dishes include bajo, a mix of beef, green and ripe plantains and yucca (cassava), and vigorón, yucca served with fried pork skins and coleslaw. Street vendors sell interesting drinks such as tiste, made from cacao and corn, and posol con leche, a corn and milk drink. Nicaragua boasts the best beer and rum in Central America.
The culture, customs, and language of the Panamanians are predominantly Caribbean Spanish. Ethnically, the majority of the population is mestizo (mixed Spanish and Indian) or mixed Spanish, Indian, Chinese, and West Indian. Spanish is the official and dominant language; English is a common second language spoken by the West Indians and by many in business and the professions. More than half the population lives in the Panama City-Colon metropolitan corridor.
The earliest known inhabitants of Panama were the Cuevas and the Coclé cultures, but disease and the sword decimated them when the Spanish arrived in the 16th Century. After several forays along the country's Caribbean shore, the Spanish settlement of Nombre de Dios was established at the mouth of the Río Chagres on the Caribbean coast in 1510. Panama's Pacific coast later became the springboard for invasions of Peru and the wealth generated by these incursions was carried overland from the Pacific port of Panama (City) to Nombre de Dios. The transport of wealth attracted pirates and, by the 18th Century, the Caribbean was so dangerous that Spanish ships began bypassing Panama and sailing directly from Peru around Cape Horn to reach Europe.
Panama's arts reflect its ethnic mix. Indian tribes, West Indian groups, mestizos, Chinese, Middle Eastern, Swiss, Yugoslav, and North American immigrants have all offer contributed ingredients to the cultural stew. Traditional arts include woodcarving, weaving, ceramics, and mask making.
Panama is rich in folklore and popular traditions. Brightly colored national dress is worn during local festivals and the pre-Lenten carnival season, especially for traditional folk dances like the tanborito. Lively salsa, a mixture of Latin American popular music, rhythm and blues, jazz, and rock, is a Panamanian specialty. Indian influences dominate handicrafts such as the famous Kuna textile molas. Artist Roberto Lewis' Presidential Palace murals and his restoration work and ceiling in the National Theater are well known and admired.
More than 65,000 Panamanian students attend the University of Panama, the Technological University, and the University of Santa Maria La Antigua, a private Catholic institution. Including smaller colleges, there are 14 institutions of higher education in Panama.
The first 6 years of primary education are compulsory, and there are about 357,000 students currently enrolled in grades one through six. The total enrollment in the six secondary grades is about 207,000. Nearly 90% of Panamanians are literate.
In Panama, there are some specific, "taboos" that make it unique. You can tip some small change, or around 10% of the bill if you're feeling affluent, in fancier restaurants; in small cafes and more casual places, tipping is not necessary. Haggling over prices is not the general custom in Panama.
Food is good and cheap (except for the Hotel Taboga). Seafood is obviously the main dish. Many items such as shrimp, lobster, and some exotic fish are the most popular in the Panama culture. Food is generally pretty cheap. Often times you can get a high quality dinner without sacrificing your entire pocketbook.
Puerto Rican culture is a mixture of Spanish, African, and Taíno traditions overlaid with a century-thick layer of American influence. At times, parts of San Juan can seem like any US city with a large Latino population, but dig a little deeper or get into the countryside and you'll find a complex Creole culture that certainly won't be erased by the arrival of Budweiser and Burger King.
Christopher Columbus discovered the island of Borinquen (the Amerindian name for Puerto Rico) in 1493, and found it to be inhabited by Taino Indians, a subgroup of the Arawak. Some African slaves were brought into Puerto Rico, while Spanish males constituted the largest group of immigrants for about 300 years. When slavery was abolished in 1873, only about 5% of the population was pure African. Some Chinese, Italians, Corsicans, Lebanese, Germans, Scottish, and Irish also found their way to the island in the mid-19th Century. During this time the population grew steadily, becoming racially and culturally homogeneous.
The intermingling of cultural influences is so pronounced that nothing on Puerto Rico is ever one-dimensional. Spanish is the island's main language, though the local version contains plenty of English and Amerindian words. Roman Catholicism is the main religion, but it's fused with spiritualism and Indian folkloric traditions. The music you hear on Puerto Rico's streets may sound like it originated in the "hood," but bomba shows traces of African influence. The plena's cultural roots are in Spain and salsa hails from émigrés in New York. Out of boombox range, typical Puerto Rican instruments includes maracas, güiro (a type of gourd used as percussion) and cuatro, a ten-stringed guitar-like instrument. Puerto Rican painters, both native and expat, are achieving international recognition.
Uncomfortable with its ambiguous political status, much debate on the island revolves around questions of national identity. Though political will for independence is a slippery animal, Puerto Ricans clearly see themselves as distinct from their American cousins, and there's little doubt that the island has much more in common with its Caribbean and Latino neighbors than it does with Uncle Sam.
Much Puerto Rican literature is produced by expatriates and deals with national identity and the links between acá (here) and allá (there). "Nuyoricans" such as Pedro Juan Soto, Emilio Díaz Valcárcel and José Luis González tackle the elusive idea of home in stories, novels and poetry. The literacy (def: age 15 and over that can read and write) rate is about 89%.
Puerto Ricans, like everyone, love to eat and in so doing have perfected the art of Caribbean cuisine into its own cocina criolla. This special Caribbean cookery has a fairly traceable family tree and it is safe to say that it was initiated by the early Indian inhabitants of the island The seasoning is perhaps the most noticeable difference in Puerto Rican cookery. Some favorite herbs are culantro (coriander), and orégano.These, together with small sweet peppers are widely used to flavor soups, meats and legumes.
Rice is a mainstay of the Puerto Rican diet and it can be prepared in a variety of ways be it "white" served with kidney beans or prepared with gandules (pigeon peas) or garbanzos (chick-peas) or in a variety of other delicious ways...(just try a well-made rice with chicken). Soups are a popular beginning for meals in Puerto Rico or a full meal by themselves. The roasted or barbecued pig is a favorite for Christmas and other occasions, the pig being roasted in an open pit, a process that takes a few hours.
The abundant tropical fruits are used to prepare delicious juices or nectars to freshen up the tropical heat--a favorite is pineapple juice from some of the most sweetest pineapples in the world. Coconut, papaya, lime and tamarind are among other delicacies worth trying. Mangoes from the western part of the island are among the sweetest of fruits. Puerto Ricans are heavy coffee drinkers and Puerto Rican coffee is among the best in the world. Puerto Rican Rums are known worldwide as the best as they are aged for years according to law.
The great wave of European immigration after the mid-1800’s molded the present-day ethnic and racial character of Argentina. The Indians and mestizo’s were pushed aside or absorbed, and the blacks and mulattos disappeared, apparently also absorbed into the dominant population. Almost half of the European immigrants in the late 19th and early 20th centuries were Italian and about one-third were Spanish. Substantial numbers also came up from France, Poland, Russia, and Germany. In 1869 the foreign-born made up 12 percent of the population. This had grown to about one-third by 1914, and in the large cities foreigners had out numbered the natives by two to one. The children born of immigrants were quick to identify themselves as Argentines, so that the people were not divided into antagonistic groups.
The official language that is spoken in Argentina is Spanish; however, English; Italian, German and French also exists. Roman Catholics consist of 90% of the population with less that 20% participating, Protestants make up 2% and Jewish also make up 2% of the religions in Argentina. Argentina has the largest Jewish population in Latin America.
The Argentine population has one of Latin America’s lowest growth rates. Eighty percent of the population resides in urban areas of more than 2,000 and more than one-third of the population lives in the greater Buenos Aires area. This sprawling metropolis, with about 12 million inhabitants, serves as the focus for national life. Argentines enjoy comparatively high standards of living; half the population considers itself middle class.
Argentina has an adult literacy rate of 96.2%. The population is primarily a young structure, with 27% age 0-14 years, 62% age15-64 years, and 11% age 65 years and over.
Meat tends to dominant most all of Argentines menus. For the most part in Argentina meat means beef. Mixed grills are apparently the way to go, serving up a cut of just about every part of the animal: tripe, intestines, and udders. In this vegetarian’s nightmare, Italian favorites, such as gnocchi, are a welcome alternative. Exquisite Argentine ice cream (helado) deserves a special mention, again reflecting Italian influences. Sharing of the mate, Paraguayan tea, is a ritual more than a beverage, and if offered is a special expression of acceptance. The leaves, a relation to holly, are elaborately prepared and the mixture is sipped from a shared gourd.
The Brazilian population is made up of four major groups. The largest group is the Portuguese, who colonized in the 16th century. Their language and culture is the basis of what Brazils culture is based on.
Another large group is from Africa. They were brought to Brazil as slaves. Between the 16th and 19th centuries from 3 to 4 million Africans were brought to Brazil. They were mostly from West Africa and form Angola. They adapted very well as laborers and domestics. During the 16th and 17th centuries the majority of blacks went to northeastern Brazil and was employed in the sugarcane plantations. After the abolishment of slavery in 1888, many blacks left the regions where they worked as slaves and the population has become dispersed. Although northeastern Brazil still has the heaviest concentration. Africans and their descendants have had a profound effect upon Brazil’s racial and cultural evolution. Miscegenation was more acceptable in Brazil than in most other slave-owning countries so that in many areas people of mixed ancestry outnumbered those of pure racial stock. African music, dance, food, and religious practices have become an integral part of Brazilian culture.
The native Indian groups were very influential for the Portuguese traders and early settlers. The Indians taught them techniques of tropical crop cultivation, especially the growing of corn. Once their number of Portuguese increased they decided to use the indigenous population as manual workers. This resulted in the Indians dying or fleeing to the most distant and inaccessible areas—in the forest regions between the rivers of the Amazon Basin or in the savannas of the Mato Grosso. The Portuguese still hunted them down and enslaved them. This contributed to the decimation of the Indian tribes, as did simple contact with whites, since the Indians had no immunity to European Diseases. Only 1% of the population is made up of Indians, still of all the Brazilians perhaps one-third have some Indian ancestors.
The last group of people to make up Brazil is the immigrants from Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. The immigration started after the proclamation of independence in 1822. The most numerous were the Italians, which adapted quickly to their new homeland. Immigrants also came from other Mediterranean countries. After World War I the Germans and Japanese added further diversity to the ethnic mix. It toke them longer to fit in to their new home, three or four generations. Since then immigration has slowed to less than 1 percent of Brazil’s population being foreign born by the late 20th century.
The language spoken in Brazil is Portuguese, unlike all other Latin American countries that speak primarily Spanish. The immigrants have evolved the language as they have learned it. New words and expressions have been introduced by Italians, Germans, Japanese, and other immigrants and from across the borders with Spanish-speaking countries. The native Indians, especially the Tupian Indians, have influenced the Brazilian Portuguese to become more nasal than that of the homeland, and Brazilians generally speak more slowly, pronouncing all the vowels.
The Brazilian people are 90% Roman Catholic. The Portuguese settlers influence this. They brought over missionaries when they came to settle the land. There are Protestants, dominated by fundamentalist and Pentecostal sects. There is also the influence of African religions such as the cults Macumba, Candomble, Xango, and Umbanda.
Brazilians generally eat light breakfasts that include coffee, milk, bread and jam, sometimes cheese and ham, with fresh fruit. Lunch is more substantial then in the U.S. It is a decent, sit-down, leisurely-paced lunch. In Brazil it is incomprehensible to eat lunch while working at you desk or cubicle. Dinner is served much later than in the U.S. It is also a lighter meal of café au lait, bread, cheese and cold cuts. When in Brazil it is not okay to eat on the go. They do not eat while walking down the street or while riding the bus or the subway. When you stop to eat at a snack bar or juice bar you are expected to stand there and finish your food.
The Chilean people and their culture are a mix of Spanish and indigenous groups native to the region. Chile was the last country in the Americas to be occupied by the Spaniards. Spanish is the official language, but a large minority is purely European, Such as Basque, Italian, French, German, British and Irish. The population is relatively young; nearly half is under 25 years of age and 72 percent are under 40. Over 90 percent of the population are Roman Catholic, though Protestantism is becoming increasingly popular. Easter and Christmas holidays are the most important national celebrations in addition to a variety of secular celebrations.
Chile as a whole has practically eliminated illiteracy, and the average school attendance level has doubled in the last two decades.
Chileans eat four meals a day, beginning with a light breakfast of toast and tea or coffee. Lunch is the main meal of the day and is generally served between 1 and 3pm; soups and stews are common. Many businesses shut their doors during these hours and it is not unusual for a large company to not answer phones during this time. Between the hours of 5 and 7pm, it is common to take onces (afternoon tea), which consist of a sandwich and some kind of dessert with tea or coffee. Dinner is rarely earlier than 9pm and can often run as late as midnight. These meal times reflect the nature of the Chilean workday; Chileans usually begin work at 9am and finish in the late evening around 8pm after taking the long lunch.
In general, Chilean dining habits are broadly similar to those in the United States, as illustrated by the many US fast food chains that can be found there. These restaurants are slightly different, and reflect an unashamed love of meat. An example of this is a McDonald’s in downtown Santiago that was seen with a banner that read in Spanish, "The taste that carnivores will love". Restaurants that grill meat over charcoal are very popular. The Chilean equivalent to an U.S. burger is the Lomo a la pobre (poor man’s steak), a combination of steak topped with two fried eggs and smothered with french fries. Chile’s extraordinary varied seafood is among the world’s best and is the feature of many of the finest restaurants.