As some of you already know, I was born in Haiti, but grew up in the United States. Even though I grew up in the U.S., I still was raised in a Haitian household, and that came with its own challenges. It might have been as simple as not understanding the popular game of football, or as serious as having to help parents translate everything. Often, I have to give out friendly reminders that my culture is a bit different than the standard ‘American’ lifestyle. As I’m sure some people are unfamiliar with Haitian culture, I’m sharing ten things you don’t know about it. Maybe you’ll know all of them already, or maybe you’ll learn something new 🙂
- Haiti has two official languages. We speak Creole, not Haitian. We also speak French. They are similar in many ways, but also drastically different. Creole is the general language spoken, while French is used for official business, such as school or transactions. At my house, we speak a mixture of Creole and English. We usually only speak French if my sister or I want to practice.
- If you asked a group of Haitians to write something down in Creole, not everyone’s would be written the same. Creole is more of a spoken language, than a written language. I never learned how to read or write Creole; however, I can sound out the words and figure out what is being said.
- Celebrations are incomplete without Kompa. Kompa is the official music of Haiti. The sounds are upbeat and fun, and usually paired with dancing. Graduation? Birthday? Thanksgiving? Family gathering? You can bet there will be Kompa played at some point!
- January 1st is a very important day to Haitians. Not only is it the celebration of the New Year, but it’s also Haiti’s independence day. On this day, a special dish is prepared called “joumou”, which roughly translates to pumpkin soup. It also contains meat and vegetables.
- Whistling in front of adults is considered rude. I remember when I was younger, my older brother knew how to whistle and he would try to teach me. My parents would get so angry because I would be practicing all the time, including in front of them and other Haitian guests.
- Bisous is very big sign of respect. Bisous is kissing the cheeks of another, in the form of a greeting, or even in farewell. We are expected to bisous when we enter a building, a home, or a room. Can you imagine family gatherings? If we don’t bisous every single person in the room, it’s considered very disrespectful. It doesn’t only look bad on us, but for our parents as well.
- Make sure to greet the parents. If you happen to be friends with a Haitian, and you visit their home, make sure you greet their parents. Even if you’re not there for a long time. Even if they’re not visible when you first walk in. Go out of your way to find them and say hi. Trust me…it makes all the difference.
- You’ll always find rice in the house. Rice is a staple of the Haitian diet. On any given day, a pot of rice can be found in my house, either in the fridge or on the stove-top. If it’s not already made, we’ll be able to make some without leaving the house, because we have bags of rice on hand.
- Sleepovers were a big deal. I don’t know if it was only in my house, but when my sister and I were younger, sleepovers were never seriously discussed. Can you imagine growing up where all your friends are throwing sleepover parties and you never being able to attend? Sure, it’s really not that big of a deal now, but when we were young, it was huge! As we grew up though, our parents grew more lenient, as they realized that was a part of the American culture.
- Religion is a very important part of our lives. We grew up with Christianity, specifically Catholicism. As we are in the U.S., we attend an English-speaking church. The masses usually last an hour. I have been to a Haitian church before, and it is seriously an all day affair. It’s definitely an experience!
I hope I was able to share a different perspective on Haitian culture, and that you learned something new. Which one of these did you already know, or haven’t heard before? Please let me know in the comments! Feel free to share this post to spread the knowledge 🙂