Exploring Cameroonian Culture

Cameroon is a group-oriented society in which family and friendship ties are strong and obligations run deeply. While not much larger than the U.S. state of California, Cameroon is home to over two hundred local languages. In fact, Cameroon is often referred to as “Africa’s crossroads” and “Africa in miniature” because of its many different ethnic groups. From active volcanoes, white-sand beaches, mountains, savanna grassland, and thick rainforest, it contains all the major climates and vegetation of Africa.

Host a Cameroonian student in the U.S.

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People and Community

Family Dynamic

In Cameroon, extended families including parents, children, grandparents, and cousins live together. However, recently, most young couples with enough financial means prefer to live alone with their children. Meals are eaten together as a family or separately depending on each family’s schedules. While people will take individual time for themselves, adults are usually involved in all aspects of home life.

Both parents can be professionals, but most of the time the husband is more financially responsible in the household. Both parents have equal authority in the household and for their children, however traditionally the father is the head of the family and often, he will make decisions alone.

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Teenage Life in Cameroon

Since most families are large, it is rare to find a child with their own room and children typically share a bed. Siblings will share some items like clothes, jewelry, or magazines. Respect, especially for elders, is part of Cameroonian culture. Teenagers may interact freely with all family members, but they still respect their elders. Teenagers in Cameroon are not very independent and are mostly dependent on their parents.

Teenagers in Cameroon are expected to take responsibility for their personal hygiene and academic life, and to also participate in the care of younger children. In Cameroon, families with high incomes give weekly or monthly pocket allowance to their children. Others try to earn money by doing small jobs during the weekends and holidays. Teenagers typically must budget for buying clothes, magazines, and other small personal items.

In Cameroon, most wealthy households have housekeepers and nannies. In poorer families, the children do most of the household chores. In Cameroon, the mother mostly cooks for everyone and sometimes girls will help. Men rarely participate in the cooking.

 Holidays

In Cameroon, there are public as well as academic holidays. The two major public holidays are on the 11th of February and 20th of May. The 11th of February is a day set aside for youth, and the 20th of May is the reunification day when southern and eastern Cameroon became united. The academic holidays, in which students are excused from school, include Christmas, Easter, and summer break.

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Language and Communication Styles

Official Language

French and English are Cameroon’s official languages.

Communication Styles

In traditional Cameroonian families, there is a gap, or personal space, between adults and the teenagers. Children cannot freely discuss sensitive topics such as sex. The cultural communication norms for showing negative emotions include: frowning, maintaining silence, dragging one’s feet on the floor, crying and shouting. Directly communicating negative emotions is not common and is typically shown through body language.

In Cameroon, teenagers are not supposed to make eye contact with adults, especially when the adult is angry, as this may be considered a sign of disrespect and rebellion. Young people may make eye contact with peers, though not all the time with teachers or other elderly people.

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Food

The Cameroonian Diet

Staple foods vary by region but include corn, millet, cassava, groundnuts (peanuts), potatoes, plantains, yams, and rice. Fufu, a common dish, is a stiff paste made by stirring flour (corn, millet, cassava, or rice) into water and boiling. Northern Cameroonians sometimes eat beef, lamb, goat, and chicken. Bushmeat (snake, monkey, porcupine) is a delicacy in the south.

Eating together as a family, especially during dinner as is common in the U.S., is rare in most homes in Cameroon. Everyone eats anytime, anywhere, alone or with the family if they are at home. Dinner is generally around 8pm. In Cameroon, portions are mostly large when cooked at home, and it is acceptable to keep food as leftovers.