Free Cultural Aspects Of Haiti Term Paper Sample

Type of paper: Term Paper

Topic: Health, Family, People, Culture, Medicine, Haiti, Disease, Illness

Pages: 9

Words: 2475

Published: 2020/11/16

Situated in the Western part of Hispaniola Island, Haiti is the first country to get independence from Latin America. It is the place where Columbus arrived and discovered the New World. The indigenous population is known as Taino; they are known to speak Arawak language. The native population has experienced extinction because of the diseases spread due to mass migration of foreigners in the country. According to the statistics, Haiti was home to around 10.56 million people in 2014. The nation experiences a unique culture and traditions with significant effect of French colonization. The culture resembles a mix of European and African elements and is evidenced in the music, religion, language, and other aspects of ethnic factors.

Geography and Climate

Haiti is a small country of around 28,000 square kilometers. Shaped like a horseshoe, it has two primary peninsulas in northern and southern parts. Mainland consists of three regions: Northern, Central, and Southern region. There are four islands of considerable size namely, Ile de la Gonave, Ila de la Tortue, Grande Cayemite, and Ile a Vache. There are numerous streams and rivers that carry heavy flows during the wet season.
Climate is hot and humid. From November to January, the north wind brings drizzle and fog. The weather remains wet during February to May. Rains occur in the wet season by Northeast trade winds.


Creole is the national language of the Republic. However, a minority of the population( around 10 percent) speaks French also. French and Creole, thus, were two main languages of the nation and the social relationship between these two has always been complex. The country was never considered bilingual, rather two different communities existed, i.e., monolingual majority and the bilingual elite. Many people considered Creole as a non-language and developed a charm for French. The attitudes towards Creole started changing during 20th century, especially during US occupation. Growing consciousness and the feeling of nationalism encouraged many Haitians to consider Creole as an authentic language of the country.


Quadrille dress is the traditional costume worn by women in Haiti, Dominica, and Jamaica. In Haiti, Quadrille is known as Karabela dress. Traditionally made of linen or cotton, karabela is the modern variant of dresses worn by women in Haiti in 18th century. People prefer comfortable clothing and men usually wear cotton trousers, and short-sleeved shirts.


Traditional Haitian music conflates Spanish, African, and French elements; it also reflects the influences native Taino and others who have inhabited the island time to time. As Haitians had roots in Africa, the music was linked to Vodoun religion. In early 1900's, Western culture started making the presence, and the nation witnessed the development of the Catholic religion. Present day religious music can be Catholic, Vodoun, or even their mixture.
Music is deeply intertwined with Politics in the nation and politicians often commission musicians for campaigning. Rara is the musical form that was used for processions and campaigning. However, the government banned it because of the controversial lyrics.
In 1950's, Haitian musicians, Nemours Jean Baptiste, and Weber Scott, coined Kompa music. It is a mix of vocals, horns, drumming, and electric guitar. With time, this musical form has evolved to include more electronic instruments.


Haitian cuisine has a unique flavor that finds its influence in different ethnic groups. Haitian dishes extensively use herbs( like Cuban cooking) and less use of peppers. Diri kole ak pwa( white rice with beans) is a typical dish that can be accompanied by boullion. Bullion is a stew that consists of meats, potatoes, tomatoes, and various spices. People usually eat tow meals a day, i.e., breakfast and afternoon meal. People usually eat spaghetti in breakfast. Afternoon meal normally contains bean sauce, poultry, goat, mutton, and fish.
Haitian patty is among the best-known appetizers that are made with chicken, round beef, and ground turkey. Regional dishes in the country include Tonmtonm,and poul ak nawa( chicken with cashews). Tonmtonm is a streamed breadfruit, and is similar to Fufu of West Africa.
Beer is the primary alcoholic beverage consumed by people. As the climate is tropical, mango, guava, and other juices are also popular. Malta H (unfermented barley with molasses) is the most common non-alcoholic beverage.


Favorite holidays include Independence day, the anniversary of Battle of Vertires ( November 18), anniversary of Jean-Jacques Dessalines(October 17), ancestry day (January 2), and Christmas( December 25). People enthusiastically celebrate Carnival, Rara, and Krak festivals. Carnival takes place around January or February and people lively enjoy dancing, singing, parades, and pageants. Rara takes place in the week of Easter, and the atmosphere becomes mesmerizing with Afro-Caribbean music and melodies.


Roman Catholicism is the nation's official religion. However, majority of people practice and believe in some aspects of voodoo, and consider it a national religion. Voodoo is an Afro-Haitian religion with the fundamental tenet that everything is a spirit. It is a religion based on family spirits who protect and help. Voodoo lacks an organized hierarchy and follows its own principles, rituals, and ceremonies. The important aspect is that both religions are not at odds with each other. In fact, many voodoo rituals and traditions have blended with Catholic prayers and traditions to make a unique Haitian religion.

Time Orientation

Haitians usually do not exhibit a strict time orientation. They are flexible and do not behave impolite if anyone arrives late. Even in business meetings, arriving late is not considered rude. For instance, an invitation may indicate a starting time of 6:00 p.m. though it may actually start at 7:00 p.m. or later. However, people prefer to be on time for medical appointments.

Verbal Communication

Haitians make a considerable use of symbolic and metaphoric language, that complicates cross-cultural communication at times. Their communication is usually vague; even patients are only able to provide unclear descriptions of their illness to physicians.

Haitians tend to be loud, and their pitch becomes low or high depending on their message.

Non-Verbal Communication
Informal embrace is seen as a sign of acceptance and affection. Haitians show friendliness and like to blend into the crowd. Eye contact is an important aspect for Haitian people, and many professionals make its use to show sincerity and interest in doing the business. However, lower-class people tend to avoid eye contact with people they consider superior to them.
Haitian people tend to touch friends and family while talking. Additionally, they tend to use many hand gestures while conversing. They, at times, remain silent when they do not agree with the other person. Instead of verbal communication, disagreement is conveyed by keeping silent.
With family and friends, people prefer close interactions with just 1-2 feet space. However, they maintain a comfortable distance while interacting with healthcare providers. It is believed that children must stay away from adults' conversation. Therefore, adults do not prefer to share space with children.

Gender Roles

Both men and women work; men, however, are responsible for supporting the family by making money. Haitian women have the independence to work outside, but they also own the responsibility of taking care of household, irrespective of their employment status. Men also value the children. However women play a significant role in taking care of them.
Haitian society is considered a matriarchal society, still the man has more control in decision-making. The situation of women is not good, and they rank in the bottom of most of the gender-equality surveys. Mothers are responsible to emotional and spiritual life of the family.

Extended Family

Rural Haitian people have experienced a change in family structure since 19th century. Until early 20th century, extended family was a principal form and usually defined along male lines. The term, lakau, referred to house clusters, and members worked in cooperation. With time, lakau disintegrated, and the support of extended family vanished. Extended family also became the reasons for land disputes, and people lost their interest in this concept subsequently.
Family structure among elites has been substantially different from lower class. Intermarriages and divorces, one uncommon, have become acceptable. Overall, the society now gears towards nuclear family structure.


Less than 40 percent of non-elite marry; however, marriage is common in middle and elite classes. After the first child, the union gets due respect in the family even if it is not legal. Couples usually reside in the man's ancestral property. In fishing communities, it is common to live near the wife's family property. Though polygamy is not legal in the country, around ten percent men carry more than one wife, and they are considered legitimate in the society though not legal. There is no concept of dowry as such, but it is expected that women will bring some items in the house while men will provide garden plots and a house.

Health and Illness

Health is considered a state of well-being that comes with connectivity to the surroundings and environment. The environment, here, includes non-human environment, human environment, and ancestors( spirits and invisibles). Cosmocentric culture considers that illness originates because of non-observance of ethical rules, hygiene, and non-respect of spirits and ancestors. Physical illness, called Maladi Bondye , can be healed with medicines or the help of a traditional practitioner, doktefey.

Mental Illness

Haitian culture does not accept mental illness and people usually do not avail mental health system. As there is a high rate of physical illness, mental health issues are ignored unless they cause severe social disruptions. Suffering from mental health problems carries a stigma in Haitian culture, and a person suffering from depression may not admit it.
Haitian culture has classified the illness as physical, mental, and psychosomatic illness. The term, Maladi-fe-moun ,reflects the domain of invisible illness that can be improved or healed by a traditional oungan(cosmocentric culture). Anthropocnetric culture believes that mental illess can only be improved with medical treatment and care.

World View

Cosmocentric culture of Haiti considers human beings a part of energy that has been drawn from the cosmic. The primary concern for people is to maintain harmony and compatibility with universal energy. Anthropocentric culture believes that human beings are a part of the imperfect universe.

Patient and Family

Patients remain passive in Haitian culture with only limited description of their illness to physicians. Patients with mental health issues even exhibit reluctance to go to the doctor because of the stigma attached to mental illness in Haitian culture. Women carry the burden to take care of the family in times of sickness or any ailment.


Haitians prefer to try home remedies for minor health problems. They use different herbal treatments for improving the situation. They attempt to judge the symptoms based on the experience of a fellow Haitian. However, health is considered a personal responsibility and medical treatment is sought for the diseases for which home remedies are either not known or inefficient.

Traditional Healers

There are many traditional healers in Haiti for treating specific disease types( Miller, 2000). Doktey fey or medsen fey are herbalists who usually treat worms, diarrhea, and colds. Oungan is a voodoo priests and mando is a vodoo priestessl they treat different types of ailments. Dokte zo treats bone -related issues like broken bones, joint pains, and muscle discomfort. Pikirist are injectionists and they administer parenteral preparations of western or herbal medicines. Fanm saj are midvives.


Midwifes( fanm saj) deliver babies in rural parts of the country. It is believed that excessive and rapier chilling can cause maternal illness. For instance, child may catch diarrhea and other ailments if mother body gets chilled. Therefore, mother and child are kept in seclusion for first 40 days.
Haitians firmly believe in move san syndrome, i.e., a mother's exposure to negative emotions can spoil her milk. It can also cause impetigo in the child and depression in the mother. People believe that the syndrome may also develop into AIDS later in the life( Miller, 2000)

Death and Grieving

Haitians consider death as a natural part of the life. They regard their deceased family members and perform extended rituals to impart the goodwill to dead. They still consider them a part of the family. The culture believes that souls help descendants through dreams. Therefore, it is important to perform proper burial practices and death rites. During the earthquake, many people could not perform ceremonies for their lost family members. It was considered as causing nightmares and moral concerns.


Haitians who follow vodoo religion do not consider death as the end of life. They believe that there is a life after death. Every human being carries a gros bon ange ( large soul) and ti bon ange ( individual soul). After the death, the soul hovers around the dead body for 7- 9 days. During that period, an individual soul can even be captured. If it is not captured, priests perform a ceremony, Nine Night, to separate the soul from the body. After that, it may stay in dark waters for a day or a for longer time. If the ceremony is not performed, the soul may bring misfortune. It is believed that gros bon ange returns to solar regions where it fetched the cosmic energy.


It is important to know and understand various cultural aspects of different nations. Healthcare providers must have a basic understanding of the patient's cultural orientation to provide patient-centric quality care. Haitian culture resembles a mix of African, Spanish, French and other native elements. People are friendly and do not exhibit a strict time orientation. They enjoy a variety of dishes made from rice, beans and different sauces.
Around half of the population practices vodoo religion. There does not seem any conflict between practitioners of vodoo and Catholics. Rather, these two have mingled in some aspects to provide uniqueness to Haitian culture.
People follow rigid norms in performing death ceremonies. Non-performance of death rites is considered to cause misfortunes to offspring and relatives. Illness is believed to be caused by disharmony with surrounding environment. Patients are often passive in describing their illness to physicians. Therefore, it is crucial to health practitioners to maintain an open mind and good communication skills to provide an effective and efficient health care.


Colin, J. M. (n.d.). Cultural and Clinical Care for Haitians. Indian Health Services.
Coupeau, S. (2008). The History of Haiti. Westport: Greenwood Publishing Group.
Dash, M. J. (2001). Cultures and Customs of Haiti. Greenwood Press.
Grosberg, M., & Porup, J. (2008). Dominician Republic & Haiti. Lonely Planet.
Largey, M. (2006). Vodou Nation: Haitian Art Music and Cultural Nationalism. University of Chicago Press.
Mccoll, R. (2005). Encyclopedia of World Geography. New York: Inforbase Publishing.
Miller, L. (2000). Haitian Ethnomedical systems and biomedical practitioners: directions for clinicians. Journal of Transcultural Nursing , 204-211.
Mirta, Y.-T. (2003). A Taste of Haiti. New York: Hippocerene Books.
Ngcheong-Lum, R., & Jermyn, L. (2005). Haiti. Marshall Cavendish.
Preszler, J. (2007). Haiti: A Question and Answer Book. Minnesota: Capstone.
Valdman, A. (2011). Cerole: The National Language of Haiti. Retrieved Feb 15, 2015, from
World Health Organization, Pan American Health Organization. (2010). Culture and Mental Health in Haiti.

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