As the globe gets more interconnected, it’s easy to feel like we live in a small world. Take a closer look, however, and you’ll discover a fascinating tapestry of cultures. Each one prides itself on its own traditions and celebrations. By learning more about each of these societies, you can appreciate the true breadth and beauty of the human experience.
The Maasai people live in eastern Africa in an area that stretches from Tanzania to Kenya. They’re known for their brilliantly colored robes, which often feature red as a primary color.
The Maasai have always been semi-nomadic, sharing their land with lions, elephants, and zebras.
Many tribes make their living by herding cattle, though some have turned to agriculture in recent years. Some of the peoples’ most famous cultural traditions include initiating boys as warriors, creating intricate jewelry, and performing a gravity-defying jumping dance.
In some areas, Maasai people practice extreme piercings using tusks, thorns, stones, and other large objects.
Do you want to experience the Maasai culture? It’s possible! Some tribes welcome visitors as a way to boost tourism revenue and share their traditions with the rest of the world.
As you’re exploring the towns in the Andes Mountains in Ecuador, Peru, and Bolivia, you’re likely to meet the Quechua people.
This culture is indigenous to South America. Its members have been living in the Andes even before the great rise and fall of the Inca civilization. In fact, the Inca people spoke the Quechua language. Agriculture has long been the foundation of this society.
When the Spanish came into power, the culture’s institutions started to fall apart as its members were enslaved or forced into remote parts of the country.
Today, many of the Quechua people remain in the high elevations of the Andes, working primarily as farmers or artisans. In tourist areas, you may see Quechua people selling their crafts to visitors at local markets. Those who adhere to traditional dress are instantly recognizable by their colorful clothing and narrow-brim hats.
The Sámi people live in the northern reaches of Finland, Sweden,and Norway; others have scattered as far as Russia. You might also hear these people referred to as Laplanders, a reference to Lapland, the northern section of Finland.
The culture is rich and incredibly varied, particularly as you move from the Norwegian coast toward Russia. Its historic garb includes red-trimmed wool clothing and beaded, fur-lined boots.
Traditionally, the Sámi have been reindeer herders — some even follow the ancient semi-nomadic lifestyles.
To preserve their cultural heritage, the Sámi are the only people who are allowed to herd reindeer in many parts of the region. This is partly because of historic governmental discrimination against the people. It included forced assimilation and other racially motivated policies. To this day, Sámi activists are still fighting for their cause.
One of the most mysterious groups of people in the world is the Sentinelese. They live in near-complete seclusion on North Sentinel Island, which is located between India and Southeast Asia.
The tribe is known to be private, refusing to let outsiders approach their island. Many people who have tried have been killed by javelins or arrows. As a result, little is known about the Sentinelese culture.
Based on remote observation and reports from the few people who have successfully visited the island, the Sentinelese appear to subsist on fishing and hunting. In many ways, they appear to be living largely as their ancestors did centuries ago. However, they have been known to use metal salvaged from shipwrecks in their weaponry.
Their island is small, and experts estimate that the entire culture consists of less than 300 people. To protect this unique group, the Indian government has banned all travel within a three-mile radius of the island.
Making their home in remote Papua New Guinea, the indigenous Huli people lived in relative privacy for millennia.
In the 1930s, Europeans encountered the culture on a gold-prospecting expedition. Perhaps the most fascinating sector of the culture are the wigmen.
Members of this all-male group grow out their hair and shape it carefully into dramatic styles. Then, it’s cut and made into a wig that’s accented with features and brilliant colors. Men often have multiple wigs for different purposes.
The wider Huli culture is known for its brilliant yellow ceremonial face paint and ornate headdresses.
Historically, the Huli were warriors and traders. Today, the modern world is encroaching rapidly and bringing change to the region.
Each of these cultures illustrates the remarkable ability of humans to adapt and thrive, no matter where they live. Don’t stop here — the world is full of unique and exciting people to discover and meet.