Village Life in Papua New Guinea

Although the country is gradually changing, many people still live in small villages, making a living from subsistence agriculture. In some areas, people have specialised as gardeners, fishers, hunters or craftspeople. Traditionally, women are responsible for the household and daily work of the village, while men take care of hunting, trade and warfare. Family, clan and tribal rights determine the community and village structure, with a strong emphasis on the extended family. Traditional authority is vested in chiefs, village elders and ‘bigmen’, and reciprocity (giving and receiving help in the form of labour, land, food or pigs) is the basis of social life and clan transactions.

Village protocol

  • Be polite and show respect for local customs and religious beliefs.
  • Always wear modest clothing when going into towns or villages. Elders are respected in communities and decent dressing can be a token of respect. However, if you wish to visit a village where there is a death or tribal dispute, as a matter of courtesy you should ask if you can be allowed to visit.
  • If you are in doubt about the correct way to behave, ask your local guide.
  • Don’t wander off alone – always take a guide with you. Remember that most land is owned by a community or village and you need to ask permission first.

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