The Culture of Cameroon

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The People

Cameroon has a diverse population comprising approximately 250 ethnic groups that then form 5 regional/cultural groups. These are western highlanders (also called grassfielders), which include the Bamileke, Bamoun, and many smaller groups in the northwest; coastal tropical forest people, which include the Bassa, Doula, and many smaller groups in the southwest; southern tropical forest people, which include the Beti, Beulu, Fang, and Pygmies; Muslims of the northern semi-arid regions and central highlands, which include the Fulani; and the Kirdi, non-Muslims peoples of the northern desert and central highlands.

Meeting and Greeting

* Cameroonian greetings vary between the Francophone and Anglophone areas.
* In both areas, men shake hands with each other.
* In the Francophone south, close friends may embrace while brushing cheeks and kissing the air along with a handshake.
* In the Anglophone north, close friends have a unique handshake in which, as they pull their hands back they snap the other person’s middle finger with their thumb.
* As a sign of respect men often lower their head and avert their eyes when greeting someone superior to them in age or position.
* Some Muslims will not shake hands across genders.
* Since this is a hierarchical society, elders are greeted first.
* Women tend not to look the other person in the eye even if it is another woman.
* Greetings should never be rushed. It is important to take time to inquire about the person’s family and other matters of general interest during the greeting process.

Gift Giving Etiquette

* If you are invited to a Cameroonian’s home, bring fruit, whiskey, or wine to the host.
* Do not bring alcohol if the host is Muslim.
* A small gift for the children is always a nice touch. School materials or sweets are standard.
* Gifts are not always opened when received.
* Gifts are given with two hands or the right hand only; never the left hand.

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