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French Culture in New Caledonia

Colonial Architecture photoWhile the Kanak culture of New Caledonia is very strong especially outside Noumea, equally as strong is the French culture due to a sizeable French population in and near Nouméa the biggest city. Noumé shows its French roots with great examples of colonial architecture with western style shops including bars, cafes, restaurants, and bookshops. In addition there are cinemas, a library, and museum. While New Caledonia has two main cultures, it is often described as a slice of France in South Pacific.

The French living in New Caledonia enjoy water sports like windsurfing and swimming which is not suprising given the number of beaches and warm climate. Beach in New Caledonia photoBoating and fishing are also popular. Popular non-water sports include tennis and cycling.

French Catholic missionaries have been in New Caledonia since 1843 and in 1864 to 1897, over 30,000 French convicts were transported to the main island of Grande Terre. As would be expected, tensions grew over land between the Europeans and indigenous Kanaks. A revolt by the Kanaks took place in 1878 which ended in over a thousand deaths.

Downtown Noumea photoToday, Europeans in New Caledonia are about a third of the total population and are sometimes called Caldoche. They are mostly native born New Caledonians but also include a smaller group often called Metros or Zoreilles who come to New Caledonia from France on a temporary work basis. They tend to be more inclined to follow the latest fashions and enjoy fine dining rather than the rural life of their earlier counterparts. While Metros are named for their metropolitan French origin, Caldoches are primarily rural in culture being similar to rural Australians, Afrikaners, or Americans where rodeos and country fairs are part of the culture. The native Caldoches are quick to distinguish themselves from Metros.

Caldoches settled on the drier west coast of Grande Terre Island, the main island where the capital Nouméa is located. Whereas the native Kanak mainly live on the north and east as well as outlying islands.



  

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Author & photographer: David Johnson (Virtual Oceania)


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