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5 Amazing Local Customs You've Never Heard Of

Every nation on earth has its own traditions and customs, some amazing and some downright quirky. Among other things, it’s what makes them so endearing as they’re steeped in history and fascinating to understand. So, here’s a few more for you to learn about.

Bullet Ant Gloves –

Coming of age rituals in our culture tend to consist of buying your first car or moving out of your parent’s house. To the Satere-Mawe tribe of Brazil however, their boy-to-man ceremonies are quite different. Part of the celebrations for the tribe’s young lads is to wear a glove on each hand in which have been placed hundreds of local bullet ants. The poison of the bullet ant is considered the most painful of any sting you can find anywhere in the world. Being stung by one is considered the most painful thing someone can feel, according to the Schmidt Scale (Yes, there’s a scientific measurement for pain). The pain is supposedly akin to being shot, hence the ant’s name. So yeah, the poor chaps have to wear gloves filled with these devilish little blighters for a whole ten minutes, before engaging in the next part of the proceedings. No anaesthetic, no pain killers, you simply have to endure it. Side effects include swelling of the hands and arms up to twice normal size, paralysis in the hands and arms for days after and uncontrollable shaking for days after. With this local custom, ‘amazing’ might need to be taken with a pinch of salt and some ibuprofen. ‘Astounding’ might be more accurate.

flickr | Timothy WestgateFood Culture in Japan –

We all know Japanese culture is intertwined with etiquette, tradition and manners. The dining table is one of the most prolific places where it occurs too, with various unspoken rules governing how someone should go about eating a meal. Food related etiquette Japan covers how to use your chopsticks, when to use them, what to do with hot towels, tipping, the order in which you drink, how to greet and talk to the host of the meal, how to eat noodles, rice or soups and even how you sit. Of course we have lots different practices of etiquette with eating too, but they’re nowhere near as stringently adhered to these days, nor will you be judged as excruciatingly closely if you break any of those boundaries. Before you go, it’s worth your time researching food etiquette and manners, or your stay could become very awkward very quickly. There’ll be no Friday night chip shop kebabs in Japan.

flickr | Johnny SilvercloudFamily Exhuming –

In a remote island of Indonesia called Sulawesi, death doesn’t quite mean death in the same way it does to us. Here, funeral rituals go far beyond simple burials and a few spoken words. In fact the word ‘burial’ is played with fast and loose. For years after burial, a person is exhumed from their grave every year to be washed, groomed, have their clothes changed and even brought food. So great is the belief that life carries on after death, that in the immediate aftermath of someone’s demise their body is regularly left in bed or otherwise in the house for some weeks, being brought food, talked to and treated as normal. This practice even goes on with babies and young children who have tragically died too young. The dead are respected so highly that many are given semi-permanent residence in the carved out cliff faces above villages, looking down on their ancestral home.

elitereaders | Agung ParameswaraFantasy Coffins –

Sticking with the theme of death for this one, so apologies for that. This one though, is slightly more upbeat and a bit less scary. It’s really simple, during their lifetime many Ghanaian people design their own coffin to be something far more elaborates than a simple wooden box. It symbolizes that person’s career, their passions or interests, their family heritage or a great deed they performed in their lifetime. Anything from a giant fish to a giant camera to a giant bottle of a well-known soft drink is fair game for a coffin design. It’s done to make funeral proceedings a tad more enjoyable and colourful and turns the whole ceremony into a funeral party, with the emphasis on the word ‘party’.

The Guardian | David LeveneMulti-Husband Family –

Most people have heard of polygamy, where someone takes more than one individual in marriage. However, across the world and throughout history that practice has tended to male-centric. Only males were able to take more than one spouse in the Mormon culture for example. However, in Nepal that system is flipped on its head. Among the Sherpa culture, women regularly have more than one husband, maybe as many as six or seven. Historically, these husbands came from the same family or extended family, so brothers or cousins, with the idea of keeping gene lines strong to cope with the difficult living conditions of the Himalayas. This makes the women or mothers the epicentre of the family system and, despite being an ancient tradition that dates back centuries, is getting increasingly popular in Nepal.

flickr | keso sYou’ll agree it’s an impossible list to whittle down as there are endless amounts of amazing local cultures out there in the world. Now you know about five more though, it’s as good a reason as any to get travelling and discover a whole lot more.

By Guy Bezant - Online Journalism Intern

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