One of the most interesting differences between the lives of Americans and lives of the people of Papua New Guinea is that of the homes we live in. In this particular blog we want to give you a deeper insight into the home of a typical Papua New Guinean in general. This topic has proved to be a very interesting one to us, because it is our full time job to learn the language and the culture of the people here, we hope you will find it interesting as well. (Note: Certainly, there are many exceptions to the rule, and we are drawing from our experiences in just one province of Papua New Guinea.)
Most people in Papua New Guinea live in huts. The look of these huts varies from place to place and from economic status. The huts are often made from nearby trees and leaves, though metal siding and roofing is becoming more popular though it is much more expensive.
A small grouping of a few huts (usually from one family line) would be considered a “hamlet,” whereas a large grouping of huts, consisting of several family lines intermarried, would be considered a “village.”
Each immediate family has their own “housing area,” and there are three main things that typically go into this housing area: a house sleep, a house cook and a “living room” type area.
The house sleep is the main hut you will see in a particular family’s area, and is for sleeping. It is larger than the house cook, and is often raised off the ground on stilts. The main area inside its four walls is sometimes split into two “rooms”; one for parents to sleep in and one for the children. This hut is considered a very private place, and it would be very rare for them to take you into it. I have personally only seen the inside of one person’s house sleep. It would be similar to going into a married couple’s bedroom to hang out. Not a place you generally spend a lot of time in, awkward. 🙂
The house cook is a smaller hut where they will prepare and cook their food. All cooking involves building a fire at some point and this fire could either be in the house cook or right outside of it. Instead of having four walls, like the house sleep, the house cook may have only three walls, and will usually have a bench or two inside for preparing food or sometimes socializing or eating.
The “living room” area is an outdoor, shaded seating area underneath the house sleep or underneath a large tree. This is where socializing with friends mainly takes place, and also sometimes eating. Though this area is outdoors and the ground is dirt, they will keep it tidy by sweeping it before company drops by. Whenever we visit our friends, we usually hang out in this shaded seating area.
The entire set up would be similar to a house in the United States, but instead of living inside walls and under a roof, most of the PNG persons “living” actually takes place outside. The house sleep is(are) the bedroom(s), the house cook is the kitchen and outdoor social/visiting area is the living room/dining room. So, the PNG home is not just the main hut, but rather the entire layout, both indoor and outdoor.