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Haitian American Culture
Transcript of Haitian American Culture
Angela Smith, Leila Etienne, Fitha Jean Juste, Yolette Jean Louis, Jean Wilted Jean Pierre
Indian River State College
Greetings, Communication Styles, and Customs
• A person is expected to physically greet each person when either entering a room or joining a group
Haitian men shake hands
Haitian women give out kisses on each cheek when meeting a new acquaintance, relatives or friends
It is expected that healthcare providers greet all those present once entering a patient’s room (Cook Ross, 2010)
• Haitians address persons of status by title “Monsieur”, “Madame”, or “Doctor” followed by the last name
• Friends and family use first names or nicknames to address each other
• Older persons are often referred to as “aunt” or “uncle” as a sign or respect by the young person even if
not related (Brice Foundation International, 2015, Cook Ross, 2010)
• Common greetings include:
“Bonjou, kouman ou ye?” (Hello how are you?)
“Sak pase?” (What’s up?) An informal greeting spoken between other Haitians
Implications for Nursing Care
• Savio and George (2013), explains nurses should be aware about differences in verbal and non-verbal communication in different cultural contexts
• First determine what language the client speaks if they do not speak English
• Use of an interpreter may be necessary if the nurse does not know how to speak Haitian Creole or French
• A bilingual family member can be used to help communicate
• Haitian-American clients value a touch or smile from the nurse
A sign of friendship
Helps to facilitate an understanding of client needs
• Use direct eye contact when communicating (Giger, 2013)
• When communicating with healthcare workers, Haitians are quiet, reserved and apprehensive
This is done out of respect for authority thus most Haitians will not openly disagree with their healthcare provider
Can also be an attempt to hide illiteracy or misunderstanding
Nodding is a sign of agreement, some Haitians may nod even if they do not understand what is being communicated
Healthcare workers who seem overly task-oriented or time-focused may be seen as rude or inconsiderate (Cook Ross, 2010)
Haitian's families spend their leisure time between their own family and friendship groups.
Visits are made to friends and relatives, especially on weekends.
For haitians it is important to be hospitable to visitors by offering food and drinks.
Visitors are usually parents, other relatives, in-laws, and friends.
“Cultures are created through communication; that is communication is the means of human interaction through which cultural characteristics-whether customs, roles, rules, rituals, laws, or other patterns-are created and shared” (Savio & George, 2013)
Verbal and Nonverbal Communication
• Haitian Creole and French are spoken so fast one word is slurred into another
• Use hand gestures to complement speech
Hand gesturing is utilized as an addition to verbalization
Hand gesturing and tone of voice are more pronounced during communication (Giger, 2013)
Communication that is passionate and animated is considered genuine, but can be misinterpreted as being aggressive to those unfamiliar with Haitian culture
Example, pointing at someone with the index finger, is considered rude
Example, making a “psss” sound or tapping another person to get their attention (Cook Ross,
• Touch and direct eye contact are used in casual and formal conversation
Use of touch is perceived as a sign of friendship and does not violate personal space
A handshake, tap, kiss or hug depends on the familiarity the Haitian individual has with the other person
Haitians do not object to casual touching
Direct eye contact is utilized to gain the attention and respect of the other person in the conversation
Acculturated Haitians may maintain eye contact with age peers
In respect of their elders, children avoid a prolonged stair
Prolonged eye contact in general, is considered rude
Much like the United States (U.S.), Haitian’s uses of touch, direct eye contact and perception of friendship are much the same (Giger, 2013, Cook Ross, 2010
• Both French and Haitian Creole have a written form
• Official and legal documents are written in French
• Remember that even though Haitian “patients are given literature in their language, this does not mean that they will be able to read it, as some are illiterate in both English and Creole.” (Cook Ross, 2010, p. 20)
Two official languages spoken in Haiti:
• Haitian Creole
Language of the rural or poor population; spoken in the mountains
Understood and spoken throughout the country
A hybrid of old French vocabulary and African grammar
Speaking only Haitian Creole is a sign of poverty and lack of education
Language of daily conversation
Used in government offices and businesses
Understood and spoken by upper or wealthy class (Brice Foundation International, 2015; Giger, 2013)
• Personal space is defined as a public zone by the Haitians
• Two factors that make the Haitian culture a public zone are:
The Haitian cultural group is a sharing population
Example, if they possess something that another person could benefit from, it will be shared
The living arrangements or dwelling that they live in are close nit, as a result they are a public-oriented society
Haitians in the U.S., socialize with other immigrants from their own town in Haiti
Legal immigrants look forward to spending their holidays in Haiti
Maintain their loyalty to family members who remain in Haiti
Illegal aliens are unable to maintain family contact with those is Haiti and tend to be more alienated (Giger, 2013)
Implications for Nursing Care
• Nurses should be aware that Haitians find touch by caregivers to be
Reassuring (Giger, 2013)
• “Haitian women may be less likely than women from some cultural groups to insist on having female nurses in the delivery room” (p.490) however, the father should be present (Giger, 2013).
• Nurses should be aware of certain socioeconomic issues
Example, Haitians and African-Americans do not socialize much together and tend not to trust one another
• It is important for the nurse to understand that these two cultural groups may not share similar interest or be suitable companions when sharing a hospital room
• Also, the assignment of staff nurses to care for a Haitian client should be taken into consideration (Giger, 2013)
• The nurse should take into consideration the economic background of the Haitian-American client
Example, “a poor client and a wealthy client with a Haitian background, although from the same country, may find a room assignment together in a hospital very distasteful (Giger, 2013, p. 490).
Brice Foundation International. (2015). Haitian culture and tradition.
Charles, C. (1979). Anthropological consideration of barriers affecting delivery of
health services to Haitian refugees in Florida. Paper presented at a workshop on improving health services to Haitian refugees, sponsored by the U.S Metro-Dade County, Fla.: Health Service Administration.
Cook Ross. (2010). Background on Haiti & Haitian health culture. Retrieved from:
Desantis, L., & Thomas, J. (1987, August). Parental attitudes toward adolescent
sexuality: transcultural perspectives. Nurse Practitioneer, 12, 43-48
Giger, J.N. (2013). Transcultural Nursing: Assessment and interventions (6th ed.)
St. Louis, MO: Mosby.
Metraux, A. (1953). Medecine at voudou en Haiti. Acta Tropica, 10, 28-68.
Miller, N. (2000, July). Haitian ethnomedical systems and biomedical
practitioners: directions for clinicians. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 11(3), 204-211.
Savio, N., & George, A. (2013). The perceived communication barriers and
attitude on communication among staff nurses in caring for patients from
culturally and linguistically diverse background. International Journal of Nursing Education, 5(1), 141-146 6p. doi:10.5958/j.0974-9357.5.1.036
Time is very precious for most hatians. Because of economics difficulties, a lot
of haitians do 2 jobs.
In the haitian's community, there is a perception that haitians are always late for appointments.
Divided into 2 class: The wealthy and the poor
Wearing shoes is a mark of social standing
Regardless of class, Haitians are proud and independent
Educational system are strict and authoritarian
Uniform must be starched
Corporal punishment is used by teachers
Memory through repetition is the primary source of learning.
College education is view as a form of prestige and status by Haitian American
Common law marriage is most prominent especially among the poor
Legal marriage are common among the wealthy because of their economic status
The mother is usually left to raise the children without the father's support
From infancy children are taught not to question authority
Parents tend to exercise strong influence and authority over their child even when they are grown
Haitian mothers rely less on parent-child dialogue and more on physical punishment to effect changes in the child's behavior and to instill proper attitudes and values (Charles, 1979)
If children fail to fulfill obligations or meet expectations, they are seen as having failed the family and as having brought disgrace on the parents (Desantis & Thomas, 1987)
Light skin traditionally has been regarded as more prestigious than dark skin in Haiti (Leyburn, 1980)
Social prejudice is form by color grading and social status
Primary religion in Haiti which dates back to the preslavery dates back to the preslavery days in the West African Homeland (Miller, 2000)
Many Haitians believe that man is surrounded by a variety of powerful and dominant spirits called Loas, mysteres, or saints
Voodoo priests may be either male (hungan) or female(mambo)
Haitian often uses home remedies and herbs for treating illness
Magic powers may be used by Haitian sorcerers to change themselves and into animals, pass through locked doors, and to raise the dead and turn them into zombie slaves
Haitians and African Americans are very similar biologically.
There is no distinctive size that can be linked genetically, which may be the result of crossbreeding with other races.
Haitians can be tall or short, light skinned or dark skinned.
They can be characterized as having shades of brown to black skin as well as brown to black eyes.
The "true" Haitian is tall and exhibits an erect structure.
The eyebrow ridges are scant or absent.
The forehead is moderately wide.
The cheeks are wide with powerful jaw musculature.
The eyes are set widely apart by the broad and flattened nasal bones.
The nose is flat and nostrils are widely expanded.
They often have tightly curled hair and the body hair is sparsely distributed.
intestinal problems, malnutrition (peptic ulcers are common), venereal disease, high birth rates, tuberculosis (Haiti has the highest rates of TB), sickle cell anemia, hypertension, and cancer
the Haitian diet tends to be very spicy and greasy (also, almost everything is cooked in oil or grease)
Haitian men tend to be more susceptible to different kinds of venereal disease as a result of promiscuity.
Sickle cell anemia- a chronic hereditary hemolytic disorder that mainly affects the Black population of the world.
Hypertension- little is known about hypertension among Haitians. But it is highly prevalent and unusually severe in terms of blood pressure level, refractoriness to treatment, and target organ consequences.
The island was inhabited by the Taino Indians before the European colonization. The island became the first Black republic after a successful slave revolt against the French in 1804. 95% of the population is of African descent and the remaining 5% Mulatto and White. Haiti is slightly smaller than the state of Maryland. It covers 10,714 square miles, located in the western third of Hispaniola. His capital city Port-Au-Prince is located in the center of the country on the coast. Population is estimated to be at 10.2 millions. It is considered to be the poorest country in the Western hemisphere. The official languages are Haitian Creole and French. Education is valued but unaffordable to most. Tremendous importance and prestige are attached to education. Haitian artist are well known for their unique images and striking colors. The official state religion is Catholicism. 20% of the population is protestant. The country is very famous for its popular religion, voodoo. Haitian people have tremendous faith in informal healing procedures, in addition to Christian faith healing. The political instability has made it difficult for the government to provide basic services to its citizens. After the departure of the former president, the lawmakers have chosen Jocelerme Privet as their provisional president. Hospitals are not accessible to everyone. In fact, there is no public health care in Haiti.
Rituals Related to Death and Dying
Death arrangements are usually taken care by a male kinsman of the deceased
Haitian frequently believe that illness and death can be of supernatural origin (Metraux, 1953)
Is often accompanied by guilt and anger
The survivors may believe that death was a result of failure to relate appropriately to the Voodoo spirit
Traditional haitians have seven consecutive prayer to assist the passage of the soul to the next world