The University of Wolverhampton

People & Communities

African People

Introduction To The Community
Covering about 22 per cent of the world’s total land area and having 54 nations, Africa is the world’s second largest continent, with an enormous variety and diversity of languages, cultures, people and religions. This section refers to some of the groups who have migrated from Africa to areas of the UK.

Nigerians and people from Ghana are the two significant groups of people from West Africa. Nigeria has one of the largest populations in Africa, estimated at almost 120 million in 1995 and there are more than 250 ethnic groups. Although English is the official language many Nigerians are not fluent and are likely to speak Hausa, Yoruba, and Ibo. They are likely to be either Muslims or Christian. Almost all Ghanaians belong to one of about 100 black African ethnic groups, each with its own cultural heritage. English is still the official language of Ghana and is used in schools, business, and government. English is also the Language used to communicate between ethnic groups. Twi, an Akan language with many dialects, is spoken by about two-fifths of the population. Mole-Dagbani, Ewe, Ga-Adangbe and Hausa are also spoken. As a result, most Ghanaians are at least bilingual. Traditional African beliefs are held by many and play an important role in the lives of the people of Ghana, whilst the majority of other Ghanaians are either Muslims or Christian.

Somalia is a country in the Horn of Africa that has been occupied by the Somali people for over 1,000 years and more than 95 per cent of the Somali population is composed of a single ethnic group. Somali, the official language, is spoken by almost all Somalis and belongs to the Cushitic family of languages. Nearly all Somalis are Sunni Muslim.

There are approximately 60,000 Somalis in the UK, who tend to be either the established Somali community of sailors and their families or the more recent asylum seekers and refugees (many of whom have arrived in Britain from refugee camps).

Africa is a huge continent with many ex-colonial countries. For many people, English may not be the spoken language of their community.

Many Africans are of the Christian faith, although the majority of people from northern Nigeria follow the faith of Islam, as do smaller numbers of people from Morocco and Algeria (North Africa), Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Uganda and Tanzania. People from East Africa are predominantly of the Christian faith, however Somalis are Muslims.

These would vary considerably, based upon the country of origin and the individual’s own religious belief.

Dress would largely depend on a person’s country of origin as well as their faith.

This would vary considerably, based upon the country of origin and the individual’s own religious belief.

Traditions associated with the birth of children, would differ depending on the country of origin and a person’s religious beliefs.

Religion and colonialism have transformed traditional African naming practices. Many people across Africa have adopted Christian or Muslim personal names. Administrative requirements have led to the introduction of surnames, usually African style, e.g. Robert Mugabe. Some people however, will have both African personal and family names, e.g. Jomo Kenyatta. Because of these influences most African people in Britain will have a personal, or in some cases two personal names, followed by a family name.

Under the West African naming system, women are likely to retain their own names on marriage due to their importance in property ownership, trade, ancestry and inheritance often following the female line. Because of this, husbands and wives may not necessarily have any names in common. Also, many West Africans have at least four personal names, which may include a Christian or Muslim name, a name given after a relative or friend, a birth order name and a day name.

A Somali name will consist of a first name, followed by their father’s name, then that of the grandfather. Usually, a Somali is known by the combination of these three names. The naming system is the same for both genders. Traditionally, women retain their own names on marriage although in Britain a Somali woman may take her husband’s family (grandfather’s name) on marriage.

Attitudes to marriage will largely be dependent on people’s country of origin and their faith.

Attitudes to death will largely be dependent on people’s country of origin and their faith.

Visiting A Home
It is difficult to offer any advice on this issue, as the nations and faiths that fall within Africa are so varied. As a general rule, personnel should be guided by their own common sense and the information listed under faiths elsewhere in this document.

Medical Treatment
Attitudes to medical treatment will largely be dependent on people’s country of origin and their faith.

Notes To Personnel
In African culture men and women have equal respect, but believe that both genders have specific roles and responsibilities to fulfil. The man is traditionally the head of the family, whereas the wife is the nucleus of the family and is given great respect. Many Somali women who are recent refugees tend to work outside the home.

In Africa, respect and status are gained through age and therefore parents tend to have unquestioned authority over their children. Families who do not take responsibility for their children are not considered good members of their community.

To gesture with a finger as a way of beckoning or asking someone to come to you can be offensive to a Somali. In Somalia this gesture is used only for dogs and not for humans.

Khat (pronounced Cat) is a plant-based drug, imported fresh in bundles, mainly from Kenya, Ethiopia and the Yemen. It is currently legal unless in resin form and is normally chewed, thus acting as a stimulant. Traditionally it is used for socialising (predominantly among Somali men), although its popularity is spreading. There is concern that Khat is contributing towards mental health problems among the Somali refugees, especially when compounded by social and economic deprivation that some of them are facing in the UK.

African/Caribbean People 

Introduction to the community
The Caribbean Islands are made up of three main island chains extending in a roughly crescent shape from the Yucatán Peninsula and Florida to the coast of Venezuela. Most of the African/Caribbean people in the UK are from the West Indian Islands and because of colonialization and slavery have a strong identity with Britain, viewing it as the Mother Country. The islands have been heavily influenced by the British way of life in education, politics and social systems. Approximately 60 per cent of the African/Caribbean people who have migrated to the UK come from Jamaica, with smaller numbers of people from Dominica and Barbados, Trinidad, St Lucia, St Vincent and Guyana (located on the mainland of South America).

African/Caribbean people began arriving in Britain in large numbers in the early 1950s as a result of the post-war economic boom, which had left many jobs vacant. Also at this time, the USA passed the McCarren Walter Act that restricted the numbers of immigrants from 65,000 to 800 per year.

On coming to the UK, they settled in and around the large towns and cities that could offer job prospects, such as Derby with its growing heavy industry at Courtaulds, Rolls Royce and British Rail. A number of workers were attracted to Shropshire because of prospects at GKN Sankey and the coal mines, hence the local African/Caribbean population in the Hadley (Telford) area.

Because of colonialization many African/Caribbean people speak English, although the character and accents will vary much from one island to another, with many younger black people speaking a combination of street language, patois and local dialects.

African/Caribbean people are predominantly Christian in their beliefs, with a small number of Muslims, Hindus and other religions. There are also a substantial number who embrace Rastafarianism, which is not essentially a religion. (For further information on faiths, see Section 3.)

Music, dancing and carnivals are central to the social lives of the Caribbean islands. Carnivals are religious in origin, but will normally have grown up around local events on each island. Music has often served as a vehicle of protest about social and economic deprivation.

Most African/Caribbean people wear western dress, but some groups are influenced by a growing awareness of their African history, which can be reflected in the colour and style of their clothes.

The African/Caribbean diet is varied and includes foods such as plantain, rice, sweet potato, yams and black-eyed beans.

A matriarchal culture has existed for generations, with women being considered the bedrock of the community in which (through the extended grandmothers, mothers and aunts have always played a key role in the upbringing of children.

As a result of the slave system and the influence of Christianity, most African/Caribbeans from the once-named British West Indies will probably follow the British naming pattern. Whilst in most cases the family name is passed from the husband to the children, for some the family name is inherited from the mother. This may reflect the woman’s family status, which has tended to be stronger than in Europe.

Greater diversity in personal names may also be found among African/Caribbean families because of the greater use of biblical names such as Moses, Esther etc and a more recent tendency towards creating novel and original names, e.g. Delroy.

Marriage is traditionally held in high regard in most African/Caribbean communities and it should only be considered when a personal commitment and a person’s economic basis are secure.

In the UK there have tended to be a higher number of formal marriages (possibly due to greater economic security), although as with other communities, there are also a growing number of one-parent households.

Attitudes to death will be influenced largely by religious beliefs.

Notes To Personnel
African/Caribbean people enjoy close family relationships and a great sense of community, with men and women playing distinctly different roles within their communities. Within the traditional context of Rastafarianism the role of men and women is similar to that of some parts of Judaism and Islam, with women having some restrictions.

As with other cultures, weddings and funerals are treated as opportunities for the community to come together.

Often when speaking to African/Caribbean men (particularly in an atmosphere of conflict), the man may bring his face very close to that of the other person. This is NOT a gesture of threat in every case. Usually it is because the African/Caribbean perception of personal space is much less than that of a white European. Likewise, African/ Caribbeans are generally more animated in conversation.

Medical Treatment
Attitudes to medical treatment are likely to be influenced by religious beliefs.

Chinese People

Introduction to the Community
The Chinese have one of the oldest civilisations, with a population that is the largest of any country in the world. It has a population (estimated 1995) of more than 1.26 billion.

75–80 percent of Chinese people in the UK come from Hong Kong. Hong Kong’s population is predominantly Cantonese, coming from the Chinese province of Kwang Tung. Other elements in the urban population may include the Hakka and Fukien cultures.

Chinese people share a written language that is over 2000 years old, that has over 16,000 characters, each standing for an entire word. Traditionally, Chinese is written vertically, but in contemporary Britain it has been changed to read from left to right. Most Chinese people (regardless of their spoken dialect) can read the written Chinese language.

Mandarin is both the official and spoken language of China, but in the United Kingdom, Cantonese and Hakka are more commonly used.

While the Communist government officially encourages atheism, people may exercise religious beliefs within certain boundaries. Buddhists, Taoists, Muslims, and Christians all practise their religions, and temples, mosques, and churches are open to the public.

  • Buddhism
    Many Chinese see Buddhism as a way of life – the process of birth, ageing, illness and death. It is believed that through prayers, purification and virtuous conduct a Buddhist can attain a good present life and also reincarnation to a better one. (For more information, see the separate entry on Buddhism in Section 3 of this guide.)

  • Taoism
    Taoism sees life as compared to a balance of water, fire, earth, metal and wood. Illnesses and bad luck occur when there is an imbalance and the treatment restores the balance.

  • Confucianism
    This practice places emphasis on law and learning. It is an ethical system that preaches respect for authority and sees law as essential to making life possible.

Yuan Tan (the Chinese New Year) is the most popular festival, as it marks the beginning of the lunar year. It usually occurs between mid-January and mid-February and is usually a three-day celebration. Other celebrations include Ching Ming (ancestor remembrance) and the Dragon Boat festival.

Many Chinese people wear western clothes, although traditional clothes are still worn by some communities, particularly on special occasions such as weddings and for the New Year celebrations.

This is influenced by Chinese cultural beliefs. There are few dietary taboos, but cold food is usually avoided and fresh food is encouraged. Chopsticks are used for all meals in China, with food (which may include more than one type of main dish) placed at the centre of the table to be eaten with rice.

Traditionally, families hold a celebration a month after the birth, to which families and friends are invited.

Traditionally, the family name comes first, followed by the personal names that are normally made up of two Chinese characters e.g.

It is becoming common for a married woman to add the husband’s family name as a prefix. Thus, Cheung Lan – Ying would become Lam Cheung Lan – Ying.

As people become more westernised some Chinese are also adopting the European way of having their family name last, which can cause confusion.

Although arranged marriages are not common within the Chinese community, matchmaking is a common practice. Horoscopes are sometimes used to select favourable wedding dates.

Traditionally, a married couple would continue to live within an extended family arrangement of a number of generations and would pool their earnings for the good of the family. However, UK houses are smaller and this practice is often not possible, being replaced by what has become known as the ‘nuclear family unit’.

The colour white is synonymous with mourning for the Chinese and therefore is not worn for any celebratory occasions. As with other communities, the family undergo a period of mourning following the death.

Traditionally, family and friends subscribe to the cost of the funeral.

Burial or cremation is acceptable and sometimes the ashes are sent to China to be included in their ancestor’s graves.

Visiting A Home
As with most communities, it is considered polite to address Chinese people by their title and family name e.g. Mr Cheung.

The Chinese nod politely or bow slightly when greeting another person. A handshake is also acceptable, especially in formal situations or to show respect.

Although the extended family unit may have all but disappeared, elderly people are still respected, as according to an old Chinese proverb… “Having an old family member is like having a treasure in the home”. Due regard should therefore be paid to any elderly people that you come across when visiting.

Medical Treatment
There may be reluctance by some Chinese people to accept western medical help. Homeopathic medicine was largely developed by the Chinese and still plays a major part in their everyday treatment of illness and ailments.

Notes To Personnel
Cultural stereotypes about Chinese people predominantly working in the catering trade are still valid, with a large proportion of young people continuing to enter this type of work, for a variety of reasons. The 1985 Home Affairs Committee Report estimated that 90 percent of the Chinese community were in catering related occupations.

Eastern European People

Introduction to the community
Many Eastern European people are here as a result of conflict. They include people from Poland, Ukraine and former Yugoslavian countries i.e. Bosnia, Herzegovina, and also Romanies.

They have migrated to Britain at various times in the past, but numbers increased dramatically following the end of World War II when the families of many Polish soldiers who found themselves fighting under British command were displaced to refugee camps in Tehran and southern Africa, where they stayed until 1948. There were also Polish and Ukraine people during this period, who having been deported to German labour camps decided to come to Britain as well.

The war in former Yugoslavia during the 1990s, between Bosnian Muslims, Serbs and Croats, brought a second wave of immigrants to the UK in recent years. Many of the Bosnian people in the UK are here on a temporary basis. Whilst all groups reflect a strong family ethos, Whilst all groups reflect a strong family ethos, Bosnian people in particular prefer to live in extended family units that maintain a very strong community spirit.

Romanies take this ethos even further by working also as a family unit. This includes children who work as soon as they are able. Men govern Romany society, whilst women dedicate their lives to their children. Romanies are multi-skilled and adapt to changing times, seasons and the economy. Their average life span is 20 years less than the European average and they have one of the highest child mortality rates. This is largely due to poor pre-natal care and the fact that many Romanies live below the poverty level. (For further information on Romanies see Section 2 of this guide – Gypsies & Travellers.)

Many of the Eastern European people coming to Britain do not speak English. This is particularly so for older people. This means that Polish and Ukraine people predominantly rely on their own native tongue, whilst Bosnian people speak Serbo-Croat (now called Bosnian).

Although Bosnian Romanies speak Serbo-Croat, they prefer to communicate in Romani, which has many dialects.

Most Polish and Ukraine people are Catholic or Orthodox but traditionally celebrate Christmas Day on 7 January each year. Easter is also celebrated later than in the UK.

The main religions practiced in Bosnia and Herzegovina are Islam along with Catholic and Orthodox forms of Christianity. The Islamic population (including most Romanies) is predominantly Sunni Muslim.

Many Eastern European people are intensely proud of their heritage and form local groups and societies to keep their traditions alive. They tend to be deeply religious and festivals relating to their own faith i.e. predominantly Christian and Muslim will be an important part of their lives. (For further information on faiths, see Section 3.)

The wearing of national costume tends to be reserved for special occasions.

The Eastern European diet is one that is based upon meat and vegetarians are uncommon.

Many dishes e.g. stews made from differing meats and vegetables, are cooked for long periods. Other foods include pies, pastries and dairy produce, with bread eaten at most meals. Turkish coffee is popular, but particularly with all Bosnians.

Some groups follow the practice of extended families caring for the child and mother for an extended period, after the birth.

Traditions from their former countries and/or religious beliefs continue, as families are likely to hold on to their cultural past.

Traditional marriages were very much a case of the family helping individuals to find a suitable partner. Before the recent Bosnian war, there were often examples of mixed marriages between people from different ethnic groups. These couples were forced to flee their homes and communities as a result of the conflict.

Attitudes to death will mostly depend on their religious beliefs. For relatives of the deceased, who only have a temporary status in the UK, the decision as to where the body should be buried is sometimes difficult.

Visiting A Home
Because many of the Eastern European people came to the UK under difficult circumstances, they often arrived with few possessions. As a result, they are often very proud of those possessions, as they relate to their cultural background.

Medical Treatment
There are generally no difficulties associated with providing medical treatment.

Notes To Personnel
Although many refugees will have learned English, communication with the elderly and the newly arrived may prove difficult.

Gypsies & Travellers

Introduction to the Community
The historical past of the Gypsies is less than clear, but many people believe that true Gypsies belong to a race that originated in Northern India and entered Europe in the 15th century. According to legend, they were ousted from India by Islamic armies and have been forced to travel ever since.

They refer to themselves as Rom or Roma and all non-Gypsy people as Gorgios (pronounced Gorgers).

Early travellers sometimes said that they were from Egypt in order to be more easily accepted, and having dark skin and hair, and also leading a nomadic way of life they were first known as Egyptians and latterly as Gypsies.

The first official record of travelling people in Britain is of a group of Gypsies who presented themselves to the court of King James IV of Scotland in 1505.

As Gypsies spread through Western Europe, they faced discrimination and persecution in many countries throughout the ages. As with the Jews, Gypsies were also hated by the Nazis, who exterminated over 500,000 of them during World War II.

Traditionally, Gypsies have pursued occupations that allow them to maintain an itinerant life, on the perimeter of society.

In 1988 the English Court of Appeal ruled that Gypsies were an ethnic minority, as recognised under the Race Relations Act 1976 because they have a long, shared history, a commonplace geographical origin and are regarded as a distinctive group, by others.

Present-day Gypsies & Travellers who visit Shropshire, can be divided into the following groups…

  • Romanies
    Known as Rom or Roma Gypsies (other information can be found in Section 2 – Eastern European people).

  • Irish Travellers
    Some of whom only travel at certain times of the year.

  • Scottish & Welsh Travellers
    Who may refer to themselves as Gypsies.

  • English Travellers
    Including the Showman’s Guild (circus people).

  • New Age Travellers
    Modern day hippies.

The worldwide Gypsy population is estimated to be 10 million, with the largest European group being Spanish. It is estimated that there are perhaps 90,000 Gypsies living in Britain. This number includes refugee families from Eastern Europe.

There is a strict family/tribal culture, with the head of the group being elected as their Elder for life. This office is not inherited.

In Europe the head of Gypsy tribes governs through a Council of Elders that also consults with the most senior woman of the band. A code of conduct that includes fidelity, cohesiveness and reciprocity, binds all Romani Gypsies and is maintained through the Kris (a gathering of the Elders). The senior man is called the Krisnitori. Disputes are usually settled by the payment of a financial penalty.

Gypsy trades carried out in Shropshire are predominantly paving, roofing and landscaping. Traditional crafts/trades such as peg making, selling white heather, fortune telling and farm work is no longer commonplace, although some farm work is still done.

In some cases the distinction between Gypsies & Travellers is not easy to make, as some Gypsies marry into Traveller families and vice versa.

The obvious exception is that of New Age Travellers, a term that is used by people who dropout of society, to follow a simpler lifestyle.

Many Travellers are forced to camp illegally because the Criminal Justice & Public Order Act 1994 removed the statutory obligation for local authorities to provide permanent sites for travellers. A requirement previously provided for under the Caravan Sites Act 1968.

Irish Travellers have a totally different past from that of other Gypsies & Travellers. Historically they were forced to lead an itinerant lifestyle through poverty, evictions and famine, eventually leading to metalworking becoming one of the first trades. The word Tinker is derived from the noise of their hammers striking metal. Despite the close links and cultural similarities with English Travellers, the two groups sometimes do not get along.

Shropshire has historically been a place of stopping for Gypsies & Traveller families for many years, because of its location on the Holyhead to the West Midlands and Liverpool to the West Midlands routes.

There are a number of official and private sites, and also many unauthorised sites in the county that are used by Gypsies & Travellers. The Telford & Wrekin and Shropshire County Councils (who charge a weekly rent for use of facilities), manage the official sites.

In Telford there are two permanent sites that are managed by the Traveller Management Unit (TMU), based in Darby House at Telford Town Centre. They are…

  • Lawley Furnaces - with 20 plots
  • Donnington Wood - with 16 plots.

The TMU is a small team, with a fulltime police sergeant seconded to the Unit from the West Mercia Constabulary.

In the rest of Shropshire there are 5 permanent sites that are managed by the Traveller Liaison Group (TLG), based in the Shirehall at Shrewsbury. They are at…

  • Craven Arms
  • Prees
  • Oswestry
  • Cross Houses
  • Pontesbury

Between these five sites, the TLG operate 45 plots. There are also a number of private sites throughout the county that are used by Gypsies & Travellers, which vary in size from a single caravan to up to 20 pitches.

Most of the Gypsies & Travellers who visit Shropshire do not use the permanent or private sites (for various reasons). Instead, they camp on car parks, play areas, leisure areas, farmland and factory units etc. Much of the ongoing work carried out by both council offices involves responding to this situation.

There is no written Gypsy language and few people are literate because formal education is not seen as a requirement for the traveling lifestyle.

As well as those who speak English, most Gypsies speak in Romani, which has its roots in many of the Indian languages. Irish Travellers often communicate using languages known as Shelta or Gammon.

The Roma do not have their own religion. Historically, their beliefs revolve around a good and evil force, along with an indefinite number of entities or presences that are there at night.

In general however, most Gypsies adopt the dominant religion of their host country, with some becoming Pentecostal followers in recent years.

Religious and cultural festivals would largely depend on the country of origin and religious beliefs.

Gypsies & Travellers mostly adopt the dress of the country that they live in. However, traditional women prefer to wear clothes that are not figure revealing and older ones may wear aprons.

The wearing of gold jewellery is common practice and is a statement of status for Gypsies, by literally carrying their wealth with them, wherever they go.

Gypsies & Travellers mostly adopt the food of the country they live in and what is locally available.

As with most communities, births are celebrated and children are cherished within the Gypsy & Traveller community.

Children are often named after relations, thus some archaic names have been passed down through generations. A couple may use either of their parent’s surnames dependent upon the situation. Some children are named after film or pop stars and nicknames are commonly used. Visitors should be guided by an individual’s self-ascription as to how they would like to be known.

Marriages tend to occur within the same group or sub group of people, although a Rom man can marry a non-Romani, providing the woman adopts the lifestyle. Dowries are still paid, according to tradition. Although family is important, they do not necessarily live in an extended family group, although many do. A typical nuclear family will consist of a married couple and their unmarried children, who make a financial contribution to the group from an early age.

When death occurs, mourning tends to be for an extended period.

Traditionally, when a Gypsy died, their caravan would be burnt. However, today it is more likely that the caravan would be sold to a non-gypsy family and the money given to the deceased’s family.

Visiting A Home
As with any home, visitors should always wait to be invited into a caravan/trailer by the occupant, as they may prefer to talk outside the family home. Visitors of the opposite sex to the occupant should be aware that Gypsies & Travellers prefer to speak to people of the same sex as themselves. They should avoid any mention of anything at all sexual, related to reproduction, or bodily functions.

If tea is offered, it should be accepted, as it is seen as your acknowledgement of the family’s cleanliness and their acceptance of you as the visitor. Cups should not be placed on the floor, as it is considered to be unclean.

Traditionally, there are no sinks or toilets in caravans/trailers. Instead, separate bowls are kept for different functions.

Many people keep dogs and they are usually kept out of trailers. They should not be touched because they may bite, but they are also considered to be unclean.

Overall, keep reminding yourself that Gypsies & Travellers often believe that non-Travellers do not trust them and history (particularly their suffering during the Holocaust) makes them very cautious in such encounters. Outsiders are often associated with forcible evictions and therefore you may be viewed with extreme suspicion.

However, once accepted, Gypsies & Travellers will make you welcome. They are an interesting, challenging and friendly community, and a modern worldwide people that deserve the same recognition and respect as any other community.

Medical Treatment
Gypsies in particular, have a history of self-reliance and are likely to look to their own remedies rather than ask for help.

Notes To Personnel
Written communication may be problematic, because not all Gypsies & Travellers have had an opportunity for schooling and those that have, may have had limited education. This often means that there are high levels of illiteracy amongst groups, with some people not able to even tell the time.

As a result of labour intensive farming practices being introduced into the UK during the last 30 or so years, many farmers do not need help from Gypsies & Travellers and therefore no longer tolerate encampments on their land. This situation has meant that more families now travel into the towns and cities looking for alternative work, setting up camp on any piece of available land.

South Asian People

Introduction to the Community
The term South Asia (as used here) includes India, Bangladesh and Pakistan. It can also include people from East Africa, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the state of Bhutan. India has the second largest population in the world after China, with 1,018 million people (2000 Estimate).

Sikhs and Hindus are predominantly from India and Bangladesh, whilst Muslims are from either Pakistan or Bangladesh and to a lesser extent India.

Many South Asian people came to England after the Second World War and particularly following the independence of India and Pakistan in 1947, in response to labour shortages in Britain, but also because of a variety of social, economic and political reasons. The construction of the Mirpur Dam in the early 1960s uprooted whole communities, who were given priority to migrate to England.

For most South Asians, coming to the UK was not seen as a permanent arrangement, as they and their families believed that having acquired wealth they would return to their country of origin.

In the beginning, a command of English was not common (particularly for women in the communities) and this led in many cases to people finding it difficult to settle.

Having been promised a warm welcome and good employment prospects, they were faced with isolation and suspicion because of their different looks, dress and traditions. They faced problems in terms of education, housing, employment, health-care, benefits and social services (and still do in many cases).

Second and third generations of UK South Asians are showing many changes to their lifestyles in terms of dress, socialising and marriage. Whilst some elders may perceive these changes as negative, younger generations see them as positive and are moving and adapting to the contemporary environment.

Hindi is the national language of India (spoken by at least 30 percent of the population), but the constitution recognizes another 17 languages, including Bengali, Tamil, Urdu, Punjabi, Telugu and Sanskrit. English is important for business and government and is the language of national communication.

Pakistani people predominantly speak Urdu (although there are many other languages), which is approximately 200 years old. The written language is also Urdu, but many first generation people may not be literate.

Sikh people usually speak Punjabi.

The main religions found in South Asia are Islam, Sikhism, Hinduism and Buddhism, although India in particular is very tolerant of all religions.
(For more information, see the separate entries in Section 3 of this guide.)

Traditional images of South Asian communities are of extended families, arranged marriages, a traditional women’s role, a particular diet, traditional clothes (particularly for women) and religious devotion. Physical contact between the sexes (other than for close family members) has traditionally been avoided, especially when in public.

These images or cultural representations are not static however and are subject to constant change, influenced by political, social and economic factors in the UK as well as in their country of origin. For example, the extended family no longer offers the infallible support that tradition dictated.

There are many festivals, most of which coincide with a religious event relating to their own beliefs. These are referred to in Section 3 of this document under Islam, Hinduism, Buddhism and Sikhism etc.

Traditional dress is likely to be determined by the person’s country of origin and their own faith. Most UK South Asian men wear western clothes.

Many South Asian women still wear the Shalwar and Kameez (a form of trouser suit, particularly favoured by Pakistani and Bangladeshi Muslim women to maintain their modesty in accordance with the Quran), accompanied by a scarf called a dupta, or a hijab (a one-piece garment covering the entire body, with the exception of the feet). Pakistani and Bangladeshi men are likely to wear western clothes accompanied by some form of cap/hat (particularly during times of religious observance), but may wear a loose cotton garment called a lungi when at home, instead of trousers.

The Shalwar and Kameez are also worn by women from India, who might also wear the Sari (a one-piece garment, wound/folded around the lower body), in conjunction with a blouse and petticoat. The Sari is also likely to be worn by Bangladeshi women.

The Turban is synonymous with Sikhism, but there are other forms of the turban that are worn by people belonging to other groups.

Foods vary widely in the region, depending on the culture and region. For example, rice is a staple food in the south, while roti (wheat bread) is a staple food in the north.

Irrespective of their religion, most people are vegetarian, although not exclusively.

As with other communities, children are viewed as a gift from God. Traditionally South Asian families were larger than UK families to enable them to achieve financial stability, by many people contributing to the household.

The process of naming can differ for each group, with many traditional practices being influenced by western culture. (Further information is available in Section 3.)

Many South Asian families use a system of arranged marriages that goes back to a time when a person’s average life expectancy was between 30 and 35 years. As a result, it was necessary for couples to marry very young and at a time when their wisdom in choosing a partner might be impaired. Accordingly, family heads chose their partners for them… usually very successfully.

People’s attitude to death differs, depending on their religious beliefs.

Visiting A Home
Although there may be some difficulty with a man visiting a home where there is a lone woman (because of cultural differences), there are unlikely to be any other problems. In general, personnel are likely to be as welcome in a South Asian home as they are anywhere else.

Medical Treatment
All medical treatment, such as blood transfusion, surgery or administering of drugs is allowed and life-saving considerations take precedence over any religious duties.