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Culture of Palau


The graphic arts are highly developed in Palau. In the past the village meetinghouse was the center of both visual and performance arts. The end gables (bai) of these houses and the interior beams were decorated with low-relief painted carvings, depicting histories of the village and its relationships with other villages.


Most of the older houses (depicting sailing ships and planes as well as Palauan scenes) were destroyed during World War II or by typhoons, and the few extant and newly constructed gables today depict pre-European Palauan styles.

Carved wooden storyboards, derived from the beam carvings, are a highly developed art form, primarily for sale to foreigners. Carvers of storyboards, shell jewelry makers, and weavers may earn considerable income. Watercolors of traditional village scenes by the late Charlie Gibbons are highly prized. Palauan artists also work in oils and linocuts.


The music of Palau finds its heritage in Micronesia, but it has been supplemented with influences from the United States and Western Europe, as well as Japan.

The government department of the Republic of Palau and Director of the Bureau of Arts and Culture are in charge of developing and implementing cultural policies is the Ministry of Community and Cultural Affairs. The national anthem of Palau is a song written by Ymesei O. Ezekiel, and has been the anthem since 1980.

There are no intellectual property restrictions in Palau.

The modern Palauan pop music scene began in the mid-1980s. The country recorded popular sound includes element of Japanese music, legacy of a period of Japanese domination. The American influence can be heard in a distinctly Palauan form of country music.


Palauan women, like their male counterparts, traditionally used to go topless in the past. They used only a two-piece skirt and a few garlands as costumes. Today, some local women still continue their traditional dressing, although more covered and conservative styles of modern clothing have found their way into their culture, especially with the heavy influx of tourists.


The cuisine includes local foods such as cassava, taro, yam, potato, fish and pork. Western cuisine is favored among young Palauans and the locals are joined by foreign tourists. Restaurants on the main island of Koror consist mainly of Korean food, as well as Chinese, burgers, pizza and pasta. 

Indigenous cuisine consists mainly of root vegetables, fish, pigs and chicken. The rest of Micronesia is similar with much less tourism, leading to fewer restaurants. Tourists eat mainly at their hotels on such islands. Some local foods include an alcoholic drink made from coconut on the tree; the drink made from the roots of the kava; and the chewing of betel nuts. The Filipino presence in the islands supports the presence of that cuisine.


Palauan (also spelled Belauan) is one of the two official languages of the Republic of Palau, the other being English. It is a member of the Austronesian family of languages, and is one of only two indigenous languages in Micronesia that is not part of the Oceanic branch of that family, the other being Chamorro.


Poetry is the most developed of Palauan literary arts (in Palauan and in English), with several well-known poets; little is available, however, in published form.


Palau is highly urbanized, with 71 percent of its population residing in Koror and Airai on the south of Babelthuap. Those without land rights on Koror live on land leased from the government, generally in single- or two-story houses of wood or cement with tin roofs.

The bai gable is a common architectural feature. Village communities still have bai meeting houses, a few in traditional styles. Today’s government buildings are large air-conditioned cement structures. The future capital, Melekeak, is influenced by classical architecture. The national congress, named the Olbiil era Kelulau (House of Whispers), symbolizes the process of quiet consensus rather than open public debate of issues.


Baseball is a popular sport in Palau after its introduction by the Japanese in the 1920s. The Palau national baseball team won the gold medal at the 1990, 1998 and 2010 Micronesian Games, as well as at the 2007 Pacific Games.

Palau also has a National football team organised by the Palau Soccer Association but is not a member of FIFA. The Association also organizes the Palau Soccer League.


Palau celebrates a range of national holidays including Constitution Day (9 July) and Independence Day, many American holidays, as well as an extended Christmas/New Year’s period.


The economy consists of tourism and other services such as trade, subsistence agriculture, and fishing.

Tourism is Palau’s main industry. Activity focuses on scuba diving and snorkeling among the islands’ rich marine environment. Construction is the most important industrial activity. Agriculture is mainly on a subsistence level, the principal crops being coconuts, root crops, and bananas.

Major exports to the islands are shellfish, tuna, copra, and garments. Major imports include machinery and equipment, fuels, metals, and foodstuffs. Main trade partners are with the United Staes, Japan, Singapore, Guam, and Korea.