The country of Liberia, located on the coast of West Africa, is a vibrant nation with a troubled past. The country was originally a settlement for freed slaves from the United States and, although it is Africa’s first and oldest republic to proclaim independence, this war-torn country has been experiencing years of political instability.
But despite its struggles, Liberia has many fascinating facts to offer. From delicious spicy food to an interesting secret handshake, let’s take a look at eleven curious facts about Liberia.
1. Liberia is one of the world’s youngest countries
Although the country of Liberia is around 170 years old, its population is full of young citizens. Recent statistics show that 43.35% of the country’s population is under the age of 15 while the overall average age in the country is 18 years old, an interesting Liberia fact. This puts this country in the top 15 countries worldwide with the youngest population.
2. Its official language is English
Because most of the settlers in Liberia came from the United States during the American Civil War, the most commonly spoken language in the country is English. Local dialects from the nation’s many ethnic groups also merge with English to form a unique spoken language within the country known as Liberian English. Some interesting words and phrases exclusive to Liberian English are “Ya Hello-o,” which is a common friendly greeting and “Big Juem,” which is a word used to describe strong, independent women.
3. There is a town in Liberia called “Smell No Taste”
The name of this small community may seem like a funny joke, but its origin is a little dark. During the Second World War, the United States stationed thousands of soldiers near this village to guard the military flights and rubber plantations. The smell of the soldiers’ food cooking would often drift into the town, but the citizens weren’t allowed to enter the soldiers’ base so they could only smell the food and never taste it. Thus, the cutesy name “Smell No Taste” was created, a fun fact about Liberia.
4. Their current president is a former professional football player
The current Liberian president, George Weah, was originally famous for being a professional striker who helped the Chelsea Football Club win the Football Association Challenge Cup in the year 2000. He has also played as a striker for other famous teams such as Manchester City and AC Milan. He won the title of FIFA World Player of the Year in 1995 and is the first and only African to have achieved this title so far. On 22 January 2018, he was inaugurated as the president of Liberia.
5. You must have dark skin to be a Liberian citizen
Full citizenship in Liberia is reserved for those of African descent as dictated by the country’s constitution. Liberians are proud of their dark skin and protective of their rights as citizens of the country. The main reason for this is the Liberian people’s traumatic history of enslavement. The country is afraid of being dominated by foreigners, so they currently only allow people with dark skin to become citizens, an interesting fact about Liberia. President Weah has proposed abolishing this law but was met with severe backlash from the Liberian people.
6. Monrovia in Liberia is one of the world’s rainiest capital cities
Instead of winter, spring, summer, and fall, the tropical climate in Liberia has two seasons: the wet season and the dry season. During the wet season, rainfall pours on the capital city of Monrovia, often in very large amounts. This can lead to polluted water flooding wells, houses, and roads. For comparison, the city of London receives 23 inches of rain per year while the city of Monrovia experiences 182 inches of rain per year.
7. Liberians have their own “secret handshake”
Most countries have special forms of greeting through physical touch. Cheek kissing, hugs, and high-fives are some common ones. But Liberia has an interesting kind of handshake unique to its citizens known as the Liberian finger snap. To do a Liberian finger snap, two people touch hands as if doing a regular handshake, then mutually snap their fingers when they release to make a snapping sound. Though seen as a casual gesture now, this hand snap practice was created by freed slaves in reference to the practice of slave owners breaking workers’ fingers.
8. This country of 4.5 million people has less than 300 doctors
Liberia’s medical resources are fairly limited. Recent statistics show that there is only 1 doctor for every 15,000 patients in Liberia, a total of 298 doctors overall. This is very far from the World Health Organization’s recommended ratio of 1 doctor for every 1000 patients. The doctors are also spread unevenly throughout the country, so some cities have multiple doctors while a few have one or none at all.
9. The Liberian flag looks similar to the American flag
Like the flag of the United States, the Liberian flag features horizontal red and white stripes with a blue square on the upper left corner. The main difference is that the Liberian flag has one large white star instead of 50 small ones. An interesting fact about Liberia is that the Liberian flag also has 11 stripes while the American flag has 13.
10. Liberians love spicy food
Hot peppers are a common ingredient in Liberian food. The citizens love the taste that the spice adds to dishes and many of them even have their own family recipe for hot pepper sauce. The country’s national dish, Dumboy, is a sticky cassava dough that is often eaten with a meat soup flavored with spicy peppers like habanero.
Liberia is a fascinating and vibrant country whose culture and traditions have been shaped by its difficult history. The experiences of the original freed slaves are the roots of many of the practices and beliefs of Liberian citizens today. It’s interesting to learn unique facts about Liberian food, customs, and statistics but it’s also important to study the complex historical and political factors that influenced these parts of the Liberian culture.
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