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Laos Population and cultures

Laos has about 6.4 million inhabitants (July 2011) 27 persons per square kilometer. The country is very sparsely populated and ranks on 104 in the list of countries by population. It is one of the least densely populated countries of Asia and compared to the busy neighboring countries Vietnam, China and Thailand is the country a heaven of tranquility. The majority of the population lives outside the cities and is working in the agricultural sector. There are 49 ethnic groups in Laos.

Population growth, composition and life
Population growth is  1.684% and life expectancy is 62 years. Almost 37% of the total population are children between 0 to 14 years in Laos,. People aged 15 to 64 years account for about 60% and elderly 65 years and older account for only 3.7% of the population.

What is and not to do in Laos
As in any country, Laos has its own customs, norms and values. If you are demonstrating respect for the Lao culture this will be much appreciated. They will not easily account you for inappropriate behavior but it will certainly not appreciate. They aware that you are not familiar of the Lao culture and take this into account the differences that exist with their own culture. Laotians are generally easy going. . See also Do's and Don'ts in Laos

Give something?
Give something is a food thing to do. Especially in a country like Laos. Give money or candy to children does not seem a good idea. It will "beg" provoke and also by most Laotians seen as something that is not appropriate. Give a book is a great alternative and contributes to the development of children. At markets in Laos you can sometimes find children's books in the Lao language or in part in the Laotian and English. You can also buy them in Vientiane and Lung Prabang at Big Brother Mouse. In villages are often books are very rare (or even non-existent) and older Laotians you will also see read a little.

Buddhism first appeared in Laos during the eighth century A.D., as shown by both the Buddha image and the stone inscription found at Ban Talat near Vientiane, now exhibited at Hor Pra keo Museum.

After the foundation of the unified Kingdom of Lane Xang, King Fa Ngum (14th Century) declared Buddhism as the state religion and urged the people to abandon Animism or other beliefs such as the Cult of Spirits.

His policy meant to develop the Lao culture based on a common faith: Theravada Buddhism.

Today, Theravada Buddhism is the professed religion of about 90% of Lao people. Buddhism is an inherent feature of daily life and casts a strong influence on Lao society.

Lao woman can be seen each morning giving alms to monks, earning merit to lessen the number of their rebirths.

It is expected that every Lao man will become a monk for at least a short time in his life.
Traditionally, men spent three months during the rainy season in a Wat (Buddhist temple). Today, however; most men curtail their stay to one or two weeks. 

The ethnic groups in Laos
Laos has a lot of ethnic groups and did very diverse. Officially there are 68 ethnic groups identified in the country. There are estimates that are much higher than the official figure. The 68 groups are divided into four "main". Different groups have their own customs and often speak their own language. Clothes are very different. Below you can find an overview of these main groups.

Theung Lao (Lao of the middle country)
The mountain peoples of Malay and Chinese descent. They live in the middle of Laos This group represents about 25% of the population groups and among the oldest inhabitants of Laos. They settled about 10,000 years ago in the Mekong Valley. They were later by the Lao Loum (lowland Lao) and chased it forced moved to higher ground in northern and southern Laos. Nations belonging to the Lao Theung include Katang, Htin, Lamet, Khamu, Katu, Alak and Laven. A nice special feature of the group Htin is that no metal used in their culture because it is not allowed. With bamboo and other materials so they are able to do much and metal for a replacement part.

Lao Soung (highland Lao)
About ten percent of the population consists of Lao Lao Soung (highland Lao). These peoples do not belong to the ethnic Thai. The peoples of the Lao Soung are originally from the south of the present People's Republic of China and Myanmar (Burma). They are only a few hundred years back to live in areas that now belong to Laos. The largest group consists of the Hmong. The Hmong represent about two-thirds of the total number of highland Lao. The highland Lao life as the name suggests at higher altitudes and are usually seen from an altitude of 1000 meters. The provinces of Bokeo and Luang Nam Tha are ethnically diverse and live in the two counties a lot of people (34 in less than 39 in Bokeo and Luang Nam Tha).

Lao Thai
More than fifty percent of the population consists of the Lao Thai group. They live in the valleys of Laos' upland rivers and the vast Mekong Delta of the country. Most Lao Thai people are farmers and cultivated under different dry and wet rice. There are differences in clothing between the various groups of Thai and Lao people has also red, white, blue and black Thai Lao.

Lao Loum (lowland Lao)
This group lives mainly in the Mekong Valley in Laos and in other low areas. The group drove back the Lao Theung long. People came from the south and still influences can be observed from cultures of Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia. Lao Loum (lowland Lao) inhabit the lower parts of Laos and live mainly in the Mekong Valley. They constitute about half of the Lao population. They came from the south in the Mekong Valley and drove therein Lao Theung. Influences from Cambodian, Indonesian and Thai cultures are clearly seen.

Minorities in Laos
Like virtually every country also has minority Laos. They are mainly made up of Vietnamese and Chinese. Especially in northern Laos is clearly the influence of the Chinese brands and the large numbers of Chinese workers in frontier areas provide a significant Chinese influence. Recent developments strongly suggest that the number of Chinese in Laos over the coming years will increase significantly. Also in the capital Vientiane and Savannakhet cities live large Chinese groups. It is estimated that up to 5% of the population in Laos from Vietnam or China does. In recent years, more choice for Thai in Laos to work and live, but often they stay only for short time. In the capital Vientiane, small groups of Westerners living (including embassy staff), people from Myanmar (Burma), Bangladesh, Pakistanis and Indians. Even a small group of Africans live in Vientiane. In the south, some Cambodians, and life continued throughout Laos here and you can find a westerner who in one way or another stick in the beautiful country.