a hot rock mantis production

your guide to Réunion Island

Ile de la Réunion

The original and most informative

English language guide to the island

Reunion Island - Culture

Melting Pot

a real rainbow nation island

Poulation - 810,000 (Sept. 2008 est.)

Ethnic groups - Creole, French, African, Malagasy, Chinese, Pakistani, Indian; Oh! and the odd Englishman.


It is the people of Réunion who add a living soul to the 'intense isle'. It is a true melting pot and a 'rainbow nation' far exceeding that of South Africa. After spending some time communing with nature in the mountains or amongst the coral, take time to experience a culture that has its own unique identity as well as a myriad of identies within. This is not France, not Africa, it is Réunion and is essentially Creole - more like a meeting point at the outer reaches of the galaxy. Have your doors of perception cleansed and realise the world anew…

Reunion has people of many different ethnic origins, descendents of the early settlers who came from places as diverse as China, India, Arabia, Comoros and Madagascar Islands, the African mainland and Europe. The French plantation owners brought the Africans and the Malagasy to the island as slaves, their descendents living on the island are known as "Cafre" (something which for an anglophone is hard to accept and is felt often to be defamatory). The descendants of more recent arrivals from Europe, mostly of French origin are known as "Zoreil" (who may become "Z'oreole" if well intergrated) while the "Malbar" are Tamil from Madras and the Coromandel Coast in India who were brought to the island as indentured labour after the abolition of slavery. Muslims of Indian origin came from Gujarat and Bombay in the last part of the 19 th century and came to be called "Zarabe" , although very few of them are Arab. The Chinese first arrived after 1860 to be followed by more of their countrymen during the early decades of the 20th century to set up stops, grocery stores and stores and of course, many restaurants. In Reunion today, multi-ethnic families are quite common and such families make up a third of the population. The "petit-blanc" who live in the heights are known as the "Yab"

Over the years French cultural influences have had such an overwhelming impact on the people of different races that live on the island that behaviour patterns and social norms conform to the French. Despite that, in homes and within particular ethnic groups, traditional ways and practices are kept alive and passed from generation to generation. Certain rituals and ceremonies like 'fire walking' persist and syntheses with other cultures. While the different races on Réunion live in harmony and have intermarried, they continue to retain many aspects of their original cultures.


a melting pot

The vast majority of people in Réunion are practising Roman Catholics, though there are sizeable minorities of Muslims, Hindus and Buddhists. Quite a few of the Tamil Indians converted to Christianity but continue to worship their Hindu gods alongside. The Chinese immigrants brought in Buddhism while the Indians from Gujarat and Bombay are Muslims.



Statistics ...

to be regarded as statistics, nothing else!

Ethnic groups:

mixed race (black-white-south Asian) 42.6%

white 25.6%

Chinese 3.4%

South Asian (Indian, Pakistani, Tamil) 23%

East African 3.4%

Malagasy 1.4%

other 0.6%


French is the official language and very few people speak English. The local language is Creole. The Creole spoken on Réunion Island is a mixture of several languages with words from French, Malagasy and the African languages. It differs from the Creole spoken in other islands of Indian Ocean or in the West Indies.