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Seychelles History, Language and Culture

History of Seychelles

The Seychelles is a relatively young nation dating back just 200 years to 1770 when French planters claimed Mahé and seven other islands for France. Until then, the islands were uninhabited, and many of its 115 islands remain so today.

The islands were under French rule for 44 years until Napoleon was defeated at the battle of Waterloo and the British took power under the treaty of Paris in 1814.

The population of around 3,500 had grown to 7,000 by 1825 under the British. Important estates were established producing coconut, food crops, cotton and sugar cane which employed workers of many nationalities. They later faced economic difficulties following the abolition of slavery.

The islands became a Crown colony in 1903 and achieved independence from Britain in 1976. Shortly afterwards, the Seychelles underwent a period of single party rule by the government of Albert René, who despite several attempts to depose him, retained control of the one-party state throughout the 1980s. Pressure from France and Britain eventually persuaded the Seychelles to adopt a multi-party system of government.

The first multi-party presidential and legislative elections, held in 1993, were won comfortably by René. Efforts to build up infrastructure, tourism and public services ensured that René enjoyed more than a quarter of century in power.

The islands’ melting pot of cultures has contributed to its colourful history. Throughout the centuries, it has attracted a rich diversity of people that have included freed slaves, European settlers, political exiles and traders of Arab, Persian, Chinese and Indian origin. Its isolation has also contributed to the development of the islands’ own traditions, language and culture.

Today, the Seychellois society remains faithful to its multi-ethnic roots. Creole music and dance have their roots in African, Malagasy and European culture, whilst the moutya, an erotic dance from slavery days, is still enjoyed, as is the kontredanse, which was introduced by the French court. In this way, visitors can glimpse the diverse culture expressed all over the archipelago, through its arts, food, colonial architecture, music and dance.

Did you know?
• Victoria is one of the smallest capital cities in the world with just 26,000 inhabitants.
• Pirate treasure worth over €100,000 is said to be buried somewhere on the islands.
• The jellyfish tree is one of the rarest on earth, inhabiting only three hilltops on Mahé Island.

Seychelles Culture

Religion in Seychelles

83% Roman Catholic with Anglican, Seventh Day Adventist, Muslim, Baha'i and other minorities.

Social Conventions in Seychelles

The people live a simple and unsophisticated island life and tourism is carefully controlled to protect the unspoilt charm of the islands. Before the international airport opened in 1971, the islands could be reached only by sea, and since they are miles from anywhere, visitors were few and far between and the people were little influenced by the outside world. They developed their own language and culture which - like so many things on the islands - are unique.

Shaking hands is the customary form of greeting. The Seychellois are very hospitable and welcome guests into their homes. When visiting someone's home, a gift is acceptable. A mixture of imperial and metric systems operates. For example, petrol is dispensed in litres, whilst bars sell bottled and draught beer in half-pint measures. Casual wear is essential and formal clothes are only worn by churchgoers. Swimwear should only be worn on the beaches.

Language in Seychelles

The three official languages are Creole, English and French. A small minority also speak Italian and German.