Suriname is a cultural free-for-all of incredibly friendly and generous people. Paramaribo's level of acceptance and unity is primarily undisturbed by religious and racial tension, which is remarkable given the intimacy of so many groups living in such a small corner of the world. However, Maroons and Amerindians in the interior live with high poverty levels and fewer educational opportunities.
Many Surinamese live or have lived in the Netherlands, either to enjoy its greater economic opportunities or to escape military repression, and are consequently knowledgeable of European trends.
About 40% of the country's well-integrated population are nominally Christian, but some also adhere to traditional African beliefs. Hindus make up 26% of the population (most of the East Indian community), while 19% is Muslim (ethnic Indonesians plus a minority of East Indian origin). A small number is Buddhist, Jewish or follow Amerindian religions. In terms of ethnicities, 37% of the population is Indian, 31% is Creole, 15% is Indonesian, 10% is Maroon, 2% is Amerindian, 2% is Chinese and 1% is Dutch, leaving 2% 'other'.
Some cultural forms – such as gamelan music, often heard at special events – derive from the Indonesian immigrant populations. Other art forms that visitors enjoy include intricate Amerindian basketry and wood carvings by Maroons, widely regarded as the best carvers in tropical America.
Suriname is divided into a coastal region and dense tropical forest and savannas. To its west, the Corantijn (Corentyne in Guyana) River forms the border, disputed in its most southerly reaches with Guyana. The Marowijne (Maroni in French Guiana) and Litani Rivers form the border with French Guiana.
The majority of Surinamese inhabit the Atlantic coastal plain, where most of the country's few roads are located. The nearby Afobaka Dam created one of the world's largest (1550 sq km) reservoirs, Brokopondo, on the Upper Suriname River.
Being mostly covered by rainforest, Suriname has diverse wildlife, from the flashy jaguar and black caiman to humble agouti and squirrel monkeys. Birders flock to see a wide range of bird species, including the red ibis and harpy eagle.
Food & Drink
- Pom Creole creation using grated tayer (an edible Amazonian root) , shredded chicken, onion and spices baked into a yummy casserole.
- Roti Indian flatbread stuffed with all sorts of curries, from potato-heavy vegetarian to chunks of beef.
- Javanese food Rice noodle and soup dishes are tasty and cheap.
- Fish A variety of fresh river fish is the staple in most of the interior and is often served fried or in soup.
- Parbo The local beer is quite good; it's customary to share a djogo (1L bottle) among friends.
- Borgoe The best local rum, with many types to choose from; the best seller is lethal Mariënburg White, which is 90% alcohol and flavorless in cocktails.
- Pastei A Creole-style chicken pot pie with peas and carrots.
- Moksi-alesi Mixed boiled rice with salted meat or fish and vegetables – the best include coconut cream.
- Hagelslag Dutch-style chocolate sprinkles to go on toast for breakfast.