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East Timor at a Glance

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15,007 sq km

Currency (code):

US dollar (USD)

Exchange rates:

the US dollar is used



Age structure:

  • 0-14 years: 35.1% (male 197,975/female 191,716)
  • 15-64 years: 61.6% (male 347,573/female 334,908)
  • 65 years and over: 3.3% (male 17,578/female 19,027) (2008 est.)

Population growth rate:

2.05% (2008 est.)


Roman Catholic 98%, Muslim 1%, Protestant 1% (2005)


East Timor has a tropical climate with high humidity and warm temperatures, though these are often tempered by sea breezes. The nation has two seasons, dry (May–October) and wet (November–April), but there is little seasonal variation in temperature. Lowland temperatures are typically between 86 and 95°F (30–35°C) during the day and between 68 and 75°F (20–24°C) at night. In the mountains, daytime temperatures are still warm, but nighttime temperatures are much cooler


Tetum and Portuguese were chosen as the nation’s official languages upon independence. Tetum is the primary language of about 80 percent of the population. Most people speak Indonesian because it was the language of school instruction during the Indonesian period. English is used mainly in business settings and by foreign development agencies.

General Attitudes:

East Timorese take great pride in their hard-won independence from a larger and more powerful neighbor. They are also proud that despite Portuguese and Indonesian rule, many elements of East Timor’s traditional culture have survived and are now enjoying a renaissance. East Timorese tend to be family- and community-oriented. A social event often involves an entire neighborhood or community. People rely on extended family and community members to help build a house, plant crops, or prepare for a wedding or funeral. They look down upon people who put their own needs ahead of the group. Wisdom and empathy are highly respected character traits.


When greeting, people usually shake hands. Close friends kiss one another on both cheeks. Children greet grandparents by kissing the back of their palms. People usually use Portuguese greetings, such as Bom dia (Good day), Boa tarde (Good afternoon), and Boa noite (“Good evening” or “Good night”). It is less common to use Tetum greetings such as Dadeer-di’ak (Good morning), Loron-di’ak (Good day), and Kalan-di’ak (Good evening).

Regardless of familial relationship, people address others using the Tetum titles Maun (Older brother), Mana (Older sister), and Alin (Younger brother or sister) in addition to the Portuguese titles Colega (Friend), Prima (Female cousin), and Primo (Male cousin). Younger people address older people they know well as Tiu (Uncle) or Tia (Auntie). For older acquaintances, the titles Senhor (Mr.), Senhora (Mrs.), or Menina (Miss) are followed by the person’s first name. The Tetum word Ó (You) is used to address small children or close friends of the same age.

After initial greetings, people usually inquire about one another’s health. The Tetum phrase Di’ak ka lae (“How are you?”; literally “Good or not?”) is used if two people have not seen each other for some time. If a neighbor is passing by, one says Bá ne’ebé (Where are you going?)

Labor force:

Not Available

Labor force - by occupation:

  • Not Available

Unemployment rate:

50% estimated; note - unemployment in urban areas reached 20%; data do not include underemployed (2001 est.)

Inflation rate (consumer prices):

5.4% (2007 est.)

Natural resources:

gold, petroleum, natural gas, manganese, marble


$10 million; note - excludes oil (2005 est.)

Exports – commodities:

coffee, sandalwood, marble; note - potential for oil and vanilla exports

Exports - partners:

US, Germany, Portugal, Australia, Indonesia (2006)


$202 million (2004 est.)

Imports – commodities:

food, gasoline, kerosene, machinery

Imports - partners:

Not Available



East Timor.” CultureGrams World Edition. 2008. ProQuest. <>.


East Timor.” Factsheet. May, 2007. Economist Intelligence Unit. <>

"East Timor at a Glance";