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is rooted in the local language and people with the name being called "Muang
Lao" or "Pathet Lao" for centuries, both of which mean "Lao
country." The origin of the name Lao is unknown, but refers to the people.
ສາທາລະນະລັດ ປະຊາທິປະໄຕ ປະຊາຊົນລາວ
Laos is a mountainous country, a geography that has limited the lifestyle and in
many ways isolated the country. However, when introductions have been made, they
tend to stick in this small country. In fact, most transportation and communication
is done via the numerous rivers flowing from the north into the Mekong River in
the south and this is how most foreign introductions have arrived to this forgotten
land. Most of the people in the past and today live in these river valleys as foods
grow easily and rice paddies are seen nearly everywhere. Both in the past and now
this reliance on the rivers has meant most people have worked as farmers and have
been dependent on the lands.
The geography of Laos dictated the culture and way of life in the past and still
dictates most people's lives in the present. Many of these river settlements
are growing and many are becoming towns or even cities. However, this doesn't
mean the country is a growing urban center, just that urban centers are growing,
but most of the people remain reliant on the lands and rivers.
Through most of history, Lao culture has changed little due to their isolation from
outsiders (even when the people fell under the rule of a foreigner, they always
fell on the periphery of their empire and had little influence on the local Lao
culture). The only sea access is via the Mekong River and the mountains isolate
the people. Due to this, little has changed over time and when an introduction has
fully taken hold it seems to stay.
This is the case in one of the country's most noticeable and defining characteristics
in Buddhism, which has dominated Lao culture and life since about the 1500s, if
not earlier. This religion preaches simplicity in life, kindness, and self-growth,
items the Lao have taken to heart as people always seem to be more important than
possessions. This simple life of living off the land and being a people dedicated
to Buddhism is at the core of society and remains an important part of the people's
With the arrival of foreigners and outside thoughts in more recent times, the people
of Laos were thrown into the unknown as most people continued living as they always
have, while others sought western life and clung to newly introduced political ideologies.
These outside introductions, particularly in the 1800s and early 1900s, have led
to various opinions as the peaceful people divided and war arrived in the mid-1900s.
Fortunately, Laos is again stable and safe, however their future culture and identity
are in flux, as is their way of life. Few people have significantly changed since
the communist takeover as they continue to live their lives as farmers in villages
and the countryside. However, there has also been a rapid process of industrialization
and the growth of cities, creating new cultural aspects with new technology and
communication, which are slowly expanding from the cities to the countryside.
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