The culture of East Timor reflects numerous influences, including Portuguese, Roman Catholic and Indonesian, on Timor's indigenous Austronesian and Melanesian cultures. East Timorese culture is heavily influenced by Austronesian legends. For example, East Timorese creation myth has it that an aging crocodile transformed into the island of Timor as part of a debt repayment to a young boy who had helped the crocodile when it was sick. As a result, the island is shaped like a crocodile and the boy's descendants are the native East Timorese who inhabit it. The phrase "leaving the crocodile" refers to the pained exile of East Timorese from their island.
There is also a strong tradition of poetry in the country. Prime Minister Xanana Gusmão, for example, is a distinguished poet.
Architecturally, Portuguese-style buildings can be found, along with the traditional totem houses of the eastern region. These are known as uma lulik ("sacred houses") in Tetum and lee teinu("legged houses") in Fataluku. Craftsmanship and the weaving of traditional scarves (tais) is also widespread.
An extensive collection of Timorese audiovisual material is held at the National Film and Sound Archive of Australia. These holdings have been identified in a document titled The NFSA Timor-Leste Collection Profile, which features catalogue entries and essays for a total of 795 NFSA-held moving image, recorded sound and documentation works that have captured the history and culture of East Timor since the early 20th century. The NFSA is working with the East Timor government to ensure that all of this material can be used and accessed by the people of that country.
In 2013 the first East Timorese feature film, Beatriz's War, was released. In 2009 and 2010, East Timor was the nation of subject matter for the Australian and South Korean films Balibo and A Barefoot Dream.
The cuisine of East Timor consists of regional popular foods such as pork, fish, basil, tamarind, legumes, corn, rice, root vegetables, and tropical fruit. East Timorese cuisine has influences from Southeast Asian foods and from Portuguese dishes from its colonisation by Portugal. Flavours and ingredients from other former Portuguese colonies can be found due to the centuries-old Portuguese presence on the island.
Sports organisations joined by East Timor include the International Olympic Committee (IOC), the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF), the International Badminton Federation (IBF), the Union Cycliste Internationale, the International Weightlifting Federation, the International Table Tennis Federation (ITTF), and East Timor's national football team joined FIFA. East Timorese athletes competed in the 2003 Southeast Asian Games held 2003. In the 2003 ASEAN Paralympics Games, East Timor won a bronze medal. In the Athens 2004 Olympic Games, East Timorese athletes participated in athletics, weightlifting and boxing. East Timor won three medals in Arnis at the 2005 Southeast Asian Games. East Timor competed in the firstLusophony Games and, in October 2008, the country earned its first international points in a FIFA football match with a 2–2 draw against Cambodia. East Timor competed at the 2014 Winter Olympics.
Thomas Americo was the first East Timorese fighter to fight for a world boxing title. He was murdered in 1999, shortly before Indonesian occupation of East Timor ended.