What to expect when visiting Fiji

I found an interesting article on traveller.com.au earlier this week listing twenty things that will surprise first-time visitors to Fiji. While we weren’t overly surprised by things when we moved here that’s partly because we researched and carefully considered where it was we would be living for the next three years before committing.

Here are the 20 things the article lists and our experiences so far:

  1. Fiji time is a thing
    • Yes! We have experienced this on too numerous an occassion to count. It’s the way of life here, why rush, why stress, it’ll all be ok, no worries. Generally speaking this is such a great attitude to have but when coming from the compartively fast-paced world of Australia it can be a little frustrating at times. For example it took us three days to register my car, queuing to buy groceries also requires buckets of patience, there’s no rush to serve people and get on to the next customer. That being said once you accept that it will never change you do end up joining the cruisey way of life and stressing a lot less.
  2. You’ll never feel so welcomed at an airport anywhere in the world
    • When I arrived the Nadi Airport was going through some major renovations but they still had the group of singers playing traditional island tunes, which definitely puts you in the mood for beaches and relaxation.
  3. You’ll say Bula a lot
    • Being some of the friendlist people in the world (we’ll get to that point in a minute) almost everywhere you go you will be greeted with ‘Bula!’. The most frequent use for tourists is as a greeting of ‘hello’, however as mentioned in the article it’s also used when you sneeze. Rather than saying ‘bless you’ Fijian’s say ‘bula’ meaning life as they believe when you sneeze your heart stops for a second, so they say ‘bula’.
  4. Fijians are amazing with children
    • As we and our friends here don’t have children it’s a bit hard to comment on this one.
  5. Machete wielding men are no threat
    • As most Fijian villagers don’t have power or a sufficient income to permit purchasing power tools hand tools are very common. For example most lawns are maintained with a whipper snipper as opposed to a lawn mower as they are cheaper to purchase and easy to carry around on foot. Machete’s are used for a variety for purposes including yard maintenance and cutting coconuts and fresh produce for sale. So it’s not uncommon to see people walking down the street carrying a cane knife.
  6. He, she? Same, same but different
    • As mentioned in the article, in the Fijian language there’s no gender specific word, therefore he and she can be used interchangeably. It did take me a while to realise this when our friend kept referring to Nero as a ‘she’ instead of a ‘he’ sometimes. Once you lose the sensitivity to gender specific titles there’s no issue.
  7. Is it this way?
    • To be honest I haven’t asked directions from a Fijian yet, thank you Google Maps. That being said, Google Maps is not to be trusted when travelling into the centre of Suva. There are so many one way streets and loops that you can’t get out of and Google Maps ends up taking you in circles down streets that don’t exist. Essentially I think we’ve both learnt our way around the centre of Suva by trial and error.
  8. If it’s Sunday, everyone’s in church
    • Fondly known as Jesus Day to some in the expat community. There are a couple of notes about shopping on Sundays. Shops will either be shut for the day, or they will be closed in the morning and open later on. We have discovered a couple of nice cafes to have a Sunday morning brunch/breakfast and it’s always best to get there early-ish before everyone finishes Church and the shops become packed.
  9. Rugby is also a religion
    • As was demonstrated after Fiji won their first gold medal in the Rio Olympics, this country loves their Rugby. So much of the billboard advertising for various products or for Fijian Made products include the Rugby 7’s team, they are sporting royalty.
  10. Fiji is incredibly beautiful
    • This point really goes without saying. The beauty of Fiji is so diverse though, there’s beauty as is sold in the tourism brochures of resorts and pristine beaches. There’s also the beauty of ‘real’ Fiji, of villages and the inner parts of Viti Levu and Vanua Levu which are covered in forests and natural habitats.
  11. Cousins are not encouraged to speak to one another
    • We hadn’t heard of this one and when I spoke with one of our Fijian friends she said that for her anyway this was not the case. Family is very important to her so she keeps in touch with everyone including cousins. This could vary between families and villages.
  12. You’ll try kava and probably won’t like it
    • We have both tried kava, I tried it in a village I visited back on my first short visit to Fiji. I think it simply tastes like dirty dish water (it also looks a bit like it too). J had some as part of a work farewell for someone and again said it didn’t taste appealing but did make his lips tingle a bit.
  13. Winter? What winter?
    • I fear unlike the article J & I will struggle with the cool ‘winter’ season. Purely because we have already gone three years with no proper winter while we were living in Darwin. Yes, it got cool in the dry season but Darwin is also further north than Fiji. This year will be interesting as we will experience not only the cool Fiji winter but will also be back in Australia for a couple of weeks in the middle of winter. We will need to do some serious shopping for the correct attire to ensure neither of us gets frostbite!
  14. You can be in two time zones at once
    • According to the article if you travel to the island of Taveuni you can be in two time zones at once. Theoretically this is correct, but after J’s visit to Taveuni this week and a bit of research I discovered that the time zone was moved to go around the island to avoid confusion.
  15. They used to eat people
    • We did know this piece of history before we moved to Fiji. Just remember this was so far in the country’s past that you really don’t need to worry about machete carrying men on the side of the road.
  16. Village people
    • I feel like I have referred to village people and villagers a lot in my previous posts and may not have defined this properly. In Suva for example there are a number of villages located in close proximity to the city, but a lot of people travel from more regional areas to work in Suva itself. These are quite primitive huts usually one large room with a divider at the end of it for a bedroom. There’s very little furniture in their houses as most people cannot afford furniture and they’re not used to sleeping in beds or sitting on couches. Depending on whether they can afford it, some villager’s don’t have electricity and some don’t even have water.
  17. Tinder hasn’t caught on
    • This is not surprising at all, the internet is still catching on in Fiji and trying to find details of shops or events online is extremely difficult. So it’s no wonder Tinder hasn’t taken off here.
  18. The people are the happiest on Earth
    • Again this is not a surprising, people here are so grateful and happy for everything that they have. Most Fijians are so appreciative for simple things like a roof over their head and their family and are not focussed on materialistic items.
  19. The ‘real’ Fiji can still be found
    • As I mentioned before, when you go off the beaten track and explore outside of the tourist areas you find the true heart of Fiji. Visiting a village has definitely been one of the best experiences I’ve done as it gave me a true appreciation for how lucky we are in Australia and even us living in Fiji. Seeing people live off the land and being so welcoming and genuinely happy changes your perspective on the world. We have had a couple of visitors come to stay with us since we moved here and it is one of our aims to show our friends and family the real Fiji that doesn’t get shown in the tourist brochures.
  20. It will get under your skin
    • We did not really have a choice about Fiji getting under out skin, signing a three year contract we are determined to see and experience as much of this beautiful country as we can.

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