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Center for International Studies
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Fiji

Fiji Culture

Fiji culture is a blend of fascinating ancient rituals and traditions of Fiji Island. Legendary events say that the great chief Lutunasobasoba came and led his people across the new destination of Fiji but some believe that people from South East Asia visited this Pacific via Indonesia.

The culture of Fiji is a great combination of the Melanesians and the Polynesians and they are responsible for creating a highly developed society even before the arrival of the Europeans. The first Europeans to land in the Fiji were mostly the ship-wrecked sailors. In 1683, the Dutch explorer Abel Tasman came to Fiji and English navigators did major explorations in the 18th century.

The Tranquil villages of the Fiji along with the traditional languages, food and clothing are sure to catch your fantasy and one has to carry a customary gift of Yagona or Kaya and it has to be presented to the executive head of the concerned village. Fiji culture emphasizes on the family unit and a great importance is given to the family. The largest social unit of Fijians is known as “Yavusa” and they are considered as the direct descendants.

Music, dance and food all forms the very core of culture in Fiji and the traditional art form is known as “Meke.” Clothes are also the imprints of Fiji island culture and their traditional clothing is loin clothes for men and grass skirts for the women.

Etiquette and Customs

Meeting and Greeting

The Fijian cultures in the city and in the villages are quite different. The same can be said of Indian cultures in the capital city of Suva, in the towns, and in the rural areas. Indo-Fijians are usually Hindu and Muslim. Indigenous Fijians are usually Catholic, Methodist, or Protestant evangelicals. Religion plays a very important role in all these cultures.

Among both men and women in the villages, a raised, spread-fingered wave of the hand is common, with the greeting “bula” (hello) from noon until bedtime, and “yandra” (good morning) before noon. It might also be a raised cane knife, as village men head off to work in the fields. In a city or town setting, a simple “bula” or “hello” suffices. “Hello” would be the common greeting from an Indo-Fijian in a town or city.

Important Tips

  • Dress modestly. Don’t wear shorts, and women must not wear halter tops and shoulders bare.
  • Do not wear hats. They are interpreted as a sign of disrespect. Always remove your shoes before entering any house or other building.
  • Stay with your assigned host. If other villagers ask you to eat or accompany them, politely note that you are with your host and would be honored to visit with them at some other time. Remember, Fijians will, out of customs, always ask you to eat with them or share whatever they have.
  • Speak softly. Raised voices are interpreted as expressing anger.
  • Show respect, but be cautious with praise. If you show too much liking for an object, then the Fijians will feel obliged to give it to you as a gift, whether they can afford to or not.
  • If you spend a night in the village, reward your host with a useful gift of similar value for each member of your party. It is not recommended that you stay in a village which is in the habit of accommodating paying visitors. If you feel obliged to pay more, then ask your host what he or she might like and purchase it for them. A bundle of groceries is graciously appreciated by large Fijian families.
  • When visiting a village it is customary to present a gift of yaqona, which is also known as kava. The gift, called a sevusevu, is not expensive and cost approximately $10.

Quick Facts

Climate: Tropical marine and is warm most of the year round. Heavier rain during November-April with on average one cyclone a year.

Population: 849,000(2009 estimate)

Ethnic Make-up: Fijian 51%, Indian 44%, and European, other Pacific Islanders, overseas Chinese and other 5%

Religions: Christian 52% (Methodist 37% and Roman Catholic 9%), Hindu 38%, Muslim 8%, other 2%

Government: Parliamentary Republic

Languages: The official language of Fiji is Fijian.