To get the most out of your trip to Fiji, aside lounging at the beach, exploring the island and enjoying various fruity drinks, if you have the opportunity to get invited to a Fijian village–don’t pass it up. It’s an experience of lifetime to be welcomed into a village and immerse yourself in a new culture. You should definitely expect culture shock; Fijian’s have very little, but are very full of life and happiness.
First off, it is considered incredibly rude if you show up to a village uninvited and start wandering around. If you become friendly with the locals and they invite you back to their village, bring kava root to the Turaga Ni Koko (head of the village) as a gift of thanks. From there, your host will most likely have you participate in a welcoming (kava) ritual in the Vale ni Bose (meeting house)–meaning they accept you into their village. Many resorts organize village visits for their guests. This is probably one of the easiest ways to get to experience the village life as you will have a guide accompany you making you aware of the ceremony and its rules of respect.
The ceremony consists of drinking yaqona from a coconut shell which solidifies the friendship between strangers. Sitting around the yaqona bowl and chatting is very common afterwards–it is also the best way to get to know the villagers. You’ll quickly find out that they are very curious people and will most likely ask a lot of questions and want you to take their photo. Keep in mind when taking photos: it is allowed, but remember common courtesy–ask if it’s all right to take a photo before you start clicking.
What not to Wear
When visiting a village it’s important to remember that you’re the guest and that you’re entering a new culture. What may be OK at home, may not be OK at the village. The rule for any village is to dress modestly. Proper dress for women would include below-the-knee dresses or slacks. Women should not wear shorts or walk around in a bikini and men should not be bare-chested. This is not acceptable and considered disrespectful and may have a negative reflection on the hosts. It is also considered rude to wear a hat-so either leave it behind or put it in your bag. The easiest way to make sure you are dressed appropriately is by wearing a sulu. Sulus are traditionally worn by men and women in Fiji and many resorts offer their guests a sulu as a welcoming gift.
Bring a gift
Many villages are in need of basic supplies. A great gift to bring are school supplies for the children for instance. They don’t need to be fancy. A few pencils, writing pads… it all makes a difference and is greatly appreciated.
Remember growing up as a kid and your parents would teach you to be polite and on your best behavior? Well, remember all they’ve taught you. Fijian’s are probably the most polite, courteous and generous people you will ever encounter in a lifetime. So reciprocate the kindness. Here are a few tips when invited to stay inside a traditional bure:
- Accept the offer to stay indoors rather than to pitch a tent outdoors. It sends a message to the villagers that your hosts bure is unpleasant.
- Take off your shoes and place them on the doorstep.
- Avoid standing upright inside because it is considered bad manners.
If you’re lucky enough to get invited back to a village to visit, make the most of it. It’s a whole new experience from being on your island resort. You’ll learn to appreciate the little things in life and give you a new outlook on how people live. Fijian’s are great hosts so show your appreciation and give thanks.