Fijians are known as some of the warmest, friendliest people on Earth. Family, land and village life make up the unique traditions and culture of this island nation. Here is a guide of what you need to know.
Music, story and dance are woven into Fijian culture - a place where warriors and island queens dance to drums and bamboo flutes. The traditional dance in Fiji is the meke. Each village has its own dance where women use the graceful ‘seasea’ (fan dance) and the men the ‘meke wesi’ (spear dance) to tell their story. Fijian folk music is a stirring combination of clapping, chanting and singing - all accompanied by guitar, ukulele, mandolin, flutes and the Lali drum.
Fijian arts and crafts are made up of detailed weaving, pottery and wood carving - all unique to each area. Visit the art gallery in Savusavu to see a range of island art and crafts.
No visit to Fiji is complete without a lovo banquet. With the taste of a smoky barbecue, lovo means ‘feast cooked in the earth’. Usually prepared for festivals and celebrations it’s similar to a New Zealand ‘hangi or a Samoan ‘umu’. Where vast amounts of food are prepared to feed a hungry crowd and then cooked over hot stones in a ground oven.
Kava is the national drink of Fiji. Traditionally prepared by virgins, now its just made by pounding up the kava root in a wooden bowl. With its muddy, earthy flavour, it is pretty obvious no one drinks it for the taste. After a few coconuts full of kava the powerful sedative effective kicks in and then numbs your mouth. If you take part in a kava ceremony remember to clap 3 times after every drink.
Similar to a sarong or even a kilt - the Fijian national dress is a sulu. Women and men wear them for formal and informal occasions. They can be worn below the knee or down to the ankle - a must if you are entering a church.
Any visitor will soon realise the Fijians are a deeply spiritual people - the beating of the Lali drum at sunrise is meant to awaken (you) and the Gods. They have a unique connection to island spirits and the afterlife. There are also Mosques, Hindu & Sikh temples and churches all over the islands. Fijian’s have a strong Methodist faith and if you attend a Sunday Service - you will see the real smiling and singing Fiji and probably be invited to a lovo afterwards.
English, Bau Fijian and Hindustani are the official languages in Fiji and English is also widely spoken. Fiji is based on many dialects so it helps to know the basics:
English Fijian Pronunciation
Hello/hi ni sabula nee sarbula
Good morning ni sa yadra nee sar yarndra
Goodbye sa moce sa more there
Please yalovinaka yarlo veenarka
Excuse me tulou too low
Yes ioee or
Thank you/good vinaka veenarka
Thank you very much vinaka vaka leva veenarka varka levoo
Written By: Fotini E Douglas