Header image courtesy of Old Youth (via Unsplash)
Fiji is not only about the magnificent beaches and stunning resorts—it is a tropical paradise with its 333 sublime islands and mysterious rain forests. The South Pacific Island nation is also home to cultural richness and diversity. Behind those palm trees and coconuts, Fijians’ traditions and customs would always fascinate you. Get ready to be captivated by these five things you never knew, and never knew you needed to know, about Fiji.
Appreciating banknotes is always one of the highlights during travels. Take a look of the Fijian banknotes. You may discover there is a seven-dollar bill, which is exclusive to Fiji. This special banknote commemorates Fiji’s rugby sevens team, who won a gold medal in the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro. The man holding a rugby ball is Osea Kolinisau, the Olympics team captain. Next to him is Coach Ben Ryan sitting on the Sigatoka Sand Dunes.
Visiting villages is a perfect way to learn about Fiji’s well-preserved traditions. With all the sunshine and beaches, hats and sunglasses are the must-have items in Fiji. But do remember to take off them before entering a village. Wearing hats and sunglasses in the villages is considered an insult to the village chief. Fijians view one’s head as the sacred place of their bodies, so you should also never touch anyone’s head in Fiji.
Fijians are definitely not shy when it comes to showing tourists their local customs, like the Kava ceremony. If you are planning a trip to Fiji, drinking kava in a Kava ceremony should definitely be on your bucket list. Kava is the country’s traditional drink made from the root of yaqona. As you enter a village, you will be welcomed by the villagers in a Kava ceremony. To get started, you need to present your hosts with a Kava root (available in any Fijian markets). With the root, your host will produce Kava, which will be served in a communal bowl. Do not panic if you feel a tingling sensation on your tongue as it is absolutely normal.
With a population of 926,276, Fiji consists of 56.8 percent indigenous Fijians and 37.5 percent Indo-Fijians. Over 60,000 Indians were sent to Fiji as sugarcane labourers in the 1870s, who have since then settled down in the country.
Travelling between towns, you will see Christian churches, Hindi temples, and mosques. As a multi-raced nation, Fiji has three official languages—English, Fijian and Fiji Hindi. You will even notice a number of store signs written in Chinese in Suva, as a result of the influx of Chinese investment.
Do not be shocked when you meet men in dresses on the streets of Fiji. They are actually wearing sulu, Fiji’s national dress. From policemen to soldiers, businessmen to government officials, almost everyone, both men and women, wear sulu in Fiji. It is treated as the formal wear of the country. Official sulu uniforms even come with a zig-zag hem. With a shirt, a tie, and a pair of sandals, you are good to go to work or attend a banquet. You may also find yourself in sulu when visiting villages, as it is a respectful gesture for visitors to be clad in the traditional garb.