Culture Shock in Fiji

Fiji's culture will likely be very different to that of most expats' country of origin. Fijians are generally very friendly and hospitable. However, in rural areas especially, foreigners may get a lot of unwanted attention – this is mostly harmless and simply shows curiosity on the part of locals.

As is always the case for expats moving to a new country, new arrivals in Fiji will have to get to grips with hearing a new language and being exposed to local traditions and culinary delicacies. The most significant elements of culture shock stem from religion and politics.

Religion in Fiji

As is the case in nearly all Pacific Island nations, Fiji has a very religious culture, and churches of various denominations abound. Just over half of Fiji's population is Christian, with the Methodist Church commanding the largest congregation, followed by the Catholic Church. 

Prayers are said before meals, and the sound of local church choirs can be heard across Suva and Nadi on Sundays. Expats who do not hold strong religious beliefs need to be very careful not to offend local Fijians.

The majority of the Indo-Fijians are Hindu, and the celebrations of the Hindu religious calendar add a great sense of diversity to life in Suva. The festival of Diwali is particularly well celebrated across the country.

Politics in Fiji

Recent Fijian history has been dominated by a number of military coups, the most recent of which happened in December 2006. In 2013, a new constitution was introduced, and general elections were held in 2014. While the country is considered stable, expats are advised to stay away from any political protests or demonstrations that may occur. 

Dress in Fiji

Because of the tropical heat, dress across Fiji is relatively informal.  Formal business suits are rarely worn. Many social functions promote the "bula dress”, which for men involves a brightly coloured, island-designed, open-necked, short-sleeved shirt worn outside the trousers. Various colourful "bula" shirts are available in local shops. “Bula” long island dresses are also worn by expat women. Sandal-style shoes are worn everywhere. 

Language in Fiji

Fiji’s official languages are Fijian, Hindi and English, and nearly all Fijians speak English. There are some unique aspects of the Fijian language that expats need to understand.

  • The letter "d" is pronounced "nd", therefore Nadi is pronounced "Nandi"

  • The letter "q" is pronounced "ng", therefore Beqa Island is pronounced "Benga Island" (an Island off Suva)

  • The letter "c" is pronounced "th", therefore, Vunacece Road is pronounced "Vunacethe Road"

Alliance Francaise in Ratu Sukuna Road, Nasese, Suva runs excellent Fijian language courses for expats.

Time in Fiji

Fiji, like most of the Pacific, operates on Pacific Time. This means that Fijians will regularly turn up late, both for meetings and social events. 

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