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Fiji Culture 101: Know the Do's and Don'ts When Visiting this Tropical Paradise

areal view of a beach resort in Fiji

Posted by on 23 Mar 2022

When travelling to another country, the old saying, “When in Rome, do as the Romans do” rings true. This quote also applies to Fijian culture and customs.

Respecting Fiji’s etiquette and traditions is a must to ensure a fun visit. So before hopping on a plane, make sure you do your research on Fijian culture!

To help you with this, we’ve summed up a list of things to do and avoid when visiting this tropical paradise.

Things to Do in Fiji

Aside from its gorgeous beaches and warm tropical skies, Fiji has plenty of cultural treasures across its regions—from kava ceremonies, lovo feasts, fire walking performances and more.

If it’s your first time visiting this country, it’s important to remember these rules in Fiji etiquette.

  1. Learn simple Fijian words.

    When visiting a new country, make sure you familiarise yourself with the basics of its national language. Doing this shows your passion and respect for the local people.

    In this case, knowing simple greetings such as Bula can go a long way. The locals will surely appreciate your effort to greet them in their native language! Learning simple words can also help you befriend locals more easily. Kickstart your journey by learning these basic Fijian phrases before your holiday.

  2. Follow a modest dress code.

    Part of Fijian culture, especially in traditional villages, entails dressing up modestly. So think twice before you flaunt your brand-new strapless top or bikini in the town centre: they’re more appropriate for your beach trip.

    As a rule of thumb, men and women should wear clothes covering the shoulders and knees when visiting a village. Women are also advised to wear a sulu (Fijian sarong) around the waist.

  3. Greet people when entering their homes.

    If it’s your first time visiting a Fijian household, observe proper etiquette. Before you enter, leave your shoes outside and wait for your host to let you in. Slightly crouch when passing by the door as a show of respect.

    Once you’re inside, you’re expected to exchange pleasantries with the household members. Give them a handshake and introduce yourself by telling them your name and where you’re from.

  4. Bring a gift when visiting a village.

    When visiting a village, it’s customary to carry an introductory gift called sevusevu with you. As soon as you arrive, ask for the turanga ni koro (head of the village) to present your sevusevu.

    The most appropriate sevusevu is kava, either its root or powdered form. Some tour guides include this in their package. Other gift suggestions include practical items such as:

    • Books
    • Magazines
    • School stationery
    • Children’s toys
    • Food (for overnight stays)

  5. Observe respect during ceremonies.

    During your visit to the village, you’ll most likely receive an invite to a Yaqona ceremony, also called a kava ceremony. Before you attend, familiarise yourself with kava ceremony etiquette in Fiji.

    Kava is a ceremonial drink made from the pounded roots of a local pepper plant and water. After pounding, this drink is shared in a coconut shell. It has a calming effect that can taste somewhat foreign if it’s your first time trying.

    During the ceremony, sit quietly on the floor. When someone passes you the shell, politely accept the offer and sip the kava.

  6. Wait for a blessing before meals.

    It’s tempting to dig in as soon as you receive your meal. But if you’re in a traditional Fijian household, you’ll need to wait for the food to be blessed.

    After everyone has gathered around the table, the head of the house will say masu (grace) for the meal. After the blessing, you can start your meal. This practice is commonplace in Fijian culture.

Things to Avoid in Fiji

Proper etiquette includes practices to avoid, like bringing objects with you or performing actions while on holiday. Be mindful of these things as a show of respect for the customs and culture in Fiji.

Listed below are things you shouldn’t do when travelling to Fiji.

  1. Don’t be shy.

    Fijians are warm, friendly and close-knit, especially those in rural areas. For example, you might notice how common people greet each other on the street.

    If you feel surprised, don’t be! Instead, embrace their warmth with a cheery “Bula!” and a big smile. You’re also free to chat because Fijians are naturally curious about where you’re from and who you are. Who knows, they might point you to the best spots that only locals know!

  2. Don’t visit a village on a Sunday.

    In Fiji, Sunday is a special day for family, rest and reflection. As part of beliefs in Fiji, local peoples reserve this day to relax and spend time with loved ones.

    It’s no surprise that most establishments and traditional villages are closed on Sundays. Instead of touring a village, make the most out of your Sunday roaming around town.

  3. Don’t walk around unannounced in a village.

    If you’re visiting a village on your own, here’s one Fiji gesture that you need to remember. But before going inside, you’ll need to announce your presence instead of simply walking inside.

    This gesture shows your respect for the natives. Giving them a heads-up shows you respect their privacy and help them prepare before letting you in.

  4. Don’t break the dress code.

    As mentioned earlier, villages in Fiji follow a strict dress code. Part of its tradition doesn’t allow guests to carry items, such as hats, sunglasses and shoulder bags. But why, you may ask?

    Wearing these objects is disrespectful according to Fiji beliefs. So if you bring any of these items with you, remove them before entering the village. Also, put your backpack in front of you to avoid suspicion among the villagers.

  5. Don’t worry about the time.

    Time in Fiji passes by slowly compared to other places. The pace is laidback and relaxed, perfect for those unwinding from the fast-paced city life. It’s so easy to get carried away by the island time that they coined an expression for it—sega na laqa.

    Because of this, you might notice how some services, like food deliveries take longer. But just sit back and live in the moment while visiting the island.

  6. Don’t touch another person’s head.

    Fijians consider the head the most sacred part of the human body. That’s why touching someone’s head, even the heads of young kids, is a gesture you should avoid when in Fiji. Instead of patting someone’s head, you can ask for a high-five or hug.

Appreciate the Culture in Fiji During Your Holiday

Educate yourself about Fijian culture and customs to prepare for your upcoming trip. When you know the dos and don’ts, you’ll enjoy a more positive, enlightening holiday!

Experience the beautiful synergy of culture and nature in the South Pacific islands with our Fiji holiday packages.