Fijian Culture

Etiquette

Basic Etiquette
  • In rural areas where communities are quite close, people often say a word of greeting to every person they pass. Walking straight by without acknowledging the other’s presence can be seen as rude.
  • Wait for someone to bless a meal before you start eating.
  • No one is expected to eat alone in Fijian culture. When a person is about to have a meal, they usually announce it to let others gather so they can all say a blessing and eat together.
  • Table service can take a long time at Fijian restaurants. Be patient and refrain from shouting to summon people’s attention. It may be a good idea to arrive before you are hungry so you do not become agitated while waiting for your meal.
  • There may be service people at luxury resorts or in the homes of elite Fijians. It is common for them to be very welcoming and offer to do things for you. If this overwhelms you, you can politely decline their service. However, never demand their service in a pushy way.
  • Time is adhered to very loosely in Fiji. Days are taken at a relaxed pace known as ‘Fiji time’. People tend to be more punctual in the urban areas than the villages. Indo-Fijians are generally much more punctual than the other ethnic groups.

Visiting a Village
  • When visiting a village, it is important to shift your understanding of what the ‘home’ encompasses to the villagers. The entire vicinity of the village is their private place. Therefore, be respectful at all times.
  • Announce your visit to signify you are a stranger (either before you enter or as you walk in). This gives the villagers time to cover up or go to a private place if they do not wish to be seen. You may see some people shut the doors to their house: it is similar to entering a friend’s home and seeing some of the bedroom doors shut out of privacy.
  • In villages, dress respectfully and modestly. Women should cover their shoulders and all dresses or pants should cover the knees. Do not wear hats, sunglasses, shoulder bags or scanty dresses. Wearing a hat is an insult to the chief.
  • Ask to see the village headman (turanga ni koro) when you arrive so you can give him an introductory gift (sevusevu). Kava is the most customary form of sevusevu. Other appropriate gifts may be books, school supplies, children’s toys or food.
  • Remove your shoes before entering a Fijian household.
  • Wait to be shown in and seat yourself by the door.
  • It is best to sit cross-legged looking down out of respect.
  • If you are joining company, shake hands with everyone who is already present and introduce yourself.
  • There may be a welcome ceremony to the village. This involves drinking kava with the chief. This is a mild narcotic drink made from ground-up roots. Drinking it has a calming, docile effect on people and usually loosens everyone up. It is best manners to accept the offer; however, if you’d prefer not to, you can decline politely.
  • Do not shout, run or be rowdy when in a village. Behave calmly and respectfully.

Gift Giving
  • There is a lot of gift giving in Fijian culture. This is usually done in the offering of food in large quantities (i.e. feasts).
  • Bring something with you whenever you visit someone at their home. This can be food, something that their children would like, or something from your home.
  • It is appreciated when gifts have a useful purpose (e.g. school supplies or a large quantity of groceries).
  • Feasts are held on special occasions among traditional indigenous Fijians. Among Indo-Fijians, feasts are usually reserved for religious festivals or marriages.
  • Amongst indigenous Fijians, the teeth of sperm whales (tabua) are considered the most precious item to give as a gift. They are usually given at marriages and other rituals.
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