Experience the Culture in Fiji
Fiji is exactly what I imagine when dreaming of a balmy tropical destination with turquoise water and palm trees. What sets it apart from the rest of the world’s tropical locations is its history and culture.
Fiji is very laid back but minimally conservative. There are rules that must be respected and followed regardless of where you go and whom you are visiting. For example, an offering of kava (the national drink of Fiji) to the chief or his appointed spokesperson is necessary for admittance into a village. When entering a home or a church, modest clothing and no hats are to be worn and shoes are to be left outside the door. Also, the touching of another person’s head is considered disrespectful.
Religion is a large part of the Fijian culture. You will see Christian churches, mosques, and Sikh and Hindu temples along the highways and within the cities. Everyone is welcome to explore and visit these places of worship, as the Fijian people are very warm and welcoming.
Each person who visits Fiji should experience meke, the cultural dance and song of Fijian life and history of the islands. Meke is a dance performed mostly by men in costume, and it can be a bit intimidating. Fijians were fierce warriors who cannibalized their enemies after winning a battle, the ultimate defeat. Spears and shields are used as props during their dances. Most resorts will host one for their guests to experience—minus the cannibalistic eating of the defeated enemies, of course. The performers are often from a local village and are usually also the resort’s employees; all performances are very authentic.
The meke dancing is usually combined with a lovo, the ceremonial outdoor cooking of the celebratory feast, for a full evening of entertainment and cultural experience. A lovo meal consists of pig, beef, fish, and chicken wrapped in banana leaves, buried two feet deep in the ground with hot stones, and cooked for two hours.
Fijian people live in villages. The old adage “ it takes a village” isn’t far from the truth in Fiji. The people in the village rely on each other for everything. They are all family. The children grow up going to school in the village or at the nearby school. Once they reach grade 8 they head to boarding school on the mainland of Fiji or somewhere else around the world. Once they complete high school they either go to a university or a trade school or head home to the village where they work and live.
I met and grew to love the people of Fiji during my 10 days there. To the outside world, it might seem Fijians are poor or suffering, and while some villages may be, as in any culture there are low, middle, and upper classes. The villages I visited were full of happy, lively people who had televisions, cell phones, and computers. They lived simply but were not totally without. It’s a way of life and one that, if I were Fijian, I would not give up easily.