Our History & Culture

The Fijian Way of Life

 

Beyond scenic landscapes and remarkable natural wonders, Fiji is a nation defined by a rich cultural heritage stemmed from ancient myths, mixed ethnicity and traditional customs.

With an island history that’s been shaped over 35 centuries and the continuing reverence for tradition, all visitors are invited to discover and experience the many rituals and customs that have stood the test of time and remain prevalent in Fijian culture today.


Fiji Facts at a Glance

Population
874,000 (approx.)
Area
18,272 square kilometres (7,055 square miles)
Islands
333 (100 inhabited)
Capital
Suva, Viti Levu
Ethnic groups
Native Fijian (i-Taukei), Indian
Religions
Christian, Hindu, Muslim
Languages
English, Fijian, Hindi
Country
Phone Code: +679
Currency
Fijian Dollar (FJ $)

History

Ancestry of indigenous Fijians dates back 3,000 years as settlers from Polynesian (Tonga) or Melanesian origin, with the first inhabitants now known as ‘Lapita people’.

European discoveries and settlement began from 1643, and in 1874, Fiji officially became a British crown colony. From 1879 to 1916, an influx of more than 60,000 Indian workers came to the islands as indentured labourers to work on Fiji’s sugar plantations. 

Upon the abolishment of the indentured system, Fiji was eventually granted full independence from British governance in 1970. Years of political turbulence followed, with coups and economic changes between 1987 and 2000. Democracy returned in 2001 and so did political stability.

Modern day Fiji is a multicultural island nation with a unique blend of cultural influences stemmed from Indian, Chinese and European ancestry. The South Pacific island country has undergone a maturation of its political system with a strengthened economy thanks to the nation’s sugar export and tourism industries.


The People

It’s no surprise native Fijians are considered the happiest people on earth. When you live on these beautiful islands, it feels like a holiday every day. No matter where you turn, Fijians are warm, welcoming and friendly.


Language

You’ll hear three languages commonly spoken in Fiji, with two official languages as English and Fijian. Hindi follows third among Indo-Fijians. Travellers can rest assured that almost everyone in Fiji speaks English – in fact, most people are bilingual.

Fijians welcome everyone warmly and it’s polite to exchange greetings. Here are some essential Fijian words and phrases to know.

Fijian sentance Translation
Bula (pronounced boo-la) Hello or welcome
Ni sa bula or bula vinaka A very warm hello (or a blessing when sneezing)
Vinaka Thank you
Vinaka vakelevu Thank you very much
Kere kere or yalo vinaka Please
Tolou (too low) or chillow Excuse me
Na yacaqu O… My name is…
Fijian sentence Translation
Io (ee-oh) Yes
Sega (senga) No
Au lako mai <country> I’m from <country>
A cava ogo? (ah thava ongo) What is this?
Kana (karna) Eat
Gunu (goo noo) Drink
Ni sa moce (nee-sa mo-they) See you again (Goodbye)

Traditions & Customs

Visitors are encouraged to arrange village tours and experience many unique Fijian traditions and customs.

Kava Ceremonies

Kava is a popular local beverage and traditional ceremonial drink in Fiji. Made from the root of the Piper Methysticum, Kava has a mild sedative effect and is said to produce a numbing effect in the mouth, promoting muscle relaxation and drowsiness. It’s an acquired taste but politely accept Kava when offered.

It’s customary to present a gift of Kava to the village elder (your guide should look after this) and exchange pleasantries about yourself before ‘enjoying’ a sip of the brew. Most resorts and villages offer Kava ceremonies for guests to participate in.

Lovo Feast

Lovo refers to the traditional form of cooking in Fiji, whereby food is prepared in a hot pit underneath the ground, surrounded by wood, stones and leaves. Commonly regarded as an ‘underground barbeque’, enjoy meats, seafood and vegetables infused with delicious smoky flavours.

Most resorts offer Lovo feasts, often in the company of fire displays and local Polynesian dancing, with this remarkable dining experience considered a must-do for all visitors travelling to Fiji.

Fire Walking Ceremony

Fire walking is an ancient Fijian ritual that stemmed 500 years ago, where legend has it that men of Beqa Island were given the gift of being able to walk on fire by a god in exchange for its life.
 
This unique tradition has carried on over the years, with descendants of these warriors observing the same customs today. Witness the unique phenomenon for yourself during your next visit and see Fijian tribesman walk barefoot across metres of red-hot coals and stone, feet unscathed.

Village Visits

Whilst Fiji has become a popular travel destination, there are certain islands amongst the archipelago that are less commercialised and more reflective of traditional times.

Travellers can make a visit to a local village on certain islands to see and experience what everyday life is like for Fijians. Village visits can be arranged with your resort or via day trips. It’s important to observe local customs and protocols during your visit, especially when meeting the Chief of the village. Simply get tips from your guide.

Meke Performance

Meke refers to traditional song and dance performances designed to depict Fijian history and legends. Rooted in storytelling traditions, expect chanting, dancing, rhythmic clapping and the beating of drum at every performance.

Musicians sing and play traditional instruments, including hardwood gongs and bamboo pipes. Dancers, as fair maidens or traditional warriors, perform musical renditions of violent battles or tender love stories.


Religion

There is no official religion in Fiji, however, as a multicultural nation, major religions like Christianity, Hindu and Muslim are prevalent throughout the region. The majority of Fiji’s population are Christians, followed by Hindus, Muslim, Sikhs and others.

There are Christian churches, Mosques, Sikh and Hindu temples available in most towns and villages, and visitors are welcome to worship in any of these church denominations.

Even in adopting these religious beliefs, native Fijians still believe strongly in the power of their ancestral sprits and follow rituals and ceremonies to honour them.

Tourism is Essential to Fiji

Fiji has seen tourism thrive since the 1960s when the first resorts and hotels sprang up. Today the Fiji government considers tourism a priority to achieve sustainable economic growth. Roads and infrastructure continue to improve while overseas investors are making a bee-line for resort development on uninhabited islands. Throughout their colourful history, Fijians continue to be warm and welcoming to all visitors from around the world.


Fiji Time

When you hear about Fiji Time, it’s not about a time zone; rather a state of being when in island paradise.

In Fiji, there’s no hurry. It will happen when it happens. Yes, this means things are a lot more slow-paced and low-key, but that’s part of the charm. Just get used to the calmer pace and appreciate not having to watch the clock.

It’s what makes Fiji the most quintessential destination to escape, unwind and relax.



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Fly to Fiji on the national flag carrier, Fiji Airways. Our modern aircraft are ready to jet you to Nadi, with connections to major destinations across Fiji's islands.
 

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