As you might expect of a popular island destination, Fijian culture has been shaped by the different groups that have passed through or taken up permanent residence on the island chain. There is an indigenous culture of native Fijians, who represent more than half of the country’s current population. Another larger segment of the country’s population is of Indian heritage. As a British colony, Indian laborers were sent to the islands for many years, and many remained once British rule ended. Thus, the island has a distinct blend of native, Indian and some Chinese and European influences.
Because Westerners remained at a distance until the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, the native culture remained mostly intact and that has allowed it to be incredibly prevalent to this day. As experts say, the indigenous culture has “shaped the nation and is an active and living part of everyday life for the majority” of modern Fijians.
This means that any traveler to Fiji will instantly experience the local culture in the foods they eat, the festivals that occur throughout the year, the arts that appear everywhere from decorative to functional items, the music, the architecture and more. Even better is that visitors are always encouraged to engage with the local culture in many ways. One of the most impressive and memorable ways to do this is to enjoy kava drinking.
Long considered one of the most enjoyable ways to make new friends, a kava ceremony has its formalities, but it also enables you to meet locals and really experience authentic culture. You might find options for visiting a village, participating in a gift giving ceremony, some kava drinking and even some dancing. You will want to spend time learning the etiquette of a kava ceremony ahead of time, and you will be glad you did because it ensures you have even deeper understanding of the native culture.
If you are eager to experience the more blended cultures of Fiji, head to Nadi where you can find one of the best open-air craft markets and areas rich in the country’s Indian culture. There is a functioning Hindu temple in town and some of the finest Indian restaurants, too.
Maybe you are a bit more interested in the less tame activities? If so, you may want to witness some fire-walking that is another aspect of local culture. Just off of the southern coast of Vitu Levu is the charming Beqa Island. This is famous for its flawless diving, but it is also where the Sawau Tribe still live. They created the art of fire walking, and host frequent fire walking ceremonies where their warriors walk barefooted over glowing embers!
If you are planning a visit to Fiji, make a point of spending a bit of time at any of the local museums and the National Heritage Sites, too. If you are eager to get a full immersion experience a visit to Levuka – the country’s original capital prior to relocation to modern Suva – is a great choice. This is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that seems to capture both old and new Fiji in a way that few other locations can.
Of course, the country of Fiji is so rich in history and culture that you may benefit from choosing some cultural tours or day trips during your stay. This can allow you to ensure you experience the essential or “must see” activities and cultural flavors of Fiji. You can find many excellent providers with specialized tours emphasizing anything from arts and crafts, native history and experiences, natural places and parklands and even combination tours. The point is to enjoy Fiji’s natural beauty, but don’t miss out on its rich culture, too.