The Fijian Culture, Traditions and Customs
What sets Fiji apart from being just another archipelago of gorgeous islands, azure waters and tropical sunshine? The culture. Fiji has two distinct cultures, Fijian and Indo-Fijian. The one you’re likely to interact the most with as a traveller is the Fijian culture – from the moment you step off the plane to the song of serenaders in the airport lounge to warm smiles and friendly “Bulas!” each day at your resort. While Fijians will “put on a show” with traditional meke performances often seen at resorts, rest assured that the culture here is authentic and holds onto traditional values. Learn more about the Fijian culture in this guide to the Fiji culture for travellers.
10 Ways to Experience the Fijian Culture as a Visitor
- Do a village visit or a village stay
- Take part in a kava ceremony
- Check out a firewalking ceremony
- Indulge in a lovo feast
- Watch traditional meke dancing
- See historical sights like the Tomb of Udre Udre or Naihehe Caves
- Browse the handicraft or local produce markets
- Do a Fijian crafting lesson
- Do a Fijian cooking lesson
- Join a local for mud-crabbing or handline fishing.
Learn more about each experience in the 10 Best Ways to Experience the Fijian Culture.
Fijian Arts, Crafts and Dance
One of the most engaging ways that visitors get to experience the Fijian culture in Fiji is through their arts and crafts, including dance performances.
“Meke” is Fiji’s style of dancing and singing. It combines dance and telling Fijian myths and legends through song. The Fijian meke is performed by a group of men and women. There are often different routines performed throughout the meke, including fierce war dances from the men and graceful fan-dancing from the women. The singing may be accompanied by the beating of the lali drum, hand clapping or some other percussion instruments. Fijian meke is often performed at least once a week in selected resorts around Fiji, such as Crusoe’s Retreat, The Westin Denarau Island Resort & Spa, The Beachhouse and Aquarius on the Beach.
Crafts are an integral part of Fijian life, especially with crafting having so many uses in the Fijian lifestyle. Weaving is usually performed by Fijian women, using materials from coconuts and pandanus to create mats, baskets, hats and more. Some resorts and village-stays around Fiji offer weaving lessons to tourists, such as Radisson Blu Resort Fiji, Mango Bay Resort and Crusoe’s Retreat.
Pottery is also a popular craft in Fiji with each region having its own unique pottery style. For instance, Excite Tours & Travel offers tours to a pottery village in their Coral Coast tour – learn more about the tour, read reviews and book tickets on Viator or Tripadvisor.
Fijian Food and Drink
With access to abundant waters and tropical plants, Fiji has its own distinct foods which are well worth trying.
Traditional ingredients used in Fijian cooking include cassava, fish, coconut, sweet potato, breadfruit, taro and rice. With that, there are a number of Fijian dishes that are a national speciality, the most abundant that visitors will see on menus is kokoda. Kokoda is raw fish in coconut cream with lemon or lime juice. See more local specialities in 10 Unique Foods in Fiji You Have to Try. Plus, get even more tips on dining in Fiji in The Guide to Food Shopping in Fiji.
Fiji’s national drink is yaqona, otherwise known as kava. The drink is prepared from the root of a pepper plant mixed with water. Yaqona is a fundamental part of a welcoming ceremony when new visitors arrive at a village, where visitors are expected to provide the yaqona root. See Fiji Village Etiquette: What to Do When Visiting a Fijian Village for more details on what to do if you are visiting or staying at a Fijian village.
See more local drinks you can try in 8 Drinks in Fiji You Have to Try.
The Fijian Language
The official languages of Fiji are: English, Bau Fijian and Hindustani. However, English is the most widely spoken. While there are many Fijian dialects throughout the islands, Bau Fijian is the most recognised.
Fijian Language Pronunciation
When saying Fijian words, note that there are some letter pronunciations that are different from the English language. For instance, the letter “c” is pronounced “th”, the letter “d” is pronounced with an “n” before it, the letter “b” is sometimes pronounced with an “m” before it, and more like that follows. Learn more about the Fijian language in the Guide to the Fijian Language.
Religion in Fiji
Religion plays a large part in the Fijian lifestyle. Almost the entire population of Fijian people are part of a Christian denomination, mostly of the Wesleyan persuasion.
Church in Fiji is the centre of village life, where locals go at least every Sunday for mass. Visitors are welcome to join for the Sunday worship, where they will be treated to powerful harmonious singing from the locals. Just be sure to dress appropriately with your knees and shoulders covered.
Learn more about the church in Fiji in the Guide to the Religions in Fiji.
Village Life in Fiji
Despite disturbances to the Fijian way of life through British colonisation for 96 years and the integration of Indo-Fijians and tourists, Fijian village life is still strong and holds traditional values. Villages are led by a chief and family groups live together to provide communal care for all.
As a visitor, it’s important to bring a “sevusevu”, which is a gift to the village chief – usually yaqona. Villages are quite conservative where everyone, including visitors, is expected to dress modestly with the knees covered and no hats worn.
For more about the village customs of Fiji, take a look at the Fiji Village Etiquette: What to Do When Visiting a Fijian Village.
Fijians are extremely welcoming to visitors in the village, often eager to interact and show their way of life. Villages can be experienced through guided tours or through village stays – see the 10 Best Village Tours in Fiji and 10 Authentic Village Stays in Fiji.
Without knowing the context of Fiji’s history, many tourists are surprised to find a significant Indian population on a South Pacific Island. Indo-Fijians are the descendants of indentured labourers that were brought here in the 1870s until the early 1900s to work the sugar and copra plantations.
As a result of being on the islands for generations, Indo-Fijians have their own distinct culture with their dialect, cuisine with influences from the South Pacific, music and more. That’s not to say that aspects of the traditional Indian culture are not a major part of Fiji life, with Hindu temples and mosques seen around the country, sari shops abundant in the town centres, and large celebrations for events like Diwali and the Prophet Mohammed’s Birthday. It’s an interesting aspect for visitors to experience India in the South Pacific.
Learn more about the story of the Indo-Fijians in A Brief History of Fiji.
More About the Fijian Culture
That’s it for our complete guide to the Fiji culture and Indo-Fijian culture. For more cultural tips, take a look at the following articles:
- 10 Fijian Words You Need to Know When Visiting Fiji
- Who are the People of Fiji?
- Fiji Luxury Itinerary: 7 Days / One Week (Culture & Nature)
- Fiji Food Itinerary: 7 Days / One Week (Islands & Culture)
- How to Have a Real Fiji Cultural Experience