A Quick Guide About the Fiji People
On the island nation of Fiji lives a diverse culture of Fijian and Indo-Fijian people. Fiji has a fascinating social history spanning some 35 centuries which has developed an intriguing mix of cultures. You’ll learn more about the Fiji people in this guide.
The people of Fiji mainly comprise of native Fijian people, descending from Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian people. Many of them live in rural villages with their own unique cultural customs and traditions. Indo-Fijians almost makes up the other half of the population, where their ancestors came from India as indentured labourers for the sugar industry.
What Do You Call People From Fiji?
The nationality of a person from Fiji is “Fijian”. Informally, you can call people different names depending on their ethnic group. Native Fijians are known as “Fijians”, “Native Fijians” or “Indigenous Fijians”, while descendants of the Indian indentured labourers (see more below) are known as “Indo-Fijians” or “Indian Fijians”. These terms are not considered offensive.
In written laws, native Fijians are referred to as “iTaukei”. The word for an indigenous Fijian in the Fijian language is “Kaiviti”.
The Population of Fiji
In 2017, the population of Fiji was recorded at 884,887. As for the ethnic makeup of Fiji, this data was not released to the public after the 2017 Census, but according to the 2007 Census data, the ethnic makeup of Fiji is as follows:
- Fijians – 56.8%
- Indo-Fijians – 37.5%
- European – 1.7%
- Rotuman – 1.2%
- Chinese – 0.6%
- Other – 2.2%.
Fiji’s Main Ethnic Groups
Fiji’s population is mainly made up of native Fijians and Indo-Fijians. Other ethnic groups in Fiji reside on the islands mainly due to immigration.
Who are the Fijians?
The ethnic group called the “Fijians” are considered the native people of Fiji. Their history on the islands has shaped over 3,500 years with influences by Polynesian, Melanesian and Micronesian explorers and settlers. Fijians are indigenous to all parts of Fiji, apart from the Rotuma island group. The original settlers of Fiji are now referred to today as the Lapita people.
Fijians have a distinct culture, especially concerning traditions and customs played out in village life. Many of these traditions you can see being played out today through many cultural activities available to visitors in Fiji, as well as through Fijian village homestays or village visits. Find out more about experiencing the Fijian culture in the 10 Best Ways to Experience the Fijian Culture, as well as 10 Authentic Village Stays in Fiji.
Who are the Indo-Fijians?
Indo-Fijians are Fiji citizens or residents of Indian descent. Most Indo-Fijians trace their heritage to the indentured labourers who came to Fiji to work in the sugar industry.
Between 1878 and 1916, during the British colonial period in Fiji, Britain wanted to exploit the cotton, copra and sugar cane plantation opportunities in Fiji, which required cheap labour. Since the British government received pressure from its citizens to not use indigenous labour, Britain turned to the Indian colonial government to create an indentured labour scheme. Indian labourers came to Fiji on a five-year contract. When their contract finished, the labourers would have a conditional free passage back to India or could stay in Fiji. Many stayed in Fiji and brought their families across from India.
The Indo-Fijian culture can be experienced mainly in the towns and cities across Fiji. Indian food, religion and language have had an influence across the landscape of Fiji. For visitors, the Indo-Fijian culture can be experienced through sightseeing in Fiji’s cities and through homestays with Indo-Fijians.
Where Does the Fijian Population Live?
Fiji is made up of 333 islands. The two largest and most populated islands are Viti Levu (in the south) and Vanua Levu (in the north).
Indo-Fijians make up most of the population on Viti Levu and Vanua Levu, living in the towns and cities, while indigenous Fijians live in rural parts of the main islands, but more so in villages on the outer islands. Many young Fijians move to urban centres in Fiji for education or for work. In short, 55.9% of Fiji’s population lives in urban areas and 44.1% live in rural areas.
The largest cities in Fiji are Suva, Lautoka, Nadi, Labasa and Ba. Find out more in our The 5 Biggest Towns & Cities in Fiji.
The Fijian Lifestyle
So what is life like in Fiji? Fijian and Indo-Fijian ways of life is always a hot topic in Fiji and are very evident once you visit. In villages, Fijians live independently and conservatively, usually with much of their own food source thanks to Fiji’s tropical climate. To over-simplify, village life often revolves around community, school and church. In urban centres, where the population is mostly Indo-Fijian, life revolves more around work, education and family.
One last thing to note is the “relaxed” approach the entire nation of Fiji has toward life. Fiji has its own national psyche known as “Fiji time”, which tends to mean “things will get done when they get done, or not at all”. Find out more in our What Does Fiji Time Mean? (& What You Need to Know About It).