It's so exciting setting foot in a country for the first time. I still remember landing in Fiji as a newbie back in 2009. Here are a few things to expect when you arrive in Nadi.
First up, even though every part of your mouth wants you to say 'nar-dee', resist the urge. It is pronounced 'nan-dee' (the 'd' sound is said like 'nd').
It is hot! Even in Winter it is warm. Take a cardigan or light jacket for the plane ride, because aircon on the place is freezing, but the temperature as soon as you step out of the plane door is warm and tropical. And lovely!
Everyone will say it to you! As you step off the plane there will be a group of Airline employees waiting to get on the plane - they will say Bula! Then you will be greeted by men serenading you, with guitars singing Bula wishes. The Customs Officers will greet you - BULA!. So be prepared with your brightest smile and reply "BULAAA!". It is a Fijian greeting wishing you well. It means a whole host of lovely warm greetings and happiness.
Why should your ears get all the pleasure of BULA?
Your eyes will be 'bula-fied' too because the majority of people will wear bright-coloured floral or patterned shirts - these are happily referred to as Bula Shirts. You can buy them everywhere and I encourage you to embrace it. When my Hubby first embraced it, we laughed for days, now it is normal for us to see him wearing one, and it looks great! Whilst talking of menswear, it's traditional for men to wear a Sulu - which your kids may laugh at, given it looks like a skirt. You can buy one of these too for the man in your life, the Fijians will respect any man who dresses as they do. For the ladies out there, the equivalent of the Bula Shirt is the Sulu Jaba - it is a skirt and top made out of the Bula fabric.
Fiji has a distinct smell. It makes me feel instantly at home when I step off the plane. It is a mixture of wood burning in fire for outdoor cooking, and heat, vegetation, tropics - I can't describe it but when you get off the plane and smell it, please write to me and describe it better than I have!
Image from Coral Triangle
If you haven't organised transport before you arrive, there are plenty of taxi drivers waiting to help. If you are staying at Denerau - it will take you about 10-15 minutes in a taxi; Sigatoka - around 1 hour; Suva - around 4 hours. The taxi's will put their meters on. You can ask to be taken to a supermarket if you want to grab a few essentials. My tip here is to ask for "New World" at the Courts Mega Centre (you will find more home comforts here). Grab a 12 pack of 1.5L bottled water - it will cost you a fortune at the Resort. Speaking of taxi's - if you are walking around town, you are going to hear Beep Beep Beep Beep - taxi drivers in Fiji love their horns. There aren't taxi companies like you come to know in Australia (like Black&White or YellowCabs) so branding of the taxis isn't all the same. Some are black, some yellow, some white or red - and some even have a unique name like "Black Knight" or "Night Rider" - look out for the names, you will get a laugh! A lot have loud coloured fabric reburbished in them - sometimes it is a shock to your eyes! They are very proud of their taxis, so don't make fun of the decorations, which can include pom-poms lining the roof - true story!
Arrival at your Resort
BULAAAAA. You will hear it again. A lot.
Questions: You will get a lot - from where you live, to what you do. Please be polite, these people are getting to know you.
Children: Your kids will be loved more than you ever thought possible from someone who has never met them before. Even when faced with a tantrum of mammoth proportions - your kids will be revered. In fact, here is a piece of advice, when the kids are being 'difficult' ask a local to help you!! They are amazing with kids.
Out and About
When you are out and about, especially in the more touristy towns like Nadi and Sigatoka, people will be friendly and talkative to you. Mostly all will smile. It can be confronting, or strange, coming from a big city like Sydney or Melbourne, where people's heads are stuck in their phones. This is nothing weird or odd in Fiji - it is normal. It is Fiji, man! Smile back, laugh, make a joke. Embrace it.. you will go home saying Bula to everyone, trust me. If you feel like you are being pressured into going into a shop, just politely decline, smile and keep walking. Drink bottled water always, especially when visiting a village. Take a sarong with you everywhere, that way you can cover up if culturally necessary.
I would love to hear your first impressions of Fiji. Please leave me a comment below, or head over to Facebook and start up a Fiji conversation!
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Moce, until next time, SJ XO
More posts which may interest you (click on them to read):
"6 THINGS TO CONSIDER BEFORE MOVING TO FIJI"
"FINDING FAITH IN FIJI"
"THE REASON WHY THE FIJI 7S BOYS ARE WINNERS" Vinaka for reading!