I know how hard it is to trust people with your children. I have two of my own and the first time we travelled to Fiji on holidays we were a little nervous of hiring a stranger. But, in complete honesty, we wanted some timeout of our own... and we'd had friends who had been to the same resort previously with glowing reports. So tentatively, we went to reception and organised a Nanny for one (short) shift.
We left the kids (at that time 1yr and 6yrs old) with Kiti whilst we went to the pool for a short swim. Nervously (and probably embarrassingly!) we tried to watch our room from our lounger at the pool. (For those familiar with the Shangri La Fijian, our room was right across the grass from the Lagoon Pool - Room 28 the same room we request every time lol, except the time we stayed in the Bure which was ah-maze-ing!).
Anyway, we couldn't see much, so we hatched a cunning plan that we 'forgot' the sunscreen, so one of us would have to go back. Then we 'forgot' a bottle of water, and would you believe it, we also 'forgot' our ipod (yes it was way back when we all had ipods, not iphones, mine was a tiny pink one which didn't even have a screen!). It wasn't until we saw the three of them going for a walk and laughing, we gave up our stalking behavior and settled in at the pool for a couple of cheeky pina coladas.
When we got back to the room, both kids wanted Kiti to stay longer. They had been searching for baby coconuts, played hide and seek, watched some crab races and taught Kiti how to use the portable DVD player (Dora the Explorer of course!).
At that point we got over ourselves. The kids were having a ball with Kiti, so we asked her to come back. In subsequent years and as we got to know Kiti, we visited her at her village, and stuck with pride of place on her lounge room wall was that first 'roster' (of sorts!) that I wrote out asking her to come back each day of our holiday. She said she had 'struck gold' the day she got allocated to us. What I think is funny is that we knew we 'struck gold' the day she came into our life. I would trust Kiti with my kids' lives. 100%.
Whilst you can never be absolutely certain of the genuine goodness of a Nanny/Babysitter, the following reasons are why we never feel worried utilising the services of one when holidaying in a resort in Fiji. Of course, gut feeling outweighs anything, so if you don't 'feel right' about someone, go with it.
Employing someone into your home when living in Fiji, as an expat in Fiji, is a different story (not bad, just different!). So this post is really for those who are holidaying in Fiji with young children and possibly want to hire the services of a nanny. I will write another one about more permanent hiring if you are moving to Fiji.
So, the big question... Should you hire a Nanny whilst on holidays in Fiji?
For what it's worth, I say, why not? You're on holidays too! How often can you spend a night at dinner with your significant other without wiping up spilt mashed potato and a thrown handful of pasta.
I am a strong advocate for enjoying yourselves on holiday. You spend enough to get there, and saving is hard work! Don't get me wrong, I think the kids should also enjoy themselves, but they most certainly will with a Nanny. Especially a Fijian nanny!
(This is Kiti's Husband who has since passed away, RIP Tai Tave, my kids loved him!)
So finally, here are my reasons why you should feel comfortable hiring a nanny or babysitter whilst holidaying in Fiji.
My Reasons Why You Should Feel Comfortable Hiring a Nanny In Fiji
Fijians Love Kids
On the whole, children in Fiji always come first. When Mother's and Father's Day are approaching, you can hear kids in shopping centres across Australia whining and questioning "but when is Kids Day?" and we all know a good mother's standard reply is, "it's EVERY day!" (well that's what comes out of my mouth!). Fiji goes one step further, and actually celebrates Palm Sunday as "Children's Day". Can you believe a full day dedicated to celebrating children right across the nation. If that doesn't show the nation's love for kids, I don't know what else would. The kids get all dressed up in their finest white clothes, mostly bought new each year showing their pride in their children. Facebook lights up with posts wishing all kids a "Happy Palm Sunday, Children's Day". Church is held with special skits performed by the kids of the village. It's delightful!
(image from the Fiji Sun archive)
I did digress a little, but I'll get back to my point now. No matter how cheeky or naughty or bad-tempered your child is being, a Fijian nanny will always find the bright-side, and cleverly turn it around to something positive. A flight on Fiji Airways is a great testament to this. Those Fijian flight attendants are amaze-balls with tired, irritable, grumpy, noisy kids on flights. One beaming smile and kids stop. In their tracks! I know this to be true because I have seen it with my own eyes, (on flights, in resorts, on tours and in my life as an expat in Fiji) and experienced it over and over.
Even my own Princess Child (the younger one, lol) was (possibly) a very cheeky and disruptive student during the time we employed a Fijian teacher to attend our home to teach her one-on-one.
"Time to do your reading now" asks the teacher, "Time to go pick flowers now" replies the Princess Child. My Hubby and I were mortified to find out that after morning tea, the same child would delay going back to class by pretending she didn't hear the teacher, over the loudness of the television she shouldn't have turned on. Every. Single. Day. We instructed the teacher she had our full support in discipline, especially when I heard she had hidden the teacher's reading glasses so they'd have to avoid work. The lovely Mrs Smith smiled her beautiful Bula smile and said she had it under control. And she did. Fijians just have a knack with kids. If you haven't experienced it yet, I may sound like a raving lunatic, but it is just so true. In a restaurant, your child will be revered like the Chief Guest. Waitresses, the Barman and the cleaners will deliberately walk past just to have a cuddle or a plant a Fijian kiss on their forehead. I'm not even making this up...!
(Can I add that I say "Princess Child" not because it is something we have nicknamed her, more so her own "Princess attitude" to life! And there definitely was a ban from "all good things" after Glasses-gate)
Fiji is a Small Island
Fiji is a small place. Pretty much everyone knows everyone, and if they don't know a particular person, someone in their family will. That's where the old "she is my cousin sister aunt from my Mother's village" scenario comes in. If you've spent any time in Fiji on holidays, or as expat in Fiji, you will have heard that sentence in various forms numerous times. Sure, Fiji is a small island and everyone knows everyone, but how does that relate to your kids being safe with a babysitter in Fiji?
Well, what I mean by this point is that there is literally no getting away with anything. So, if someone has broken the law, or done something 'less than savory' (especially when employed in a Resort), a Resort Boss will find out, and find out quickly, and even faster will be the reaction and discipline. This means that you can feel safe knowing that the Nannys/Babysitters that you will be able to hire within a resort setting will be good, law-abiding, kind citizens. There is no way that a Resort Boss will keep any less-than-savory staff on their books, which leads me to my next point.
Tourism is the main industry in Fiji. Resorts often have an obligation to employ locals from the villages surrounding the Resort. If someone in the village stops earning money (due to their employment being terminated), it will affect the whole village because the very core of Fijian culture is to look after each other (which they do so well, if I might add!). If a village member has no food, their village will take automatic responsibility to look after them. So not only do the Resort Bosses have a vested interest ($$) in making sure holiday makers travelling to Fiji are happy, kept happy and want to return again, it is also in the interest of the local villagers (community spirit within the village). This is why tourism is so well done in Fiji.
It is literally in their best interest to make sure your kids are safe and you are happy. If you ask any employee in a resort how long they've worked there, most Westerners are surprised to hear the answer something along the lines of '20 years', 'all my life', 'since I left school', '35 years' - us Westerners aren't very loyal to our places of employment, but Fijians are. Their survival and way of life is impacted greatly on their ability to work, and to work in their local area. The majority wouldn't do anything wrong to risk that employment. It's their survival plan.
There is something that the general holidaying population won't know, but if you did you would feel a whole lot better about your safety in Fiji. Resorts talk to each other. In the Coral Coast for example, where you will find huge, popular resorts like the Shangri La Fijian and The Outrigger, the Resort Bosses of these big resorts along with bosses of a whole host of smaller type hotels and resorts in the same area have a regular meeting, together with specialist Tourist Police (yes, there are police dedicated to tourism to make sure Tourists are always looked after!). This is to swap stories, and ensure an employee who has been fired for something won't end up getting a job at another resort and therefore, lessening the risk of them committing a second offence against another Tourist. There is also a 'black-list', which all Resorts have access to, of local employees who have done wrong. So once someone has done something not becoming of tourism in Fiji, there are a number of checkpoints to get through if they try to gain employment again. This makes it exceptionally difficult for an offender to be re-employed in a resort setting.
At one point of our expat life in Fiji, my Hubby ran a resort, so I can say with certainty (and through the glasses of a Resort Manager) that a Resort will always, always put your safety, and your children's safety first.
Whether their reason is actually relating to their bottom line and profits is totally irrelevant. If your happiness and safety is their desired outcome, because it will give them a returning guest and a referral to new guests (hello, tourism!) isn't that just the best and most convincing reason to holiday there and utelise their services? At their core, resorts want you to be happy! Making sure their employees are committed to treating their guests well is therefore number one!
All the reasons I've talked about above work in conjunction with each other. Resorts want you to be happy (so you return); local Villagers want you to be happy so you return (more employment for them); the Fijian 'coconut wireless' or 'grapevine' works very well to inform Resorts and Villagers of any potential issues with rogue employees; and because both Resorts and local Villagers work together in tourism they will go to great lengths to ensure any risks to tourists in Fiji is limited. Am I making sense? I am in my own head, lol.
Look, at the end of this incredibly long post, what I'm trying to say is that you should feel comfortable in the caliber of your Resort's Nanny/Babysitter service because of the many range of factors which work together to ensure it stays high.
We were lucky to meet Kiti on our first visit to Fiji. And whilst I talk of Kiti, so many families familiar to Fiji, and holidaying in Fiji have their own version of Kiti. Whether it be a Mela, or a Selina, or a Salote - once you've met your Fijian nanny, you will feel secure and confident that your children are in excellent hands.
Enjoy those cocktails, raise one in cheers to my Kiti or your Kiti... or Lily (my "Suva Kiti" - another story, another day!) Tell me below who your Kiti is, perhaps she is the 'cousin sister' of Kiti!
Moce friends X