All About "Bula:" Fiji's Unforgettable Greeting

Friendly staff at Turtle Island Fiji resort
••• Your Turte Isand mojito is made with Fijian rum...and love. ©Karen Tina Harrison

When you land in Fiji and are first welcomed with the greeting "Bula!" (pronounced boo-lah!), you will certainly feel you have arrived somewhere special. The Fijian people are exceedingly warm and friendly and they love to express their love of life and their genuine hospitality with infectious, enthusiastic, and ubiquitous "Bulas!"

Like the Hawaiian word aloha, bula actually has a variety of meanings and uses: its literal meaning is "life," and when used as a greeting it implies wishes for continued good health (the official formal greeting is "Ni sa bula vinaka," meaning "wishing you happiness and good health," but it is almost always shortened to just plain "bula").

Bula is also used as a blessing when someone sneezes. It's one of those words like grazie in Italian, mucho in Spanish and bitte in German that stick with you. By the time you leave Fiji, you will have heard "Bula!" hundreds of times and will find yourself saying it over and over to friends and family who have no idea what you are talking about.

Other Fijian Phrases You May Need

Although English is one of the official languages of the island of Fiji, knowing a bit of the local language can go a long way to improving the quality of your vacation to this tropical paradise. Just like anywhere else in the world, the locals will appreciate that you took the time to learn about their culture before visiting their home country.

Along with bula, there are a number of other common phrases that you should know when visiting Fiji, including the formal "ni sa bula vinaka," which is only used as a welcoming greeting (unlike bula, which is interchangeable).

"Vinaka," though used here to mean something else, can also be used as a way to say "thank you," and you can also shorten this to "naka" when trying to give thanks for a service received in Fiji, and if you're extra grateful you can use "vinaka vaka levu," which roughly means "thank you very much."

"Moce" (pronounced moth-eh) is the Fijian word for "goodbye," while "yadra" is a morning greeting, "kerekere" is used to mean "please," "vacava tiko" means "how are you," and "au domoni iko" means "I love you" (romantically) while "au lomani iko" is a more familial way to say the same.

"Io" (pronounced ee-oh) means "yes" while "sega" is "no," and "sega la nega" is one of the most popular phrases in Fijian life because it means, like "Hakuna Matata" from "The Lion King," "no worries," which is one of the biggest ethos of the laid back culture of Fiji. In fact, one of the most popular English phrases on the island is actually "no worries, no hurries!"

When it comes to taking instructions, you'll also want to know that "dabe ira" means to sit down while "tucake" means to stand up, and if you happen to hear someone saying "lako mai ke," you should go to them as the phrase means "come here" while "mai kana" means "come and eat."