When you dream of off-the-grid island escapes, Fiji tends to come to mind. The country is located in the South Pacific, due east of Australia. The archipelago is made up of more than 300 islands and is known for its palm-tree beaches, crystal clear water, and luxury, overwater bungalow resorts. Intrepid travelers also love Fiji for its warm character and welcoming people. But Fijians are more traditional and conservative than some of their South Pacific neighbors. As a courtesy to them, there are some basic dress code and etiquette guidelines you should follow when visiting.
What to Wear
While at your resort, you can wear whatever you'd wear on a tropical beach vacation. But do refrain from topless or nude sunbathing on your resort's beaches or at the pool, as it is not permitted in public. If you are at a private island resort with secluded bures (bungalows) with private pools and beaches, you may doff your swimwear with discretion.
When away from a resort, women should avoid tops that show their shoulders and both men and women should avoid wearing shorts or skirts that expose their legs. The best advice is to carry a sulu (a Fijian sarong) or two to cover bare shoulders or legs.
When visiting a Fijian village, do not wear a hat and always be sure to take off your shoes before entering a bure.
As is the case everywhere you travel, there are different etiquette expectations and rules. In Fiji, the culture is more conservative, so make sure to learn the basics before you go.
- Do not touch anyone's head (it is considered disrespectful).
- If you are invited to a village, always stay with the host who invited you. Don't wander off with another member of the village.
- If offered a bowl of kava to sip during a yaqona ceremony, do try it. It is considered rude to abstain.
- When visiting a Fijian village, it is a must to take a sevusevu. This is a traditional presentation of the yaqona to the chief of the village. It is believed that the yaqona has the power to dissipate any evil brought on by the visitor violating any traditional norms.
- In the presence of the chiefs, do not stand up or make any unnecessary noise. Only those who are of equally high status as the chiefs are permitted to stand or speak in their presence, with the exception of the traditional guards dressed like warriors.
- Always speak softly; Fijians interpret raised voices as anger. (This is especially important for Americans to keep in mind, as they tend to be very expressive.)
- Avoid pointing with your finger; instead, gesture with an open hand. Finger-pointing is generally taboo and can be seen as a challenge.
- Fijians are known to be exceptionally welcoming and friendly, but always ask permission before photographing anyone. If someone turns away, respect their wish not to be photographed.