Fiji time is a sham.

I have recently become convinced that “Fiji time”, the tendency for time to be fluid and not strictly adhered to, was invented to play havoc with the comings and goings of my everyday life. This is a new pinnacle of egocentricity for me that I am equally excited and ashamed of. The conspiracy is a carefully constructed ruse dating back many years and carefully constructed to seem like it is a part of Fijian culture in an elaborate attempt to fool me into thinking I just have bad luck. You see, the reason I hold these seemingly outlandish views about an endearing aspect of Fijian culture, is that Fiji time never EVER works in my favour.

I’m on time for the boat! Boat is 3 hours late.

I make a booking to go fishing early in the morning when the bite is hot. Fisherman sleeps in a couple of hours, we catch nothing.

I take a bus half an hour earlier than I need to. The front wheel of the bus falls off and we arrive two hours late.


(I have to convince the wheel thing hasn’t happened to me yet, but it it not uncommon here)

Now none of this is really rare, it’s even what you would expect to happen if Fiji time really was a nice part of Fijian culture and not an invention to torment and frustrate me. I’m not culturally insensitive after all, just overly inward focused at times. The problem is that whenever running late would benefit me, everything runs like clockwork. It’s seriously like they hired a crack team of German engineers to whip them into shape and whenever I am a few minutes behind schedule.

I’m 5 minutes late for the boat! Boat left on time, next one is in two hours.

I decide to sleep in an extra hour instead of getting to the island early. Everyone went fishing early that morning and they wont be back until lunch.

I take a bus an hour early in case wheels fall off the bus. The bus driver heroically challenges the world land speed record and I arrive three hours early. I sit around and hum songs to myself for as long as I was on the bus.

This dark conspiracy actually works as a double whammy in some situations where I get both unfavourable manifestations of Fiji time in the one foul setting. Last week I booked a massage for 2pm and had lunch arranged beforehand. Lunch ran late (Fiji time!) and I was getting nervous about missing the massage, so My brother and I hurried out to the road to flag something down for transport. We waited about 25 minutes for a bus, truck, taxi, minvan, anything to drive past and pick us up (No hurries no worries!). This is on Fiji’s busiest highway, where usually you hit something about every 5 or 10 minutes that will get you. Eventually a guy picked us up in a resort taxi and promised to take us right there. We stopped on the way for 10 minutes to drop off some vegetables to a friend of his (Sega na leqa!). Despite all of this we got back to the massage place at 2:03pm and ran to the massage bure. Of course, only one masseuse was there so I let my brother start and said I would wait. At about 2:17 after six or seven Fijian ladies ran around yelling out “SUUUUUEEEEEE? SUUUUUUUEEEEEEEE!” my massage lady wondered in (Ni sa bula Sue!). She had gone for a walk to see who was getting off a big bus that drove into the driveway up the road (You were here at 2? Isaaaaaaa!). As she started to massage I let out a desperate plea “Fiji time start… Fiji time finish?”.

I have to segway at this point and say the massage was great. Even if the massage ladies gossiped the whole time in Fijian. They do a great job and it’s cheap. I would go back. 4 out of 5 for the massage.

At 3:00:00pm the ladies both clapped their hands and finished. I sighed, took a quick look around for German engineers grinning in the bushes and walked off. There isn’t really much you can say in a situation like that… just laugh at yourself and just remember you only paid $12aud for the massage in the first place. Fiji is a pretty kickass place to live, even if there is a country wide conspiracy just to mess with you.

How to not be a bogan on your Fijian holiday.

Fijian people are the amongst the friendliest people in the world. So if you come to Fiji, it’s not like going to eastern Europe* or something where the gruffness and exterior demeanor can often be somewhere between “It is FREEZING here in the winter and I only listen to metal and any electronic music over 180bpm!” and “My year 6 exam had calculus questions in the easy section”. Having said that, if you act like a ridiculous bogan while you are in Fiji, the people here will still smile on the outside, but inside they will be recording stories of your behaviour to share with their friends. After all, there is nothing Fijian people like more than a good laugh. So here is a beginners guide I have put together, and if you follow most of this stuff you will most definitely not be a bogan in Fiji:

Learn how to pronounce bula – It’s not ‘bulla’ like the ice creams, ‘Boolah’ like some kind of cow cockatoo or whatever ‘bullarrrr’ is. Soft m at the start and emphasis on the second vowel (mBulA!).

Learn 3 or 4 words other than bula – I think if you know how to say goodbye and thanks that is a good few strides on the road out of boganville. Goodbye is moce (pronounced moh-they) and thanks is vinaka (pronounced as it looks). If you really want to impress, try au sa mamau (I am full of food).

Resist the urge to have your hair braded – My mum will argue about this cos she used to love it. Aside from being painful and annoying to take out after a couple of days, It can really look strange if you have a glowy white head and tanned face… just sayin. Give the braiding lady $20 and a hug and everyone will be happier. Or if you love hair braids, take them out before the trip home.

Leave the resort of your own volition – Go for a walk and see what you find. Often there are villages, markets and corner shops sitting 100m from the front gate of your nice hotel. Tours and day trips are good, but if you do it by yourself then that’s even more the bomb. Kapow!

If you do leave the resort, don’t later brag to your friends about how you saw the “real Fiji” – It doesn’t make you a bogan, it’s just annoying.

Try somewhere other than the Mamanucas, Yasawas or Coral Coast – These places are nice, but they are also safe. If you have more than a week, go somewhere a bit out there. The really touristy places can be a little bit Australia tourist ghetto.

The buffet is a privilege not a right – Seriously… this cannot be overstated. Act like a lion not a hyena. Did you know that jackals scavange less than lions? Nathan told me this and he works at the museum so I believe him. It ruined my joke until I thought of hyenas as a replacement.

Don’t complain about stupid things – If you book a holiday to a tropical country you are not allowed to complain about how hot it is outside. You are also not allowed to complain about the presence of mosquitoes if you are supplied with flyscreens and/or a mosquito net. If you book an island holiday you are not allowed to complain that there isn’t anything to do other than water activities. If you try to squeeze four people into a two person bure, you are most definitely not allowed to complain about how cramped and small your room is. If you have a legitimate complaint, like you are a celiac and they served you a pasta sandwich with a donut for dessert, then please be nice.

Speak with Fijian people, not at them – Ask them questions, and listen to the answers. Chatting is a national past time here, and people read the news religiously so they will have opinions on almost everything. Also… english is the official language so don’t be one of those guys.

Cover up where possible – In fijian villages women don’t show their shoulders or anything above the knee. So if you are brazillian or medeterranean we might have to have a quiet word afterwards about fashion. For everyone else, they are used to westerners wearing underwear to the beach, but just be discrete and sensible ok?

So that’s it! These are, of course, not hard and fast rules. You might want to go against this advice in certain situations, after all you are in Fiji on a holiday! You’re not a diplomat (probably? Hi diplomats!). As a whole though, I think most Australians could do a little better on the ‘not being a bogan’ side of things, so lets all do our best to limit the amount of southern cross stickers we slap on our utes to say… no more than five, and try to put one or two of these helpful guidelines into practice the next time we come to Fiji eh? Bonza mates! get a dog up ya!

Footnote:
* Despite this gross generalisation, I have many close friends from eastern Europe that are the warmest and loveliest people I know. I hope they all still talk to me after playing up their unwarranted and unfair stereotypes for cheap laughs.

Addendum:
Connie read this and thought I sounded like I am a little bit up myself and quite rude. She sent back a revised copy that I didn’t think was very funny, but definitely a lot nicer. I stuck with some minor edits of the original copy, but in fear that I may have offended some very lovely people such as my mum, I refer you to the following customer service flowchart. Please direct any complaints to me, the jerk who wrote this.