Fijian Optimism: Tourism Fiji
By Tourism Fiji and generously shared with Victor Perton and The Centre for Optimism
In the heart of the South Pacific Ocean lies a tropical paradise known for its stunning landscapes, warm hospitality, and unique way of life centred around values that prioritise happiness over material wealth. Fiji, a modern nation with deep-rooted cultural and religious traditions, thrives on the principles of simplicity, connection, and contentment, placing them above the pursuit of money, power, and fame. These values are shown to bring true happiness and optimism, and Fiji is where these values have been developed and maintained over many generations.
The essence of Fiji's optimism is embodied by the Bula spirit and cultural values that contribute to a profound sense of happiness and community.
The Bula Spirit: More Than Just a Greeting
"Bula!" – a word that encapsulates the very soul of Fiji. While often used as a greeting, "Bula" extends far beyond mere words; it embodies a joyful and heartfelt spirit of friendliness, warmth, and genuine connection. Fijians live by this spirit of hospitality, welcoming visitors with traditional songs, dances, and open arms. From the moment you set foot in Fiji, you are embraced as part of the 'vuvale' (family), exemplifying the inclusive nature of the Bula spirit.
Fijian Happiness: A Way of Life
In Fiji, happiness is not an occasional emotion; it's a way of life deeply rooted in cultural practices and values:
- Being Connected with Nature: With its year-round warmth and breathtaking natural beauty, Fiji encourages a deep connection with the outdoors, hence the commitment to protecting and sustaining it. Fiji's environment provides a backdrop for happiness to flourish from jungle adventures to serene beaches and vibrant coral reefs.
- Laughing Out Loud: Fijians are renowned for their friendliness and sense of humor. Laughter is a universal language, and Fijians use it to foster bonds, relieve stress, and create a sense of unity. Joining in on the fun is a must!
- Sharing a Meal: Food holds a special place in Fijian culture. Sharing meals, whether with family or strangers, is a cherished tradition. The act of giving and receiving food fosters a sense of togetherness and community.
- Helping Your Community: The concept of 'solesolevaki,' where communities unite for a common cause, is at the heart of Fijian society. Whether building a village footpath or aiding a neighbor after a storm, Fijians exhibit a spirit of selflessness and camaraderie.
- Caring for Family: Family bonds run deep in Fiji, with large, extended families providing love and support. Committing to ensuring that no one is left out or lonely creates a strong sense of belonging.
- Living Our Values: Cultural and religious values are pivotal in Fijian daily life. The fusion of religious principles with cultural values such as humility, hospitality, and respect fosters harmonious coexistence among diverse groups.
- Making Time to Play: While Fijians may have an easygoing demeanour, their athletic prowess, especially in sports like rugby, showcases their competitive spirit. Sport unites the nation, allowing talent and flair to shine.
So, when you hear "Bula!" in Fiji, it's an invitation to experience the genuine optimism and happiness that define this nation.
Managing Director of Matchboard, Sharon Melamed, said to me, "This Bula spirit and optimism is not just a feel-good. It's a Fijian comparative advantage in business as it powers Fiji's outsourcing customer service business processes. I didn’t truly get it till I went to Fiji for a holiday and experienced their warm and authentic service myself." (See Sharon's essay "61 Essential Facts about Outsourcing to Fiji")
Roland De Marco, former Fiji National University Pro Vice-Chancellor Research and Innovation, told me, "Fijians have a deep connection to their spirituality, families and communities and possess a strong sense of fun and enjoyment. Accordingly, they are happy people with a strong sense of optimism about their past, present and future. I hasten to add that Fijians are also boldly ambitious and ready to tackle grand global challenges associated with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (UN SDGs), such as Climate Action, Clean Water and Sanitation, Life Below Water, Life on Land, Decent Work and Economic Growth, Reduced Inequalities, Quality Education together with Good Health and Well-Being among others."
Alopi Latukefu, Director of the Edmund Campion Centre: "Pacific optimism is founded on a resilience built on confidence grounded in the extended family (in Tonga - Kainga, in Samoa- aiga, in Fiji - vuvale). It is this non-material safety net that can be transported wherever you go, providing a solid foundation on which to build optimism."
"There's a cultural mechanism in place that deals with tragedy or loss in a compartmentalised manner. The support from the extended family ensures that what might lead to malaise in a Western context is simply not acceptable in the Pacific. There are familial responsibilities that narrow the space for pessimism to creep in."
"As we explore future projects in this beautiful and unique country, we’re highly optimistic about the prospects." (Seacology on Fiji)
"To sum up 850,000 people in a few paragraphs does not do the Fiji Islands justice, which is why you need to come and experience Fiji and its people to completely understand. However, we still want to give you an idea of what amazingly optimistic and multicultural the Fijian people are. Over half of the Fiji population lives below the poverty line; however, you would never guess it by their big Bula smiles. The favourable climate makes food pretty plentiful and Fijians’ family and community values of sharing everything make living here the ideal island life." (Feejeeperience)
"One (tactic) we developed early on was to always be optimistic. This was so helpful. We weren’t being positive for the sake of it, we always had to be two steps ahead. If the Government said at any point we’re going to open next week, we had to be ready. This meant we planned in an optimistic way." Tourism Fiji’s Emma Campbell on reopening after the COVID pandemic."