I don’t like Fiji.
There, I said it. I think I’m one of the few people who has ever said it, but it’s true. I don’t. Everyone I run into, whether in person or online, always raves about Fiji and mentions their jealousy when they hear that I live in Fiji. Literally every time someone finds out where I live, they have to comment on it. Whether it’s bemoaning the fact that they haven’t yet had a chance to visit, or whether it’s reminiscing on their past visit, people always comment on how nice it must be to live here. And I don’t really know how to respond politely to that. Because honestly, it’s the most difficult place I’ve ever lived.
I find it very amusing that people’s reactions to my living in Fiji and to my living in Russia are in stark contrast to what the experiences have actually been. Most people get a funny look on their face when they find out I have lived in Russia. And then they comment on how difficult that must have been. But when they find out I live in Fiji, they think that I am so lucky and it must be so easy to live here. But in truth, Russia was a breeze compared to life in Fiji and I’ll tell you why.
Once you step foot outside the tourist areas, Fiji is a completely different world. The few occasions I’ve had the time and money to venture outside real Fiji and into tourist Fiji, I’ve felt like I stepped into completely different country. Most people who come to Fiji only see the touristy part of Fiji. The nice resorts. Clean, beautiful beaches. Friendly people who are ready to help at a moment’s notice and who won’t harass or bother you. But there is another part of Fiji out there, the biggest part of Fiji, that is a world away in terms of…well, everything really.
4 Reasons Why I Don’t Like Living in Fiji:
Fiji is not a clean place by any stretch of the imagination. Of course the, often foreign-owned, resorts know that they need to keep the beaches pristine in order to keep the tourists coming, so if you want to drop the money for a fancy resort, you won’t have to worry about trash on your beaches. But venture away from your resort and you will find trash clogging the drainage ditches, the rivers, the sidewalks, the streets, people’s front yards, and well, just about everywhere. For some reason, as is usually the case in developing countries, locals don’t like throwing garbage in the garbage bins. It’s so much easier to just toss it on the ground. Why go out of your way when you can do something the lazy way? Sadly this thinking rolls over into all parts of life in Fiji. Being lazy is easier than working hard, so why bother? This mentality alone is enough to drive a western expat crazy!
The vehicle emissions
If there’s one thing that I have come to greatly appreciate about my home country of the United States it’s the fact that we require regular smog checks on all vehicles. That creates a much better breathing environment for everyone! I think I can safely say that over half of the vehicles here in Fiji wouldn’t pass smog inspections in the US. And in reality the number is probably much higher than that. On my daily walk to and from school I am constantly having to hold my breath as cars and trucks pass by, spewing out thick clouds of gritty black smog. It lingers in the air long after the vehicles have passed and makes me long for the clean air of a deserted beach or the fresh, crisp air of the countryside.
The bad customer service
If there’s another thing I miss about the United States, it’s good customer service. Now, you might think that customer service isn’t so great where you live but trust me when I say this, it has to be a hundred times better than customer service in Fiji. Customer service is almost nonexistent here. There’s probably no point in asking any questions in any store, because it’s almost sure to guarantee you will just spend an hour waiting around for someone who can’t answer your question or who will just make up an answer to get rid of the problem. Again, the mentality here is a hard one to come to terms with. Immediately several stories come to mind, but I will just pick one to share.
When I first arrived in Fiji (Nausori, to be exact), I went to the local Digicel store because I wanted a Fijian SIM card for my phone. After waiting for a while, I was told that the only girl who was able to open new accounts wasn’t in at the moment but she would be back in an hour, so to come back then. Thinking it odd that only one person was able to open accounts (I had no clue yet as to the mysteries of how Fiji works) I left but came back an hour later. I again told the man what I wanted and he told me the lady wasn’t back yet but to wait and he would call her. He called, I waited. He told me she was on her way. 30 minutes later he told me “oh, she’s not coming, sorry.” I stood there bewildered. Why hadn’t he told me that 30 minutes earlier? Why make me stand there and wait when he knew she wasn’t coming? Why lie to me about it? Again, I had yet to discover Fijian ways. I could tell you story after story just like this.
I consider myself a very honest person, and I value the truth very highly. Whether I’m right or wrong in a situation doesn’t matter, I just want to know the truth, regardless of who is right. So it bothers me greatly to be living in a country that thinks so little of honesty. I really dislike being lied to. But lying here is just a way of life. People will lie about everything. Sometimes it’s hard to know what to believe or who to believe. Sometimes I wonder why I even bother asking questions anywhere I go. Even if they are telling the truth, how would I know? How do you know when to believe them and when not to? It’s very frustrating to deal with and I’m not sure if it’s something a western expat can ever really be comfortable with.
These are just a few of the many reasons I dislike living here. I will cover more next week. And I do realize that these characteristics can be found in many countries around the world. They aren’t unique to Fiji. However I do find it interesting that Fiji has such a reputation as being the ultimate paradise. Living here I’ve found it’s quite the opposite in most areas outside the places set up just for tourists.
Do you live or have you lived in a country that you feel is much different than its stereotype?
Read Part 2 here