Is it any coincidence that the home of kava is also considered one of the friendliest places in the world?
Possibly not. The history of serving kava to visitors is closely interwoven into the fabric of Fijian culture. It cannot be an accident that visitors to Fiji naturally feel relaxed and at home when meeting their hosts.
Lonely Planet says so!
On the Lonely Planet website it says this:
“Fijians are generally considered to be the ‘friendliest people on the planet’. And why not? They’ve got plenty to smile about – lush islands, kaleidoscopic reefs, cobalt sea, a wealth of marine life, world-class diving, romantic coastlines, awesome cuisine – and they love to spread the love around. Fijians have a rep for helping travellers feel welcome, thereby allowing you to uncover the best from this sprawling group of islands.”
They don’t mention the kava but we forgive them!
The traditional welcoming ceremonies that have greeted the likes of Captain Cook, Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles and Pope John Paul II are the ones that you normally read about or see in the brochures; but Fijians drink kava socially on a daily basis and guests to the islands who are not completely closeted away in a 5-star hotel for their entire stay are nearly always invited to partake in the beverage if they socialise with local Fijians at all. It’s just part of daily life.
Traditionally, kava was only served to higher ranking chiefs and elders of tribes with the arrival of special guests or for religious significance; it was used rather sparingly and there was a deeply spiritual connection to the drink.
In the early days too, only men could drink kava and it was prepared and served by a virgin.
This tradition has largely disappeared but Fijians are still very particular about the purity and quality of their kava, the way it is served and the feeling of good health and wellbeing it brings.
Traditional arrival in a Fijian village
When foreigners arrived in a traditional Fijian fishing village, they would always remark on the serenity and peacefulness that enveloped the place and the friendliness of the locals.
The Fijian community is very respectful of human life and there would be a harmonious feeling to the whole village that often contrasted greatly with what the guest knew from town and city life back home. Any sort of crime was very rare.
In those days the guest would have reached Fiji after many weeks at sea and their hearts would have been warmed by the traditional welcome they received, with a “sevusevu” kava ceremony central to this.
They were seen as temporarily part of the village rather than a guest in it. This is why many guests retained the experience of visiting a Fijian village all through their lives and remembered it fondly.
Modern hospitality in Fiji
Nowadays, of course, most guests arrive by plane and may be whisked off to their hotel on one of the islands.
But that doesn’t mean the attitude of Fijians towards the visitors has changed. Fijians still feel an immense sense of pride in making their guests feel comfortable and at ease when visiting their home.
That’s probably one of the main reasons why Fiji is still regarded as one of the friendliest places on earth – that and the kava of course!