You can actually take a lot of things back home (at least to Australia) from Vanuatu. We had no trouble taking home kava, wood carvings (as long as they don't have holes in them), coconut shells (well cleaned), lava carvings, woven baskets etc. We weren't sure if we would have problems or not but luckily everything was okay. Just be careful not to have anything that looks like it might have 'baddies' in it... ;)
When purchasing something please don't haggle with these people. It simply is'nt in their makeup to do this. They are very quiet, friendly and honest people and would be embarrassed if you started bargaining. Most prices are reasonable anyway.
We had a very interesting conversation with our driver, Brian. We were asking him about local laws and customs and he revealed to us a startling fact. Apparently it has been known for the women to murder their husbands! If they drink and fight too much and don't bring home the money it's ' off with their head!'. Well not sure exactly how they do it, we didn't go into the details but sure made us think! As I've said - interesting place!
Although Vanuatu is considered a very diverse country (made up of French, Vietnamese, Chinese, and other Pacific Islanders), the indigenous ethnic group are the Melanesians.
The three official languages spoken are English, French, and Baslama (a form of pidgin English). There are an additional 100+ local languages spoken throughout the islands!
The Melanesians are a very friendly group. At first glance, they could flash an intimidating look......but once you make them crack a smile, their whole face lights up!
This pic was just a lazy, hazy afternoon waiting at the airport gate.
In Vanuatu you will find all of the locals to be very friendly and will always say hello to you when you pass them in the street.
It is thought to be impolite to bargain with them when making purchases and tipping is also frowned upon. A simple thank you is enough.
You can buy lots of different local fruits and vegetables fresh at the markets each day (except Sundays). They have things I had never seen or heard of before but it all looked so fresh and fantastic!
Some of the things I recognised include sweet potato, lettuce, coconuts, cabbage, banana etc. :)
Kava drinking in Vanuatu commences each evening at sundown to the sounds of soft conversation, where people discus the days activities and contemplate the future in a calm and peaceful environment.This happens in many villages every evening, in the city of Port Vila and town of Luganville. Commercial kava bars abound (nakamals) Each person will have their favourite nakamal, which will feature kava from the owners area, and takeaways are no problem. Everybody is friendly and you can choose to be part of the conversation, or be alone to gather your own thoughts, but kava is always drank with company. Kava is of course an essential ceremonial ingredient, and no visiting dignitary or custom celebration would be complete without a kava ceremony.
Kava is well known for its muscle relaxant properties without any effect on the Central Nervous System, therefore making it ideal for use for muscle aches and pains, for general relaxation, and for anti-anxiety without the worry of addiction. Kava also has sedative properties, but with no negative safety-related performance. Ni-Vanuatu pride themselves of having the best quality Kava throughout Melanesia.
There are 113 distinct languages and many more dialects are found throughout Vanuatu - many of the Ni-Vanuatu speak more than one of these local languages becasue of inter- and intra-island trading. When Europeans arrived, a lingua franca evolved. It's name, Bislama, derived from the Bech-der-mer (sea cucumber) traders who developed a form of pidgin English throughout the Pacific. It began as a simplified form of phonetic English, with Spanish, French, and other languages thrown in for good measure.It soon took on a life of its own, incorporating new words and evolving.
Bislama, though phonetically English with a broad acccent, is grammatically simpler. Everything, including women, are spoke of in the masculan (political correctness has not yet come into play!) Being a simpler language means that complex ideas or new concepts are described functionally. The results are descriptions and stories can be a great deal longer than if told in English.
Blong: literally - belong. It is used in reference to any noun which has a possesive relationship with any other noun. Example:
Long: literally meaning from, to, in, on; in association with something, but not in possesive sense.. Example:
* Pikikini blong mi = literally: child belong to me (my child)
* pikinini blong kanu = literally: the child (the outrigger) belonging to the canoe
* Laet blong trak = literally: light belong to the truck, a light on a truck
* Pikinini i go long skul = literally: the child goes to school
Most object groupings are simplified: all motorised vehicles are truks, all birds are pidjins, all creatures in the sea are fis. To distinguish the differences in these groupings, their relationship to size or the enviroment is used, or a description is given, rather than a distinctive name:
* trak blong doti = truck belong dirty (garbage truck)
* pidgin blong solwota = bird belonging to the saltwater, eg tern, pelican, duck etc.
* kaofis = cow fish (dugong)
Carvings are everywhere, so keep looking for them. Carvings are made out of hardwoods, tree ferns, and sometimes stones. Wood is used for more utilitarian types of things like bowls, platters, and decorative items like turtles and birds.
More interesting, though, are the humanoid figures carved from tree ferns, a ver soft substance. (You can also find these figures from hardwoods, but they are less common than tree-ferns aroudn town).
The stone carvings are much smaller, and are often made out of volcanic pumice stone or coral.
The local currency of Vanuatu is the Vatu. There are 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 and 100 vatu coins and notes come in 200, 500, 1000, 5000 (and maybe 10000) denominations.
When we visited Vanuatu the exchange rate was around A$1.20 = 100 vatu.
Ni-Vanuatu - as the majority of pacific people -respect a dress code, especially for what concerns women dressing.
When in Port Vila or Santo, or if staying in some resort, ladies don't have to bother about wearing a bikini on the beach.
In outer islands, or when living in more strict contact with locals (for instance, walking through villages, going to remote beaches where you can meet local people) too much bare skin is not appreciated. A woman in bikini is considered to be naked. So are men with sppedo swimming pants.
It is strange for a people who actually used to live naked, but this is what they have been taught by christian missionaries, and they are quite keen on that now.
Women usually cover their legs (under the knee), their shoulders and do not show body shapes. They wear an 'island dress': floreal and light, but certainly not sexy.
When going for a swim or a boat trip, beach shorts are ok for women as well as for men. A tshirt is ok also over the swimming suit.
Much has been made of the whole "women must cover up" thing. It's true, the local girls in Port Vila don't wear anything showy, will generally wear a t-shirt and maybe a skirt that falls below the knee. Some dress a bit skimpier but it's generally quite normal by western standards.
I don't think they generally hold tourists to the same standards, though. And as a tourist, you can't help but stick out. In Port Vila, no-one cares whether you wear something skimpy or not. I saw girls walk around in their bikinis and a sarong, and no-one seemed to bat an eyelid.
Having said that, there is such a thing a classy. Walking around in a bikini is not, unless you're at a beach.
Ni-Vanuatu people are very polite. They are forever thanking each other and greeting each other, even when they drive down the road the wave at each other and beep to say hello! i realised how rude Australians are and how we never really say thanks and please unless we feel we have to, so make an effort to be polite to them because they really are lovely and its considered rude if you don't.
Tankyu Tumas means thanks very much and they're forever saying it...
just adds to the wonderful local vibe of the people and the place! you'll be surprised how polite you are to everyone when you get back :)
This is pretty well known, no tipping or haggling, but i thought I'd put it in regardless.
Relationships between men and women are very different there. I've been told that in the villages men and women are separated. In the town, they do talk. in the hotels, i didnt notice anything.
Just a general warning, if you are a women, dont go out at night by yourself. its not unsafe, but my own personal experience lead me to feel that the people of the town see you in a different light if you do. the people in the hotels are exposed to aust culture and wont think anything of it, but this is not true of everyone. Not trying to put a somber mood, its just something i noticed. i cant stress enough that nothing will happen, but it isnt advised, you wont feel comfortable.
The Ni Vanuatu people are a very conservative people and therefor one must be mindful of this went travelling to thier country. Brief clothing of any kind is to be avoided outside the confines of your motel presinct. Loose cotton clothing is a definate must in the warmer summer months. The land is custom owned and only leased to investors on a 75yr basis, there for it is unwise to venture off the beaten path without first asking a local or asking the first person you meet on the track, locals are hospitable and will often take you to thier village to experience life in Vanuatu. Females travelling alone need to be aware of personal safety and take precautions it is unwise to travel to isolated places alone. Taking fruit from trees growing on seemingly uncared for land is also frowned upon all land is custom owned and therefor belongs to someone. The rule is when in doubt ask! Common sence approach to not leaving personal items unattended as with anywhere in the world opportunistic theft is common.
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