Over the last three weeks, I have noticed many cultural differences between here and the US:
- Non-materialistic culture
- Smiley/happy/joking personalities
- “Sega na lega”- there is nothing to worry about. Believe me here when I say, it’s not just a saying it is a way of life!
- The music playing on the radio is the music I wake up to every morning. I love it. It’s reggae/island music with a pop twist that makes me want to dance (even at 6am).
- Resourcefulness- nothing is taken for granted or wasted. For example, the all of the different parts of the coconut treeare utilized. The coconut water is drunk, or it can be scrapped to make miti (coconut milk). The meat of the coconut is eaten plain. After the coconut is scrapped,the inside is used as a kava bowl. The husk is used to extract coconut oil, make rope, and as a fire starter. The trunk of the tree is often used for furniture, and the roots are used for medicine.
- Coconut wireless- it is exponentially faster than the internet
- Rather than asking how you are doing, the standard greeting is “lakoivei?” or where are you going?
- Religion. It is everywhere here. There are church meetings Monday-Wednesday, church on Thursday and two times on Sunday. True, there are places in the USA where religion assumes a similar importance; however, personally, it wasn’t a central theme in my life back in the USA.
- I have noticed critical thinking doesn’t seem to be taught in schools. It is rare for people to challenge rules, ask questions about them, and seek to interpret them differently. In schools, the expectations simply require the ability to regurgitate back what is told.
- We’ve all been told we look healthier now that some of use trainees have gained a few pounds, whereas we’re told we look healthier back at home when we lose weight. Both are an incorrect/incomplete assessment of one’s health.
- The utilization of the health system is very different. I have noticed that people go to the hospital for all sorts of things: strep, chest pain, back pain, a burn etc.. There don’t seem to be urgent care centers so the hospitals are frequently visited. Due to the regularity of going to the hospital, it seems to be a very casual thing. When my host sister, Milika, was in the hospital for 5 days with a kidney infection while being 8 months pregnant, nobody seemed to worry at all. I was told she was just there to “have a rest.” Their reaction to being in the hospital is much different at home.
- The overprotective culture- my wonderful host family is very concerned about my safelty, but sometime I feel like they go a little over board. For example, they walk me to the bus stop in the middle of the day, which is four houses down from where I am staying.
- Everyone knows EVERYTHING about everyone! I’m used to living in a small town and knowing everyone, but this is a whole new level! For example, Milika, my host sister went to the hospital, and her doctor was her cousin, we ran into a guy from our village in the waiting room, Milika’s father-in-law was in a hospital room just down the hall, and we passed a different cousin on the 30 minute drive back to Vuci.
- I am struggling with the sedentary lifestyle everyone assumes here. I have been making a point to run early in the morning because movement is limited during the rest of the day and restricted completely on Sunday.