Fiji Indians are a different race altogether from the Indians on motherland. There are a few etiquettes you must follow if you are ‘meeting the parents’ or a family for the first time:
- Be respectful. Greet elders with respect and even if you do not know the language, saying Hello and asking them of their health and well-being is a big plus. If you’re confident, greet them with ‘Ram Ram’ (pronounced rum rum) or if South Indian, ‘Namaskaram’ (pronounced nah-mus-ka-rum). If the family is Christian, a simple hello or even a ‘kaise hai’ which means how are you, will suffice.
- Never arrive empty handed, bring with you some snacks or gifts. Indian sweets, biscuits, chocolates or fried snacks are received with joy. Gifts of clothes, homeware or anything thoughtful will also be received well.
- Showing romantic affection is a big no no. It makes everyone very uncomfortable and is a sign of great disrespect when in the company of elders. This means no hand-holding, touching, kissing, or even sitting too close together. It is believed that romance should be in the privacy of the couple’s own company and not in public.
- Staring or looking at people in the eyes while talking to them will make them uncomfortable, it is a sign of disrespect and may seem confrontational or overbearing. You can overcome this by lowering your gaze at regular intervals while speaking to people. You will notice the pattern used by others, adopt this.
- Body language and non-verbal communication is also very important in a semi-formal setting. You may observe people silently judging you, this is very normal. Do not show signs of annoyance or make faces. If you are uncomfortable, speak to your partner at a later time to address your concerns.
- Wearing clothes that show too much skin, especially for females, is looked down on. Dress conservatively when you are around elders. Long skirts or pants and a sleeved top, or a long length summer dress is acceptable. If you really want to dress to impress, wear an Indian attire. There are many beauty shops that will dress you up for the occasion for a fee. Men can wear almost anything and get away with it, however, dressing neatly will award you with a good first impression.
- Eating well is seen as a sign of respect for the food and for the cook. Compliment the food even if you thought it was terrible. You may be required to eat with your hands; food such as rice or roti mixed with curries and bone-in meat. Watch youtube videos or learn a few tricks from a local to impress your fellow diners.
- Speaking out of turn is seen as disrespectful. Being quiet is not seen as a bad quality but answering questions asked by others and adding a little humor to your conversation is regarded with delight.
- Help out in the kitchen or in any way you see fit. Take empty glasses or plates to the sink and offer to wash them. If you are comfortable, go ahead and wash the dishes. There are no dishwashers in Fijian homes so you must wash them by hand and place them on the drying racks.
It is important to have fun, joke and have some casual conversations. Ask questions, be yourself but do all these with respect and good natured humour. Be ready to face some crude humour directed towards you, just laugh along and be easy going.