Fiji and Indo-Fijian
The understanding of Fiji history and family which I had was initially shaped by information from popular media. While some of the information fitted well with the truth, some of my conceptions were wrong. For example, before engaging in this learning activity, I always thought that Fiji was only home to native Fijians, and that there were no other ethnic groups except the natives. I have always thought of Fiji as a modernized society with little to no conservatism. I did not also know that Fijians still practiced some old traditions such as arranged marriages. Initially, I though all marriages in Fijian families were done on the basis of love like it is in the modern world. Similarly, I expected Fijian people to practice modern conventional greetings such as shaking hands and waving at each other. Instead I found out that they still practice their cultural greetings which included the touching of feet. Being what I presumed to be a modern society, I thought that perhaps a handshake would suffice in passing a greeting. I have always presumed that virtually all Fijians were Christian because of their proximity to Australia where Christianity flourishes. I had expected that Christianity would be first to reach the island because of its proximity to Australia where non-natives had brought Christianity with them. Surprisingly, I found that there were other religious groups such as the Sikhs, Hindus, Gujarati and Muslims. The closeness of Fiji to nation’s such as Australia where individuality is high also made me think that perhaps Fiji also has a society with a high level of individuality. However, after the class I found out that Fiji people live as in a more collective manner with high regard for family.
After this class, my knowledge and understanding about the Fiji people has changed significantly. Firstly, I have noted that the Fiji people are a conservative group of people that still uphold core family traditions such as arranged marriages and the use of family gestures and signs when communicating and greeting other people. For example when greeting old people one touches their feet as sign of respect. Younger people are also expected to tilt their head while facing away as a matter of showing respect while greeting and listening to older people. During the study I also established that Fiji also has Indo-Fiji people that immigrated to Fiji in the past from present day India under the indentured system. I learned that these Indo-Fiji people practice other forms of religion such Sikhism and Hinduism. The greater cultural and religious mix has revealed that Fiji is indeed a multicultural society, which is not only occupied by Fiji natives, but also by other non-natives. The establishment of the multicultural nature of the Fijian communities can be of great help professionally and personally because this knowledge can help in communication. Being culturally sensitive is necessary when communicating with Fijian people and this helps in facilitating better understanding. The fact that Fiji families respect family values imply that when meeting and interacting with such people, the value and meaning of family should be upheld first. This will help any new person in communication and reaching the community for better understanding and co-existence.
This learning exercise has not only helped me in understanding the Fijian people, but it has also enlightened me on how to work collaboratively with other team members in this research. In line with this understanding, I have also learned to respect other team members as well as their contribution to the exercise. The group work exercise also helped me learn how to dispel stereotypes and presumptions when seeking for factual information from places of societies where one is not familiar with. This happened when most of my presumption I held about the Fiji people were proven wrong once the factual information emerged from the findings. Through the exercise I also learned how division of tasks made the research flow smooth and easier when working in a group rather when working alone.
In conclusion, I have learned that most pacific cultures exist in environments where different cultures co-exist and thus forming a multicultural environment. Migrations during the exploratory error are responsible for the current mix of cultures and religions practiced in these Pacific zones. Additionally, the cultures in these regions are keen on preserving their cultural habits in spite of current modernization.
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