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Expat Advice: Culture Shock in Savusavu, Fiji

Mar 30, 2019

Savusavu, Fiji

An expat in Savusavu, Fiji talks about the realities of living in Fiji. She and her husband quickly realized that being a resident and being a tourist are two completely different things.

What is the name of the city or town that you are reporting on?


Did you receive any cross-cultural training for your move abroad? If yes, was it before or after the move?

No training, but did over 4 years of research before moving here. Met a lot of other expats who were already living here and they did not enlighten us to the perils or dodgy people that live here.

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If they speak another language in your new country, do you speak the language? If yes, did you learn the language before you moved or while abroad? If no, are you planning to learn the language?

Slowly learning the Fijian native language.

Were you worried or concerned about culture shock before you moved abroad?

Not too much. We thought we had done significant research.

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How significant was the culture shock you experienced when you moved abroad?

Just awful. For a religious country (there's a church in every village, sometimes two), the fraud, the theft, rape and drug related crimes are abundant.

Expats often talk about going through the "stages of culture shock." Examples include the honeymoon phase, the irritation-to-anger stage, the rejection of the culture stage, and the cultural adjustment phase. Do you feel like you went through these or any other stages as you settled into the new culture?

Very much so. We are extremely angry about the fraud committed against us, from two individuals that we had known for few years, prior to moving here. Between the two of them, we have lost over one third of the money we have invested here. And the Police do very little to help you.

What, if any, were some of the changes you noticed in yourself that might have been caused by culture shock? These might include things such as anger, depression, anxiety, increased eating or drinking, frustration, homesickness, etc.

Definitely anger, anxiety, depression. Frustration at Police and Authorities who do little to help you. Homesick and wishing we had never moved here.

What are some things you appreciate most about the new culture?

It's picturesque and quirky. We love our surroundings, which to be honest, keeps reminding us why we moved here. We have met some lovely people, despite the crooks.

What are the most challenging aspects of the new culture?

Trying to remain positive and moving forward. Problem solving, as every day is a challenge.

Did you "commit" any embarrassing or humorous cultural blunders? If you did and you'd like to share them, please do tell!

We have become infamous, the majority of people who live here know our story. We can only hope that by telling our story, that we can save others from being cheated by these two crooks also.

Do you have any advice or thoughts about culture shock you would like to share?

Don't believe the "bula" smiles and greetings. Unfortunately it is mostly false. Being a tourist here and being a foreign resident are two completely different things. Be wise about who you befriend and who you give your money to.

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Comments about this Report

May 20, 2019 22:32

Perhaps this is more proof that human beings anywhere can be terrible, but it does remind me lot that sunny places have a lot of shady characters. I too have gone through a rip off and betrayal by someone I knew 11 years in the states. When we got to Mexico, she got thousands of dollars from me I will never see again. I saw her abuse her children and her animals & when I realized I was powerless to stop it, I did the only thing I could do. I got away from her and moved to a different part of the country.Then there were new revelations. I discovered here that if I reported a maid stealing from my room in a hotel, the owner could kick me out in three days and did & I could do nothing. What it did do was make me additionally appreciative that I was raised in America with laws, rights and a moral compass and although I was not there, I could hold on to who I was and find a few good local friends who were good people. I had researched Oaxaca, Mexico for a year before moving here and its a very big state with many different pros and cons. Culture shock is a learning experience I wouldn't miss for the world. Learning a new language is a constant adventure. You are lucky that you have a partner to share the ups and downs. My dog and cat , who moved with me from the states have been my sanctuary. They are better than humans when it comes to loyalty and devotion. If they could talk as they do in Dr. Dolittle movies, life would even be better. I wish you both smooth sailing from here on in and really appreciate your sharing your experience.

Jun 5, 2019 11:45

I go out of my way to try to prevent the same exact type of fraud and theft that occurred with you from happening to ex-pats coming to Panama. I worked here back and forth for 22 years prior to retiring here in 2011, and the bait and switch particularly with real estate that prey upon the very people they wish to come here is simply awful.

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