31st January 2014
Vanuatu is made up of 83 islands that sit in a Y formation 800km west of Fiji. The name translates to land eternal and the ancient and diverse cultures of Vanuatu is almost as old as the land itself. The islands vary from dense rainforest to coral atolls, volcanic cones and raised parcels of land that boast deep natural harbours and soft white sand beaches. The native Vanuatu people, known as Ni-Vanuatu people, are some of the most gentle, friendly and loving people you will ever meet and they take pride in sharing their unique customs and cultures with visitors.
A visit to Vanuatu is unlike anything you've ever experienced, a friendly and culturally-rich holiday destination where life slows down and you have the time to simply relax. Due to the fusion of cultures that has taken place over thousands of years, there are certain cultural quirks and customs that some visitors may not be aware of. The following Vanuatu travel information offers an insight into some of the islands' more interesting cultural differences.
Predominantly Melanesian, the Ni-Vanuatu people have populated the islands for hundreds of years and have managed to preserve over 115 distinct and different languages and cultures. Recognised as one of the world's most culturally diverse countries, the most common languages spoken in Vanuatu include English, Bislama and French. Within the islands of Vanuatu, there are small communities of Chinese, Vietnamese, French, British, New Zealand and Australian people living alongside the Pacific Islanders. Though this may come as a surprise, Vanuatu was once known as New Hebrides and was jointly administered by Great Britain and France until 1980.
Vanuatu embraces a predominantly Christian religion and the Sunday church services are truly a sight to behold. Visitors are most welcome to attend the services and with many shops closed on Sundays, it's a wonderful way to spend your time. There are still some Chinese-owned shops that remain open and all resorts continue to remain open as usual. Aside from the church services, there are a number of other unique experiences visitors to Vanuatu can enjoy including the land diving (an ancient type of bungy jumping) on Pentecost Island, Tanna Island's Toke Ceremony and the consumption of perhaps Vanuatu's most famous drink, kava. Unlike their Fijian counterparts, the people of Vanuatu do not take part in a 'clapping' ceremony, preferring to drink their kava with slightly less fanfare, but still in one gulp.