Why is Bula a Novelty?

Bula! It’s been just about a month since I returned from a week in Fiji. Looking back at it all, the unfortunately outstanding memory is how American Airlines and Fiji Airlines perfectly tag-teamed a major screw-up. American’s inability to stick to a schedule got us into Fiji over a day later than we should have, and Fiji’s expert coordination lost our luggage for the first four days of the vacation. Despite all of this, there were still some magical moments and unforgettable memories. I mean, it’s Fiji after all!

Bula Makes You Happy

Like most things in life, it’s important to keep a balance. So with the remarkably negative out of the way, we can talk about something a little more enjoyable: Bula! Bula, the Fijian catch-all exclamation, is something you will hear constantly throughout your stay in the country. The iTaukei don’t just use it as a greeting: it is an exclamation of good health, well wishes, and general positivity in any context. During my time there, I heard it used as “hello”, “thank you”, and “see you later”, as well as a number of assorted interjections. It’s a funny little word that certainly brightens your day!

Bula Makes You Wonder

So, why is bula so remarkable, anyway? In all honesty, it was the versatility or prevalence of the word, but how consistently genuine the locals used it. In Fiji, it truly feels like an exclamation of bula is a sincere wish for good health and good fortune and, at least for that moment, we are all friends. From restaurants to passers-by, we were greeted as guests, not tourists. Even on the highway we received smiles, waves, and warm gestures from adjacent passengers. We had no doubt it was due in part to being Caucasian, but even we were seen as a novelty, what difference does it make? Genuine warmth and appreciation needs no explanation.

Bula Makes You Better

Ultimately, all of this made me think about the culture we’ve become so used to. There are few places in America that could ever come close to the outright friendly and welcoming nature that Fijian locals exude (other than a handful of small towns with Southern charm, I’d imagine). I can think of a number of instances where someone I know excitedly remarked how friendly the locals were, at wherever they went. We’ve become so used to our compartmentalized lives that very few of us just explore our immediate surroundings, try to make friends, or lift someone’s spirits. Sure, some of us aren’t exactly outgoing (myself included), and that’s perfectly fine! It just doesn’t explain why we’ve generally abandoned the drive to build new connections once we hit adulthood. There’s surely some biological influence through tribe mentalities, and I’m in no way an expert so I’ll leave that thought right there, but the question certainly opens a few doors. What do you think? Why do we find excessively hostly behavior so amusing?

If you want, try to go out and brighten someone’s day if you have the free time. Who knows, you might even make a friend! At very least, you’ll have a chance to explore and think about the world around you: a great excuse to wander and ponder.

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