Too often visitors from developed countries try to transfer their lifestyles to tropical islands. In doing so, they miss out on what is unique to the region they are visiting. Travel can be a learning experience if approached openly and with a positive attitude. A wise traveler soon graduates from hearing and seeing to listening and observing. Speaking is good for the ego, and listening is good for the soul.
Give yourself time to learn how other people live. Walk gently, for human qualities are as fragile and responsive to abuse as are the coral reefs. The islanders are, by nature, soft-spoken and reserved. Often they won’t show open disapproval if their social codes are broken. But don’t underestimate them, they understand far more than you think. Respect is one of the most important things, and humility is also greatly appreciated.
Don’t try for a bargain at the cost of another person. Ask for permission before taking a photo of anyone. Your time limitations are your own, keep them to yourself. Saving a few minutes is not an islander’s concern.
Visitors think they are just traveling for fun, but they forget they are also ambassadors for their home countries. They may think they are spending time relaxing or studying without realizing they are also being studied and examined. Islanders are very observant, and visitors should be on their best behavior. Take an interest in their local customs, values, languages, challenges, and successes. Reflect on what you’ve experienced and return home with a better understanding of how much we all have in common.
A smile costs nothing, but it is priceless. Islanders smile at one another, but tourists turn away. Don’t be that person. In Western societies, wealth is based on an accumulation of goodies. In Pacific societies, wealth is based on how much you can give away. Sharing provides the security that holds a community together.
If people are hospitable, think of a way of repaying their kindness. Never, exploit them or their goodwill. It is an island custom that a gift must be reciprocated.
Cite for September Posts: Stanley, D., South Pacific Handbook.