Australian expat Emma is a recent export to Fiji. Below she shares her experiences of living in Suva, the capital, and how it differs to back home, along with tips for making friends, settling in and all the other aspects of adjusting to a new home.
Q: Where are you originally from?
A: Brisbane, Australia
Q: Where are you living now?
A: Suva, Fiji
Q: When did you move here?
A: February 2016
Q: Did you move here alone or with a spouse/family?
A: My husband joined me :)
Q: Why did you move; what do you do?
A: I came across a job opportunity to work in Special Schools alongside the Ministry of Education, so decided to make the big move!
Q: What do you enjoy most about Fiji? How would you rate the quality of life compared to Australia?
A: Fiji is a wonderful place to live because of the welcoming and friendly lifestyle. As Fiji is still developing its economy and resources the standard of living is different from Australia, but there is an immeasurable quality of life created through the support and kindness of the community.
Q: Any negatives? What do you miss most about home?
A: I love it here! There's not much to miss. Maybe just my favourite food brands!
Q: What are the biggest adjustments you had to make when settling into expat life here? Did you experience any particular elements of culture shock?
A: The cost of living was higher than I expected. I wrote an article about how I haven't experienced culture shock but I've definitely experienced culture wonder. Jump on my blog to check it out!
Q: What’s the cost of living compared to home? What is cheap or expensive in particular?
A: Depending on where you are employed there might be limitations on your wage. Living in a sharehouse and eating products that are grown and produced locally can help cut costs.
Q: How would you rate the public transport? What are the different options? Do you need to own a car?
A: It's much more affordable to catch a bus than use a car. Catching the bus is a cultural experience in itself! No windows, Nikki Minaj music rocking. The only really important tip I can give you is to be patient because your bus doesn't stick to its timetable. It's impossible to find Suva bus routes online, but if you subscribe to my blog you can access a free PDF with the different bus routes in Suva.
Q: How would you rate the healthcare in your city? Have you had any particularly good/bad experiences with regards to doctors and hospitals? Are there any hospitals you would recommend?
A: I haven't been to the doctors yet but I've heard good things. My friend even had a baby here!
Q: What are the biggest safety issues facing expats living in your host city or country? Are there any areas expats should avoid?
A: There is poverty across Fiji and as a result there is crime. There are areas where you shouldn't rent a house due to higher risk of burglary. The police can provide you with crime rates in areas so that you can make a decision on where to live.
Q: How do you rate the standard of housing in the city? What different options are available for expats?
A: There's a wide variety of housing available from apartments to houses. There is a rental market shortage so start your search early.
Q: Any areas/suburbs you’d recommend for expats to live in?
A: Most expats enjoy living near the city so that they can access social events and work easily. I enjoy living near the water in outer-Suva because the view reminds me every day that I'm living in Fiji!
Meeting people and making friends
Q: How tolerant are the locals of foreigners? Is there any obvious discrimination against particular religions or women etc.?
A: Everyone is friendly and helpful so no major issues. Statistically we are more likely to be targeted for crime so we ensure we stay aware of our personal security.
Q: Was it easy meeting people and making friends? How did you go about meeting new people?
A: Tapping into certain networks can help you build friendships quickly such as joining a sports team, attending language classes, etc. There are also regular expat hangouts such as Holiday Inn, Traps bar and O'Reilly's.
Q: Have you made friends with locals or do you mix mainly with other expats? What advice would you give to new expats looking to make friends? Any social/expat groups you can recommend?
A: All locals will be interested in talking to you and finding out who you are and where you come from. It's not hard to build your networks quickly! There are Facebook groups called 'Suva Expats' and 'Suva Living' which are handy to learn more about what's happening in Suva. Again, just be wary of your security as some people may seem friendly but have poor intentions. Don't invite people to your house until you know them well.
About working here
Q: Did you have a problem getting a visa or work permit? Did you tackle the visa process yourself or did you enlist the services of an immigration consultant?
A: Work permits take a long time to process and require lots of patience and follow ups. I was lucky to be supported by the agency that recruited me in this process.
Q: What’s the economic climate like in the city? Do you have any tips for expats looking to find a job there? Which resources did you find most useful?
A: There are two main ways people get jobs here which is that they are recruited before they arrive or they set up their own business. It's very hard to find a job as an expat after arriving.
Q: How does the work culture differ from home? Do you have any tips for expats doing business in the city/country?
A: Be patient in the workplace. Things won't move as fast but your work and input will be appreciated.
Family and children
Q: Did your spouse or partner have problems adjusting to their new home? Do you think there are any specific challenges for a trailing spouse?
A: There are plenty of volunteer opportunities for trailing spouses who want to fill their time.