Australian Expat Living in Fiji - Interview with Somer

Published: 5 May at 9 AM
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Filed: Interviews,Fiji
Somer is an Aussie expat living in Fiji, and founder of the website Me and Fiji, which is an information source for families looking to relocate to the island nation. She has lived in Fiji for many years with her family including her two Daughters and Husband. When she is not in Fiji, she calls the Gold Coast in Australia's Queensland home. Somer's expat blog is called ME AND FIJI (see listing here)

Afternoon tea is always a fresh coconut off the tree!
Afternoon tea is always a fresh coconut off the tree!

Here's the interview with Somer...

Where are you originally from?
When in Australia, we live on Queensland's Gold Coast, but we really call Caloundra in the Sunshine Coast our Australian home.

In which country and city are you living now?
The capital city of the Fiji Islands, Suva.

How long have you lived in Fiji and how long are you planning to stay?
We have lived between Australia and Fiji since 2009, and can't ever imagine a time when we won't still do that. When we get old (or rich!) enough to retire we will stay in Fiji permanently, but for now it works well for us to split time between the two.

Why did you move to Fiji and what do you do?
Our original move to Fiji back in 2009 was to 'experience a different culture and way of life'. But since then, my Husband has held a couple of different jobs in Fiji, one for a National Sporting Authority as the CEO, and the other as a General Manager for a Resort on the Coral Coast. I owned/operated my own business there during these times too, which was exciting and a huge learning curve!
Fijian warriors look scary but they're real softies in truth
Fijian warriors look scary but they're real softies in truth

Did you bring family with you?
Yes, my small family of 4 - including two kids, my Hubby and myself! On one occasion, I lived there by myself for 2 months, then the kids joined me for a further 4 months without Hubby, before he joined us. So, I guess the point of me specifying that is because it is a safe, nice country to live in. Being on my own, I wasn't scared or anxious at all!

How did you find the transition to living in a foreign country?
We were certainly naïve to begin with. We had to learn the culture, and all about life on 'Fiji time'. Another thing we needed to get used to quickly was the food and not having what we were accustomed to! Now, of course, that's the thing we really love about living there - the local cuisine!

Was it easy making friends and meeting people; do you mainly socialise with other expats?
It was easy in Suva, because there are a lot of other expats there, and I found those expat friendships fast and passionate...I think because we were all experiencing the same 'new' things and all had no one else to lean on. The friends I made in Suva will always remain close in my heart - lots of extremes in emotions will do that I suppose - extreme laughter at things we didn't expect and extreme frustration at other things made it easy to bond quickly. With regards to local friends, I made a lot, but I think it is a different type of friendship based on something different than a friendship with another expat, if that makes sense.

Bula - get used to hearing the happy Fijian greeting of BULA!
Bula - get used to hearing the happy Fijian greeting of BULA!
What are the best things to do in the area; anything to recommend to future expats?
I would recommend just involving yourself in the community. Go to sporting matches even if you aren't sporty yourself (I'm not!) but they are always fun and will show you a side of the locals that you don't want to miss out on - really fun!

What do you enjoy most about living in Fiji?
The friendliness and kindness of the locals, and their strong sense of faith which seems to permeate everything they do. I enjoy that! Oh, and I love going to sporting games, especially National games, like Rugby or Netball - the spectators are amazing and fun, dancing and cheering. I love it.

How does the cost of living in Fiji compare to home?
Well this is a kind of hard question to answer. If you choose to live like a local (local food, less fancy accommodation, utelising public transport) you can live relatively cheaply in Fiji. However, if you want a house of similar standard to what you are used to back home, they are expensive. International foods from the supermarket are expensive too.

Fun and games with our friends
Fun and games with our friends
What negatives, if any, are there to living in Fiji?
Negatives would be the lack of shopping, and variety of shopping that we are used to. Also, TV!! There is hardly any decent tv shows in Fiji - and I can't help it, I miss my Aussie tv shows!

If you could pick one piece of advice to anyone moving to Fiji, what would it be?
Involve yourself with the local community, don't just stick to other expats!

What has been the hardest aspect to your expat experience so far?
I have been pretty consistently concerned about schooling for my kids, but that has proved fruitless as they are actually fine. Missing family at home would be another.

When you finally return home, how do you think you'll cope with repatriation?
We actually do it every year or so for 6 months, so I feel well placed to answer this question. Each time, I am concerned about the kids schooling, but each time I am pleasantly surprised. I get over-excited about the grocery store and spend an hour in there just looking at the variety and then I get hooked on the latest tv. But I can say that after a couple of months, I'm itching to get back to my island home!

Interesting way of travelling around!
Interesting way of travelling around!
What are your top 5 expat tips for anyone following in your footsteps?
  1. Pack appropriately. Do your research well on what is available and bring the rest.
  2. Health Insurance. Get top quality cover which includes a medical evacuation if necessary. The healthcare in Fiji is not exactly the standard you will be used to.
  3. International Schooling. If you're being relocated with an International company, ask about getting your children's International School fees included in your remuneration package. The International school is very expensive otherwise.
  4. Involve yourself with the locals. Don't be shy with the locals, they are the most loving and fun people to hang around. But be wary of bringing just anyone off the street into your home, trust your gut instinct.
  5. Get on board with "Fiji Time". When you first arrive in Fiji, you will want to change their concept of time, don't go against it, go with it. In the end, it will become the thing you miss most about living in Fiji.
Tell us a bit about your own expat blog.
My blog is called Me and Fiji. It is a collection of advice (based on our own experiences) and factual information all about living and holidaying in Fiji. I share personal stories and am quite transparent about our life there. I am more than happy to help newcomers.

How can you be contacted for further advice to future expats coming to your area?

About the author

Expat Blog ListingSomer is an Australian expat living in Fiji. Blog description: Australian family who have been living and working in Fiji share their experiences, including helpful advice on moving to Fiji, what to pack, what you should expect for your new life in Fiji.
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