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Life in the UK - Where Are You From?

Updated: Apr 28

The most asked question I get while living here in the UK was, “where are you from?”

If I got a pound for every time, I’d be ‘mint-ed’ as they say here! It's a question that comes up when meeting people for the first time and I often believe it takes courage and curiosity to ask this because they have ascertained that I am not from around here judging by my (exotic lol) skin colour, accent and spoken Queen's English. Or it could be a genuine question and an opportunity to start a conversation and share my life story :) "I am from Fiji!" I reply.

I realised that every time I was asked that question, I was reminded of how far I was from everyone I knew and loved. I was reminded of how blessed I was that my small island nation, Fiji, was often known as an exotic and highly sought after tourist destination with its world class hospitality. I was reminded that though small and obscure, Fiji offered more than stunning sunsets, lush rainforests, and idyllic beaches. Fijians were famous for their warm hospitality, genuinely welcoming of visitors, always laughing, laidback and happy.

Perhaps people wondered where did their joy come from? Island life in a place as beautiful as Fiji, is based on “Fiji time” which is more to do with culture or a state of mind rather than time-keeping, it influences the way stress or worry is managed. Don’t worry, be happy! I am convinced that this is what makes Fiji truly special, its people are not confined to time and To Do lists, but live life according to their own terms and conditions, they simply live in the present.

This question had deep connotations; it was not simply about geography or my connection to a place but about how culture influences behaviour and survivability depends on adaptability and character. I discovered that where I was from had a lot to do with how I adapted to my new life. It took me awhile to accept and embrace everything the UK was about, but in the end I chose to make the most of the opportunity to live abroad and it has turned out to be the best decision. I think it's a shared sentiment, we counted ourselves fortunate to be here. It wasn't merit or status that brought us here, but being married to a spouse serving in the British Army. We were all equal in a way.

I was open-minded and maybe, a little thick skinned, quick to overlook microaggressions for a long time (mainly because it was I didn't know what it was and why people behaved the way they did). I was naïve in many ways which worked in my favour but also strong-willed, determined to not give up or be distracted. I am respectful of other cultures and peoples and can empathize with people from similar situations but also willing to learn or admit my mistakes and mind my own business. These are some home grown values that stuck with me for a long time and did me a lot of good.

Being from Fiji, and a full Rotuman woman, I was a minority within a minority. Thankfully, I did not think too much about it, that I was different or that I represented a marginalised protected group which was a new experience for me. Coming from Fiji, Rotumans are a minority ethnic group that have existed peacefully and were proud of their heritage for as long as I can remember. Striving to live peacefully stayed with me. The socio economic impacts that drove our people to greener pastures affected us all and the realisation that our language and culture was at risk, meant we had an important part to play in preserving who we are, especially living overseas. But also not to take anything for granted.

We covered a lot of distance and left a lot behind to be here in the UK. It was important to us to keep our connection to our home alive. We celebrate Fiji Day, we wear 'Kalavata' or 'Bula wear' tropical-inspired clothes to special occasions and we continue to cook our favourite dishes, having access to shops that sell food from Asia and Africa makes it so much easier. We look forward to catching up with family and friends from Fiji, sharing stories and reminiscing. When we get the chance to speak about where we are from, it sparks a lively conversation and everyone always seems to have something to say about what they learned or heard about Fiji. I always took something away, the same takeaway, we are a blessed people.

On our recent trip to Fiji, we played tourists for the first time spending some time at an island resort. We felt so welcomed, so much peace and joy filled our hearts. We observed the staff and their interactions with guests, how naturally at ease they were, listening attentively, serving with a smile always, unrushed and intentional. Always pausing to say 'Bula' when our paths crossed. We were treated the same way, though we (my husband) preferred to speak in Fijian when a side joke was to be made or to give a heartfelt complement to show we absolutely loved the gracious hospitality we received. It never grows old - treating others the way you want to be treated. We couldn't believe that of all the places in the world, people chose Fiji! But it was not so hard to believe either, we have travelled a bit and we get it!

Our island resort holiday aside, we also spent time with family. Breaking new ground, especially with the absence of our parents, we came together as siblings for the first time in a long time and were reminded that we were the gifts our parents left behind, their legacy lies with us. We endured a season of personal loss and a pandemic, to be rest assured that we are going to be okay because its not just about where we are from but also how far we have come. God's faithfulness has made it all possible. To bear with the distance and time away.

Thank you for reading. What resonated with you? How did you feel about this question? Enjoy the self reflection too.

Next time, I explore another commonly asked question, "What are you doing here?" Its a self reflection point and I hope to share some wisdom too.