Any Answer is Correct....
One of the biggest things I’ve learned since I’ve been in Fiji is that to the Fijians I’ve met, any answer is correct. I can’t speak for all Fijians, but for the ones I’ve met, 100% of the time I’ll get an answer to a question; however, only 90% of the time it’ll be correct. No joke. It’s kind of hysterical. Sometimes I wonder if I’m on candid camera and the object is just to see how much my patience can be tested. Even throughout my travels in other countries, if locals didn’t know the answer, I would receive an “I don’t know.” It seems here that not knowing might be culturally unacceptable; either that, or it’s time to trick the tourist. Either way, I simply have not been getting a correct answer to any question.
In any case, some of the situations that have arisen have been a bit mind-boggling. For example, during the bed bug fiasco on the island of Waya Lailai, the manager told me that they had such a bed bug infestation that they needed to bring pest control from the main island. She said that they brought them yesterday. To clarify, I said, “Oh, so they already came, Therefore, the problem is solved, right?” She replied, “No, they are coming today.” Confused, I asked, “Oh, so they are coming today?” Then she said, “No, they didn’t come, and they can’t come today. But they are coming tomorrow.” I asked why they didn’t come, to which she replied that it was because the boat was full. When I asked her why they didn’t take another boat, she replied that it’s because they prefer that boat. You can probably make the same assumption that I did--that they just really just couldn’t be bothered to actually eradicate the problem. She basically just wanted me to go away and be happy with what she told me and to not inquire further, so I kept getting excuse after excuse, probably none of which were actually true.
I’ve never encountered a culture where literally everything I ask, I don’t know if I'm getting a correct answer. I’m not sure if the locals that I have met believe what they are saying or if they just don’t care. I’m leaning toward the latter---I just don’t think any form of Western customer service, and giving correct information being an essential part of good customer service, is part of the Fijian culture....at least not in anything that is not extremely high end. At Turtle Island, for example, I’m sure you can get good customer service; then again, it’s the premier resort in the area, rivaling a St. Regis, and it’s owned and operated by Americans. I perceive the lack of effort to deliver a correct answer as not so much a result of the places we are staying, but rather an essential difference between Western and Fijian culture. Even a simple thing, such as what time the reception closes or what time the rugby games come on will result in me showing up to a locked or empty room.
I kind of feel like Jim from The Office, constantly perplexed and looking for a camera to capture my face of, “Really? Did that really just happen?” O well.