In traditional indigenous Fijian society, people
belong to a yavusa, a tribe of people who share a common ancestor.
Each yavusa is divided into several mataqali (clans). Each
clan, in turn, includes several extended families (i tokatoka)
made up of brothers' households. A Fijian village may include an entire
yavusa and can vary in size from 50 to 400 members.
People have close ties within their clan. A man considers his brother's children his own, and adults care communally for all the village children. Children are expected to be well behaved in the company of adults. Although parents love their children, they are rarely affectionate to them in public. Such a display would not be considerate to other people's children. Older people are treated with great respect.
A hereditary chief rules the clan, and the father
rules the household. Women perform most household tasks. Fijians
strongly believe in respect for all and value women's work. They
feel that a person of high status must earn the respect of those of
low status by showing humility. A husband should serve his wife
and children as much as they serve him.
A traditional village home, or bure, is built on a raised mound that is sacred to the family. The higher the mound, the greater the family's importance in the community. The bure consists of a wooden frame with walls of bamboo stalks interwoven with leaves and a high, thatched roof. A well-maintained bure can withstand storms and last 20 years, but villagers today often build their homes with concrete blocks and corrugated iron. Inside, the bure is usually one room with little furniture in it. Sleeping and eating take place on the floor, and women cook in a smaller bure next door. Everything is shared. People never lock their doors because relatives may need to use their home. If a family is hosting guests, other families will leave food by the door to help out.
Fijian Indian families usually live in the cities,
particularly Suva, Lautoka and Nadi, or in villages close to sugar cane
plantations. The Hindu caste system largely determines social status.
Most Indians marry within their caste, and in rural areas relatives
arrange most marriages. Indigenous Fijians and Fijian Indians rarely
Many indigenous Fijians have moved to the cities to look for work, and overcrowding has become a problem. The Housing Authority of Fiji provides homes for some of the needy, but Suva now has more than 5,000 squatter families.