Why Fiji Is the World’s Happiest Country and What You Can Learn From It

March 20, 2019

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Captain Cook Cruises Fiji | Blog

What defines ‘happiness’? There are hundreds of possible responses to this one simple question. But, if you are seeking answers, it might be a good idea to make your way to the beautiful islands of Fiji in the South Pacific Ocean. Because, according to a survey by the organisation WIN/Gallup, citizens of Fiji are currently the most content in the world.

The poll asked several different nationalities a series of questions, including about their country’s economic prosperity, and 93 per cent of Fijian respondents declared themselves either ‘happy’ or ‘very happy’ with their lives. Why might that be and what can we learn from their experience?


Sunshine doesn’t just make you feel better, we also know that vitamin D deficiency, often experienced by those who don’t get enough sun, might be connected to all kinds of illness, from depression to Multiple Sclerosis.

This is not something that Fijians have to worry about. Their islands receive 10-14 hours of tropical sunlight each day. And, with an average temperature of 25 degrees Celsius, there’s a great incentive to spend as much time as possible outdoors. Frankly, with such stunning scenery, it’s virtually a crime not to.


The distinctive square-bottled ‘Fiji water’ is recognised throughout the world. But the country’s affinity with water doesn’t just end with the high quality mineral variety. As an island nation, the sea isn’t just a backdrop to Fijian life; it is also part of nation’s very nature, embedded in its culture and mythology. ‘Dakuwaqa’, or the shark-god, is cherished and thought to protect fishermen from the perils of the deep. Surfing, canoeing and swimming are national pastimes.



Fiji doesn’t really do ‘muted tones’. The landscape is alive with colour, from the vivid greens of the trees to the pinks and reds of flowering hibiscus and anthuriums. Native birds include brightly coloured parrots and the stunning yellow and blue Vanikoro Broadbill. Then, of course, there are the turquoise lagoons and black lava rock pools.

This riot of colour has definitely rubbed off on Fijians sartorial style – bright printed cotton-wrap skirts or Bermuda shorts are usually the order of the day, along with flowers worn in the hair. They dress happy to be happy


Fiji happens to have shared its history with cultures that, by luck, also have interesting, and delicious, cuisines: India, Southeast Asia, and China. Influences from these countries have blended with native Melanesian staples like taro, cassava and coconut to create some classic Fijian dishes including ‘Kokodo’, a kind of ceviche, composed of raw mahi-mahi fish marinated in a ‘Miti’ dressing made from coconut cream, lemon juice, and chillies and ‘Palusami’, which is a dish of fish baked with coconut milk in taro leaves.

As imported food is expensive, there’s great emphasis on using locally grown, bred or caught ingredients. This ensures that dishes are not only delicious but also fresh and healthy too – something we can all learn from.


Fiji rejoices in being one of the most diverse nations on earth. Only 57 per cent of the population are actually of full Fijian descent. The other 43 per cent trace their ancestors back to Chinese, Southeast Asians, European, and other Melanesian and Polynesian settler. Whilst it wouldn’t be true to say that there’s always total harmony, there is a deep appreciation of the richness that the multiplicity of cultures brings to the country.



Know that saying: ‘the community that plays (and eats and hangs out) together stays together’? That very aptly sums up Fiji. Villagers who seek work in larger towns retain close connections to the places where they were born. Even in the cities, people tend to live as close as possible to their relatives and extended families. They share child raising duties and also the care for the elderly. As a result Fijians look out for each other, the crime rate is low and mutual respect is highly valued.


Otherwise known as ‘Yaqona’ on the islands, this ceremonial drink is more widely consumed than beer in Fiji. If someone passes you a bowl of the cloudy liquid, do handle with care. Side effects include a numb mouth and a somewhat ‘out of body’ experience.

If you are offered kava, be sure to clap your hands once and say ‘bula’ before downing it in one. It’s said to make you feel serene and calm rather than drunk and rowdy, which is very much in keeping with the ethos of Fiji itself.


You might want to leave your watch at home when you visit Fiji. Pretty much nothing happens ‘on time’. What is time anyway? It’s amazing how much more relaxed everyone feels when there’s always time for an extra five minutes in bed in the morning or just one more coffee.



After a day of canoeing, eating fabulous seafood and downing some kava, you’re probably going to get involved with another of Fiji’s great bonding activities: music and dancing. Whether you end up swaying under the stars to traditional tunes or twerking to island versions of Beyoncé’s latest hits, you will definitely be infected with the ‘feel good’ factor.


Although relaxed and fun-loving people, many Fijians are also deeply religious with Christian, Islamic, Hindu and Sikh denominations well represented, and respected, on the islands.

But Fijian culture also has its own traditions, which help honour a shared vision, heritage and culture. For example, there’s ‘ Sevusevu’, a ceremony where a visitor presents the village elder with a kava root. And, when walking through villages, it’s considered respectful to wear a ‘sulu’ or sarong to cover the legs and upper body.


If Fiji had a national saying, it might be: ‘what will be will be’. No one spends much time worrying about something that hasn’t, and might not, happen. Instead, people enjoying living in the moment and taking pleasure each other’s company right here, right now.


So, what are the most important ingredients to the Fijian recipe for happiness? A healthy lifestyle with lots of sun and fresh produce, respect for diversity, a laid-back attitude and lots of quality time spent with friends and family. Certainly things that we could all consider emulating! Check out our various small ship or day cruises available throughout the year and discover in person why Fiji is the happiest country on Earth.

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